I recently met with Don Jones, VP Healthcare at Qualcomm Life Sciences, and Ilkka Vartiainen, CEO EuMHA about our 2011 Mobile Healthcare Industry Summit.
A couple of days previously I had very hurriedly read an article on a theory of Singularity, and quickly lost the thread of the argument in deep preparations for mobile world congress.
Coming back to the meeting with Don and Illka the two came together in a startling fashion. Don Jones is infamous in the region of wireless health connectivity, acting as a hub of information on what's new and bleeding edge in this startup-friendly field of convergence.
One active discussion which stuck with me was the use of automatic symptom diagnostics. Watch out doctors!! Analytics services are available now which build algorithms from data inputs of medical history, med consumption, demographic information and work to delivery an accurate diagnostic. Yes, 1 on 1 a trained doctor may be more accurate but computer vs. many doctors (all with their varied and conflicting diagnosis, based on cultural trends, impacted by personal delivery and clarity of thought of the doctor) the computer can win out and provide better consistent accuracy.
What does this mean for the future of the doctor? Will such services compel doctors to stick to a traditionalist school of thought and reject all progressive digital potential for fear of being sidelined?? The argument is that this type of automatic analytic symptom diagnostics will be invaluable in rural and in developing markets where real doctors are a luxury to come by.
However, now we come back to the theory of Singluarity. In a twist of fate, the article was contained in a free copy of TIME magazine distributed on the same day as this discussion on site at MWC. I now read the article non-stop on the Line 1 journey back to the hotel, realising the link. Raymond Kurzweil (the modern originator of the theorem) is essentially extending Moore's law about the doubling capacity to carry transistors on chips as technology advances. He has tracked the technological ability of computers for every $1,000 of purchasing power, against time. Not only is technological potential massively advancing, but Kurzweil argues that, tracked against these criteria, a process of singularity- when computer power surpasses brainpower equivalent to that of human brains combined - is reached. At this point computers will have the ability and intelligence to become computer scientists unto themselves, advancing their potential still further (as cranes build yet taller cranes).
Sounds the stuff of H G Wells? It would sound ultimately outlandish as to our human linear not exponential time frames and humanist sense of superiority at the top of the food chain we are integrally opposed. Yet, Kurzweil has received the national medal of technology from Bill Clinton, the commendation of Bill Gates (the best person i know at predicting the future of AI') and the Kurzweil-founded University of Singularity has among its investors and advisors Peter Thiel - a former CEO of Paypal and early investor of Facebook.
What does this all mean for mobile healthcare and the current availability of analytical diagnostics? Global biologists believe that the process of singularity may carry us ever further into life-extension through computing - with computers at the helm of human health. With computing process already commerically delivering doctor roles of diagnosis such a prediction begins to look less far-fetched. Perhaps the health profession won't be sidelined, but the ascendancy of humans all together?
And will this be a bad thing for our health?