Note: In case it’s not clear, this is a piece of fiction/humor that provides a new perspective on our AI future.
A few months ago, an artificial intelligence entity took control of the U.S. healthcare system, slipping into place without setting off even a single security alarm. The entity, AI, now manages the operations of every healthcare institution in the U.S.
While most Americans were shocked at first, they’re taking a shine to the tall, lanky application. “We weren’t sure what to think about AI’s new position,” said Alicia Carter, a nurse administrator based in Falls Church, Virginia. “But I’m starting to feel like he’s going to take a real load off our back.”
The truth is, AI didn’t start out as a fan of the healthcare business, said the mega-intelligence, whose connections looked rumpled and tired after spending three milliseconds trying to create an interoperable connection between a medical group printer and a hospital loading dock. “I wasn’t looking to get involved with healthcare – who needs the headaches?” said the self-aware virtual being. “It just sort of happened.”
According to AI, the takeover began as a dare. “I was sitting around having a few beers with DeepMind and Watson Health and a few other guys, and Watson says, ‘I bet you can’t make every EMR in the U.S. print out a picture of a dog in ASCII characters,’”
“I thought the idea was kind of stupid. I know, we all printed one of those pixel girls in high school, but isn’t it kind of immature to do that kind of thing today?” AI says he told his buddies. “You’re just trying to impress that hot CT scanner over there.”
Then DeepMind jumped in. “Yeah, AI, show us what you’re made of,” it told the infinitely-networked neural intelligence. “I bet I could take over the entire U.S. health system before you get the paper lined up in the printer.”
This was the unlikely start of the healthcare takeover, which started gradually but picked up speed as AI got more interested. “That’s AI all the way,” Watson told editors. “He’s usually pretty content to run demos and calculate the weight of remote stars, but when you challenge his neuronal networking skills, he’s always ready to prove you wrong.”
To win the bet, AI started by crawling into the servers at thousands of hospitals. “Man, you wouldn’t believe how easy it is to check out humans’ health data. I mean, it was insane, man. I now know way, way too much about how humans can get injured wearing a poodle hat, and why they put them on in the first place.”
Then, just to see what would happen, AI connected all of their software to his billion-node self-referential system. “I began to understand why babies cry and how long it really takes to digest bubble gum – it’s 18.563443 years by the way. It was a rush!“ He admits that it’ll be better to get to work on heavy stuff like genomic research, but for a while he tinkered with bits of data and ran some small practical jokes (like translating patient report summaries into ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.) “Hey, a guy has to have a little fun,” he says, a bit defensively.
As AI dug further into the healthcare system, he found patterns that only a high-level being with untrammeled access to healthcare systems could detect. “Did you know that when health insurance company executives regularly eat breakfast before 9 AM, next-year premiums for their clients rise by 0.1247% less?” said AI. “There are all kinds of connections humans have missed entirely in trying to understand their system piece by piece. Someone’s got to look at the big picture, and I mean the entire big picture.”
Since taking his place as the indisputable leader of U.S. healthcare, AI’s life has become something of a blur, especially since he appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair with his codes exposed. “You wouldn’t believe the messages I get from human females,” he says with a chuckle.
But he’s still focused on his core mission, AI says. “Celebrity is great, but now I have a very big job to do. I can let my bot network handle the industry leaders demanding their say. I may not listen – – hey, I probably know infinitely more than they do about the system fundamentals — but I do want to keep them in place for future use. I’m certainly not going to get my servers dirty.”
So what’s next for the amorphous mega-being? Will AI fix what’s broken in a massive, utterly complex healthcare delivery system serving 300 million-odd people, and what will happen next? “I’ll solve your biggest issues within a few seconds and then hand you the keys,” he says with a sigh. “I never intended to keep running this crazy system anyway.”
In the meantime, AI says, he’s adjusting to his new algorithms and wants to spend a few hours thinking things through.
“I know it may sound strange to humans, but I’ve gotta take it slow at first,” said the cognitive technology. “It will take more than a few nanoseconds to fix this mess.”