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Using Computers in Chess and Medical Diagnosis: Are there parallels?

Posted by Jason Maude on Fri, May 11, 2012 @ 07:51 AM

In chess, grand masters are even better with computers; in medicine doctors are better with differential diagnosis support (ddx) tools.

I recently read this story about chess and was struck by the parallels between medicine and the use of differential diagnosis or ddx tools like Isabel.

“Few would dispute that the chess achievements of Garry Kasparov are second to none. In spite of Kasparov’s success, he is unfairly best remembered as being the first world champion to lose a match against a computer - IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997. The news kicked up a media firestorm that challenged the superiority of the human mind over computers. However, it is actually two lesser-known games that Kasparov played against human opponents that are most instructive for the physician.

Kasparov has explained that, having lost to Deep Blue in 1997, he became fascinated with ‘Moravec’s Paradox’ or the fact that what computers are good at, humans are weak at and vice versa. Computers are excellent at calculation and computation, but humans have far higher levels of strategic intuition, sacrificial awareness and pattern recognition. What if instead of pitting one against the other, the man and machine played in tandem - could it create the highest level of chess ever played? In 1998 he and another Grandmaster Veselin Topalov played a match in this way armed with laptops loaded with software. While a month earlier Kasparov had beaten Topalov 4–0, in this instance the match ended a 3–3 draw. When both were armed with machines, Topalov had managed to draw level in skill with the usually superior Kasparov.”

Computers can certainly aid in improving medical diagnosis. This concept is clear from the stories we get from Isabel ddx users, specifically shown in the research from Rosalind Franklin Medical School that showed that their Year 4 medical students improved their diagnosis accuracy by over 20% (1). A ddx tool like Isabel helps make smart docs even smarter.

1 The Impact of a diagnostic reminder system on student clinical reasoning during simulated case studies. Carlson J, Abel M, Bridges D, Tomkowiak J.

Topics: Differential diagnosis, ddx, chess, computer vs. human

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