HealthTech – the technology is killing us!
We need the Doctor urgently, we need to go back, do things differently, rewrite history, right the wrongs and change the trajectory of this planet. If you spot the Tardis, let me know, there’s some important issues to address.
Technology is killing us
Technology has changed our lives immeasurably, not only are we physically more aware of bodies abilities, breaking points and general health, we also have an intricate understanding the inner workings of a human in more detail than ever before. But there are still massive challenges within health and wellbeing.
As I write this post, here in the UK, the NHS is on its knees, utterly broken as it tries valiantly to keep up with demand. We’re told technology is the game changer within this space, the key to enabling better care, more timely interventions and creating a better quality of life. But can technology deliver on these massive promises? Let’s explore.
Health tech hype
I recently attended an event called the ‘Hyperconnected human’. Not every bodies favourite description of life in 2022, but there’s no denying we are hyperconnected much of the time, living in what is now called the ‘metaverse’. Something that is yet to be defined, something so new and shiny, so appealing that we simply cannot put it down, but we also don’t really understand it, it’s a strange paradox…where’s the Doctor?
The buzz of tech is everywhere, with each proclamation and product reveal the volume of the applause increases, the smiles get broader, the eyes get wider and glisten with excitement, there are always lots of shiny new things to talk about.
What’s new in healthtech?
The hype – Remote operations and virtual consultations that are delivered from anywhere to anyone. It really is a truly beautiful vision, a vision of hope and 5G appears to be central to realising it.
The reality – This presentation was given in a part of the UK where there is no 5G coverage.
This absolutely crushes the hope, for all the talk of crossing boarders feels like fantasy when you look at the reality on the ground. How can this be the future when it is not yet possible to deliver 5G services across a small, wealthy island where there is a significant level of infrastructure?
This is way beyond the scope of what’s possible in the developing world, it feels like we are getting our priorities wrong, chasing the shiny thing (again) when there’s a real need for innovation to bring the access to this technology to everyone, not the privileged few.
Healthcare in the metaverse
The hype – We have complete digital world, a digital twin of our real world, where avatars are doing many of the tasks we feel are too time consuming or just not interesting enough for us anymore. These spaces are also fostering great digital relationships, experiences and creating connected communities.
The reality – Do you consider yourself to be living in the metaverse? Depending on who you speak to, it’s hard to disseminate whether this is pure fiction or some kind of dystopian B-movie experiment that is being played out from a Silicon Valley tech marketing team. There’s no doubt people have been in the metaverse, depending upon how you define it, we are there now, the way that you’re reading this for example could be described, by some, as a metaverse experience.
The reality of healthcare in the metaverse is that there’s a large dose of ‘hype’. For the vast majority of us the technology simply isn’t able to deliver on these promises yet.
It’s been shown many times already that the consumption and experiences within the online space are addictive, anti-social and harmful in so many ways. Brian Solis has talked about this extensively and published a book about the ‘digital distraction’ we all live through, check out Lifescale.
The uncomfortable fact is, we are addicted and unable to wean ourselves from it. The more hype, the more shiny, the newer new, the endless conveyor that provides our ‘fix’, the deeper the addiction becomes. We need to focus, connect and collaborate, because there are some MASSIVE challenges that need addressing.
There’s no silver bullet or quick fix to these problems, they will require the efforts of many people, entire communities working together for a common good if we are to fully understand them and deliver the digital healthcare promises we talk about today as though they are here, fully formed and realised. The uncomfortable truth is we have got carried away, the excitement and endorphins have muddied our thinking, the strategy is lost.
The hype – data makes us smarter, more agile and able to deliver better solutions. Therefore we need to collect as much as possible and learn everything that we can from it. Keeping it all locked up, secure so no-one but ‘us’ can have access and make use of this invaluable resource.
The reality – as David Birch explained recently at CWIC 22, the real power of data is in sharing it. Creating an open platform that has access for all, a platform that protects every individuals privacy and helps businesses and organisations learn what people need from them. In short, we need digital sovereignty delivered through an open source platform.
Like I said in my first blog post about the hyperconnected human, the tech is doing amazing things and the people developing it are hungry… hungry for more, though there’s not a lot of clarity about what it is that they want to create, or why we need it? Is this consumption culture in overdrive? Quite possibly and that’s a major concern, we cannot consume our way to being healthier. I can’t help but wonder, are we chasing the wrong goals?
Cut and run
2022 has been a year unlike any other. We’ve seen war break out, the entire globe has had it’s first taste of the impact of global warming. Both of these events have had profound impacts on human life, vast numbers of deaths during the events themselves but also in the aftermath, the long term physical and mental health issues that will be with us for years to come.
We're lost! The tardis is broken.
During the course of the Hyperconnected Human event I felt that there was an element that was missing, a genuine elephant in the room. I’ve got to be honest, there were a couple of speakers who referenced it, but it was very much marginalised as people wanted to talk about the shiny and new, because that’s the exciting stuff, right?
The Earth, the place that we call home that has sustained us for millennia is teetering on the brink, unable to withstand more punishment, yet we ignore it. Why? Why have we raped and pillaged the planet that sustains us? It just doesn’t make sense. Our personal quests have marginalised entire countries as one group seeks to exploit another, country against country, person against person.
Have we learnt anything?
Where is the energy for all of this new hyperconnected human activity going to come from?
PwC have been waxing lyrical about the amount of time teens spend in the online space, the huge volumes of video content that they produce and share every day. This is just one example, where tech is framed as the game changer, the innovator but the reality, stepping away from the hype, it’s creating more problems and doing more damage. Where does the energy come from for all of this activity? All these devices greedily consuming power hour after hour.
Then there’s the health implications of this tech that we are consuming faster, in larger and larger volumes. We are obsessed with the digital world and it’s promise of endless new experiences of unimaginable joy and connectivity whilst our real world, the world that actually sustains us, and the place that has provided resources for all of these activities, simply falls apart.
The Doctor Who complex
This is the only way that I can reason this. I’ve been to many inspirational tech events and in recent years the really good ones have opened the door, discussing the problems with tech. Acknowledging that the shiny object in the room is also toxic. When I came to writing this blog I was genuinely torn about what to say. I really don’t want to be a kill joy.
I know that there is a lot of good coming from these innovations, but the cost, the price that we will all pay that comes with it, I find myself asking myself over and over again, “Is it worth it?” We are not immortal, we don't regenerate, no matter what we tell ourselves, what kind of future are we actually creating? You know the real world, actual physical space one.
I can’t decide whether we do this because we are,
"I am an idiot"
I’m yet to meet anyone who accepts that they are ageing. We live in almost total denial, thinking that we’re still in our teens or early twenties – when let’s be honest we are capable of awesome things but lack the awareness and skills to make the most of our bodies at this time, instead we subject them to years of neglect that come back to bite us as we age.
As a result, health, both physical and mental, problems come to us all, some people much earlier than others, and these early onset restrictions are often of our own making, and that’s stupid. We know this stuff is bad for us, but we can’t stop ourselves, it’s become an addiction.
Maybe we are overwhelmed?
In my experience talking to people about climate really polarises the conversation, it’s a big challenge and something that we have taken for granted for too long. Those who share the concern are genuinely worried, often to the point of anxiety – which is also not good. Those who deny or have different perspectives are living in hope that someone else will fix this stuff because it feels simply too big for them to deal with.
Call tech support
Are we literally crossing our fingers and hoping that this is on the agenda of someone who’s really smart, who will find the answer? The planets tech support guru’s, the people who just make this stuff work?
This is no individual persons problem, it’s a global community problem. Something that we need to all be working on, taking a responsibility for our activities and showing genuine respect to the people and places around us.
Do we dooo?
Our planet will outlast us, it took us tens of 1000’s of years to evolve from microscopic cells to where we are today. There’s already been some serious bumps in the road - what happened to the Egyptians, how did they go from technical greatness to next to nothing? That’s just one example, there are many more.
We think, using our immortal Doctor brain, with our ‘smart’ devices that we can tame nature, make it do our bidding. The uncomfortable reality is that nature is a tour de force, a vicious and unrelenting beast – and thank god that it is. Let’s be honest if it weren’t so powerful we wouldn’t have made it this far.
Ying and Yang
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not immune, I have been intoxicated by tech, it’s really hard not to be because it’s everywhere and we are constantly told it’s part of being better, healthier and happier. I see the amazing things that have been achieved and feel positive that there are even greater things to come, but I worry about which goal we are chasing, new tech is pointless if we kill our planet in our relentless pursuit of it.
Humans have created many laudable things and achieved a lot (well that’s we think), but we’ve also created many things that have brought, and continue to bring, immense misery to this planet and the people who live here. The tools of war, the exploitation of people and resources, humans are stuck in a race of our own making, a race to be superior, choosing self-centred desires and motivations at the expense of those outside our bubble.
Weee do weeee
Will we look back and cringe at the toxicity of the hyperconnected human, thankful that some people saw the light, realised the damage that this race is doing to our planet? The damage to our health, both mental and physical? Will we remember the people who were brave, the real innovators and genuine futurists who walked a different path, the people who understood the need for change at a grass roots level?
We are our own worst enemy
We continue to chase goals, unable to accept that growth is not never ending, assuming that technology will save our souls, but if we don’t wake up from our tech induced debauchery the future looks bleak and that’s hard to accept, because we’re smart, educated and hyperconnected right? What are we creating? What will be the price of this way of life? Is that morally acceptable? These are big questions, it’s a massive topic and suddenly we’re back to the point of overwhelm again, we are choosing to look the other way (and not look up).
I’m hopeful that we will find a different path into the future, yes it will be a challenge, a MASSIVE, GIGANTIC MEGOLITH but we really have no choice. We are responsible for this mess, we’ve created the imbalance on so many levels. Unless we change our ways, act to protect our life source, our planet, it really could be ‘game over’. I’d like to know your thoughts.