Some years ago I came across an interesting book while clearing out my father’s study after he passed away. In the late in 60’s The American Association for the Advancement of Science brought together the leading scientific minds of the time to speculate on what the world would be like 40 years later at the turn of the century.
Looking back today, 60 years on it seems that some of the predictions they made were astonishingly correct and some were not. When it comes to the physical sciences, it seems the microprocessor and the personal computer, the internet, satellite communication and mobile phones and even the iPod and digital media were to a large extent predictable from trends at that time.
In Health and Life Sciences the situation is very different. It was predicted back then that major killers such as cancer and cardiovascular disease would obviously have been vanquished by now, paraplegics would obviously be walking through regenerative medicine and we would obviously be selecting the characteristics of our children based on voluntary genetic manipulation of our genomes. So it seems that there is something fundamentally less predictable in health and life sciences than say, engineering.
So I started to think, well what if we look ahead from now to 2066, what’s it going to be like? (Knowing full well that whatever I fantasize about is bound to be an inaccurate prediction).
50 years from now
I imagine myself 50 years from now walking around with a little microchip chip implanted in my left arm that has all my data including my personal genetic code on it. This now gets updated regularly by my health coach (used to be called a GP) during my routine visits to track any major changes. The chip also stores and tracks compliance with my life style plan that I have agreed with my health coach. It also works out how much exercise I do and tracks what I eat from edible bar codes in my food and reports that I am indeed taking the disease preventing supplements I have agreed to. It also monitors all my bad habits and lets my health consultant know immediately if things start to go seriously wrong by tracking physiological parameters, all of this is relayed non-invasively in real time via the wristband of my phone watch.
All this data is being continuously sent to the national health data hub for general monitoring as part of my mandatory subscription to the national health system. All data is of course linked to my personal medical record in the cloud so anybody (with my permission) can know what they need to about me and I can upload any of this whenever they need it.
The national health system now works on a system of health credits but unfortunately they don’t really cover everything, but I can voluntarily top these up via my national health insurance pension plan. My employer also tops these up as part of preventing me becoming ill and remaining productive. If something bad happens my health consultant will advise me on my personalised treatment based on my genetic endophenotype. Bad luck is I may have to co-fund some of this from my voluntary health credits as my basic allocation of national health credits won’t cover everything anymore.
I can always go online to check what the latest treatments are and then enrol in a clinical trial through my relevant disease association who use my data in partnerships with companies to make new treatments (this gives me preferential access to new medicines or devices and I pay less by agreeing to take part in the trial). Good news is I have amassed a few additional health credits for good behaviour (due to my 2 visits to the gym every week and taking my diet supplements).
Looking back 50 years to 2016 what strikes me is how little choice we had back then, we just did as we were told because we didn’t know any different. I now have a lot more data and information to make a lot of decisions about myself and invest in my own health, and I have an incentive to stock up on health credits by taking care of myself while I still can. Anyhow life is pretty good now, I’ll be 105 next month but I am starting to wonder what will it be like for my kids in 50 years from now when they are my age?
Coming back to reality I wonder, 100 years from now, what will that look like?
Posted on May 9, 2016 by Lars Sundstrom, Director of Enterprise, West of England AHSN