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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Captain Kirk and the surprisingly large size of the Starship enterprise

Since the 60s, Captain James T Kirk and his cohort of intergalactic travellers have inhabited a world of constraint free, technology supported adventures. To write these adventures, successive generations of screenwriters and directors have had a blank piece of paper to create their world.

Star trek doors

As with all writers, they start with the story and piece together plot structure and suspense; love, romance, disaster and triumph.  You can have an interracial kiss in the 60’s because it is ‘Star-date 2345’ and when there are aliens, the social constraint surely doesn’t apply. The huge cost of filming landing on a planet is reduced quite considerably by the ability to teleport and the huge supply chain management issues of feeding thousands of people on the ship is reduced by a food replicator (I wonder whether they need one of everything to have something to replicate from).

All the technology starts with a use case where any everyday thing is easily fixed. Once there’s a problem, it can be remediated instantly in someone’s imagination. In the real world, we are squeezed out of imagination by everyday constraints. But do we need to have our own ideas when we can just take the ones from Star trek and do that. Take sliding doors; have you other wondered why most sliding doors work like the Star Trek ones even though a normal door opens out or in? Did someone invent the technology for a door to look like Star Trek and did a young inventor see Chekov ordering his lunch and get to thinking about 3D printers? Would we have the same obsession with needle free medicine delivery and is love for VR just a desire to recreate the holodeck?

On the other hand alongside an advanced technological society, the Star Trek gang also live a hugely homogenised world, everyone in the same uniform, everything clean and shiny. Does anyone know how anything works? There’s lots of button pushing which is the only thing required to fix everything but Bones’s job is to read out what the reading on his medi-scanner and even Scotty blessed with his genetic Scottish prevalence towards engineering can only respond generically about di-lithium crystals and not having enough power. Only 5 people or so are ever trusted to go on extra planetary excursions (and one of those people is always there to be sacrificed) and perhaps even more sinister is the ability to communicate to everyone at all times and to know the whereabouts and condition of everyone all the time.

So the Star Trek gang exist in a world or technology enabled ease where social, morale, philosophical or (especially military) challenges are the only ones left.  Is that the world towards which we are heading? Perhaps the most intriguing thing is why the Starship enterprise is so big when they don’t need to carry much and it’s a core group of staff who do everything. Either there’s hundreds of unseen leisure hunters enjoying the United Federation Botanic gardens on level 48 whilst Captain kirk the real loser has to knuckle down Or perhaps there needs to be room for all the robots and the huge server rooms being cooled by the infinite bleakness of space.