Dr Goldhan from ETH Zurich has argued robots will make doctors obsolete in the foreseeable future, allowing hospitals to significantly save on running costs.
He explained: “Introducing AI-driven systems could be cheaper than hiring and training new staff.
“They are also universally available and can even monitor patients remotely.
“Doctors as we now know them will become obsolete eventually.
“Sooner than we think, human doctors will merely assist AI systems.”
The increasing amounts of health data, from apps, personal monitoring devices, electronic medical records, and social media platforms are being used to let machines absorb as much information as possible about people’s diseases.
At the same time, robots do not only “read” the information, but they also take into account the rapidly expanding scientific literature.
Dr Goldhan said: “The notion that today’s physicians could approximate this knowledge by keeping abreast of current medical research while maintaining close contacts with their patients is an illusion not least because of the sheer volume of data.”
Dr Goldhan also argued patients could also feel much more reassured if treated by a machine.
He said: “In some very personal situations the services of a robot could help patients avoid feeling shame.”
The quest for highly evolved AI has been met with both excitement and scepticism but people like Dr Goldhan believe computer programming can only benefit us.
However, others, including Stephen Hawking, believe the development of AI, which is more powerful than the human brain, could lead to humanity’s demise.
The pinnacle of AI is a development called ‘deep learning’, which is where machines learn for themselves and can improve themselves as a result.
Dr Vanessa Rampton and Professor Giatgen Spinas from the University Hospital in Zürich, acknowledged robots will be useful to help doctors, but they believe they will never replace humans.
Dr Rampton explained: “’Computers aren’t able to care for patients in the sense of showing devotion or concern for the other as a person, because they are not people and do not care about anything.”
The two also argued therapy affecting a patient’s quality of life is “irreplaceable” if a disease is terminal.
They said: “Feeling they’ve been heard by someone who understands the seriousness of the problem and whom they can trust can be crucial for patients.
“Questions like ‘why me?’ and ‘why now?’ matter.
“Sophisticated robots might show empathy as a matter of form, just as humans might behave nicely in social situations yet remain emotionally disengaged because they are only performing a social role.”