People Still Want Their Medical Intelligence in Human Form

Doctors or AI? Lukewarm vote of confidence goes to…

Well, we’ve got some good news for the physicians out there, and we’ve got some bad news. Which do you want first? Okay, we’re mostly hearing good news, so here goes: Most people would choose a human doctor over artificial intelligence for the diagnosis and treatment of their medical conditions.

And the bad news? In the survey we’re talking about, “most” was 53%, so not exactly a huge victory for the carbon-based life forms. Yup, about 47% of the 2,472 respondents said they would prefer an AI-based clinic over a human specialist, and that number went up if individuals were told that their primary care physicians were on board with AI, “or otherwise nudged to consider AI as good,” the research team said in a written statement released by the University of Arizona, Tucson.

They went on to add that “this signaled the significance of the human physician in guiding a patient’s decision.” So patients will still need their doctors in the future to … um … this is a bit awkward … tell them how good the AI is?

And yes, we know that ChatGPT is already doing the same thing to journalists, but could it write a medical-humor column? Not a chance. Probably can’t even tell a joke.

How do ghosts get rid of wrinkles? Boo-tox. There, let’s see ChatGPT do that.

Explaining the joke makes it funnier, right?

Here at LOTME headquarters, we live by one simple rule, passed down directly from the Buddha himself: “Never let a good presurgical assessment of refractory epilepsy go to waste. Also, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.”

This human-created joke has been brought to you by the leading theory of humor, which states that comedy stems from our brain reacting to an incongruous part of reality in a positive way. These positive emotions light up our neurons in a specific fashion, and boom, comedy is achieved.

Previous studies into the science of comedy have typically used functional MRI to analyze the brain while it was gripped in the throes of a comedic reaction. Unfortunately, fMRI cannot detect the entirety of the electromagnetic spectrum generated by the brain during these moments, so observing scientists have been, quite literally, missing out on some of the joke. And that’s where a new study from France comes in.

In the study, the researchers showed a group of patients with epilepsy who were hooked up to deep brain electrodes and a high-tech neuroimaging machine – part of the aforementioned presurgical assessment – a 3-minute excerpt from a Charlie Chaplin movie and analyzed their brain activity. Why Charlie Chaplin? Simple. Slapstick is perhaps the most accessible form of comedy across cultures. We can all appreciate a man getting hit in the head with a coconut. The world’s oldest bar joke or whatever this is? Not so much.

During the funniest scenes, all study participants showed increased high-frequency gamma waves (indicating high cognitive engagement) and a decrease in low-frequency waves (indicating reduced inattention and introspection). During unfunny scenes, such as transition moments, the opposite occurred. Importantly, this inverse relationship occurred in the temporal lobe but not in other regions, supporting previous research that indicated humor was mainly processed in the temporal lobe.

The investigators suggested future research should focus on longer videos with more complex forms of comedy, such as jokes, irony, sarcasm, or reference humor. So, uh, a guy getting hit in the head with two coconuts? That’s high-brow stuff right there.

Hot take: Humans aren’t that special

We humans have always prided ourselves on being different from “the animals” in an exceptional way. News flash! We aren’t. We may be the apex predator, but new research shows that humans, as part of the animal kingdom, just aren’t special.

Not special? How can they say that? Are gorillas doing open-heart surgery? Do wolverines tell jokes? At a more basic level, though, the way we operate as mammals in societies is not unique or even new. Elephants are known to mourn their deceased and to have funeral-like practices, ants invented agriculture, and we’re certainly not the only species that has figured out how to use tools.

This new research just demonstrates another way we aren’t exceptional, and that’s in our mating practices and outcomes.

“Humans appear to resemble mammals that live in monogamous partnerships and to some extent, those classified as cooperative breeders, where breeding individuals have to rely on the help of others to raise their offspring,” Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, PhD, professor emerita of anthropology at the University of California, Davis, said in a written statement.

The research team, which consisted of over 100 investigators, looked at 90 human populations based on data from over 80,000 people globally and compared the human data with 49 different nonhuman mammal species. In polygynous societies in which men take several wives, they found, women have more access to resources like food, shelter, and parenting help. Monogamy, on the other hand, “can drive significant inequalities among women,” Dr. Borgerhoff Mulder said, by promoting large differences in the number of children couples produce.

Human day-to-day behavior and child-rearing habits – one parent taking a daughter to ballet class and fixing dinner so the other parent can get to exercise class before picking up the son from soccer practice – may have us thinking that we are part of an evolved society, but really we are not much different than other mammals that hunt, forage for food, and rear and teach their children, the researchers suggested.

So, yes, humans can travel to the moon, create a vaccine for smallpox, and hit other humans with coconuts, but when it comes to simply having offspring or raising them, we’re not all that special. Get over it.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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