WIRED Health 2017: AI is the future of health
WIRED Health is back, and we spent the day yesterday at the Royal College of General Practitioners to listen to world leaders in digital healthcare transformation, and to get a hands-on experience with some of the latest tech from truly innovative startups.
But before we get onto our favourite startups from the show floor, let us dive deeper into the theme which resonated through the event, both from the keynote speakers, side sessions and conversations with startups and delegates.
There were a series of talks throughout the day covering themes such as genomics, extreme medicine and unlocking your brain. But throughout these talks, there was a clear underlying theme that showed itself to be behind many the breakthroughs we’re seeing today. This theme was AI.
AI may not have been directly mentioned, phrases such as self-learning or machine learnings were banded around, but essentially, the ability for technology to take what we humans know, find the best possible way forward, and then test, learn and repeat is going to advance medicine and healthcare provision in an incredibly accelerated fashion.
Why so? Simply, a computer chip can work much faster than the human brain, even a collection of human brains are no match, not when a collection of chips can be brought together. The future is AI, but does morality then come into play?
Die another day
The huge leaps we are making right now are allowing us to break the rules of nature. Many speakers discussed the ability to edit the genome, to eradicate desease and to change a human and make them bionic. This is incredible. It will certainly lead to the slow-down of death, and perhaps once day, eradicate death itself.
But one of the talks also reminded us of a stark problem. Closer to home, the tremendous lack of resource in the NHS is a major issue, while across the pond, access to healthcare is looking to be once again only for the wealthy, and in developing countries, even basic and what should be cheap healthcare is hard to come by.
If healthcare is already maxed out, to a point where only the rich can access quality care, then why are we focusing on living forever? Surely, we should focus on making life great for all, and allow death to be experienced for us all too, no matter how wealthy or willing to play god with your body you are.
Elephant in the room
Up until recently, there has been an elephant in the room when it comes to health. While we focus on conditions we can see, or objectives that are greater than putting man on the moon, we have, in the past, completely ignored a type of health condition that is less visible. Mental health.
WIRED Health 2017 gave a great deal of attention to this. So kudos certainly go to the organisers. The event focused on the damage that can be done not just be unattended mental health sufferers, but those who have suffered a mental injury – when a person who is usually of sound mental health, suffers temporarily, much like a fractured ankle, but often without the cast and crutch.
The mind is a wonderful thing, though. And new therapies are being researched that will help in this forgotten area of health. For example, LSD and MDMA are now being proven to help people with PTSD, and music is being scientifically proven to help reduce the need for morphine post-surgery.
365 days later
A lot can be done in a year. What is groundbreaking today, will hopefully be the norm tomorrow. We’re looking forward to tracking the progress of the speakers and their companies over the next 52 weeks, and to see what is the latest thing at WIRED Health 2018 (tickets available now).