Shara Evans Interview on Futurist Planning

I find pretty much everywhere in the world that everybody is grappling with the impact of new technology. There's just so much happening at such an accelerated pace that most people even if they have tried to apply themselves into understanding what emerging technology means, just don't have that bigger picture view or have focused on the shorter term let's say three years as a maximum but don't go beyond the three year horizon. And what I find with companies that truly want to innovate is that they need to partner with people like myself or others that have an over the horizon picture that can help them understand these strategic opportunities in the today term, the near term, the medium term and then what the impact is going to be in the longer term.

Overall I'd say very few companies and organisations are really prepared to look that far in advance, and the reason is is that technology has been accelerating at an exponential rate but it started from such a low base that the exponential rate has been like this but now we're starting to go like this into this hockey puck curve and that's catching a lot of people and companies off-guard, and they're just not prepared for how quickly change is going to happen over the coming decade, and how radically different the world of is very likely to be from the way it is today.

The other thing that is also very discomforting for many people is that there is no one set future and there are a lot of different inflection points and scenarios that could lead to different outcomes. So in working with organisations I like to help them with scenario planning for different things that may happen and how they might respond at different inflection points along the multi-year period. Planning for over-the-horizon I think is critical for any organisation and especially in healthcare because there are so many amazing advances that are happening that will radically change the healthcare system over the coming , years. So one of the things that I would recommend to organisations is that they should be thinking about a quote futurist in residence if not a permanent position inside of their company where they have ongoing relationships with one or more people who specialise in that kind of over-the-horizon thinking and are very familiar with their particular vertical industry in this case healthcare.

I think it takes a very creative mind to be able to imagine multiple world scenarios and also be able to extrapolate what will happen not just with technologies but how they will impact society and people and new jobs. So it's a combination of art and science, it's not something that's easily taught. But there are schools that do specialise in training people to think about foresight and strategic thinking and I think that that will be a more important skill set going forward. ​​​​

Shara Evans Interview on Changing Workforce Roles

There will be so many new skill sets when I look at the future of healthcare but at its core healthcare is about helping people. And no matter what kind of technologies we use I really truly believe that the human touch is still required. So if I look at things like robots or AI in conjunction with healthcare, I like to think of them as assistive technologies rather than replacement technologies. So yes, there will be some aspects of jobs that will be automated but it will free that person up to use their skills in a different way.

So if I think about things like a robot that does surgery, you're not going to get rid of surgeons but what you're effectively doing is you're giving surgeons a brand new tool to be more efficient at what they're doing, to be able to have a steadier hand than they might have otherwise even if they're really really gifted surgeon, to allow people to recover quicker and so on. There'll also be new technologies where you might be doing the same job, for instance taking blood, but you'll be using augmented reality glasses that use multispectral light to see the complete vasculature of a person's arm or a leg. So jobs may have, you know the job may be there are still, but some of the tool sets will change and then they'll also be brand new kinds of jobs, for instance working with stem cells, and working with nanobots, and working with robots, and being able to work with AI and train it through what I call reinforcement learning on the proper way to behave with patients, or to diagnose particular things where it's made some mistakes and then you need to correct it so that it's algorithms are learning from human interaction.

There, there's just so much that's going to shift but there'll also be a lot of jobs that are very much dependent on the softer skills like psychology and behavioural changes, and empathy, and even ethics. And in medicine ethics is already important but as you start to look at the changes in technology, ethics is going to be even more important.

Shara Evans Interview on Ethics, Diversity and Data

One of the things that I always ask myself when I look at a technology or I look at an innovation is just because we can do something does that mean we should do something? And especially when it comes to medicine, and genetic engineering, and just because we can do it should we do it and what will go wrong or could go wrong and how do we mitigate against those risks?

So I think we're gonna see a lot more need for risk mitigators as well as technology experts and healthcare experts, and you're really going to need to be multidisciplinary in your thinking. And you can do that through people who have knowledge in different skill sets but I think more effectively through a team of people that have different skill sets and cross-pollination. You know, so any individual member of a team might have multi-skills but if you put a team of people together who are multi-skilled then you're going to get a better outcome than if you were reliant just on one person.

Teamwork is fundamental and you have to get right back to what we're doing is for the betterment of human society. And if we don't have teamwork then we're only representing the view of one subset, you know maybe one individual. So it's really important that we start to take a look at diversity as well in how we deploy technologies, and especially with artificial intelligence because we're feeding AI with big data sets and, we need to ensure that we've got very high quality data sets.

Unfortunately a lot of data has inbuilt social biases in the data and if we don't use this AI technique called reinforcement learning, where we're actually looking for biases in the outputs of an AI decision and correcting it so that it's not making those biased decisions, then we'll end up with systems that may make incorrect conclusions or even mis-diagnose a disease because somebody hasn't corrected a mistake.

Shara Evans Interview on Precision Medicine

So precision medicine encompasses a lot of things. It could be information that comes from wearables or even apps where you're entering information. But you need to have someone who's capable of understanding the inputs and the outputs, helping you to understand what that really means in terms of healthcare. And if we have things like nanobots in our body that are giving us real-time telemetry of the health or unhealthiness of a particular organ, that's going to be a lot more precise than somebody looking at an app on a smartphone and trying to figure out whether they have a particular illness.

 But I think that there will be people who have a wearable and become very reliant on it. But they may not be aware that some sensors are less accurate than others, and there could be false negatives or false positives. So the wearable gives you a lot of information about what's happening in your physiology and increasingly will get more and more accurate, but what's really fascinating is the work that's being done with genetic engineering and, you know, genomic research and actually understanding what our genetic makeup is, and what the potential is for any one of us as individuals to develop particular diseases or medical conditions, matched in with other markers, you know, things that are happening in your body and things that wearables might be able to measure. And just because your DNA says that you might develop a particular disease it doesn't mean that you're going to develop that disease. There are things that you might be able to do to mitigate against it.

Current as at: Thursday 28 November 2019