“Expect the unexpected, or you won’t find it” – Heraclitus
What follows are speculations intended to spark questions and explorations on the many possible futures of Physical Therapy, and retrospectively contemplate how you and I can prepare for and adapt to the unpredictable. There will be aspects to this post that I have either overlooked or am unaware of, so please offer your feedback.
As Yogi Berra once said, “the future ain’t what it used to be.” The future. Something many of us would love to foresee and plan accordingly. Unfortunately making predictions is both difficult and usually (not always) futile. Gazing into the crystal ball can be a dangerous venture, so lets keep our distance without completely ignoring the evolving current macroeconomic climate.
The world around us is becoming more complex everyday. New data is mined, new dots are connected, and in the spaces between discoveries, inventions, and everyday life some very unpredictable things sometimes (often?) occur. These events, while unpredictable, can have significant consequences. For example, an asteroid impacting your planet. One of Nassim Taleb’s books, “The Black Swan,” is about these improbable events and their impact. He call these events “Black Swans”. Here’s why:
“Before the discovery of Australia, people in the Old World were convinced that all swans were white, an unassailable belief as it seemed completely confirmed by empirical evidence… It illustrates a severe limitation to our learning from observations or experience and the fragility of our knowledge. One single observation can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of confirmatory sightings of millions of white swans. All you need is one (and, I am told, quite ugly) black bird.”
He goes on to describe a Black Swan as an event with three characteristics:
1. “…it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations”
2. “…it carries extreme impact…”
3. “…in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.”
Kevin Flynn: The Miracle… You remember. ISOs, isomorphic algorithms, a whole new life form.
Sam Flynn: And you created them?
Kevin Flynn: [Laughs] No, no. They manifested, like a flame. They weren’t really, really from anywhere. The conditions were right, and they came into being.
Let’s tie this into the PT world with 2 Black Swan events.
First, my favorite emergent movement in Physical Therapy: PT Pub Night. Could anyone have predicted this 7 years ago? I believe PT Pub Night has the potential to make strong impacts within the profession in ways that top-down directives have failed. What excites me most are the unpredictable offshoots from this movement. If you haven’t been to a PT Pub Night, then what are you waiting for? Look here to find a location near you. Can’t find one near you? Then start one.
Second, there’s been growing enthusiasm regarding pain science, graded motor imagery, and the subsequent importance of changes in cognitive perception to bolster patient progress. Let’s push this brain training a bit further. What if you could harness the patient’s ability to visualize their own success to manifest improvements via technology for integrated graded motor imagery? What if you could train the brain by just visualizing or imagining manipulation of physical objects in space and, ultimately, the user themselves? Update: Augmented reality is here (also see here, here, and here) and rapidly evolving.
If you haven’t heard of Tan Le, then you’re in for a thrill. Watch this TED talk that introduces eMotiv – “A headset that reads your brainwaves”.
Seems years away? Guess again. The first generation headset is available in 2014. It bestows the user with potential telekinetic powers – the ability to manipulate physical objects by thought. Forget wheelchair joysticks. And forget game controllers all together. Just think it.
Another budding theme that blends nicely with these fancy telekinetic powers: robotics. Cybernetic integration is inevitable, and evidence of it is plenty and growing. In fact, it’s already here: “A Prosthetic Limb, Controlled by an Amputee’s Thoughts”. All that’s truly needed to springboard this into public consciousness is a bubble, like The Dot Com Bubble of the late 90’s. This propelled the internet forward into what it is today. A similar path will likely be needed for robotics. And it has already begun. Google has been on a buying spree in the last 6-9 months buying up EIGHT robotics companies. Late 2013 debuted “ROBO“, an investment vehicle for you to place your bets on a growing field.
Imagine a future Physical Therapy specialty constitute neuro-cognitive rehabilitation for cybernetic integration. It might not be as far away as you might imagine. All the pieces to the puzzle are starting to form…very quickly.
Physical Therapy will continue to evolve and adapt to the changing healthcare landscape. There are definite trends in US Healthcare. Mixing in exponential progress in medical technology could just ignite a future we now consider pure fantasy, an impossibility. Then again, impossibilities and unexpected events manifest all around us in unpredictable fashion.
While you can’t predict the future, you can prepare for it. My questions:
1. What could Physical Therapy look like in this potential future?
2. How different could it be from what it is today?
3. What can you do today to prepare for this tomorrow?
Meet up with you colleagues, organize meaningful action, and work today for a greater tomorrow.
What you just read are speculations intended to spark questions and explorations on the many possible futures of Physical Therapy to retrospectively contemplate how you and I can prepare for and adapt to the unpredictable. Again, there will be aspects to this post that I have either overlooked or am unaware of, so please offer your feedback.
More #FutureShock speculations to come…
I am @Cinema_Air