Would you look at that there is a post for J! And for the first part of our interview we’re even time travelling to the year 2030- I think t
hat more than makes up for the confusion!
Today I’m talking to Dr Google (a.k.a Mhairi Aitken) about both her jobs. Come
along on Monday 6th August for her show ‘Dr Google Will See You Now’ at the New Town Theatre.
The year is 2030…
As Dr Google, What’s your job title?
I’m a Senior Data Consultant at the Google Health Service specialising in precision medicine. I am one of three human consultants working with a team of 87 artificial intelligence bots. We process the data of 97.2 per cent of the U.K. population to identify which conditions people are likely to develop and offer precisely the right intervention before anyone ever even experiences the first symptoms. I am proud to be part of a team that has truly revolutionised healthcare.
How did you get your job?
I began working with the Google Health Service shortly after it was established in 2025. Prior to that I had been working in data analytics with the NHS. I had collaborated with Google’s Deep Mind in a few big projects developing artificial intelligence programmes which processed NHS patient data, so I – like a lot of my colleagues – already had very good connections at Google so it really felt like a natural career move. In the five years since the Google Health Service was set up things have moved forward at such a rapid pace and the NHS is pretty much obsolete so I’m happy it was the right move to make.
Why should the public care about Dr Google?
The public should be very grateful to Dr Google and the Google Health Service: we have changed their lives and we’ve changed their worlds! Nobody needs to queue up at doctors’ surgeries or even ask for a doctors’ appointment: we tell you when you need an appointment! And nobody needs to be able to describe their symptoms anymore either: we know what your symptoms are before you tell us – we’ve seen the data from your apps. And we know all about your lifestyle already: we’ve seen what food and drink you’ve been buying, your smart kitchen tells which ones you’ve actually eaten, we’re grateful for the information you share on social media and if it ever reaches the stage that you feel unwell we’ve seen which symptoms you type into our search engine. Being a patient in the Google Health Service is easy, we just need you to live your life and we process the data trails you leave behind.
And back in 2018…
As Mhairi, what is your job title?
In reality I am a Research Fellow in the Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics in the Medical School at the University of Edinburgh.
How do you feel about Dr Google?
I’m still quite undecided about Dr Google. While on the one hand it might seem like an extreme vision of the future, everything I am suggesting is possible and doesn’t require a huge stretch of the imagination. I think there are some truly amazing possibilities around the ways that data can be used now and in the future. Incredible health research is already being conducted using NHS patient data and linking this to other public sector data including from welfare, education, social services or crime. In the private sector our data is routinely used for market research, targeted advertising or tailoring of services. Increasingly there is a blurring of lines between the public and private sector and there are big questions to ask around the ways that commercial organisations – such as Google – might use public sector data as well as the ways that the public sector – which might mean the NHS or the government – could make use of private sector data about our lives. The important questions aren’t about what can be done with this data, but rather what should, and should not be done.
Should Dr Google be a reality?
Dr Google already is a reality – though not exactly in the way I have set out so far. Google already conduct health research. They have done this to predict and identify outbreaks of pandemics based on search terms inputted to Google. Google’s DeepMind have already been involved in research processing NHS patient data to develop new diagnostic tools and in 2017 they were in hot water for processing real-time identifiable data of 1.6 million patients at the Royal Free Hospital in London. When people are feeling unwell or have concerns about their health the first place they go is usually not their doctor but their internet search engine, so increasingly Dr Google already knows more about us than our NHS doctor and more and more we are relying on Dr Google for advice. So I believe Dr Google is very much a reality, the question is how much of a role we want Dr Google to play in the future.