SCHRÖDINGER’S BETTER PATIENTS presented by Dr. Barry Robson

April 16, 2012 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Manning Hall Room 208


Presented by Barry Robson Ph.D., DSc



The President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology (PCAST), Semantic Web (“Third Web”) developers, and Decision Support System designers are all variously calling for a universal best practice for exchanging and sharing data, and making automated inference from it. This is particularly so for healthcare, and there the need to handle complexity and uncertainty is especially obvious and pressing.  As Schrödinger may have first pointed out, quantum mechanics should be universal best practice for the management of data and probabilistic inference from it, on all scales from the subatomic to the cosmological. But he also noted that something was awry, because it made weird predictions on the scales of everyday human life. It has not escaped the interest of companies like Toshiba and Google.  In this talk it is argued that Dirac essentially fixed that problem, with the lucky bonus that his powerful algebraic notation visually represents the natural extension of XML to probabilistic semantics, and a potential Universal Exchange Language for healthcare. The further problem is how to access large volumes of patient data for data mining in order to get the required probabilistic rules for inference, by balancing the issues of  (a) secure privacy, and  (b) consent to release aspects of the medical record for use by researchers for the common good. Here too, ideas from quantum mechanics and related mathematical disciplines can help.


Barry Robson was for eleven years  Chief Scientific Officer, IBM Global Healthcare, Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences, Strategic Advisor to IBM Research, and IBM Distinguished Engineer. He is currently Chief Scientific Officer of Quantal Semantics Inc., University Director of Research and Professor of Evidence Based Medicine, Biostatistics and Epidemiology at St Matthew’s Schools of Medicine, Grand Cayman, Distinguished Scientist in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and Chief Executive Officer of The Dirac Foundation, Oxfordshire, UK. In 1990 he was the scientific founder of a company on the London Stock Exchange where he developed Expert Systems to design biopharmaceuticals, including the Mad Cow Disease diagnostic marketed worldwide by Abbott. His books include “The Engines of Hippocrates - From the Dawn of Medicine to Medical and Pharmaceutical Informatics,” B. Robson and OK Baek, Wiley, 2009.