Scott Blois

1919 - 1988

Common Sense

Marsden Scott Blois, MD was the Chairman of the Section on Medical Informatics at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. His relevance to the journey is two-fold. First, I knew him personally while on the faculty at UCSF. He was one of the founders of the American College of Medical Informatics of which I am a founding member. More importantly, Scott is the author of an important journal article describing a key concept that I used in the book. The article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980 was entitled, "Clinical Judgement and Computers."


The figure to the left is taken from this article. The funnel is meant to show the decreasing cognitive span of a physician during the process of making a diagnosis regarding a patient. At first, represented by point A in the figure, any diagnosis is possible. The physician, with his or her general knowledge of medicine and of the world in general and the ability to interact with other humans by talking with them (taking a history), examining them and observing their behavior must narrow down the huge number of possibilities to a reasonably small number called the differential diagnosis. Selecting from the smaller number of choices in the differential diagnosis is represented by point B in the figure. The process at point B to get to the correct diagnosis often requires the use of laboratory tests and other diagnostic procedures and very specific detailed knowledge of the narrow disease spectrum. Blois’ contention was that physicians are far superior to computers at point A whereas computers, if programmed properly with the right rules, are superior to physicians at point B.

The funnel could represent any domain of knowledge, not just medicine. Somehow, the human brain is born with the capability to get to point A just by living in the world. It is common sense. The goal of artificial intelligence is to move point B as close as possible to Point A. When Artificial General Intelligence is achieved, Point B will be at Point A and when the singularity and Artificial Superintelligence is achieved, Point B will be to the left of Point A.

The above discussion is part of the journey regarding electronic evolution, one of the major paths explored regarding the answers.

Click on links to other players in my journey below.