In bowling, a pinsetter or pinspotter is an automated mechanical device that sets bowling pins back in their original positions, returns bowling balls to the front of the alley, and clears fallen pins on the pin deck. Prior to the machine’s invention, pinsetters were boys or young men (pin boys) who manually reset pins and returned balls (see picture above) The first mechanical pinsetter was invented by Gottfried (Fred) Schmidt, who sold the patent in 1941 to AMF. Pinsetting machines have largely done away with pinsetting as a manual profession, although a small number of bowling alleys still use human pinsetters. While humans usually no longer set the pins, a pinchaser (or “pin monkey”) is often stationed near the equipment to ensure it is clean and working properly, and to clear minor jams. (Wikipedia)
It was an early example of technology replacing people, and that trend has certainly accelerated in recent years.
But you would think that some jobs are immune from being replaced by technology, like doctors.
Well, apparently that’s not quite the case.
A team from Johns Hopkins University says a robot has successfully performed the first laparoscopic surgery — without a doctor to guide it through the procedure.
Laparoscopic (or “keyhole”) surgery is a common, minimally invasive procedure that inserts a camera inside a tube into the abdomen or a woman’s reproductive system to check for problems.
The procedure, performed on a pig, is a major step towards fully autonomous operations on patients. During the surgery, the robot called STAR (Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot) successfully reconnected two ends of the intestine.
Researchers say STAR actually performed better than real surgeons, who deviated more from the ideal cut line — causing more tissue damage.
“Our findings show that we can automate one of the most intricate and delicate tasks in surgery: the reconnection of two ends of an intestine. The STAR performed the procedure in four animals and it produced significantly better results than humans performing the same procedure,” says senior author Dr. Axel Krieger, a mechanical engineer at Johns Hopkins.
The Laparoscopic procedure is arguably the most challenging task in gastrointestinal surgery, requiring a high level of accuracy and consistency. Even the slightest hand tremor or misplaced stitch can result in a leak — with potentially catastrophic complications for the patient.
STAR has an infrared camera and new features for enhanced independence and improved precision. They include specialized suturing tools and state-of-the-art scanners that provide more accurate visualizations of the surgical field.
Soft-tissue surgery is especially hard for robots because of its unpredictability. Dr. Krieger adds it forces the technology to adapt quickly to handle unexpected obstacles.
STAR has a novel control system that can adjust the surgical plan in real-time, just as a human surgeon would.
“What makes the STAR special is that it is the first robotic system to plan, adapt, and execute a surgical plan in soft tissue with minimal human intervention,” Dr. Krieger explains. “We hypothesize that this will result in a democratized surgical approach to patient care with more predictable and consistent patient outcomes.”
This study seems to suggest it is only a matter of time before robots are used in a greater variety of surgical procedures, and eventually replace doctors.
This could be decades down the road, but it may be something people need to start thinking about now.
What will all the doctors do if they are no longer needed?
Maybe they can go bowling, and reminisce about the good old days…
*image from WIkipedia