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Opinion: Column: Weight For It… Wait…
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Opinion: Column: Weight For It… Wait…

I don't like interacting with artificial intelligence. Nor do I like interacting with artificially-intelligent emailers.

And I especially don't like when there's an attempt by these "a.i.s" to modify my behavior by suggesting a pre-programmed, presumptive course of action – or inaction on my part, based on some survey I may have completed or some list that I've recently been added to – without my consent, or most likely due to a purchase or service I likewise recently paid for.

To that end, which does not justify their means, today I received an email that goes above and beyond the "a.i.'s" purview. And how this particular email came my way is "curious," as Spock from the original "Star Trek" might say.

On March 1, moments before my last infusion, I stepped on a scale which registered my "overweight," which along with taking my blood pressure, pulse and oxygen levels are part of the usual and customary vitals I provide each and every time I go for treatment. Other than my "overweight," my vitals are completely normal.

Treatment start-date to date, 10-plus years now, my "overweight" has never been a problem (truth be told, I'm hardly obese, just pleasingly plump), just a factor in determining how much medicine is dripped by my IV.

The oncologist and medical staff has seemed more concerned with a patient losing weight – which I rarely have. Although during the early days of six-plus hours of heavy-duty chemotherapy, I did lose weight and it was a concern and can portend a serious complication.

Fortunately for me, whatever weight I did lose did not portend anything other than I wasn't eating. Eventually, that lost weight – and more – was definitely found.

A few days later, I received an email from my health care provider; not my doctor, not a nurse and not personalized by any medical professional, but rather sent from some artificially-intelligent thing offering me information on varying diets and their respective benefits. At first I laughed at its location – in my inbox, and then I began to question its legitimacy and then I got mad at its presumptive intent.

Was this a coincidence? Was this merely a continuing outreach to the HMO's patients like its colon-rectal screening program, sent to patients of a certain age, seems to be? Or was it something more insidious like "Hal" nearly became in the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey"?

The nerve. The bypassing of protocols. The attempt to circumvent the human element. Is this what medicine has become?

Not calls or personalized messages from your doctor/medical staff but instead an electronic missive emailed with the cold, insensitive precision of Pentium chips?

Putting aside the obvious fact that I do need to lose weight, even though, as my brother Richard says so often when he sees me: "The weight looks good on you," I am not doing so because a computer told me to.

In fact, I may not do so at all just to spite that computer, and by association, the system that exists/was put in place (presumably by some human) that believes that communicating with its members electronically is the wave of the future rather than the bane of my present. I cannot, I will not be a pawn in this game of clones where the same messages get sent to millions of semi-unsuspecting patients by uncertified nonprofessionals as a matter of some coarse level of routine.

If you want me to change my behavior, or at least consider changing my behavior, you have to try a little harder than by sending a preprogrammed message to patients who meet/exceed a certain threshold.

And how did my personal information actually get known anyway? Is there a system in place that automatically reviews patients' private histories by cross-referencing who had appointments and what the new details were? Was the scale and blood pressure machine in on it? If so, is my medical care becoming more automated and less individualized?

I realize I'm just a number but I didn't think they'd take it literally.