In 1942, Joseph Schumpeter used the phrase “creative destruction” to describe “a process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” Over the intervening years, this phrase has been applied to business-related changes on a canvas much narrower than entire economic structures.
I recently happened upon a photo from the middle of the last century that showed a 5-megabyte drive being loaded by forklift into the cargo hold of an airplane. Today, through a series of incessantly revolutionary discoveries and refinements, I can carry 32 gigabytes in my pocket — on a device that is smaller than a stick of gum.
Sometimes these discoveries are altogether new technologies, and other times, they are merely a clever way to apply existing technology. In the latter cases, the improvements often center on ease of use. The growth of medical technology entrepreneurs and their discoveries seems to be expanding exponentially, likely fueled by the baby boomers and others living longer lives.
Such is the case with a device that has been in development for more than two years. You have undoubtedly seen TV shows where a hospital patient is festooned with a bunch of patches affixed to wires and plugged in to a device that measures electrical activity in the body. This rig, known as a Holter monitor, is difficult to wear, requires professional application and is somewhat less than portable. What, asked researchers in Madrid, if we replaced all of this with a t-shirt that provides the same monitoring function, but is easy to put on and take off?
Not content with their current model, there will soon be improvements such as a thermometer and an accelerometer to measure movement as well as a GPS component that allows medical providers to track the patient. The take-away is that if we can resist the temptation to regulate everything into oblivion, the process of creative destruction will continue to provide us with technology that will make what we have today look like that 5-megabyte drive.
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