That was the talk request from the pharmacists involved in antibiotic stewardship at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), and I agreed to it on a whim. Turned out to be quite challenging, because of course there is very little in common between prescribing antibiotics and playing chess!
I was quite pleased to re-learn Dr Siegbert Tarrasch’s quote: “chess, like love, like music, has the power to make [people] happy”. There is of course nothing aesthetic about antibiotic prescribing.
There were two important issues that I wanted to discuss however, the first of which is that antibiotic prescribing and chess, like much of medicine and life, is about probabilities. The second issue is about the role of computers and artificial intelligence (AI). Physicians are largely interested in (and concerned with) the role that AI will play in healthcare, and whether it will displace many of us from our jobs. Many feel that computers and AI will never replace clinical decision making because of its complexity and lack of clear-cut outcomes that correlate closely to the decisions made. This is something that has already been seen just over 2 decades ago in chess (a much simpler, constrained game than making choices about which drugs to prescribe), where chess players went through the equivalent of the whole Kubler-Ross stages of grief and are now comfortable with the use of computers for training and analysis. This will also happen in medicine.