artificial-intelligence-in-medicineFun fact about aneurysms: To cut off blood flow to the bulge in your brain, surgeons put a titanium clip on the side of the aneurism attached to the artery. As you can imagine, this is a tricky process. First, Mr. Surgeon Guy has to peel your gray matter back. Then he sticks a metal tool in your head with this clip on the end and closes the clip when it’s in place. Oversimplified description of an extremely delicate procedure, but you get the idea. It’s understandable, then, that if Mr. Surgeon Guy screws up, his patient is going to have some issues (think a skull full of blood). So, anyone for robot surgeons instead?

The greatest difficulty in delicate operations is the size and shakiness of the human hands. For one thing, it’s difficult to get the instruments into a teeny hole without breaking anything (a particular concern in the brain or spine), and then there’s the slight problem of the random twitch and constant movement of the hands. Robots solve both. Granted, the robot might not have the tissue recognition capability of the average human surgeon, but sophisticated programming has been demonstrated successful enough to stitch up a piece of pig tissue. Apparently, infrared light allows the robots to see well enough.

So how do robots get the know-how of years spent in medical school and residency? For now, the most common devices aren’t artificial intelligence. Rather, a surgeon operates a hydraulic robot with greater dexterity and steadiness with a high magnification camera. In the future , AI ought to be sufficiently developed to do more than stitch up pig parts, so it should be largely self-sufficient. Like most AI, the systems will likely be connected to the Internet and tasked with learning as much as they can about their surgical project. Between academic journals, top secret doctor forums, and accounts of surgeries, the AI should have all necessary information. Its physical attributes have been coming along nicely so far, so there is only one question. Are we prepared to have computers poking around in our heads?

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