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"In 1970 I found little difficulty staying 30 years ahead of the man in the street, and now I find it difficult to stay 18 months ahead of the man on the street."
- Vernor Vinge

  An automated physician, a fully autonomous surgical robot.  

The autodoc is an early example of a fully automated device that diagnosed, treated and tended a patient.

But they got him into the autodoc anyway. It was a puppeteer-shaped coffin, form-fitted to Nessus himself, and bulky Puppeteer surgeons and mechanics must have intended that it should handle any conceivable circumstance. But had they thought of decapitation?

They had. There were two heads in there, and two more with necks attached, and enough organs and body parts to make several complete puppeteers. Grown from Nessus himself, probably; the faces on the heads looked familiar.

From Ringworld, by Larry Niven.
Published by Ballantine in 1970
Additional resources -

The first appearance of the word autodoc is in The Warriors, a 1966 story by Niven.

"Nowadays surgery was normally done by autodocs..."

For awhile, Jim Davis was very busy. Everyone, including himself, had a throbbing blinding headache. To each patient, Dr. Davis handed a tiny pink pill from the dispenser slot of the huge autodoc which covered the back wall of the infirmary...

The autodoc also appears in Madness Has Its Place, a 1990 story by Niven. This intriguing story explores the uses of different personalities in society. Are there occasions when you need people who are, well, unbalanced and not very social? Can an automated medical device provide what is needed to keep you balanced - and then unbalance you if needed?

"Something is happening in Aristarchus, something that requires a medic."

"Run it in an autodoc. Ten personality choices. The chemical differences aren't big, but...infantry, which means killing on foot..."

Be sure to take a look at the entry for crechepod, from The Godmakers, by Frank Herbert.

For the most part, expert systems running on computers may make use of data from EEG or other monitors to provide a better visualization of the data for medical staff (see Penn Researchers Develop Smart Intensive Care Unit System Using Advanced Computer Intelligence. Only a few systems actually allow the hardware itself to make an intervention in the patient's care; for example, if a patient's vital signs merit it, additional drugs may be injected intravenously.

Compare to Robert Silverberg's diagnostat from his 1969 novel The Man in the Maze.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Ringworld
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven
  Tech news articles related to Ringworld
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven

Autodoc-related news articles:
  - ERNIE The Robot Pharmacist - More Accurate Than Humans
  - LSTAT-lite Life Support For Trauma and Transport-lite Demoed
  - Doctor-Bots Play 'Operation'
  - Robot Surgeon - Autonomous Tabletop Robotic Surgery At Duke
  - Shrapnel-Locating Autonomous Robot
  - App Turns iPhone Into Autodoc (Almost)
  - C-Path Computational Pathologist Better Than Doctors
  - AI 'Doctor' System Better Than Human
  - AliveCor App Detects Heart Arrhythmias, Has FDA Approval
  - Virtual Nurse Will See You Soon
  - Radisens' Gemini Instant Blood Tests
  - Computer Finds Cancer Doctors Miss
  - Surgery In Space
  - Human Doctors Still Better Than Computers
  - iFlytek Doctor Robot First To Pass Medical Exams

Articles related to Medical
Ultrathin Brain Needle Developed At MIT
NASA's 'Armstrong' Soft Wearable Upper Extremity Garment
iFlytek Doctor Robot First To Pass Medical Exams
Watch What People Are Seeing Via Brain Scanning

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