The future of health: Fabulous and frightening

I just spent the last three days in Las Vegas - and had an inspiring, fascinating and utterly exhausting time. I walked without stopping, for an average of 7 or 8 hours a day, met clever, interesting people from every land and was thoroughly happy for every single second of it all. Blown away, lifted up. And how often can one say that these days?

Every year, at the beginning of January, Las Vegas is host to the biggest technology fair in the world, CES. More than 180,000 people pass through the city. They fly in from every corner of the globe, trebling the room rates of every hotel and Airbnb for miles around, and the inventors and entrepreneurs of the world set out their stands, and show the rest of us their myriad inventive, remarkable and out of the ordinary ideas made reality.

It is quite frankly genius, and in this tired and dog-eat-dog world that the media presents us with, day after day, hour after hour, it restores, to some extent, any failing faith in humanity. If you ever wonder what we are doing here on this planet and despair, all I can say to you is go to Vegas (an odd recommendation I know) and it will become clear to you that we as a race are not as dark as it may sometimes seem - skilled in brutality, in venial war-mongering, lying, cheating and toxic finance driven agendas and self interest; there is still a flash of genius left in the human race - and in the characterless halls of the vast exhibitions centres in this desert town, it shines outstandingly brightly.

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There were robots this year, drones, driverless cars and technology that will transform every aspect of our lives in the years to come. 5G is coming, gaming, live streaming, artificial intelligence, smart speakers and even smarter homes. There are apps for just about everything. Get ready for it for there is clearly no turning back the technology tide, and the changes are coming thick and fast. The world as we know it will be fundamentally different in just a handful more years, and much of our current way of life will be lost, upgraded in the process.

Some of this could be sad, but mainly it’s remarkable, and in the arena of health, technology is going to literally transform how we all live, and ultimately, how we die. The wording on the giant billboards and stands and the leaflets and flyers sums it up quite succinctly. It’s all about connectivity, data analytics and ‘smart’ everything. Monitors will analyse every aspect of your physical and mental health. Your bed will keep an eye on your vitals as you sleep, feeding back data to a control centre, tracking changes in your heart rate, your body temperature, your sleep pattern, even your incontinence levels. Watches strapped to your wrists will analyse your blood, your oxygen levels - your everything. Machines in your living room will watch you; prevent any harm coming to you; robots will nurse you; robots (some of them adorable) will flash their big eyes at you and be the closest thing in your older age you have to a friend. Robotic pets will stave off loneliness and entertain you. Your diet will be carefully analysed and its affect on your body noted and adjusted. Tracking systems in your shoes will flag any falls the instant they occur and automatically signal your nearest and dearest that assistance is needed urgently. No more lying for hours unattended on the cold hard floor. Genius in more ways than one.

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But be careful, for in that genius lies the rub. This way forward, this future, it seems to me, leads directly to the world of Big Brother - more than it already does and is. The word that sums it all up is the word ‘remote’ - a word that may just come back to bite us. Currently, it is enthusiastically bandied about in talk of ‘remote viewing’ and of ‘remote patient care’ and therein lies the strength and the weakness of this brave new world.

The ‘connected care’ on offer is technologically connected, not physically connected - yet we humans are creatures that blossom when in close contact to others of our ilk. We like to live in groups; we thrive together. The touch of a human hand, and the attention and love of another being is what, for most of us, gives point to life and a reason for existence. Separation and isolation destroy our spirit. Put someone in solitary confinement and the science shows them at high risk of suicide within a matter of mere days.

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So although the cleverness of many of these inventions is indisputable, and useful and transformational in a whole host of positive and life-changing ways, and many of them, as they claim, truly are the ‘first’ in their field, be wary. Tread carefully through the years that come, but in the meantime, rejoice in some of the literally life changing inventions on offer at CES this year.

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I’ll be reviewing my top product picks over the next few weeks, so keep reading!


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Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's leading breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health. 

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