Along these chapters, we have tried to provide some basic information on what surgical robotics and digital guidance are made of, as well as given a rough sketch of how these technologies are currently improving or will soon improve ENT surgery. The exponential evolution of numeric technology and its applications are difficult to evaluate, even for experts, because of the sheer number of possibilities. Obviously, we are aware that this book is only a very short journey into this new field and that it is likely to become obsolete in just a few years, if this is not already the case.
From a practical perspective, this is not important because this is not what really matters. For centuries, medicine has relied essentially on knowledge, gestures and ethics passed on from medicine masters directly to their students. It seems likely that this 3000years long era could soon be coming to an end, with surgeons and machines working in close collaboration, using new strategies, new workflows, creating new procedures and all this continuing to expand further and further. However, bearing in mind that progress generally also brings new issues (see how much the smartphone has improved our lives but has also deprived us of some of the time spent with our family or, simply, just thinking), we have to be aware that robots—which have a real potential to significantly improve our surgeries—may also deteriorate what is coming from years and years of that we could call medical evolution.
Nothing is bad. It simply depends on how it is used and to what end it is used. On one hand, the emergence of worldwide financial networks able to control markets is a risky situation where “money-based” surgical robots could potentially alienate our practice, however, on the other hand, the ability to network non-mercantile individuals could, to a certain extent, counterbalance this undesirable situation.
Another point we would like to highlight before ending this book is more positive. In facing a new powerful technology, the ENT surgeon has a historical challenge to beat. Rarely, in the history of ENT, have we encountered such an exciting situation. Robots have a real potential not to replace us, but instead, to extend dramatically our ability to cure some diseases and conditions, the thought of which had, until now, been considered totally out of reach. This presumes our capability to invest in this technology and to open our imagination to new procedures which could not be performed by humans alone. This field is incredibly stimulating and its successful development will strongly depend on whether we passively wait for engineers to invest in our science or whether we are ready to analyze the potential of robotics and digital guidance to design our own new medical applications.
This is the challenge that any ENT doctor has to consider. The future depends on us.
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