Doctors are becoming increasingly dependent on diagnostic systems that are provably more reliable than any human diagnostician. Do you want your doctor to overrule the machine’s verdict when it comes to making a life-saving choice of treatment? This may prove to be the best — most provably successful, most immediately useful — application of the technology behind IBM’s Watson, and the issue of whether or not Watson can be properly said to think (or be conscious) is beside the point. If Watson turns out to be better than human experts at generating diagnoses from available data it will be morally obligatory to avail ourselves of its results. A doctor who defies it will be asking for a malpractice suit. No area of human endeavor appears to be clearly off-limits to such prosthetic performance-enhancers, and wherever they prove themselves, the forced choice will be reliable results over the human touch, as it always has been. Hand-made law and even science could come to occupy niches adjacent to artisanal pottery and hand-knitted sweaters.

Daniel Dennett, What do you thnk about machines that think?

>Hand-made law and even science could come to occupy niches adjacent to artisanal pottery and hand-knitted sweaters.

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Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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