In the time that most of us have been alive, advancements in technology have occurred at a speed beyond what many of us probably ever imagined. Cell phones, originally the size of bricks and only capable of making a simple phone call, now offer a world of information in the palms of our hands.
Once indecipherable, the human genome can now be mapped in days. This invaluable tool reveals an incredible amount of crucial information for each individual and will open the door to life-changing medical breakthroughs.
Now consider that the rate of advancement is going to increase exponentially in the near future — that the progress we thought would happen in the next 100 years is more likely to occur in the next decade or two. Or that many of the things we thought were unlikely are actually being developed, researched, and refined right now.
Innovation is accelerating at such a rapid rate that it can be difficult for many people to comprehend, mainly because our brains are wired to process change linearly rather than exponentially. Imagine, for instance, what happens when an eagle dives toward its prey on land: You can quite accurately predict when and where the catch is going to happen based on a progression of expected circumstances gathered from previous experience and knowledge.
But as humans have evolved, our ability to create, iterate, and grow has expanded, too. We are engineering new technologies faster than any time in history — including those that will likely match and even exceed the capacity of the human mind.
In his 2005 New York Times best-selling book, The Singularity Is Near, author and futurist Ray Kurzweil writes, “It is reasonable to expect the hardware that can emulate human-brain functionality to be available for approximately one thousand dollars by around 2020 . . . by 2030 it will take a village of human brains (around one thousand) to match a thousand dollars’ worth of computing. By 2050, one thousand dollars of computing will exceed the processing power of all human brains on Earth.”
Kurzweil continues: “As we reverse engineer our bodies and brains, we will be in a position to create comparable systems that are far more durable and that operate thousands to millions of times faster than our naturally evolved systems.”
That’s a lot to take in.
The implications of this magnitude of technological advancement and of ever-improving artificial intelligence that will exceed human intelligence — as a result of our own creation — are overwhelming.
But think about what it may mean for your health. Where once it took years to map your genome, it will soon be done in front of you in a clinic within minutes. With that data, along with proactive diagnostics, you’ll be able to identify potential health problems well ahead of their actual occurrence. You’ll think proactively versus reactively about your health and be able to adjust your nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle habits with the goal of optimizing your health so you can prevent anticipated illnesses.
There will be quantum leaps in healthcare as a result of rapid increases in the power of computations and robotics. It’s not too farfetched to think that machines will predict and diagnose health issues and suggest treatment options based on thousands, if not millions, of cases tracked in global data-management systems in the next decade. Doctors’ roles will be to review, validate, and then select what he or she believes is the best option for the patient.
There is little doubt in my mind that sooner rather than later we will be spending the vast majority of our time proactively preventing potential conditions rather than reacting to existing ones as we do today.
I believe this shift toward proactive prevention is an opportunity for each of us to embrace healthier choices starting now. Because even though we may not know as much about our health today as we will in the future, there’s still plenty we can do in the meantime to stay healthy and fit.
The extra effort may just give us the opportunity to experience even more amazing inventions that will help keep us going strong for a very long time.