All of us go through some ‘A-ha’ moments in life. It could be the wondrous feeling on discovering something amazing, something that you probably knew exists somewhere, but didn’t knew it had a name. Or it could be the chess Grand Master-like feeling on getting the better of my 9 yr old in Wordament.
I first came across the expression ‘calm technology’ in Hyderabad, way back in 2003, when my class mate made a mess of his power point presentation owing to the complex animations. Our teacher, Dr. Mahapatra said, “First get a handle on technology before using it in front of an audience. Technology should be calm”. What we saw on the screen was “Chaos technology”. That was one such A-ha moment that stayed with me (and not just because my plain text presentation got the highest grade in class.)
What would a calm technology look like? Technology should be a facilitator, present somewhere just around the corner, able to effortlessly move to the center of our attention when needed. No fuss. It should not be taking us out of our work. But, all too often it works quite the opposite. Like the i-phone automatically pausing the music, every time the ear phone comes off your ear. Is this a calm technology? I would have said yes. But sometimes in a perverted sense – it makes my teenager believe that studying is just a quick interlude – an undesirable interruption in the flow of music.
The perils of information overload are obvious enough, be it the barrage of candy crush requests or the classical case of harassed husband desperate to make a statement by his “I love you wife” -like status updates. I got digressed here.
That is not to say that all information is undesirable. Without technology, medicine wouldn’t have been where it is today. Diligence then is the key word. Calm technology would help us focus on things that we actually care for and not making us do things that it wants us to do. For all its side effects, social networking is playing a unique role in academia and professional research. Who would have thought that a search query “twitter” on PubMed would produce more than 600 peer-reviewed studies. Evidence-based tweeting’ or ‘tweeting the meeting’, then are the new buzzwords.
Indeed, these are interesting times..For one, twitter is a game changer in epidemic intelligence. Many outbreaks get picked up by alarms raised from by automated algorithms, every time a certain pre-defined hashtag or keyword exceed a certain pre-determined threshold level.
So how does calm technology fit into medicine. Dr Arul Withey wears many hats. This historian of medicine (also a “BBC-New generation thinker’) blogged on the return of leeches in mainstream medicine. Below, I reproduce a few lines verbatim from his blog.
“…To get rid of excess blood was to rid the body of potentially harmful substances. One means of doing this was by visiting a barber-surgeon who would open a vein and take a few ounces. The ideal amount would see the patient light-headed and nearly fainting, but not actually unconscious…” “… leeches, by contrast, with their 300 tiny teeth, were incredibly effective….. (leeches) had the added advantage of simply dropping off when they had gorged themselves, but also left a ‘thank you’ gift in the form of a coagulant that helped to close the wound.”
Here is the link to his blog = https://dralun.wordpress.com . You can read the complete post here – “Bloodletting in Medicine: The return of the Leech”.
Who knows we might see more treatments like this getting into mainstream. That’s it from me for now. Do you know of anything that could fall under calm technology ? (not those wearable gadgets that tell you whether you are feeling nostalgic right now or are just pissed off”). Take Care. Enjoy the weekend!
Its ciau for now.
Coming up next week: Part-2 of the calm technology series where I also talk about Clinical decision-support systems and how they are affecting health care in U.S. I’d be great to have your comments.