Hello, Uber? I need a taxi, a bowling buddy and a wife (preferably all in the same person)

I was just reading an article that surprised me. The article, titled “NYC Roads Now Have More Uber Cars Than Yellow Taxis” indicates a situation that no one would have predicted 3 to 4 years ago, if not arguably even a year ago. This is of course just another example how social norms are changing so quickly that it makes people dizzy. On the other hand, there is clearly an openness to embrace almost anything that can potentially simplify, automate or cheapen a service.

To be clear, when I say cheapen, I refer solely to the cost of the service, not the value. In fact, at the point that competition and baseline costs of gasoline and car maintenance, leads to the lowest market prices, people will begin differentiating themselves on the basis of the speed of the ride as well as the enjoyment of the in-car environment.

Does this mean that within 10 years, taxis as a unique service will cease to exist? I have no idea. As I have said before, I am extremely wary of any prediction beyond three years, if that much. But it does seem likely that the idea of a formal taxi-like pay–for service that gets you from point A to point B will transform over the next few years. Interestingly, as Uber style services become more and more popular, there will likely be a strong demand for automated validation software, that checks to see that the service provider does not have a criminal record or suspicious behavior of any type.

Even the number of parking tickets will likely be part of the evaluation of the service provider for driving-related jobs. Or perhaps, the number of parking tickets will be found to be a proxy for all other types of behavioral issues. Whatever the mechanism is, users will come to rely on services that effectively score providers in terms of their safety and productivity.

It will be fascinating to see how such measurements of an individual’s safety and general value will be made. If a service provider has a Facebook account which shows him or her to have been in a state of severe drunkenness, this might be enough to already lower the score of this provider to such a point that he or she will find it very difficult to find any type of employment.

The Internet, rather than being a primary domain for dangerous characters, might end up being the saving grace that protects you from people who have the slightest high risk profile. If our behaviors are truly almost entirely predictable by our general actions, it may be that the Internet with all of its information about how we behave, will be the best way to know if an individual is best avoided.

Deep learning systems, that have the ability to analyze billions of records of information from varied sources and identify trends, may very soon be able to tell you who has a very high probability of doing well at specific tasks. Do you need someone to be a personal assistant, to keep all of your documents and appointments in order? I have no doubt that a properly trained computer system could determine such character traits by analyzing how a person saves their files, orders material into online folders, details upcoming appointments, is on time to meetings, is reliable based on social media comments from other people and so on. Think of this as a digital and highly specific CV which is not biased based on gender, ethnicity or other personal issues.

The applicability of such a system in the medical world is clear. Such Uber-style systems will tell you if a particular doctor is particularly suited to perform a particular surgery. You will get  scores related to the physician’s personality and success rates based on a whole variety of parameters. Doctors will embrace these systems because they will quickly realize that such systems will be their ultimate referral agents. If a doctor becomes known for having poor bedside manner, he or she will likely see their patient-visits dwindle in number.

Perhaps even, this is how the doctor shortage will be managed. Computers will do more and more of the basic medical care. Health care professionals such as physician assistants and physiotherapists will take over more and more tasks that are presently performed by physicians. There will be a significantly reduced need for doctors to do most medical care. But the doctors that are still actively working, doing what ever they are uniquely trained to do, will be constantly scored. Very quickly, the best doctors from every perspective will rise to the top. They will become successful, financially well set and even “loved” by the people they care for. Perhaps doctors will finally earn the angelic mystique that so many patients still perceive.

I suspect that, in many fields, there will still be a need for some type of credentialing body. An individual might score very highly on bedside manner but will still need to have a certain amount of training and a broad enough knowledge base to perform the expected task, no matter how pleasant the individual may be. So, credentialing bodies will still exist, and perhaps for most services, it will be possible to fully train online. After that point, automated scoring systems will indicate what qualifications the individual has, beyond what was studied, for credentialing purposes.

So, a plumber might finish his or her formal training period, be certified as an expert in certain areas of plumbing, and then be flagged as a responsible and fair personality based on their public persona [primarily derived from social media]. Such a person might find themselves inundated with offers for work the moment their new status as a plumber is indicated on various social media. This really is a win-win situation for the client as well as for the professional who also happens to be a nice guy.

I personally wonder how such systems will be applied to various forms of mating. Finding a mate is not only for romantic purposes. You might be looking for someone who shares your passion in collecting miniature train sets. You might be looking for a bowling buddy. Then again, you might be looking for a potential spouse.

A lot of people will say that “had they known” a specific detail about their spouse, they never would have entered into the marriage. What will happen when the Internet is able to provide you with exactly this kind of information, that effectively decides for you whether marriage is part of the future of a present relationship. Here’s an interesting question – what if the computer system is able to say that you will have 20 years of married bliss, including 3.65 children, but will then most likely end in an amicable divorce. How many people would still marry, knowing these statistics? What will happen to all of the yente matchmakers out there? I guess they will have to become Uber drivers.

Thanks for listening

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About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.
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