The future of our health


One of the (many) topics that I found intriguing in the book Physics of the Future by Dr. Michio Kaku, is the way technology is moving forward to help us improve our health. Many of us are concerned with personal health, are trying to stay in shape, loose weight, eat healthy etc. What a lot of people typically don't do though, is measure if all the effort that they're putting into this is effective at all; Either because they do not have the knowledge of how to properly measure success or they simply don't have the tools to measure it properly. Of course many people diligently measure their weight, count calories, etc.. But does it actually prevent us from getting sick ? I can only believe it does; for me, running and eating healthy food makes me feel good and that's enough proof that I should continue with these habits.

I must say that I haven't really been focused on my health until I had kids. It could of course also be because I'm getting older, but I do believe that a lot of people typically haven't been raised with the notion of the importance of a proper level of activity and eating the right food. This article has no intention to fix that though; The entertainment and food industry certainly has lots of improvements to make in order to raise awareness of what's good for you and put the health of their customers at the top of their priority list. A couple of days ago I was talking with my wife about the potential impact a potential "fast-food-chain" could have that would only sell healthy food, that would be as delicious and seemingly satisfying as the "garbage" that some of the restaurant-chains (that we're all familiar with) serve their customers.
What would be your choice ? Would you still go for that greasy burger with Coke and fries, or would you go for the healthy alternative ? If this triggers your interest as well, I'm sure that watching the following TED talk will do you good, if this doesn't trigger your interest, you should definitely take a couple of minutes to watch this heroic presentation from Jamie Oliver.

But putting these warnings aside for a moment and going back to the topic of this article, Science to the rescue... 

Creating awareness of what you're doing (eating, working out) but more importantly how you're doing (I always have to think of Joey when I write this sentence) will drive humanity to make the right choice eventually. I experienced this myself when I started running. I was not in a good shape, in fact... I was in a pretty bad shape; Work, kids, sleep took most of my time and the only person that was enjoying my urge to exercise was the owner of the gym that happily charged my account every month for at least a year. If the money people spend on not going to the gym was put towards an advertising campaign for healthy food or funding a startup to create that health-food-chain, it would become a great success for sure! When I finally got myself to start running, I noticed things weren't working well for me. I could run one night a week, but I couldn't even properly walk the rest of the week. Soon I started to do some investigation to get me setup with some gear and virtual mentors. I downloaded applications like Get Running, RunKeeper, 5K runner, etc. to guide me on my path to success and I must say that some of these apps really got me started to move in the right direction. But still not good enough for me. Certainly I was loosing weight and could slowly run longer distances, but I didn't feel that I was in control. It only started to make sense to me after doing a lot of reading on the running topic. Something that I can really recommend my fellow runners to do as well. It was an eye-opener to me that, after buying a watch that could properly measure my heart rate, speed and distance, I was running at a totally wrong pace to achieve my goal: to finish a half-marathon. It was technology that was measuring my body, that was telling me that I needed to take a step back, telling me there was something wrong.

A couple of weeks ago I took my 2 sons to an event at our local university. It was an event where young kids could experience technology in ways that they can relate to; They learned how to make a rocket from a bit of water and a plastic bottle, interacted with robots, were impressed by a Tesla Coil and other wonders of electricity. It was there that I met a person showing me a biometric glove that, by just shaking someone's hand, could show some general health statistics of a person. Reading about these future diagnostic devices in Dr. Kaku's book and actually experiencing it in real life was like putting one and one together. Knowing that today research is happing to learn how to best create clothes (which you'll actually want to wear) that include bio sensors for monitoring your health while you're watching TV, doing your job, driving your car, or eating your food and sends out early warnings and generate health reports to me is going to change how we eat, exercise, work, relax and even treat each other.

Of course we're seeing companies take baby steps on commercialising some of these technologies already: SmartPhones that collect information, watches that measure and guide you on your activity, glasses that can measure someone's emotional state, etc. But I can't wait to have my health checked every day by using common tools and utilities like a toothbrush, a toilet, my clothes, or a mirror and act on early indications of a potential health issue. Until then, I'm going to continue to follow my healthy habits and teach my children the importance of these as well.

I am of the opinion that this is how we will conquer the deceases that today threaten millions of life, a cure is not always necessary or possible but ...

You don't have to cure something that you can prevent from happening.

A business protects its crown jewels with a great amount of security and proactive monitoring systems, we should take a similar approach with our lives and the environment we live in.


Eric Aarts

I am an Enterprise Architect with more than 15 years of professional experience in Information Technology, designing and managing Enterprise Solutions for several Fortune 500 companies. I have taken new ideas from concept to production and helped my customers/employers achieve true breakthroughs and save tremendous amounts of time and money.