Feeling blue but don’t have the time/money/energy to go see a professional therapist? Or do you just hate interacting with people? Woebot may be just the “fully automated conversational agent” (AKA chatbot) you’re looking for. Chatbots are popping up all over, but this one has some research to back up its claims of being able to reduce depression. For $39 a month, Woebot will check in on you once a day and ask some simple, judgement free questions about how you’re doing. If you cancel your Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Showtime subscriptions, you can easily pay for this service and an extra latte or two. If you watch all of those, that might be a major source of the problem. This writer does what he can to help, free of charge.
Automation has improved many of our daily activities in the past few decades, like how the ATM replaced visits to bank tellers. In the future, we may replace visits to the dermatologist for mole checks with a self-scan using a smartphone and an app, thanks to a team of Stanford researchers who have trained a computer to identify cancerous moles as accurately as a dermatologist. One key objective of the effort is to “bring the expertise of top-level dermatologists to places where the dermatologist is not available” said Sebastian Thrun, senior author of the study. Reason being, melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has a 99% 5-year survival rate when caught early, compared to 14% when detected in its latest stage.
Jeopardy champ slash chess master slash oncologist? In several Asian countries, Watson, the often anthropomorphized computer, is taking in the characteristics of specific oncology patients and recommending specific courses of treatment. After consuming (we refuse to say “reading”) millions of pages of medical text books and journal articles, Watson now advises on effective courses of cancer treatment for real live patients. Not that Watson’s advice is necessarily followed by the oncologists on staff but apparently they often agree. Can you imagine the argument that follows a disagreement between those two massive egos? One is a robot-like being, forged through years of hard work in a lab and the other is… well… a computer. Yeah, we went there.