Computers that understood the spoken word was a popular theme in science fiction books, movies and TV shows when I was growing up. Consider, for example, HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey (“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that,”) or the computer on board the Star Ship Enterprise from the Star Trek series (“Computer, Tea, Earl Grey, Hot.”) Ever since my youthful fling with science fiction, I have long been intrigued by the possibilities of computer software that understands the meaning of what a person says. Imagine, I have often mused, if we could apply this technology to the narrative notes that are viewed by many people to be an anachronism impeding efforts to share and analyze patient health information.
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