Editor's note: This is part of a KSL.com series looking at the rise of artificial intelligence technology tools such as ChatGPT, the opportunities and risks they pose and what impacts they could have on various aspects of our daily lives.

In the 1992 movie "Wayne's World," the character Garth is working on a robotic arm when Benjamin comes to ask him about making a change to his show.

"We fear change," Garth says. He then looks down at the mechanical hand and begins to repeatedly smash it with a hammer.

Many Americans have a similar reaction to change and technology, especially when it comes to using artificial intelligence in health care.

In fact, 60% of U.S. adults say they would be uncomfortable with a doctor using AI in their treatment, according to a Pew Research Center study released in December.

Medical professionals see it differently. Mark Fotheringham, vice president of communications at the Utah Medical Association, said the association views AI as a natural progression of the medical industry.

"To us, AI just seems to be another tool in the medicine bag," he said. "No one has brought it up as an issue of concern."

Richard H. Wiggins, associate dean at the University of Utah School of Medicine, explained that most people's concerns come from a lack of education surrounding AI.

Pew Research Center

"AI is going to help us bring better, more precise medicine and practical care," Wiggins said. "For us, it's like having a good assistant. It's going to be helping us, not replacing us."

An AI a day keeps the doctor away

One misconception about AI in health care is that automated technology will eventually replace doctors.

Wiggins said this isn't a new fear. Thirty years ago when he was being trained as a radiologist, there were many people who told Wiggins not to study mammography because they thought new diagnostic technology would replace mammographers.

"Of course, we still have mammographers — they just do different things, and we've seen examples of this over and over throughout history," he said.

Matt Hollingsworth, CEO and co-founder of Carta Healthcare, compared today's fears to past concerns that architecture jobs would disappear with the invention of computer-aided drafting software.

"What actually happened is that the bar for quality coming out of an architecture firm increased unilaterally because everyone had access to the same tools," he said. "It became a productivity tool. So I think (AI) is going to be like that."

Hollingsworth sees this same improvement in his work. Carta software, which creates AI tools to replace manual data collection in doctors' offices, doesn't replace medical professionals, he said. It simply streamlines their work by improving the speed and accuracy of filling out forms during medical visits. Those data entries still have to be checked by a doctor for accuracy.

"It's not going to be cutting anybody out of a job, it's just going to keep them from having to do boring stuff in their job," Hollingsworth said. "As long as we're working with these algorithms, we're going to need a babysitter, and that babysitter is going to need to be a human."

Speed of change

Seventy-five percent of Americans are afraid medical providers will implement AI in healthcare too quickly without fully understanding the risks involved.

But Hollingsworth said people probably think AI advancements are moving much faster than they actually are because people are discussing AI more than they used to.

"It feels like it's coming out of nowhere, but really this is just the first time it's been more accessible to the public," he said.

Neural networks, an early conception of machine learning and artificial intelligence, were first proposed in 1944. Seventy-nine years later, we have not developed AI nearly as greatly as researchers projected we would have by this time, Hollingsworth said.

Wiggins added that inaccuracies in movie portrayals of technological advances also contribute to the public perception that things are advancing much quicker than they are.

"After 'Star Wars' came out, everyone assumed that we had holograms, but we still don't know how to make holograms," Wiggins said. "We're not at 'The Terminator.' That's so far away."

Hollingsworth added that the slow rate at which advancements are being made, along with being comforting to those intimidated by technological progress, is a good sign that AI developers are putting great consideration into their work.

"We don't even have line of sight into generalized AI. Not even close," he said. "And that's not to denigrate; it's actually the opposite. This is hard work."

Educating the next generation

Wiggins said even though AI won't be replacing doctors, health care professionals still have to adapt to the evolving medical field to stay relevant.

"The people who are thinking about how to use AI and machine learning to help them with their jobs may be replacing the people who are not," he said.

This mindset has driven many changes at the University of Utah Medical School, where Wiggins and his team are evolving their teaching methods to better prepare the next generation of doctors.

"We're totally redoing the curriculum," Wiggins said. "Artificial intelligence is definitely going to change health care … so we can't teach (students) the same way anymore."

The most successful doctors used to be the ones who could memorize the most facts, Wiggins said. Now, because of constant technological evolution, he said it is more important to focus on critical thinking.

"It's impossible to know everything because there's so much more knowledge coming out all the time," Wiggins said. "If I can teach my students how to use logic and rationality to effectively solve a problem, that's a much bigger deal."

Part of that education includes getting students out of the classroom and into clinics sooner, to work hands-on with patients and technology.

"I'll have a class about the heart … and then they go into a clinic and see a guy with that heart issue they were just talking about," Wiggins said. "You're putting together what you're learning about right away."

He also projected that cancer treatments will be aided by AI tools in the near future.

Despite the public's general skepticism about AI, 65% of U.S. adults say they would definitely or probably want AI to be used when they were screened for skin cancer, and 55% believe AI would improve accuracy in skin cancer diagnoses.

"That's going to be an amazing thing, so we have to change the way that we educate our students to prepare them for that," he said.

'A lot to be excited about'

Medical error was the third leading cause of death in 2016, according to the British Medical Journal. Hollingsworth said the improvements AI makes in speed and accuracy will be instrumental in changing this statistic.

He said people are only right to be concerned about AI when it is not used correctly or when people leave AI unchecked. Medical professionals should be held to a high standard in how they use the technology, Hollingsworth said.

"As long as everyone is incentivized to make sure that the quality of care remains high, then applying these tools is a really good thing for everyone," Hollingsworth said. "It's not something that we should fear; it is something to be welcomed."

Wiggins is optimistic about how AI can be used to personalize medicine, including pinpointing warning signs for later health problems and helping to recommend preventive measures.

"I think the primary emotion people ought to feel out of this is just excitement that there is a new thing in the world that could make their jobs easier and more effective," Hollingsworth said. "There is a lot to be excited about here."