Watson will be better than docs and other sweeping predictions from a tech optimist

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vivek wadhwa

“I wouldn’t be surprised if within two to three years, they didn’t have an app that could diagnose my (heart) health better than my cardiologist can.”

That was just one of the ambitious predictions that came Monday from technology enthusiast Vivek Wadhwa during a keynote presentation at the Front End of Innovation Wellness conference in Boston. The vice president of innovation and research at Singularity University, who also has appointments at Stanford, Duke and Emory universities, detailed his vision for how technological breakthroughs, combined with falling prices of technology, will revolutionize the way we live.

“I’m doing a detailed analysis of this, and my guess is the sensors in this iPhone 15 years ago would have cost a half-a-million dollars and would have weighed about 100 pounds,” he said. “The sensors in this iPhone cost about $20 now.”


In healthcare, that means we should expect to see more products like Proteus’ smart pill, which was the first edible sensor cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year. “Imagine being able to put sensors in your body that go to different organs, and they’re just sitting there monitoring your internal health,” he said.

Aside from being in humans, sensors are also going to be, well, just about everywhere else. “You’re going to see Internet-enabled devices everywhere–billions, trillions of Internet-connected devices,” he said. “Everything will have an IP address; everything will be remotely programmable and accessible.”

And what’s a conversation about technology outsmarting doctors without mentioning Watson?  Now that IBM has sent Watson to medical school, Wadhwa had a prediction about that too: “My cardiologist is the best doctor that I’ve ever been to, but (they) learned what they did 10, 20, 30 years ago when they went to medical school. I suspect IBM Watson is going to be a better doctor than any of us.”

It’s not unthinkable that all of this technology will be available in the form of micromachines, robots, sensors and mobile phones, but the real question is will people actually use it?

“Even though technology is advancing exponentially, humanity is not,” Wadhwa admitted. “We’re still stuck in our old way of doing things, kicking and fighting each other.”

Although he understands the skepticism around his vision for what could be the not-too-distant future, Wadhwa said he looks back on the evolution of mobile technology, the Internet, 3-D printing and thinks some of those ambitious visions could be a reality within the next decade or two.  “My hope is that humanity evolves.”

[Photo from Twitter user marketingbraino]

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Deanna Pogorelc

By Deanna Pogorelc MedCity News

Deanna Pogorelc is a Cleveland-based reporter who writes obsessively about life science startups across the country, looking to technology transfer offices, startup incubators and investment funds to see what’s next in healthcare. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and previously covered business and education for a northeast Indiana newspaper.
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