“Technology is best when it brings people together.”

Matt Mullenweg, social media entrepreneur

Artificial intelligence often has difficulty with adoption in the healthcare domain. While this impasse is at times frustrating to those who are champions of this paradigm, it is perhaps good to appreciate how other significant technological advances in the past have had a difficult adoption process as well.

Model T. Modern cars actually began to be built as early as the 1885 in Germany by Karl Benz, but it was Henry Ford more than 20 years later that began the effort to make the car affordable and popular. In addition, the famed Model T was preceded by eight other car models before its final version. Even with the Model T being reasonably priced and relatively safe, there was significant pushback by the public that was mostly skeptical about this new contraption. Eventually, model T with its revolutionary manufacturing assembly line changed the way Americans lived, worked, and traveled. In short, the Model T was affordable, simple to operate, and durable. Lessons learned: The innovative technology needed to be coupled to learning the process of manufacturing and the ability to drive for it to reach final adoption.

Automatic Elevators. The “driverless” elevator was available as an alternative to the human-driven elevator as early as 1900. Many riders walked out of these automatic elevators almost as soon as they walked in. Then in 1945, almost 50 years since the advent of the automated elevators, the elevator operators in New York City went on strike. The workers refused to go to work and the city lost hundreds of millions of dollars. The elevator companies then took this window of opportunity and emphasized the safety of these automatic elevators and along with workers being tired of walking up and down stairs to work, there was gradual adoption of this driver-less elevator. Lessons learned: Adoption sometimes occurs when a window of opportunity opens that leads to the burden of not having the innovation becomes excessive.

Home Desktop Computer. The concept of a home computer was explored as early as 1965 by Jim Sutherland and his ECHO IV, but this idea of having a computer on the desk at home mostly frowned upon by the public as an expensive toy only for the computer experts. Early computers were purchased by mail order or purchased at a general electronic store like RadioShack by only technophiles. It was not until almost 20 years later that one began to see retail stores especially in Silicon Valley dedicated to selling computer hardware and software with computers such as the Radio Shack TRS-80, the Commodore PET, and the Apple II. Lessons learned: The democratization of knowledge to use the technology is essential for adoption of the technological innovation.

Most technological innovations in the past have had a difficult adoption course that lasted for decades, and artificial intelligence may not be an exception. Even with the impressive display that ChatGPT and large language models have demonstrated in the past few months, claims of “hallucination” and “confabulation” have been made by naysayers as its limitations. Just like the model T, automatic elevator, and home desktop computer, artificial intelligence as a technological innovation will experience a “zig-zag” ascent to its final acceptance and adoption

The importance of understanding forces that limit adoption of artificial intelligence will be part of the topics of discussion at the in-person Ai-Med Global Summit 2024 scheduled currently for May 29-31, 2024. See you then!