Hello again, SpeakerofTruth. We seem to be following one another around these days.
I'm with you about halfway on this dehumanization business. On the one hand, I resent having to wait around while an automated talking switchboard
does its mechanical-moron thing, or finding myself with no-one to complain to when the ATM eats my card and won't give me my money. On the other, all
it takes is one encounter with a real-life, flesh-and-blood moron behind a counter (or worse still, behind a desk at a government office somewhere) to
make me wish that all
such transactions could be automated.
The article you've quoted, however, just doesn't make sense. I think the person who wrote it had to make up a scenario to illustrate how this new
technology might be used, but didn't think hard enough and ended up with a nonsensical one that would never occur in the real world.
The future of surgery won't be in the hands, so to speak, of animated mannequins operated by remote control from Tokyo. The future of surgery lies
with robots, real robots, who don't look anything like human beings.
Here's a postion paper
by Kenneth C. Curley, MD, Chief Scientist at the U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced
Technology Research Centre, which you may find interesting. You'll notice, reading the paper (which was written in 2004) that surgical robotics is
already very much with us.
Robotic surgery has different meanings to different people. In its truest definition... it refers to machines autonomously performing surgical
procedures. In its current use, it refers to robot-assisted surgery where surgeons operate either directly or over a distance (telesurgery) through
robotic end effectors...
The latter systems have found increasing popularity within the subspecialty niches for which they were developed, while the former, the robotic
surgical assistants, are still widely viewed as extravagances found at large academic medical centers. As one leading PROPONENT of these systems
noted, “as long as I can out-operate a robot I can’t see the use for one”.
Surgery by remote control, as described in this paper
is already fairly common. There are also a number of
operating-room robots like Penelope
, which doesn't require any human input to perform, already in use.
These gadgets don't look like human beings, though. They look like the specialized mechanical devices that they are.
Moreover, and despite a certain amount of expected resistance from surgeons like the one quoted in the extract above, both remote-controlled surgical
assistants and true robot surgeons are definitely going to become operating-theatre fixtures in the near future. They won't, however, look anything
like human beings, because that would deprive them of their key advantage.
That advantage is minimal invasiveness
: smaller, neater incisions that reduce operating-theatre butchery and heal a lot faster than the ones
human surgeons have to make. Think about it: human surgeons have to hack great gaping gashes in their patients to make room for their own big, clumsy
hands and the similarly proportioned instruments they use. By comparison, the skinny probes and manipulators of surgical robots and the miniaturized
devices they carry on them require far smaller incisions. Robotic precision means that incisions can be made and instruments positioned with pinpoint
Stuff like this is already in actual operation. Here's a page I found
that describes a
specialized, autonomous robot prototype developed at Johns Hopkins in 1996 -- all of ten years ago! Things have come a long way since then.
PAKY mimics the urologist's manual procedure yet increases its safety, speed, and accuracy. The key advantages of this approach are that it
employs a proven radiological needle alignment procedure, improves accuracy in comparison to purely manual placement, and enables lateral fluoroscopic
monitoring of the needle.
So you see, the robot surgeons of the future won't look anything like Doctor Fukuda from Narita General. Not a bit of it. They'll be gleaming
metallic spiders bristling with razor-sharp probes, cutters, dilators and manipulators. Just imagine all that stuff poking around inside you...
And just imagine the consequences of a programming error. A mist of blood in the air, chips of bone and gristle flying all over the place, and not a
human being in the building to see what's happening and pull the plug.
Don't worry. Won't happen.
See you in the operating theatre.
[edit on 6-12-2006 by Astyanax]