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Book Review

The Soul of Healing that Connects Medicine, ChatGPT and Faith

As AI technology and humanity become more deeply connected, the emergence of ChatGPT-4 marks a new beginning in medicine, which has evolved from an ancient practice of healing or a channel for healing, to a modern field that is intertwined with technological innovations. Religious scriptures from different faiths often depict the role of a physician as a manifestation of God’s healing power, a form of worship of God if done with the intention of healing others, and a representation of the principle of righteousness or justice. These scriptures show a profound respect for the aim of medicine and the noble role of physicians in society, acknowledging the boundaries of human knowledge when dealing with the mysteries of life, human suffering, healing, and mortality.

The AI Revolution in Medicine: GPT-4 and Beyond – co-authored by Peter Lee, the Corporate VP and Head of Microsoft Research, Carey Goldberg, a prominent health and science journalist, and Issac Kohane, a renowned physician biomedical informatics expert at Harvard Medical School – explores how medicine, the time-honored healing vocation, meets AI-supported ChatGPT and sparks theological reflections.

This book, published in May 2023, guides readers through the real and ongoing experiences of the authors about ChatGPT-4’s possible impact on medicine. This book presents a stimulating challenge for readers who were amazed by ChatGPT’s performance; the readers are asked to envision how their future healthcare appointments would be and to evaluate the broader implications of its advantages and disadvantages beyond medical consultations and hospital stays. The Chapter 3 title presents the Big Question that may interest readers as they begin this book: Does GPT really understand? Peter Lee presents the even “bigger questions” about intelligence and intentionality, stating that “what matters most to us, in the end, is how our evolving relationships with AI systems like GPT-4 shape our minds and actions.” The next chapters encourage readers to consider how to foster human intelligence and purposefulness in the GPT-4 and AI revolution in the medical field, where the secrets of life, human pain, healing, and death are often beyond the comprehension of human knowledge and algorithms alone.

The book features authentic GPT-4 conversations that demonstrate the remarkable abilities of GPT-4 for data analysis, administrative tasks, informed discussions, medical education, and even ethical considerations. This book, especially Chapter 7: The Ultimate Paperwork Shredder, offers a vision and a possibility that GPT and AI can help physicians who have struggled to cope with the daily challenges of modern medicine and its endless paperwork and administrative duties. The authors argue that the time saved by using these technologies could be spent on providing high-quality care and allowing physicians to be more empathetic. This book challenges readers to consider how physicians enhance the human aspects of care, such as empathic communication, attentive listening, and relational connection. Some human aspects of care might be amenable to algorithms. Others are not. I was left with questions. How about principles such as social justice in medicine? Doing the right thing when being faced with ethical dilemmas and nobody else (including GPT) is watching? It is possible for GPT to instruct values and virtues in medical practice?

As we approach the end of the book, patients-readers (as we all are) may become curious how a doctor with a genuine and dependable AI-assistant would enhance or interfere with interactions and ongoing bonds between patients and physicians. The authors make the case that both physicians and patients would be empowered by the AI-supported encounters. They emphasize AI must be carefully managed by examining all its potential, challenges, and moral and ethical limits, so that the benefits far outweigh the risks. They repeat that AI is an aid or helper, not a substitute for the role of physicians, suggesting that humans must be the final safeguard. Again, this left me with more questions. Should the final safeguard role display a deep regard for the purpose of medicine and the dignified role of physician in society? How does society view the physicians in the era of GPT4 and beyond? Would society see the physicians as a manifestation of GPT’s exponentially growing capabilities?

The concluding chapter is called The Big Black Bag, after a classic sci-fi story, where a futuristic medical bag with advanced technology mistakenly ends up with a mediocre doctor living in the 1950s. This “back-to-the-future” medical fiction ends well, allowing him to practice “heroic” medicine above the standards of the 1950s. In 2024, the AI tool GPT-4 is already demonstrating human-like interactions with people, as its users know. The scenario of a 90-year-old woman talking in 2033 to GPT-7, a successor of GPT-4, shows a strangely “beneficial” side of the future medicine. When I finished the book, I understood that AI is not just a tool for medicine, a sacred healing profession, but also a challenge that demands more philosophical inquiry into the purpose of medicine and the place of physicians in society, with a willingness to keep thinking and discerning.

Early adopters of ChatGPT4-driven technologies in medicine may say that GPT and the AI revolution are the most important changes in the history of medicine since the discovery of penicillin. The story of penicillin is a testament to the role of serendipity in scientific discovery and the importance of recognizing how a chance event can lead to a monumental shift in the lives of many. Others argue that the ChatGPT4-driven innovation in medicine is a change because it is data-driven. Methodological approach, meticulous experiments, and openness to what the data is telling them, despite the apparent contradiction of common beliefs and standard practices, led Mendel, Watson and Crick, and other scientists in modern genetics, to pursue and attain the most significant breakthroughs. These stories repeatedly demonstrate that while medicine and science are pursuing control and advancement of practical knowledge, it is also in relinquishing control and embracing the unexpected and intangible that may lead to the most significant breakthroughs and learning. In light of AI’s potential to augment or bring back the healing aspect of medicine and medical humanities, we must be open-minded to the possibility that GPT and the AI revolution could help us understand the limits of human knowledge and tap into the mysteries of life, human suffering, healing, and mortality in more profound ways, and eventually deepen our appreciation for the time-honored healing vocation of medicine.

Having worked in healthcare supporting physicians, I started reading The AI Revolution in Medicine: GPT and Beyond with interest and caution. I finished it thinking about the “Big Black Bag” implications of the AI revolution from a patient’s point of view with hope and unease. Through the book, I also thought about the core of medical practice: the caring relationship between physician and patient, the science and art of healing, which often involves invisible aspects of human feelings, spiritual and non-spiritual beliefs, and the intricacies of human existence in relation to our Creator. The AI Revolution in Medicine: GPT-4 and Beyond is an engaging and challenging read as it leads us to explore the soul of healing that connects medicine, AI, and what transcends our physical existence.

Yuriko Ryan

Is a bioethicist-gerontologist with over 20 years of international experience in healthcare ethics and policy research. Based in Vancouver, Canada, she holds a Doctorate in Bioethics from Loyola University of Chicago and is a certified Healthcare Ethics Consultant (HEC-C). She is a contributing writer/member of the AI and Faith Editorial Board. She writes on AI Ethics, Public Health Ethics, Business Ethics, and Healthcare Ethics.

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