Health professionals’ role in the banning of lethal autonomous weapons

This is a great episode from the Future of Life Institute, on the topic of banning lethal autonomous weapons. You may wonder, what on earth do lethal autonomous weapons have to do with health professionals? I wondered the same thing until I was reminded of the role that physios play in the rehabilitation of landmine victims. Landmines are less sophisticated than the next generation of lethal autonomous weapons, which means, in part, that they’re less able to distinguish between targets.

Weaponised drones, for example, will not only identify and engage targets based on age, gender, location, dress code, etc. but will also be able to reprioritise objectives independent of any human operator. In addition, unlike building a landmine, which (probably) requires some specialised training, weaponised drones will be produced en masse at low cost, fitted with commoditised hardware, will be programmable, and can be deployed at distance from the target. These are tools of mass destruction for the consumer market, enabling a few to create immense harm to many.

The video below gives an example of how 100s of drones can be coordinated by a single person. If these drones were fitted with explosives instead of flashing lights, you start to get a sense of how much damage they could do in a crowded space and how difficult it would be to stop them.

Given our commitment to do no harm, the global health community has a long history of successful advocacy against inhumane weapons, and the World and American Medical Associations have called for bans on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Now, recent advances in artificial intelligence have brought us to the brink of a new arms race in lethal autonomous weapons.

The American Medical Association has published a position statement on the role of artificial intelligence in augmenting the work of medical professionals but no professional organisation has yet to take a stance on banning autonomous weapons. It seems odd that we recognise the significance of AI for enhancing healthcare but not apparently, it’s potential for increasing human suffering. The medical and health professional community should not only advocate for the use of AI to improve health but also to ensure it is not used for autonomous decision-making in armed conflict.

More reading and resources at https://futureoflife.org/2019/04/02/fli-podcast-why-ban-lethal-autonomous-weapons/.

Medpedia: collaborative medical knowledge base

I got this link about Medpedia off Twitter from Jeff Nugent.  It’s a “collaborative, interdisciplinary, transparent” approach to sharing knowledge about health and medicine.  Content control is by only allowing registered users to contribute, with the general public able to suggest changes to an article.  Registration requires being approved by an editor, and only medical doctors or those with doctoral degrees can actually edit content.

It offers a “Plain English” version of each article, as well as a “Clinical” view for healthcare professionals, which is a great way of filtering content for users.  I haven’t looked deeply enough to tell how much of a difference there is between the two, but it’s an interesting idea to separating out content.

I’ve only had a brief look at the site so far but the interface is clean and user friendly, even though it’s still in beta.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes from this.  I’m interested to see how this compares with OpenPhysio, not so much in structure and content but in ideology.

Here’s the link:
http://medpedia.com

Continuing professional development (CPD)

It’s our responsibility as healthcare professionals to keep up to date with our professional development in terms of maintaining clinical skills, improving knowledge and many other aspects of our practice.  Unfortunately, due to host of problems, it’s often difficult to stay current and to accumulate the required number of points.

One option is to sign up with eCPD, an online, accredited provider of CPD points.  Registration allows you to login and find a topic you’d like to know more about, download the open access journal article and answer a few questions based on that article.  You get one free credit when you register, but additional credits have to be bought.  With my free credit I chose Research ethics in rehabilitation, which will provide me with 1 (Level 2) Continuing Education Unit.

I wouldn’t recommend that this be your only source of CPD points, however it is a handy solution for those of us who sometimes struggle to make it to journal clubs or conferences.

Link to the site:
http://ecpd.co.za

To err is human: building a safer health system (free book)

While typing up my notes from the SAAHE conference (see previous post), I came across To err is human: building a safer health system, a book that had been mentioned by one of the keynote speakers. It looks at the medical community’s historically poor track record on accepting responsibility for mistakes made by healthcare professionals and discusses the alternatives. It was published in 2000 by the National Academies Press (NAP) and is available in hardback for about $40.

However, when the site identified my country of residence as South Africa, it suggested that by registering, I could download the PDF for free for personal use. The file is only 2.3 MB, which is a quick download even on dial-up. Obviously, the NAP makes certain publications available to residents of certain countries who they feel would benefit from those books but may not be able to afford the fee.

I’d definitely recommend registering on the site to see what else they have available. I’ve had a quick look through To err is human and although I’m not a huge fan of reading books on my computer (and this one is 312 pages long), I think I’ll give this one a go. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to put up a short review.

The direct link to the Table of Contents for the online book is http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9728#toc (if you’re registered with the site and live in South Africa, you should also have the option to download the PDF of the book for free).