The Million Dollar Nurse and the battle of EQ vs IQ


Imagine if you will, the starting salary for a nurse at $1,000,000. Thousands of applications for a small number of available spots at University and then fierce competition for years. Some go into private nursing at huge premiums and all the golf clubs are filled with nurse helmed self-driving Mercedes.

It’s the thing to talk about at the moment that AI and robotics stands ready to make 50% of people redundant ( and make the rich richer and poor poorer. It’s common knowledge that the so-called lower skilled and repetitive jobs are at risk but maybe it’s the basic dynamic of value in work which has most to fear.

The rewards in society are designed to reflect IQ. You win the Dux medal at school for having the best grades, you get into University and then into graduate jobs based on your scores and then your salary and progression commonly follows a path where the smartest do the best. Your EQ is not present in your scores at a math quiz and though you might be voted ‘most friendly’ you don’t typically put this on a college application. In short, there are a lot of Nobel prizes for the smart people and not many for the nice people (Peace? Anyone).

However, has anyone felt their own intellect increasingly irrelevant. I used to know the 20 ,14 digit numbers of my friends off by heart. I used to be able to know which player scored for Hamilton Academicals in the 1987 famous win at Ibrox (Adrian Sprott). Now, I just need access to my phone. Today, all static information is easy to get to and almost pointless to learn.

Let’s look at Surgeons then. Very well educated (thankfully), experienced to know what to do when the worst happens, if x happens to y then do z. They have to learn huge amounts of information, have incredible precision and then often specialise deeply. They are rare and therefore valuable, they are highly skilled and highly paid. They are also famous for having no bedside manner and acting as if robots with their work (because they function better like that.).

Surely we should be replacing a robot with real robot then? The description above describes perfectly what you expect from a robot. There is already progress in robotic surgery (albeit with the doctor steering) but there is further progress in diagnosis and decision making., What we are less likely to replace is the emotional and human requirement. You already see your nurse much more than your doctor, she/he is there to support, reassure and understand, to talk to family and deal with questions day to day. The value put on this is currently inexcusably low because it’s hard to explain qualitative levels in empathy and the learning process need not be as long or specialised or arduous as the surgeon.

Skip forward then 30 years where we’ve squeezed AI into every possible IQ task, who will be left as the leaders in society? Tell your kids to get into Nursing.

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