Essay: Welcome to the immediate future

Trial: Welcome to the immediate future


Jean-Emmanuel Bibault is a bollé, as we say in colloquial language. He who dreamed of becoming a psychiatrist, now he finds himself, a few university years later, researcher in radiotherapy in a laboratory of the prestigious Stanford University, in Silicon Valley, then professor in radiotherapy oncology at the University of Paris-Cité and practitioner at the Georges-Pompidou European Hospital. 

Today, he is more convinced than ever that artificial intelligence will profoundly change the way he does his job and will improve the future of patients. 

“We are on the way to inventing machines who will heal us better than we are able to heal ourselves,” he says.

Fascinating! And we are only in the early stages. The chatbot ChatGPT, which we recently got to know, is just the tip of the iceberg.

If, as we often hear, AI does not replace health professionals in their multiple tasks, how can it improve the practice of medicine in areas such as screening, diagnosis, prediction, treatment? and even disease prevention? 

Accelerating diagnosis

First, comments the oncologist, it allows the acceleration of the diagnosis. Fighting cancer, for example, is often a race against time, and despite all the goodwill in the world, it can take several months before adequate treatment begins. 

Thanks to its massive megadatabases integrating a large number of parameters, and thanks to its capacity for interpretability, AI will allow better performance in terms of screening, diagnosis and treatment to be followed.

This is how this medical specialist created, with the help of a few other researchers, an AI to screen for the possibility of cancer in certain target populations.  

Such research with the AI help can also help detect infectious diseases linked to the environment, such as the Zika virus, dengue fever or chikungunya, which are found in tropical areas such as Cuba, for example. 

In the majority of cases, AI has been shown to outperform radiology experts in detecting the presence of cancer. By making early diagnoses (lungs, breast, liver, pancreas, prostate, bladder, brain, skin), thanks to AI, doctors can therefore initiate therapy in a timely manner and save lives.

< p>And even more

But it can go even further. In the case of “a doubt about a mole or a new pimple, no more waiting six months before the appointment with your dermatologist, take your phone, scan your skin and get a reliable and instantaneous answer ! »

In cardiology, AI has also stood out, thanks to its automated analysis of electrocardiograms. This also applies to diseases of the digestive tract where AI has made it possible to analyze certain videocapsules captured during endoscopy in less than ten minutes.

The fields of application of AI in medicine are infinite. We can even analyze the quality of sperm from a donor for artificial insemination, in order to increase the chances of success. 

This analysis can make it possible, among other things, to detect the risks of gestational diabetes, which normally occurs between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. Diets, physical exercises and training, sleep, psychiatry, depression, there are countless applications where artificial intelligence is successfully used.

The path traveled from the appearance of the Pascaline (Blaise Pascal's calculating machine) to the Apple iPad, via the Nintendo console, is gigantic. What if one day all the computers broke down? asks the researcher. I will always be a doctor and will continue to treat my patients, he replies, but I am however incapable of repairing a computer processor.


Of course, AI carries risks of abuse and intrusion into our private lives, among other things with ambient AI, which can monitor and evaluate your every move in a given place. It all comes down to user intent. Not for nothing that the GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) are interested in medicine. In 2020, AI was a $156 billion market. Hence the need to protect the confidentiality of patient data.

The author concludes, on an optimistic note, that in 2041, AI (now GAIA, for General Artificial Intelligence for All) will have won three Nobel Prizes: physics, chemistry and medicine. GAIA will make it possible to detect all diseases with great precision and to prevent them. 

Vivement 2041! 

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Once a month, since 2017, the daily newspaper Le Devoirinvites historians to reflect on an event or a historical figure that has marked the history of Quebec. Journalist and historian Dave Noël has selected some twenty of these texts which have fueled the debate around our future: October crisis and police repression, women's liberation movement and the Quiet Revolution, heritage of the patriots, representation of the First Nations, Jules Verne and his vision of Quebec at the time of the 1837-1838 insurrections, Jacques Parizeau and the 1980 referendum, secularism, etc., so many subjects covered in this work which reminds us that “history is never written in advance”. 


For anyone interested in the rights of people struggling with problems related to the organization of the health network in Quebec, lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard is considered Robin Hood and a hero. Since putting his legal practice at the service of the victims of this vast, often inhuman network, things have started to change. Health professionals are no longer the untouchables they used to be and “patients know their rights better”. It all started in August 1985, with his fight on behalf of patients at Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies, a psychiatric institute that houses some six hundred patients with serious intellectual disabilities or mental illness. A real horror story. It was an unequal fight of David against Goliath, Me Ménard having had to take the cause voluntarily “because the parents were not all wealthy enough to advance him money”. A captivating biography. Hats off, Me Ménard!