The Impact of Enabling Technologies on Gamified Preventative Healthcare

The Impact of Enabling Technologies on Gamified Preventative Healthcare

David Wortley

David Wortley
IORMA Health & Wellness Technology Centre (HWTC)

April 2024

The Democratisation/Consumerisation of Technology

The last 50 years has seen exponential and disruptive advancements in all aspects of digital technologies both in terms of their price performance and their affordability, accessibility and usability.

Computing Power and Price Performance

This graph shows the exponential growth in computing power and price performance over the last 40 years during which time we have gone from a single user desktop computer with no graphical user interface (i.e. before Windows) to a highly connected handheld smartphone with stunning colour and audio capabilities.

In 1984 IBM computer displays were monochrome and the first colour displays had a CGA resolution of 320×200 with a choice of 4 colours. The operating system was text based and called DOS (Disk Operating System), programs were loaded by typing in a command and the maximum main memory size was 640k (which Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft, famously said that that amount of memory would be all that anyone would need!). Hard disk drives of 10MB were just appearing but most PCs operated with 2 x 1.2MB floppy disks.)

The main applications were word processing and accounting and there were no health/medical applications to speak of. Using these desktop computers also required some training and patience.

The growth in computing power and performance is also reflected in the exponential changes in digital communication capabilities which have seen over the same period modems capable of 9600 bits per second for point to point data transfer now evolved to always on global fibre networks capable of 10 gigabits per second.

Sensor technologies (IOT) did not exist and the internet was still about 8 years away.

Today in 2024, the world is totally different. Computers are handheld with memory capacities of 1TB supplemented by cloud storage. The video and audio capabilities of smartphones are outstanding quality and devices are not only globally connected to each other but also to millions of other types of sensor devices.

What this Means

  • Computers are now over 1 million times more powerful and are handheld
  • They now have many medical/health applications
  • They can communicate with the world in seconds
  • They can record video and photos
  • They can display information in rich ways
  • They are increasingly affordable

Usability and Accessibility

In parallel with the exponential developments in price performance, digital computing technologies have become ubiquitous, accessible, affordable and usable by small children and pensioners. In 1984, the devices used by the medical profession were specialised, highly technical and expensive. The operation of these devices in hospitals required highly trained specialists capable of not only operating these machines but also interpreting results.

Patient diagnosis by doctors in 1984 involved the use of devices that had been in use for decades such as thermometers, blood pressure measure devices, weigh scales and stethoscopes. The interpretation of these vital signs was the domain of highly trained and experienced medical professionals.

Today in 2024, we are well into a revolution of digital health and medicine. There are a huge range of wearable devices increasingly able to not only measure vital signs in real time but also, through increasingly sophisticated AI algorithms, perform diagnoses and alert clinicians when health problems start to arise.

What this Means

  • Technology is easier to use
  • Technology has many medical applications
  • Technology can monitor health easily
  • Medical Intelligence is accessible from anywhere
  • Knowledge and opinions can be shared globally
  • Complex health ecosystems are now practical
  • There is a shift from cure to prevention
  • People are able and will need to take more responsibility for personal health
  • Medical staff will need less training and will be able to take on more complex work
  • Patients will be more involved in diagnosis and treatment

What does the future hold?

The power, reliability and accuracy of digital health/medicine technologies capable not only of measuring and diagnosing both physical and mental health problems is likely to see the embedding of these devices in our bodies and brains, not only to monitor our health and wellbeing but also to make interventions and control aspects of our health.

The idea of such embedded medical devices is not new because devices such as heart pacemakers have become common place and have not only saved lives but also enabled people to live normal lives. This is just the tip of a very big iceberg. Today, devices such as insulin pumps support diabetic patients to live normal lives.

We are fast approaching what has been described as “The Singularity” – a hypothetical future point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable consequences for human civilization. According to the most popular version of the singularity hypothesis, I. J. Good’s intelligence explosion model, an upgradable intelligent agent will eventually enter a “runaway reaction” of self-improvement cycles, each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an “explosion” in intelligence and resulting in a powerful superintelligence that qualitatively far surpasses all human intelligence (Wikipedia).

According to Ray Kurzweil, in this century, it may be possible to extend life indefinitely for what might be described as hybrid humans with embedded technologies.

In today’s increasingly polarised world where human behaviours and opinions seem to be at the heart of all our global challenges – health, environment, poverty, warfare etc., it is not inconceivable that the future of the human race might lie in the emergence of cyborgs – hybrid beings with characteristics that prioritise survival of the species.

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