Another reason to welcome our inevitable robot overlords: not only will they be doctors, able to operate and save our lives, they will also deal with the insurance hassles. Sign us up! Having mastered Jeopardy!, reports Jonathan Cohn in this month's Atlantic cover story, IBM has now tasked its Watson supercomputer with improving health care. One of its features is an incredible insurance button, Cohn writes, "for submitting treatment proposals to managed-care companies, for near-instant approval, reducing the time and hassle involved in gaining payment authorization." That is just one of the many wonderful things these doctor replacements of the future will do, as Cohn explains in his story about the movement to replace health-care professionals with Watsons, which in an ideal world would reduce costs, improve outcomes, and even make health insurance less painful.
While that might sound like the reality of some far-fetched, far-away future, IBM expects these bots to be "widely available" in the next few years. At some point, these Dr. Watson's will replace four out of five doctor's, predicts one Silicon Valley venture capitalist. Of course, that's the rosy view of things. Due to legitimate concerns about robots making life or death decisions, as well as a notoriously slow-to-adapt to technology health-care system, it might take a bit longer than that for a robot doc reality. Even if we don't have full on medical professional replacements any time soon, the other advancements in this emerging field—like MarrowMiner, a device that harvests bone marrow in a faster, less painful way—sound promising. Read all about them in the full story here.