Health and recovery

An extract from Chapter 6 of the book Transcending Politics:

6. Health and recovery

On the face of things, the field of healthcare poses a stern challenge to the technoprogressive vision that I am championing. In countries all around the world, costs of healthcare are rocketing. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and dementia are consuming huge resources. National budgets are facing crises under the resulting strains and stresses.

To give one example, Simon Stevens, the CEO of Britain’s NHS (National Health Service), has spoken out on several occasions about the growing financial burden of chronic diseases. Here are his comments in an NHS England news article entitled “Get serious about obesity or bankrupt the NHS”:

Obesity is the new smoking, and it represents a slow-motion car crash in terms of avoidable illness and rising health care costs. If as a nation we keep piling on the pounds around the waistline, we’ll be piling on the pounds in terms of future taxes needed just to keep the NHS afloat.

Speakers in support of a campaign by the British Pharmacological Society emphasised the risks of runaway expenditure on medicinal drugs:

The NHS drugs bill is spiralling out of control and will bankrupt the service unless urgent action is taken, experts say. It jumped more than £1 billion between 2014/15 and 2015/16, to nearly £17 billion. This means the cost of providing medicines is the second biggest NHS expenditure after staff salaries…

The problem is partly due to an aging population, which has more health problems and a wider range of medication to treat them. However, drug wastage is also to blame. Up to 40% of patients prescribed drugs long term do not take them, wasting the equivalent of £350 million a year…

Sir Munir Pirmohamed, the society vice president, said: “We cannot carry on like this. We urgently need to reduce drug wastage and optimise the drugs patients are on to ensure they get the right drugs, and the correct number of drugs, so that they are not being over-medicated.”

Simon Maxwell, chairman and professor of clinical pharmacology at Edinburgh University, added: “This will bankrupt the NHS and is not sustainable.”

In January 2018, stirred to action by a series of fraught experiences in their hospitals over the ongoing winter period, a group of highly experienced healthcare professionals wrote a public letter to Theresa May, the British Prime Minister:

We are writing to you as Consultants in Emergency Medicine, Fellows of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and as Clinical Leads (Consultants in charge) of our Emergency Departments, representing 68 Acute Hospitals across England and Wales…

We feel compelled to speak out in support of our hardworking and dedicated nursing, medical and allied health professional colleagues and for the very serious concerns we have for the safety of our patients.

This current level of safety compromise is at times intolerable, despite the best efforts of staff…

Meanwhile, in the United States, debt arising from medical fees is the number one cause for people to become bankrupt.

Technology is not enough

In principle, technology ought to be reversing these expenditure trends. Innovative technology has the potential to automate aspects of medical treatment, to provide timely early warnings of ill health, and to deliver targeted new therapies that are more effective than previous treatments. However, rather than being a part of the solution, it seems, worryingly, that technology is part of the growing healthcare budget problem:

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Recent Posts

Q2 sprint: Political responses to technological unemployment

Technological Unemployment v2

Q1 recap

Before sharing some details about Transpolitica focus during Q2 2018, here’s a quick update on Transpolitica activities during Q1 2018.

Transpolitica has made good progress during Q1 with goals identified at the start of this period:

Priority project for Q2

As Q2 approaches, it’s now time to put into motion the first of a series of time-limited projects to dive more deeply into some of the specific key themes of a better politics.

Each such project will involve gathering, developing, reviewing, and then disseminating the best technoprogressive thinking on a given topic.

The first project in the series is “Political responses to technological unemployment”, carried out over three phases:

  1. Up to end of April 2018: mainly writing and collecting submissions – framing analyses, thought pieces, policy recommendations, etc
  2. Up to end of May 2018: more focus on group deliberation – where are the weak points and the strong points of our collective understanding, and how can we improve our understanding
  3. Up to end of June 2018: more focus on communicating our findings and recommendations, via publications, memes, slogans, videos, etc

Note that I am using the phrase “technological unemployment” to also include “technological under-employment” and “precarious employment”. (A better choice of words could be one outcome from the project.)

Starting points for this project (to avoid people re-inventing the wheel) include:

Depending on progress, possible outcomes of the project might include a PDF research pamphlet, a video, an improved set of pages on H+Pedia, a press release, a set of slides, and/or a public event (such as a meeting of London Futurists in June and the Humanity+ Beijing event in July).

Questions that need addressing

Key to the success of the project will be the identification of the areas most in need of better understanding. These are the “major uncertainties” where we should prioritise our focus.

For the moment, it seems to me that these areas include:

  1. Potential transition mechanisms from where society is today, to a new social contract in which a citizen’s income (to give one example) is in place
  2. Possible alternatives to a citizen’s income
  3. Strengths and weaknesses of various forecasts of scenarios for the development of technological unemployment
  4. The pros and cons of various ways of raising money to pay for a citizen’s income
  5. The possible role of decentralised technologies such as blockchain in the administration of a citizen’s income
  6. The possibility of an “Apollo scale” project to drive down the costs of all goods and services needed for a prosperous lifestyle
  7. International and trans-border considerations

If you think you know at least part of the answers to the above questions – or if you think there are more important questions to be addressing – please do become involved.

To become more involved in this project

The mailing group https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/transpolitica exists to to coordinate planning and execution of Transpolitica projects. To join the group, visit this page, and send a subscription request.

(There’s also a Transpolitica group on Facebook, but with a potential impending mass exodus from Facebook, it’s more important than before to use other means for project coordination.)

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