Everything for the Self: Wellness in the Digital Age

Digital technologies are enabling us to know ourselves better and better. This affects the wellness industry in terms of increasing demands and a multitude of possibilities.
18 October, 2018 by
Wellness im Digital Age: Alles für das beste Ich
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

This text is an excerpt from the GDI study "Wellness 2030 - The new techniques of happiness", which is available as a free PDF download.

We are entering the age of the «technologies of the self» – techniques for controlling your own body, thoughts and behavior. In the 21st century, inventions will no longer focus on improving people’s living standards, but optimise the people themselves – from smart assistants and illness prevention, to improved human biology and longevity. The wellness industry is more focused on the technological development of self-optimisation than any other sector. Demands on the wellness arena have increased significantly; three factors in particular affect the industry:

Hyperconnectivity: Everything is linked to everything else. That means the end of industrial silos. Knowledge that was defined for certain types of companies, stacked in departments or on isolated company servers is now being connected. Hyperconnectivity promises enormous increases in efficiency. Those who are well connected and better informed about human behavior, bodily functions and health problems will be able to identify business opportunities more quickly and develop new services faster.

Disintermediation: In the past, we discussed hardware and software, physical matter and technical engineering. Those days are over. The most valuable companies are those capable of processing vast amounts of information. The quality of that data is crucial to the quality of services offered. For example, Uber’s taxi service wouldn’t be nearly as successful without its superb data management system, which is constantly improving. Such companies have direct access to customers; they can react to every customer request with speed and agility. This presents a challenge for established companies: can they adapt quickly or will they be put out of business by aggressive, better positioned startups?

Entanglement – symbiosis of humans and technology: We can no longer conceive of ourselves as separate from our human nature or technologies. Instead, we are part of a greater whole in which we are permanently entangled. During the Enlightenment, progress was analytical, and resulted from deconstruction. Today, progress is synthetic. Instead of discovering new worlds, we are creating them. We are becoming more and more intertwined with our creations. It’s no longer easy to distinguish between natural and artificial, and we are becoming what we make. The opportunities presented by technology seem to expand with each step and create previously unknown needs. This explains the increasing importance of self-optimisation. As body and soul are being decoded, diagnoses and prognoses are improving. New therapies are not only healing sick people, but helping healthy people increase potential.

Well-being and happiness have become increasingly central to our perception of health and wellness in recent decades. The industry must react to novel requirements like data-driven self-enhancement. That requires the establishment of professional structures, the creation of strong brands, and clearly differentiated products and services. The industry must set the bar high from the onset so it can secure margins and innovate. No easy task – while digitalization continues at lightning speed, the sector is dominated by established thinking and analog emotionality. But it’s critical to leverage the ever-improving high-tech insights into opportunity, or the loss could be dire.

Read more about the new techniques of happiness in the study "Wellness 2030".

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