This archive file was compiled from audio and video documentation of a gathering of medical professionals, inventors & entrepreneurs, held at Singularity University in California, February 2013. The selected material gives a portrait of a time in which the field of health found itself at a crossroads between the mature medical institutions which had slowly evolved over hundreds of years, and a need to develop and integrate new, more flexible and scalable forms of care.
We created “FutureMed: The Future of Health” as an extension of a feature film we’re making on the future. Our film embraces an optimistic perspective, taking a view on what tomorrow can look like for all of us, while recognizing that change proves again and again to be difficult and messy for the human race.
As someone who attempts to make a living via storytelling, I am struck by how often our culture chooses to tell stories set in a future where technology leads our advanced selves down a path to certain doom. Even many of the most visionary science fiction films seem to project that pushing boundaries via technology is a recipe for losing our humanity. My alternate outlook on the subject is in large part a result of a person who I was fortunate to know early on in life – I met futurist FM-2030 as a young man, and my friendship with him developed into my adulthood. Few people have the ability to radically alter another person’s worldview. In my case, FM was constantly challenging me to address any fixed ideas I had about the world. He rigorously upended – or at least forced me to examine – any traditional values I held, from my eating habits to my national identity. If FM were not currently cryogenically suspended, he would have loved attending FutureMed with me.
I can recall FM lamenting that science fiction writers would sit in on his classes, only later to create yet another future full of brutality – stories which, in his parlance, would “single-track,” or lazily envision a future in which one aspect of our lives had changed dramatically, yet everything else had failed to evolve alongside. I had many conversations with FM concerning the sorts of conflict that would occur in a future world.
FM predicted a society considerably transformed if not devoid of most present day ills. In this future, a more egalitarian and peaceful society would flourish but even FM, always the ardent optimist, relented that the journey to this society, where we would shake off everything from petty jealousy to our need for power and recognition, may have some bumps along the way. Bob Marley (I’m a huge fan), in his song “War” quotes a Haile Selassie speech, “Until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes… rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued.” Those aspirations are the basis for what I hope is our real and attainable future.
FM wrote in the late 70’s that if you were alive in 2020, you’d be alive forever. I think he may have been off with his timing, so for now, staying alive and healthy is top priority. When we set off for FutureMed, the idea of a group of thought leaders, entrepreneurs and academics dedicated to solving our existing problems was exciting and inspiring. But most of all, my team and I felt that the time spent should revolve around not just getting to know the projects and ideas presented at the conference, but in really understanding who these dedicated professionals are. We were not disappointed.
FutureMed’s executive director Dr. Daniel Kraft and Robin Farmanfarmaian (SU VP of strategy) made us feel very at home, introducing us to person after person with his or her own original and practical take on how we can overcome everything from the bureaucratic nature of healthcare; to diagnosing illnesses quickly, cheaply and accurately; to advancements in gene therapies. On a personal level I was grateful to hear about the benefits of artificial intelligence in health with SU’s Neil Jacobstein and IBM’s Marty Kohn. The prospects of formidable AI and supercomputing could really accelerate progress around many terminal illnesses (and I am on the Woody Allen scale of neurosis about my health).
I was pleased that at FutureMed, I saw people taking a holistic approach and devising ways to help make us more aware of our health choices. I have used apps that calculate my exercise and caloric intake and I have seen my own habits change. The promise of medical technology is incredible, but simply having this technology available doesn’t mean you or I will become healthier. Once all the technologies come to fruition, I believe a lot of thought has to be given about how to implement them to counter entrenched behaviors and bad habits (of which I’ve had a rather large share: I was a smoker, am still certainly partial to sugar and carbs, and – most of all – I hate the gym).
From a viewer’s prospective you are probably wondering what the Galactic Public Archives is and why this film is stored there. The GPA is a hub that will house discussions from visionaries incorporating practical, thoughtful ideas that inspire engaging conversations around the obstacles we face; individuals who are laying out inspiring solutions for a better environment, society, and world.
We hope this short film shows that technology isn’t just about gear and gadgets. After all, as my Jewish grandmother used to say, “If you don’t have your health how can you live a happy, creative, prosperous, and indefinite life.” [The first part of the quote is true; I improvised a bit on the end.]
We left FutureMed inspired and motivated – FutureMed is a “must” for anyone interested in creating a better world.
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