Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Robots Are Coming for the Jobs of Lawyers, Doctors, Too

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Robots Are Coming for the Jobs of Lawyers, Doctors, Too

Article excerpt

In the next five to 10 years, there could be a 10 to 20 percent reduction in jobs for physicians.

That's according to Vivek Wadhwa, a distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon University's College of Engineering in Silicon Valley and author of a new book, "The Driver in the Driverless Car," which details our increasingly automated future and what it could mean for jobs, equality and dependence.

"It's a data game," he said, adding that "there will be massive amounts of algorithms" able to diagnose disease and recognize patient irregularities in the coming years.

Some of those are already reality.

IBM Watson - the supercomputer responsible for the famous "question-answering" robot on "Jeopardy" - will monitor health data, predict disease and provide advice on how to stay in shape, Mr. Wadhwa writes in his book. Watson is already a genius in oncology and in finding cancer.

The sophistication of artificial intelligence and the sheer volume of data being collected will be the critical change in the next decade.

Mr. Wadhwa visualizes a future in which patients store their personal data digitally through a cloud storage service and take it with them everywhere.

Physicians aren't necessarily the first position that comes to mind when considering job loss due to automation, but the CMU professor sees that as the reality of an increasingly connected world wherein machine learning and even the cloud are as powerful threats as the classic industrial robot has been to warehouse workers.

In terms of job automation - and the prospect of associated job loss - most widespread concern still focuses on physical robots rather than smart software with highly cognitive abilities. That trope is thanks, in large part, to outlandish yet terrifying Hollywood flicks like "Terminator."

The Brookings Institute published data in August that suggests industrial robots, at least, might not necessarily be a top concern at this point.

Of the 233,305 industrial robots in the country, most are welding, painting cars, assembling products, handling materials or packaging things in the South and Midwest. Those duties have been mechanized, to varying degrees, for decades. …

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