If it could, would we want it to? Suppose humanity managed to automate everything. Would this lead to a fairer, more equal society – not prejudiced on individual intelligence, physical strength or appearance, class, gender, race, …? How would everybody cope without an occupation, would there be a struggle for meaning? What risks and impact are inherent in creating an Artificial Intelligence that, ultimately, may be able to surpass our own intelligence, by recursively improving itself? Would AI and humanities interests remain aligned – if not, would this be humanities worst mistake (from its own perspective)? I don’t know the answers to these questions and won’t speculate now – should and could are fundamentally different questions.
The short answer is yes, I think it will be possible, at some time in the future, for Artificial Intelligence to replace clinicians. The same is true of many other professional classifications, regardless of physical or intellectual demand. However, this is not possible today.
If not now, then when? AI and robotics is the subject of the fourth industrial revolution – whilst this is still, primarily, in an R&D phase, some initial forms of these technologies are already becoming economically and commercially viable. Consider this timeline, which is designed to illustrate the exponential increase in the rate of (global) change.
Assuming we don’t ruin the planet we’re living on, kill ourselves with nuclear or biological weapons or fall foul to some other existential threat (either of our own making or not), then we’ve also got quite a bit of time left on this planet (before we need to figure out how to survive as an extraterrestrial species). Given the amount of change in the last 270 years and, the exponential increase in the pace of change in the last 40 years, I don’t think this will be a long time coming.
Based on four polls, conducted in 2012 and 2013 and referenced by Wikipedia’s article on the Technological Singularity (the hypothesis of Vernor Vinge), the median estimate was a 50% chance that artificial general intelligence (AGI) would be developed by 2040–2050.
The Future of Life Institute has been set up to mitigate existential risks facing humanity,
If we allow AI to continue, how accountable is it in our society? The European Union is debating AI personhood – should machines take on legal status and bear ultimate responsibility for their actions? If not, who is accountable? The manufacturer? The owner?
To further complicate things, perhaps there will not be a clear black and white line between humans and Artificial Intelligence. Do we have the right to self-modification (aka hacking)? What is the difference between searching the Internet on a laptop, asking Siri a question and embedding the same technology into our bodies? Are we already hacking our bodies with laser eye surgery and cosmetic surgery? What about genetic modification, is it right to move beyond CRISPR in order to genetically modify the human genome for other purposes (e.g. to become stronger, more intelligent or attractive)? Is this the next stage of human evolution? If so, will our children need to do this as part of their survival to be the fittest? Would you hack your own body?
Please let me know your thoughts!