How was your commute this morning? If you are lucky, you got to ride your bike through a crisp autumn day. If you’re me, you were stuck on busy public transport with many other people.
A good opportunity to share each others hardship? Hardly. Look around and you’ll see almost everyone looking down at the screen of their phone. So today I conducted a little experiment. I peered over my fellow commuters’ shoulders to see what they were up to. Not 100% OK, I know, but I was curious. I saw three things: people listening to music, people playing games, and, most of all, people messaging other people. Not surprising. If you look at the top 10 apps that people actually use long term, many messengers are on the list.
Of course I did not read what my fellow commuters were writing, I’m not that terrible. But I can venture a guess. They were chatting with someone close to them, wanting to feel connected during the morning rush out into the big, anonymous world. Many messages will have been messages of love, joy and mundanity. Some will have been messages of worry, pain and fear.
When you are not feeling well, you want to communicate. You reach out to those you trust and ask for support and advice. While working as a doctor, I learned that building a relationship and communicating closely with my patients is one of my most powerful cures.
Sadly, I don’t scale. While I can answer whatsapp messages my friends send to me, I can’t answer the world. But chatbots and natural language processing can. Running on the most popular messengers, they are easily accessible and intuitive to use. Give them an engaging personality, add in strong conversational design and a pinch of behavioral science and we’re on track to cloning me. And giving 7Bn people the personal health support they need.