Artificial Intellect

BY SARAH STEVE 

 “I’m Sarah. I’m a medical student.” these are the first two things people I meet learn about me.

‘Sarah’ – it’s simple, there’s not much to gain from that and ‘Medical student’ which means, “oh you’re obviously smart,”  stated with an indecisive look considering if they should admire me or run in case they might catch the disease as well.

‘Well we’d hope so wouldn’t we.”

Knowing what I do of myself, I’m just as surprised as they are that someone would give me this much responsibility. But they did, so maybe I need to get over it…. I am smart – or at least very good at making a lot of smart people think I am.

“Hi, my name is Sarah and I am a second year Medical Student from Monash University. Your GP today has asked me to…” Name. Brand. Product. This is how I am presented.

They don’t teach you the robotic voice to go with it, this comes naturally, maybe not naturally but eventually.

Maybe not naturally but eventually.

Maybe not naturally but eventually.  

See how annoying that is? – believe me, it doesn’t become any less annoying if you’re the one responsible for the line. I am smart. I am a fragile input and output system. With time, I will become more impersonal, more detached and less human.  

Fighting to stay maintain a sense of identity and purpose – to remember why I wanted to do this in the first place is harder than I imagined.

And motivation? I chuckle at my naivety… ‘I just want to help people’ – those days are gone. I am driven by an abundance of stress. I frantically pore over the information and jargon. Somehow, I download everything onto my memory card in time for the exam.

We’re high achievers and perfectionists with an underlying mild to moderate case of OCD. Among our peers, a distinction equals recognition and a high distinction? That’s practically fame. We all want to be a limited-edition, to be part of an elite series – it’s not good enough to be good, we want to be the best.  

I am a Human replica of a Moore’s Clinically Orientated Anatomy ebook. I am filled with apparently connected, yet random, confusing facts disorderly and collated onto a mental hard drive… but my software is insufficient, I can’t keep up. Failed downloads and poor connection speed leads to a permanent state of confusion. I am told it will all make sense, it all comes together – but even these academics, intellectual giants and conquers of their field – they have their limits, they have unanswered questions… so what hope is there for me? How will I ever understand?

But I do understand. I must. The cogs continue to turn, the formulas, terms and foreign languages downloaded, filed and saved ready for recall.

To survive in this field I must breathe, drink, eat, sleep but above all study.

But to love my life – I don’t have a simple answer. I am determined not to get lost in the mechanics of this beautiful profession. Medicine pairs knowledge and technology to bring hope in hopeless health reports. Doctors daily to do what was impossible 10 years ago, sometimes what was impossible yesterday. Diseases once feared and millions died from are now history – We are creating history every day and I will be a part of this in some way or another.

However, I fear that as my optimism dissipates, the excitement and drive will be gone completely clouded by the mundane; mechanical routine, rounds and checks – eventually my software will malfunction.

Do you think one day you’ll be replaced by robots? That you’ll be put of a job? No, I more concerned that my endeavour to become an artificial intellect – to be perfect will render me obsolete, it will be the thing that ends my career, that kills me one way or another.

We were not born to be a machine even if we were, we need regular maintenance and product development – I can’t become a limited edition overnight, this prototype phase will be ahead of me for a while yet.

Medical breakthrough wasn’t launched by an app but by a person. I am a person; my network connections stretch beyond medicine. I need to open other tabs and search through other browsers. At times, I need to hit the reset button, get some air and pull out my sketchbook.  

I will try but I will never perfect the art of medicine. I will hurt people. People will die despite my best efforts, perhaps even because of them.

Regardless of my perfectionism, I cannot hold myself to an artificial standard because I am real.

I’m Sarah. I’m a Medical Student.

I’m a person who studies Medicine.  

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