The lab-on-a-chip (LOC) is a small device with a huge potential. It can run dozens of diagnostic tests on human DNA in a few minutes. Give the device a gob of spit or a drop of blood and it will tell you whether or not you are sick without any need to send your DNA to a laboratory. In poor countries LOCs could offer diagnostics to millions who lack access to expensive laboratories. In the rich world they may curb rising medical costs.
The world has been so dogged by bad news of late that it is almost possible to forget about tiny miracles like the LOC. But two timely new books remind us that boffins continue to make the world a better place even as politicians strive to do the opposite. Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler make a breezy case for optimism in “Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think”. Eric Topol provides a more considered look at why medicine is about to be “Schumpeterised” (his word) by digital technology. These books are a godsend for those who suffer from Armageddon fatigue. They also remind us that technology keeps improving despite economic gloom.
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