Thursday, October 21, 2010

What precisely is meant by medicine "going digital"?

We have an intuitive sense of what is meant by those urging medicine to "go digital." It seems to refer to modernizing, becoming more flexible, and basically following the path of modern computing and information technology.

Is it useful to think more rigorously than this hazy conception, without necessarily reading a special report from The Economist (excellent though it may be)?

Digital information is special because it can be transmitted to and instantiated within any number of devices that are now cheap and portable. The information is can be located at several places at once, and can travel instantly and cheaply. Lord Harold Samuel was talking about more than property when he said "The three things that matter in property: Location, location, location."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Adjacent Possible

The title of this blog is inspired by Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation In it, he describes Stuart Kauffman's concept of the adjacent possible. The concept represents all of the potential next steps that innovation could bring us to.

An example would be Apple computer's sale of cheap personal computers. Making inexpensive machines available to the masses vastly expanded the ability to explore the potential of computing in ways that massive mainframes, with their select group of highly trained experts, never could approach. Thousands of tinkerers and hackers eventually disrupted the mainframe industry because the innovative potential of many PC's, though inferior to the mainframes' capability, simply exploded throughout the adjacent possible.