Difficult to navigate through the sea of information
There is no place like the internet. From China’s bug-eating industry to the life of sunfish and 90’s iconic fashion items for sale – you can find everything. However, the information tsunami goes along with fake news, click-bait articles and a tremendous amount of spam and scam. Thus, it is difficult to find relevant data and useful material on any topic.
It is problematic in every subject, but especially unsettling in the case of healthcare where your own health and body is at stake. And since it is already difficult to find relevant information about treatments, drugs or medical professionals online; you can imagine how troublesome it is to dig up well-founded information and probable trends about the future of medicine. That’s why I collected some pieces of science and science fiction, with which it would be easier for anyone to contemplate the future.
1) Visionary nonfiction books
Concerning books, I am a really old-school person. I love reading paper books, but I will definitely try the paper-like tablet for making notes and reading in the future. Concerning healthcare, the #1 book in digital health is Dr. Eric Topol’s masterpiece, The Patient Will See You Now. Topol is a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute. He wrote an extensive and profound analysis about how digital health will bring the democratization of healthcare. Beyond Topol’s book, I recommend The Digital Doctor from Dr. Bob Wachter. It captures the conflicting emotions around the future healthcare and carefully analyzes the hopes and hypes around the changes. These two books will give you an absolutely clear picture of where we are heading.
If you would like to dive into comprehensive overviews about healthcare, I recommend Topol’s other book, The Creative Disruption of Medicine, which details the future of mHealth. How doctors will prescribe more mobile application than actual medication to patients; or how patients should take care of themselves and be the driving force in medicine. If you are curious about how sensors could change the way we live in every area of life, read Daniel Berleant’s The Human Race to the Future. And if you are curious about the patients’ perspective, the third book by e-Patient Dave, Let Patients Help! is the most appropriate reading for you. I think every medical student and doctor should read this book at least once.
2) Even more visionary nonfiction books
I cannot leave out from my list the great inventor’s Ray Kurzweil’s book, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology about the entire theory of technological explosion. However, every reader should keep in mind that the book’s predictions are quite dated as it was first published in 2006. I also recommend his 2013 work, How to Create a Mind? where he details how to reverse-engineer the human thought in theory. How maybe in the future, we will be able to download ourselves in a digital format just as in the San Junipero episode of Black Mirror. Craig Venter also contemplated about how to transmit life through a digital format in his book entitled Life at the Speed of Light.
If you are interested in particular fields of healthcare, such as genomics, read Joel T. Dudley and Konrad J. Karczewski’s take on the subject. Exploring Personal Genomics is the best book ever written about the world of genomics and personalized medicine; how DNA and genetic information can be used to transform the way we practice medicine. If you rather read about the impact of A.I. on medicine, my recommendation is Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era. It is a 2013 nonfiction book by James Barrat about what we should be worried about, what kind of threats and potential advantages we can look forward to in relation to A.I.
And of course, there is my take on the subject: The Guide to the Future of Medicine, in which I collected the 22 main trends and technologies that I think will shape the future of the medical field. And also My Health, Upgraded that dissects the 40 most exciting questions about the future.
I’m a total sci-fi geek, I have seen the major and minor sci-fi movies from the 1920s until today. If you ask me which ones tell you the story of future medicine, I have quite a few recommendation. In The Fifth Element directed by Luc Besson, not only can you see Bruce Willis saving the world in a bloody white shirt again, but also how 3D-printing a whole body could look like in the future. Gattaca was released in the same year as The Fifth Element, and it shows you the non-desired future of genomics – with inferior or superior human beings.
In the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the movie-makers contemplated what happens if we erase parts of our memory from our minds or add new ones. Christopher Nolan’s movie, Inception also talks about the mysterious workings of the human mind. Imagine that you can upload or download data from your mind, or even implant ideas into other persons’ subconscious.
Robotics has inspired people’s minds and movie directors for ages. Prometheus shows that with the advancement of robotic intervention in surgery, robots might be able to carry out even serious surgeries without human supervision in the future. In Robot & Frank, the main subject is how a humanoid robot companion and an elderly person could get on.
Cloud Atlas shows how Star Trek’s all-in-one diagnostic device, the medical tricorder could work in the future, while Elysium is discussing the future of radiology and how financial differences will harm society if it comes to health. The Zero Theorem movie demonstrates telemedicine at its best and worst at the same time. And last but not least, Lucy depicts a woman who gains psychokinetic abilities by swallowing a pill.
3) Television series
Regarding TV series, The Knick with acting giant Clive Owen gives a great picture about the first years of modern surgery and how medicine develops over time. It is an interesting contrast that Pure Genius poses to The Knick. The relatively new series shows how a young Silicon Valley tech-titan enlists a veteran surgeon in starting a hospital with a cutting-edge, new approach to medicine.
I also recommend Humans which depicts a future with robot companions. It also shows what problems a society where humans and robots interact might have. If you are into the classics, my all-time favorite, Star Trek shows you what people thought about the future of medicine decades ago.
4) Websites and social media channels
There are many great online sources, which I check on a daily basis. Ray Kurzweil’s flagship site, KurzweilAI.com focuses mostly on artificial intelligence and robotics. Futurity.org covers a wide range of topics: how babies watch and learn what adults like or how a pea-size brain structure makes you crave beer. Gizmodo’s IO9.com works with writers from all over the world and covers pop culture alongside NASA. And of course, there is my favorite, BBC Future, the most authentic source of information for happenings at the futuristic scene.
Regarding social media channels, I regularly check the futurology sub-Reddit on Reddit.com. And don’t forget medicalfuturist.com and its Facebook and Twitter sites where we cover important news every day.
Let me know if you have other suggestions to include in the list; no matter whether it’s a book, a movie, a TV series or a new website to follow.