The future for our health in 2025 or even 2040. Can we even imagine it? And what’s the smartest approach to this for the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area? The Board invited a group of 24 experts to confront these questions during the first Health Futures session. This is our first step towards building a clear future vision of health for the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.
The impact of digital transformation
The session was led by Bob de Wit, professor of Strategic Leadership at Nyenrode Business University. He sketched a picture of the current digital revolution and its impact on various sectors. In particular, that the impending wave of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will fundamentally change our society. There was considerable discussion about the pace of development of AI and its potential risks: does our society need more time to prepare for these self-learning computers? It became clear that it will be important to include the social innovation that triggers technological innovation: for example, the importance of social networks to the robotisation of healthcare, or the aspect of privacy when personal data is used for prevention.
Technological health drivers in 2025
During working sessions, the experts debated the issue of which technologies will have the greatest impact on health in 2025. Three technological drivers were identified as key enablers:
- biotechnology, robotics;
- artificial intelligence – with big data;
- and the internet of things.
In combination, these technologies enable an accelerated transition from healthcare (making sick people better) to prevention (enabling people to stay healthy for longer). Other technologies such as blockchain, 3D printing, augmented/virtual reality and digital channels/social networks likewise play an essential role.
Future health perspectives
With these insights as a point of departure, the participants then sketched out their perspectives on the future of health. The highlights from these visions of the future are presented below, while also identifying potential downsides of each future (nightmare?) scenario.
- Continuous monitoring of your personal health (e.g. a chip under your skin, checked 20 times a minute, the data compared with that of a billion others); early signalling and treatment on the spot in home situations (with entirely AI diagnostic system).
- Downside: loss of autonomy and freedom, are you still allowed to do ‘unhealthy’ things?
The new human
- Biotechnology enables us to replicate and replace skin and organs, boost our IQ, and enhance or even redesign ourselves as human beings (cyber+human combi).
- Downside: race to the top, everyone continuously upgrading themselves, where will it end?
- Pervasive new technologies give rise to a close-knit ecosystem of mutual care, via social networks as well as in local communities, and a new paradigm emerges: health is a collective good, with a new mutual commitment between individuals and the community to which they belong.
- Downside: hacking of networks, solidarity in the system (what about smokers?).
Longer and healthier life
- Centred on the individual, using technology to motivate healthier behaviour (bottom-up), data-driven via social media and nudging; people enjoy maximum independence from the healthcare system.
- Downside: social divide between those who are healthy for longer and those who are sick earlier, issues of freedom (the poor can’t opt out of data sharing), privacy aspects of data.
In his closing words, Bob de Wit identified several overarching themes that emerged from the session:
- The division of roles between people and technology is going to change: if you want no part of this, you’ll be out of the system.
- New healthcare landscape: end of (large) hospitals, blurred boundaries between healthcare pathways, and a shift in the balance of power from doctors towards citizens.
- Apart from technology, this is also about values such as autonomy, independence, freedom (of choice) and inclusiveness.
There is much enthusiasm among the participants to explore these future health visions in more depth and detail, translating them into concrete action perspectives for the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. The Amsterdam Economic Board will continue to facilitate this process and continue working to achieve our goal of adding two healthy years to the life of every inhabitant of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. We will also continue to stimulate the process of thinking ahead based on future scenarios for the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.