IBM is collaborating with Nuance Communication Inc. to apply Watson analytics to healthcare.
1- In the best of cases, Watson is a tool, not a doctor. Doctors use tools to be better doctors, not to be replaced by them. The same goes for most fields- advances make the fields broader. Consider how the auto industry is increasingly incorporating GPS and mobile apps. The car industry now has jobs for programmers, geographers, and graphics designers. Advancements diversify the needs of a field rather than make them irrelevant.
2- If 1 above is true, then why is Detroit like Detroit? While advances broaden a field, they do render elements of the field irrelevant. For sure, robots in the auto industry have replaced assembly line workers. The important difference is that this is not a zero-sum game. While some aspects of the field are indeed eliminated, this does not mean that more aspects are eliminated than are added elsewhere. The regional sufferings of Detroit, tragic and in need of addressing though they may be, does not prove that life working for the auto industry is deteriorating overall.
3- Machines are taking our jobs, but they're starting with the most menial, "mechanical" tasks first. For doctors, these are the jobs that they don't want to do. Sure, Watson would be overwhelmed by even a moderately complicated complaint. But, that's not to say that Watson wouldn't be able to handle the simplest of diagnoses, like ear aches. It's my guess that doctors would prefer to dedicate their time to more involved cases than being bogged down with diagnosing ear aches. If I was designing a diagnostic machine, I'd work my way up from the easy stuff.
4- Machines make us more human. Jumping straight from point 3, if the machines can do the ear aches, that leaves the doctors with more time for addressing depression, behavioral change, smoking, obesity, etc. Currently, these conditions take time and don't pay the bills like ear aches do. Looking at the history of technology, advances afford us more human time by accomplishing what today we call menial tasks. We can't appreciate Beethoven if we don't use machines to generate the free time to invent phonographs or iPods. Paradoxically, maybe Watson will free doctors up to make house calls again, like the good old days.
5- Buggy whip makers are not exactly irrelevant- no technology ever dies. I know I'm reaching here, but if buggy whip making was indeed a passion, I'm willing to bet someone could pay the bills by making buggy whips and other authentic replications horse and buggy days. When lamenting the loss of meaning with the inevitable loss of these jobs, it may be worth keeping in mind that, especially given the ubiquity of the internet, there is a market for almost any passion. If you lament the bygone days, you're probably not alone.