CCIO Martin Farrier used to believe AI would “enhance” healthcare professionals. Lately, he’s been having some serious doubts

My head is spinning. This is hardly the first time I have done shortlisting but I’m sure it used to be easier. All the applications are identical.

There are more applicants, sure, but that’s not really my problem. We have managed to remove any evidence of humanity from the forms. CVs were pretty bad but there was at least some expression of personality. When we went to Trac, the application print outs became more uniform and less easy to read, but we have gone a whole step further now.

Artificial Intelligence has worked out what the perfect application looks like. Most adverts ask for much the same stuff. Anything which would make an individual identifiable was removed years ago. Now AI is looking like it can remove the rest of the humanity and individuality of the applicants. I’m left with application forms that have almost identical qualifications, with near identical experience (that I’m not supposed to be ranking). That’s followed by dehumanised AI infused responses to standard questions which are calculated to score maximal points on a shortlisting pro forma. Is this how we are selecting our future doctors?

I fought for equality. All my career. Even if it meant that I lost out. Equality meant that we valued each other. We valued our differences. But what I am seeing now is a very different sort of equality. All differences are removed. Applicants are identical, cloned merely to fit the scoring process on the shortlist. That scoring process must of course be published in advance, so that everyone has an equal chance. Their equal chance of being equal.

An insipid invasion

I’m beginning to worry. The alliance of equity and AI feels like it’s removing us. I wonder if I would be able to stand out in an application process. Do I have anything that would make me different? Looking at the questions, could I score any better than the applicants have achieved with the assistance of AI? Whilst I don’t know they used AI, the pattern of their words and the insipid invasion of AI into our lives make it almost certain.

I head to ChatGPT. I wonder whether it expresses me better than I do. I suggest to AI a question and ask for help with my response. It provides a perfectly good basis for me to build an answer. Then, I wonder if it can do a reasonable job with offering sympathy for the death of a relative. I hate doing those cards, they always feel insincere no matter how hard I try. I’m pleased to see it’s not better than I am and seems just as insincere. In fairness though, it’s not worse than me and it’s a bit more inventive. Maybe next time, I’ll miss out the pain of working out what to write and just take tips from AI.

I think I may be slipping in. The black hole of AI is pulling me. The gravity of easy living is almost too strong. I wonder where the event horizon lies – the moment when we lose all sense of individuality and become homogenous responses as advised by AI.

When I was first excited by the idea of AI, it was because it could enhance us and allow us to be more. The reality of AI’s impact on my life has been almost the opposite. It has removed some of the things I valued. It didn’t make them better, but merely unified them to an adequately good state. I’m not so excited now. I’m slightly worried that I’m going to become adequately good too.

Consultant paediatrician Martin Farrier is director of digital medicine and chief clinical information officer at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust.




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