“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” - Henry David Thoreau
Can a career in software development be a noble vocation? I would argue yes, but will admit my bias, as someone working in this industry.
After reading a couple biographical books by medical professionals, it’s hard to deny the incredible impact they can have on the lives of others.
Those in the medical field help keep us healthy, keep us safe, and keep families together. Without nurses, doctors, surgeons, and so on, how would we function as a society?
One thing that struck me in these books, however, was how much subjectivity was involved in decision-making.
For example, if a patient is diagnosed with some affliction, they may receive a wide range of diagnoses from dozens of specialists. It’s amazing how subjective and varying these opinions can be. When peoples’ lives are in jeopardy, how can we allow for such uncertainty?
It seems that many hospitals suffer from a systems issue. There are not enough professionals to help patients, and those working often suffer a grueling schedule that certainly clouds their mind and decision-making abilities. Medical residents in particular can work 15+ hour days without rest. How can anyone function under such conditions.
And this is where software could have an incredible impact on the industry.
Think about the rise of ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber. Despite bumps along the way, it’s undoubtable that these services have saved thousands of lives from drunk-drivers. The convenience and reliability of these apps has had a tremendous impact on society.
So where are the similar opportunities in medicine. It’s hard to say for certain, but it seems like there are countless areas that could be improved.
What about an app that automatically alerts nurses when a particular patient needs attention. Or an app that incorporates IBM’s Watson, which can harness the power of Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning to help provide speedy and accurate diagnoses. Or the power of robotics and video streaming, that could allow doctors to remotely navigate dozens of hospitals in the same day.
It seems like the only limits are our imagination. I wish more entrepreneurs and startups would venture into these areas, rather than focus on superficial work in areas such as social media.
So back to the original question: Can software be a noble career path? As noble as that of a doctor?
If you can design a system that makes hospitals 1% more efficient, that could mean saving thousands of lives. More than any individual could.
In my brief experience in and out of hospitals. I’m amazed by how disorganized things can be. You see stressed and overworked doctors and nurses, making high-stakes on-the-fly decisions in the face of extreme pressure and sleep deprivation.
Software can help automate and optimize existing processes. We need to try and eliminate room for human error, and let technology help save us from ourselves.
Some people might argue that there is already a great deal of software in hospitals. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t massive room for improvement. Taxis existed before Uber, so we had the same basic service available for decades. But the ability to push a button and have nearby drivers arrive in minutes it’s an incredible technological achievement.
How can we make similar strides in medicine?