Would you let a robot be your taxi driver? And your doctor?

Written by Andreu Ulied, November 2021[1]

Robots are excellent chess players, best drivers, and they are already becoming doctors.

If a robot provides a better service than a human being, because it reaches a more accurate diagnosis in less time, and cost, or performs a more reliable surgery, or monitors with full accuracy our health condition, then, many people, if not most of people, will prefer a robot as a doctor –whatever is a robot-just because the robot is more useful, and produces better results. Just the same happens with taxi drivers.

Let’s begin the discussion from a utilitarian ethical paradigm, and later on exploring alternative ethical and political paradigms.

Robots are useful because they remove human errors, have no flaws. Daniel Kahneman, in Noise:  A Flaw in Human Judgment (2021), describes many flaws in medicine, even in relation of reading X-rays; too often different doctors reach different diagnosis, particularly when the patient is a child. Doctors are no better that judges, for instance, providing both predictive and evaluative, value-based, judgments. It is true that intelligent algorithms may dehumanize patients by standardizing people into statistics, but algorithms feed with massive data by sensors and digital devices can be much precise and fair, and reliable, than a human being. It is therefore rational for people to choose robots as a doctors, as well as a judge, not just as a taxi drivers or chess players….

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[1] Andreu Ulied is partner-Director of Multicriteria Planning (MCRIT). Dr. Eng. (UPC), MDesS (Harvard GSD), MSc Philosophy (UNED), he works providing planning and decision-support services to public institutions and private corporations.

The text was presented the 18th November 2021 at Kaunas Science and Technology Park (Lithuania), in an ATHIKA event. Many doctors and engineers, lawyers and other experts gathered in Kaunas invited by ATHIKA to discuss the following question: Would let you a robot become your doctor?

ATHIKA is an Erasmus+ project financed by the European Commission aiming to build a set of advanced training programs in health innovation lead by La Salle, Ramon Llull University. Andreu Ulied (MCRIT) contributed to the Governance and Ethics works lead by Kadri Simm PhD (Tartu University, Estonia)