SIR PATRICK: Boldly returning to helm the Enterprise.

In Star Trek, doctors diagnosed their patients by scanning them with a non-intrusive medical scanner called a “Medical Tricorder”.

These amazing devices could diagnose any illness within seconds, and what’s more, they could also tell if you had a concussion or a fracture, all without blood tests, CT scans or X-rays.

At the time when the series was launched in 1966, the idea must have seemed absurd and far-fetched, but fast-forward just over half a century to 2017, and it is no longer science fiction. Medical scanners are now a reality.

Scientists in the US have developed DxtER, which is a medical scanner that can diagnose a number of conditions like diabetes, urinary tract infection, sleep apnoea, stroke, tuberculosis, and pneumonia - just by scanning the patient. It is easy to use, and requires no medical skills.

All you do is scan a person, and a few minutes later out comes the diagnosis.

DxtER is one of many medical scanning devices that are about to hit the market soon, ushering in a new age when people will become their own doctors and diagnose themselves without having to go to the doctor.

As if that’s not enough, University of California San Francisco has developed a robotic pharmacy that is capable of dispensing medication automatically, without human intervention.

The pharmacy has already dispensed nearly 350000 doses, and without a single error.

One does not need to be a computer scientist to see how these two amazing developments will soon work together, and also incorporate other cutting-edge technologies.

For example, in the near future your medical scanner will diagnose you, and send a prescription to the robotic pharmacy which will dispense your medication and conveniently deliver it to you via an autonomous drone. Easy peasy.

While this will be a huge convenience and a massive cost-saver for the consumers, it raises questions about the relevance of doctors and pharmacists in the future.

While it’s unlikely that doctors will become totally irrelevant, a lot of what they do today will be done by machines in the future. Maybe your future doctor will be a technical person, rather than a medical one.

There was a time when becoming a doctor was almost a guarantee of a prosperous career, but that is not so certain anymore. Things are changing fast, and many existing careers will cease to exist within a decade or two. The challenge is: how do we prepare our kids for such an uncertain future?

While it’s difficult to determine what the future holds, we can draw conclusions from current trends. In a LinkedIn study, it was shown that nearly 70% of current jobs relate to technology in some form or the other, be it coding, technical support or big data analysis. This is a strong indication that the people in the most advantageous position now and in the future will be those who possess computer science skills.

It makes perfect sense then, that to “future-proof” our kids, we need to equip them with computer science skills no matter what field they plan to get into. But then the question is: does our education system provide kids with computer science skills? If not, then how are they going to compete in tomorrow’s global job market?

* Bilal Kathrada is an educational technologist, speaker, author, newspaper columnist and entrepreneur. He is the founder of CompuKids, a start-up that teaches children Computer Science skills.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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