I recently had the pleasure of attending an event for "Big Minds" to anticipate the future of healthcare.
It was fascinating as people exchanged ideas that could be part of our healthcare futures. I wont say what the "Big Idea" was that emerged from the group was - thats somebody else's prize, but I'd like to make a few observations.
I read a book when I was a child, I can't remember the title, but it was something along the lines of "The future of work with computers". It was brilliant, essentially the exponential growth in machine prowess meant that by the time I reached adulthood my function would be to enjoy leisure. Perhaps to aim for those few jobs that machines were still not able to handle, but only for a few hours a week.
Taking this advice to heart I became a Sax playing, Haiku writing, Dog Mushing, writer who practices medicine to "give back" to society. At least that was the plan.
The reality of this future prediction forty years on is that we are not on a three day week enabled by machine intelligence, living in a utopia with food and shelter for all. Instead I work the equivalent of 6 days a week over 7, managing health risk in a system which is on the edge of collapse, at a time when global unification for mutual survival seems an impossibility.
Unfortunately I can't claim mis-selling of a future like personal insurance product, I wouldn't even want to go back and change my career path, I can say after over 5 decades, I'm happy being me.
However I can rejet proposals to create a future which, In my opinion, is further mis-selling, further false prophecy,
I'm still troubled by the fact that 60 people in the world have as much wealth as the bottom 50% - you want the source? its from Wired Magazine earlier this year.
I'm troubled that in my generation we have gone from biodiversity to extinction with our eyes shut.
It may trouble you to know that scientists are studying a particular nematode ( thats round worm) which has a mutant variant which lives a life three times longer and more healthy than its non mutant cousins, that those scientists are working out if we too have that gene. The prospect of tripled lifespan may be near for those 60 peoples descendants whose wealth means nothing is impossible, but for my patients whose finances mean that sometimes the choice between medicine or food is a regular one, tripling life expectancy is a horror only Dante could imagine.
So forgive me if I don't embrace utopian far flung ideas of possible futures. I've read them in science fiction, seen them in the movies, and pondered them in my wildest dreams.
I'm prepared to be entranced by someone who can do something NOW to make a difference to the living, which will in turn enhance the lives of those yet to come. I'm looking at Bromley by Bow and thinking that's my option, I'm looking for the solution to the next twenty years of ageing population. Rather like William Gibson I think the future is already here, just not evenly distributed.
So forgive me if your future is an appealing challenge, an exciting science based proposition, but as the Polish people say Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy . I'm interested in the applitivity of existing approaches, the benefits to be gained for the three to four generations alive right now and the one next to arrive.
Fix today, forge tomorrow, and teach our children to dream the future.