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Posts tagged ‘innovation’

Exponential Medicine – Recap & Reflections

I just got back from attending the Exponential Medicine (#xMed on Twitter) conference hosted by Singularity University in San Diego. This conference, similar to TEDMED, aims to share innovative ideas and developments in medicine and healthcare. It seeks to answer “what’s next?” in these fields.

The conference and innovation lab was predictably occupied with speakers and companies in the fields of stem cell research, tissue engineering, bioprinting, regeneration, synthetic biology, big data, mobile app technology, AI.

I’m very intrigued on conversations about the future of anything, but most importantly when it comes to medicine or healthcare. These fields are vital for the continued evolution of humanity, and all life on earth. When something becomes ordained as The Future of X, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We race to get to the future first, chasing the next big thing. So I watch these developments with as much of a critical eye as I can muster, especially attentive to the origins, trajectories, and meanings of these ‘futures’. These innovators rarely, however, examine our past or roots. Or the ecological context in which they are an inextricable part. They can’t. The whole field is too specialized. But how can you assert a future without a global view?

I am not against technological development or advancing medical technology as much as possibly. On the contrary: these technologies can and will save lives and improve quality of life for those who can access it. But I stand as an outsider looking at the greater social context, and wonder.

I did not see anyone questioning the fundamanetal tenets of their field– a practice which could surely expose blind spots or reveal some kind of blue sky for future developments. A couple speakers argued that better access and more meaningful patterns from big data can provide patients and providers with more relevant and actionable knowledge than RCTs–a good point. Data mined from real patients in real situations is more realistic than trial patients, who are often excluded if they have a comorbid condition. (That and I think RCTs testing treatments against placebo is unethical, but that’s another post.) No one, except for Paul Stamets (pictured above), advocated for even a remotely ecological or cross-species view of health. With an increasingly myopic view of heathcare, we lose context and are therefore subject to poorly performing interventions.

These technologies are beautiful. I’m excited for what they can bring. But we may well go even further by flipping the subject and seeking innovation in tradition, examining why we do what we do, how we know what we know. I’d love for medical educational programs conferences to philosophize a bit more with these subjects. I think only then do we fully engage the subject and envision the future we want to create.

And the setting? Lovely.


Hotel Del Coronado

Tradition is Innovation and Other Useful Paradoxes

Lately I’ve been really curious about what’s considered innovative in mainstream healthcare. I have my views and visions for what I think are good next steps for a sound health system–one based in communities and ecosystems, that takes into account ecological and animal health, based on positive health principles and prevention. But hey, that’s me, I wanted to what the people actually working on healthcare reform are talking about.

What’s considered innovative is all tech-related: eHealth, mobile apps, medical technologies that hope to reduce cost on the patient’s end. What a snooze. Healthcare innovation ought to be rooted in holistic design principles that are based on serving people and communities. Technologies should be in service of other driving factors. Technology shouldn’t be an end in itself.

Tradition & Innovation

It occurs to me: traditions in medicine and innovation in medicine sit on opposite ends of a polarity we’ve created as a culture. We operate under a kind of cultural Darwinism: that we’re always weeding out practices that aren’t desirable. So by default, things that are associated with the ‘Past’–which includes all traditional and indigenous knowledge bases–are left out of the picture. What a waste. Things that are really revolutionary are taken for granted as a result.

The Challenging Yet Loving Nature of Paradox

Paradoxical and contradictory behavior is found in complex systems. We see it all the time: food relief efforts simultaneously bring food to people but also take it away (because they destabilize local food systems), economic recovery efforts that help some aspects of the economy and cripple others. That’s because complex systems (like communities, economies, biological organisms, etc.) have many layers of structure and behavior. They have multiple dimensions of behavior. Depending on our mental models of reality, we interpret their plurality of behavior as contradictory or paradoxical.

So paradoxes only exist because of how we frame and perceive reality. In this way they also point out ways to wholeness. Instead of thinking of tradition and innovation as a line, let’s connect the endpoints. Tradition IS Innovation. Let’s think about what that means for a minute. It opens a floodgate of possibilities.

This kind of reconciliation of seemingly dichotomous opposites can be applied to other areas. The polarity of Sickness and Health, for example, is something that a lot of people really struggle with. We identify as Sick, we want to get to Point B: Health. But what possibilities open up when we think of Sickness as Health? Maybe that opens up new learning for people’s experience with illness, and shows a new way out of a pattern.

So seeing Tradition as Innovation in health can open up some new and more sensible possibilities for how our society deals with health. It would allow us to move forward in a holistic and integral way. Here are some other polarities & paradoxes to toss around:

  • Chaos | Order
  • Simplicity | Complexity
  • Natural | Artificial
  • Joy | Suffering
  • Good | Bad

And the list goes on. Identifying paradoxes we encounter can challenge us to see the wholeness in what seems at first to be a dichotomy. What paradoxes are existing in your life? And how can they serve your experience of wholeness?

Reality is whole and essentially nondual. Paradoxes present themselves to remind us of this fact. So as long as we live in a black and white way, we deny ourselves the experience of wholeness.