The drip, drip, drip of innovation might just be a myth. Change commonly occurs as a punctuated reality that’s a function of converging events or a single disruption to a system or construct. I wonder if the famous term “singularity” coined by Ray Kurtzweil may be better suited for the discussion of these innovation inflection points (think Big Bang) than its current expression of technology’s cognitive assent over mankind.
From evolution to the industrial revolution, this is a recurrent theme for humanity and all life on earth. We receive a kick in the ass and move (sometimes crying and screaming) into the future. Sometimes, it’s a singular event that drives a profound transformation—remember those dinosaurs and that asteroid? And if you use your imagination, you might even see that horrific sphere in the sky and conger some images of the COVID-19 virus. Sometimes it’s a cluster catastrophic events or a confluence of magical things.
Change is disruptive. But adoption is gradual. And that where people get confused.
The year 2021 was certainly disruptive. And it was defined by COVID-19 and void of innovation that perfectly reflected the difference between disruption and adoption. Certainly, there were important breakthroughs including therapeutics and vaccinations. But failure was also a defining aspect of a tumultuous year. Adoption can drag its feet…
Clinical uncertainty was met with the demands of rapid action and resulted in the complexities of innovation, confusion, and adoption. COVID-19 compressed years of science, pharmaceutical development, technological advances and clinical practice into just months—sometimes even days. And then, layered moral imperative of action into this equation. The lessons learned from 2021 are vast. But, in many instances, these lessons were driven by events, or, if I may, singularities that helped shape and drive action.
It seemed that almost every day in the past year provided new data, insights, and guidelines that helped informed clinical practice. Yet, this pushed clinicians away from the “clinical comfort zone” into more a “risk/reward” posture where conformation was either antidotal, pre-published, or driven by societal and political pressures. Consensus—from patient to clinician—was sometimes difficult to find. But bravery, from thought to deed, was frequently at hand.
Today, we are around the corner from another asteroid or spike protein. But we are also at the center of another confluence that offers the potential to transform and protect humanity from those fireballs in the sky.
Social need, technology, genomics, artificial intelligence and a host of factors are aligned for more than a change, but a tectonic shift of unimaginable proportions. These are coming at us with the jolt of disruptive transformative that can make us cling to a safer and more predictable past. But that’s the nature of transformation. It’s sudden and shocking. But the human side of that journey may not always align.
The traditional vision of our future and of transformation is our desire for “the same but better.” From the emergence of the electric car (a transition) to the introduction of a new beta-lactam antibiotic with better tolerability and spectrum of coverage (another transition), we adopt in baby steps. But technology can often loom larger and step more broadly.
That’s where we are today. Look up and you’ll see it. We are just heartbeats from our next inflection point. The question isn’t only about the wonder of technology to help solve these conflicts, but the bravery of humanity to move forward.