There are some things or issues that we eagerly discuss in the public forum with the certainty that it dramatically concerns us all and should be addressed forthrightly. While we waste time in endless intellectual discussions about their different aspects, that thing or issue is silently seeping through into the own fabric of our societies. We have the illusory comfort that our civic concerns might modify and/ or mollify their progress. Those fetishist vagaries give them the time to invade our personal spaces and seize our lives. The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a case in point. It is already here with us.

Awake or asleep, we are already sharing a significant part of our lives with various machines that process humongous loads of data to deliver specific, tailored services for us all. When we join a chat or dating group, when we load up pictures in our platforms, when we program appliances in our techie-laden homes, when we plan a vacation, etc., we provide a lot of information to computers and programs that efficiently process it. The arrival of AI in the medical realm has been fostered by the need to process vast amounts of data for precise diagnoses and treatment protocols to get good outcomes.

In an April 2019 position paper, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the outgoing director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), designed the basis for the regulatory framework to authorize and supervise the medical devices infused with the Artificial Intelligence. Dr. Gottlieb emphasized that there was a critical need to build guardrails to protect the development of new techniques and algorithms without stifling the innovation or restricting the access to breakthrough treatments for patients in critical need. He said that: “Artificial Intelligence and machine learning have the potential to fundamentally transform the delivery of health care…As technology and science advance, we can expect to see earlier disease detection, more accurate diagnosis, more targeted therapies, and significant improvements in personalized medicine.”

In the past, the FDA has been acerbically criticized by scientist, physicians, patients and almost all the professional cadres of the Health Care realm because of its slow, step-by-step review of any major technology, drug or treatment to assure the efficacy and safety of any new product that aspires to swiftly enter the commercial market. Acknowledging that its traditional approach is unfit for rapidly evolving treatment algorithms that are constantly being updated using the field data, the FDA is devising novel ways to allow the software to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances while at the same time steadily meeting the stringent safety requirements of the institutional regulator.

We celebrated our birthday with our son by sharing a nice dinner and a night out at the movies. What film did we see? Terminator Dark Fate, of course. It won’t be long before any of you us would be relaxing at the operating table with the early effects of a total anesthesia when we will suddenly notice a familiar figure approaching us in green scrubs:

-“Hi, my name is Dr. Arnold,” he would say with a hoarse Teutonic accent. “I will be performing your surgery today. Any questions?” Let us confess that his mechanically smiling face will not appear as that re-assuring to us in that moment.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

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