juldrich's Blog Posts

The Future of Health Care: Part 3 (Robotics)

April 22 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Business & Work   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from www.jumpthecurve.net

Paul Saffo recently gave a talk to the Long Now Foundation entitled: Paul Saffo recently gave a talk to the Long Now Foundation entitled: “Secret’s to effective forecasting.’ In it, Saffo argued that “inflection points are tiptoeing past us all the time.” To make his point, he used the example of how no robotic cars finished the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2004, but all 23 cars started and finished the race just a year later. (For readers interested in a more in-depth look at this exponential-like progress, I’d recommend this old post).

Saffo went on to advise forecasters to look for things that don’t fit. Using the earlier example, he noted how at the same time robotic cars were achieving their extraordinary progress; there was a massive 108 car pile-up of “human-driven” automobiles on a highway in California. Saffo’s point was that the two events point to a possible future scenario whereby robotic-driven cars become more feasible.

Well, I recently had a similar experience but instead of noting the progress in robotic cars, I have witnessed a flurry of articles documenting the amazing amount of progress being made in the field of surgical robots, and this progress juxtapositions nicely against the news suggesting that there is a growing shortage of trained health care professionals to serve America’s growing geriatric populations. (cont.)

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Think 10X, Not 10%

April 21 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from www.jumpthecurve.net

One of my favorite quotes comes from Kurt Yeager who once said: “In periods of profound change the most dangerous thing is to incrementalize yourself into the future.” I was reminded of this quote because although I often speak to businesses about the future of technology, I frequently encounter push back from executives who are mostly interested in identifying ways to incrementally improve their businesses or products. In short, they are looking for improvements in the range of 10%.

I constantly remind them, however, that we are no longer living in an era of linear growth – a 10% improvement might have been sufficient to keep them competitive in the past, but it is no strategy if they desire to be in business in 10 years. To achieve that goal, they must be on the lookout for how 10X improvements will transform their business. (Ray Kurzweil, in this excellent editorial , also emphasizes this point.)

To this end, I recently came across a couple of articles that highlight this point. The first addresses how a number of researchers are looking to increase data storage by “a factor of a hundred.” It is difficult to contemplate how a 100X improvement in data storage might transform education, media, advertising and even health care, but it is imperative that professionals in these fields start thinking along these lines immediately. (cont.)

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The Future of Computing

April 18 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2020   Rating: 5 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from www.jumpthecurve.net

The future of computing has many different aspects and it is not my intention with this post to provide a detailed explanation of each. Rather, I merely want to share with readers who are interested in the future of computing some interesting and provocative resources.

For those looking for a broad-based overview of how computers will change our lives, I highly recommend this detailed report by Microsoft Research entitled “Being Human: Human-Computer Interaction in the Year 2020.” The second chapter, in particular, is very insightful and documents five major transformations: 1) The End of Interface Stability; 2) The Growth of Techno-Dependancy; 3) The Growth of Hyper-Connectivity; 4) The End of Ephemeral; and 5) the Growth of Creative Engagement.

For readers seeking a slightly more technical understanding of where computers are headed, I’d recommend this press release by Gartner, Inc. It covers a number of “grand challenges” which will dramatically alter how future computers operate and are used.

Succinctly, the major changes are:

1. Never having to manually recharge devices.
2. Parallel Programming.
3. Non-tactile, Natural Computing Interfaces. (This corresponds with the Microsoft report.)
4. Automated Speech Translation
5. Persistent and Reliable Long-Term Storage; and
6. Increasing Programmer Productivity 100-fold.

(cont.)

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You Don't Have to be a Brain Surgeon to See Where the Future is Headed

April 14 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2013   Rating: 3 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from www.jumpthecurve.net.

The National Research Council of Canada recently released some very interesting news describing the progress that it is being made with the world’s first MTI-compatible, image-guided neurosurgical robot. The device is dubbed the NeuroArm.

Now, I’m no brain surgeon, but I have followed the progress that Intuitive Surgical has been making in the field of robotic-assisted prostectomies, and it might interest you to know that in 2005 the company was performing less 1% of all prostectomies. Today, it is performing over 50%!

The reason this is occurring is because the da Vinci robot (which is still controlled by a surgeon using a computer) is so precise that the surgery is only minimally invasive, and this allows the patient to leave the hospital in one to two days. Patients who have a traditional operation must stay five to seven days. Of course, this extra stay costs hospitals a great deal of money and they now have a vested interest in switching patients over to the robotic-asisted surgery. Not surprisingly, convincing patients to undergo a robotic-assisted operation has been made easier because they are not only told the scar will be much smaller but they will also get out of the hospital much sooner.

The NeuroArm and similar neurosurgical robots are the wave of the future. They may not be performing many operations today, but my guess is that just as Intuitive Surgical’s Da Vinci robots now control the prostectomy market, neurosurgical robots will contol the brain surgery market in 5 to 10 years.

If you are so inclined, I recommend the following 10-minute video from Wired Science which shows how the da Vinci robot is now beginning to assist with heart surgery: (cont.)

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The Future of Health Care: Part 2

April 13 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2008   Rating: 2 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from www.jumpthecurve.net.

Earlier this year, I had to go to a local hospital and have a laproscopic procedure to repair an inguinal hernia. The operation went well and I was quizzed no fewer than six times about the nature and location of my surgery . (Apparently, they wanted to ease any concern I had about them operating on the wrong organ or the wrong side.)

The only hassle occurred after my surgery when I was detained for over an hour because the doctor failed to sign-off on my prescription medicine. I mention this information because it is symptomatic of the inefficiencies that continue to plague our health care system.

There is, however, hope on the way. Recently in the Minneapolis Star Tribune there was an informative article entitled “Take two aspirin and e-mail me in the morning.” It discussed the enormous opportunity that exists within the health care system to save time and money if only more doctors (and patients) would agree to electronic consultations.

Now, no one is suggesting that personal doctor-to-patient meetings should be eliminated altogether, but as one doctor is quoted as saying “90% of what we do is not based on physical assessments.” In other words, much of a doctor’s business can be conducted electronically – at a substantially lower cost and in a manner that is more convenient for the patient. As proof, the article cites one innovative clinic in Portland, Oregon which is now treating 40% of its patients by e-mail. (cont.)

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The Future of Health Care: Part 1

April 12 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Business & Work   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from jumpthecurve.net

Last fall, I had the opportunity to give the keynote presentation at the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s annual meeting. The title of my talk was “The Future of Health Care.” At the behest of the conference organizer, I provided an advance copy of my presentation so that they could make copies for the participants. The only problem was that the organizers asked for my presentation a few weeks in advance and the pace of technological change – especially as it relates to the health care industry – is so rapid that I was compelled to update a number of slides prior to my talk.

As proof of the accelerating pace of technological change, I’d like to just walk you through a few weeks of technological and scientific advancement in the health care industry. In October, researchers at Chonnam National University in Korea announced that they had created a microscopic robot small enough to travel through blood vessels. The robot is so capable that once it is inside a blocked artery it is able to release drugs to dissolve blood clots. According to this 2007 study, deaths from severe heart attacks after hospital admission have already been halved in the past six years. As a result of advances such as this microscopic robot, it is reasonable to believe that we will continue to make even more progress.

In early November, researchers at the Institute for Advanced Bioscience in Tusuroka, Japan successfully demonstrated that they had used inkjet printers to “print” human stem cells. The significance of this advance is that society is now one step closer to creating implantable organs. (cont.)

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Agriculture's High Tech Future

April 11 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2008   Rating: 11 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from jumpthecurve.net

I know, I know … agriculture is already a high-tech industry. I don’t necessarily disagree with the sentiment, but the industry is going to witness even more technoligical innovation in the near future and if farmers want to remain in business they need to stay abreast of major developments in a number of different fields.

For example, this article from yesterday’s New York Times briefly profiles Phytech, an Israeli company, which is placing sensors on fruit trees and other crops to provide real-time information to farmers. As the price of next-generation sensors continue to drop, farmers can expect to employ sensors to do everything from determine how much water a crop needs to deciding what the optimum amount of a pesticide that needs to be applied in order to do the job..

As advances in genomics continue, the agriculture industry will be further transformed. (For a more detailed look into genomics and agriculture, I’d recommend this old post.) NatureNews, for example, is running an interesting article describing how researchers have tweaked the E Coli bacteria to hunt down atrazine—a widely used herbicide . The significance of this development is that soon a major environmental issue for farmers could be resolved because designer bacteria may prevent a variety of pesticides and herbicides from seeping into the groundwater and polluting sources downstream.

The agriculture industry will also continue to change for another major reason—both land and crops will be soon be an important source of energy. The opportunity in biofuels and wind production is already established, but this is just the start. (cont.)

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Tracking our Future ... With Sensors

April 11 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2012   Rating: 9 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from jumpthecurve.net

There was a picture from yesterday’s NY Times article entitled My Life in a Video and it shows a dancer with a variety of sensors embedded in her leotard. Among other things these sensors can automatically control music to correspond with her dance tempo.

To be sure, it is a cool technology and I’m sure it will soon be showing up in some avant garde theatres; I, however, would encourage you to think even more broadly about how embedded sensors and RFID tags will soon transform our lives.

To do so, I invite you to read these two recent articles. The first is from Roland Piquepaille over at ZDNET and he explains how researchers at the University of Washington have deployed 200 antennas (RFID readers) to track the movements and activities of 12 students.

I would also encourage you to watch the six minute YouTube clip posted below. It is a little academic at times, but toward the end you will witness two exciting applications. In the first, a student hears a song that a colleague is listening to and he is able to instantly download it to his cellphone. In the second, the same student downloads information from a wall poster. (At a minimum, this latter application holds great relevance for advertisers and retailers who might soon be able to employ the technology to download electronic coupons to consumers as a means of either enticing them to purchase the product or, at least, receive more information about it).

(cont.)

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Make More Connections to the Future

March 27 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 8

By Jack Uldrich

Cross posted from jumpthecurve.net

I recently finished reading James Burke’s excellent book, “Connections,” in which he explains how a myriad of seemingly unrelated advances in technology helped to create new technologies and how these technologies, in turn, often lead to changes in societal behavior. For anyone interested in the future, I highly recommend reading the book because if it teaches us anything—it is that the future will unfold in unexpected ways.

At the risk of sounding like a nitpicker, I would like to take objection with just one of Burke’s main points and that is his idea that the only way to look at the future is through the past. To this point, I’d offer two quotes from the book. The first is: “Anyways, there is nowhere else to look for the future but in the past” and the second is: “Why should we look to the past in order to prepare for the future? Because there is nowhere else to look.”

In a general way, I agree with the sentiment and that is why I dedicated an entire chapter (“Back to the Future”) in my new book to this idea. (In fact, I am now contemplating writing an entire book on this theme).

Nevertheless, I don’t agree that the past is the only way to study and understand the future. I also believe that science fiction offers an alternative way to think about the future. Among the best thinkers of how new technologies will transform societal behavior are science fiction writers. This is because they are not merely obsessed with technology for technology’s sake, they seek to understand how it will also influence and change people’s thinking and behavior.

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The Future is Cheap

March 27 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2020   Rating: 12 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from jumpthecurve.net

With oil over a $100 a barrel and some analysts predicting it’ll go as high as $300, it is easy to think that the future will be more expensive than today. I, however, have a decidedly different take on the future, I believe it is going to be cheap—very cheap.

For example, today’s Wall Street Journal is reporting that there is already a price war breaking out in the nascent space-tourism business. You might recall that Charles Simonyi and Iranian-billionaire, Anousheh Ansari, both flew into space in 2007 for an estimated $23 million. Now XCOR Areospace is hoping to fly passengers into space for a mere $100,000. As space flight technology continues to improve and the industry achieves some economies of scale that figure should drop even more.

On another front, Applied Bioscience recently reported that it sequenced the genome of a Nigerian man for $60,000. It was only a few years ago that Craig Venter sequenced his genome at a cost of $70 million and, last year, James Watson spent $2 million sequencing his genome. In the not-so-distant future, there is an excellent chance we will all have our genomes sequenced for less than $1000.

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