I have read the Sunday New York Times for the last 40 years for big ideas. The last few months have been somewhat lacking. But today, the New York Times delivered an immensely important big idea: an essay on longtermism by professor of philosophy at Oxford University.

To quote MacAskill,

” The questions that motivate longtermism: the idea that positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time.

Longtermism is about taking seriously just how big the future could be and how high the stakes are in shaping it.

Future people count. There could be a lot of them. And we can make their lives better. To help others as much as possible, we must think about the long-term impact of our actions.

But society tends to neglect the future in favor of the present. Future people are utterly disenfranchised. They can’t vote or lobby or run for public office, so politicians have scant incentive to think about them. They can’t tweet, or write articles, or march in the streets. They are the true silent majority.

Longtermism can inspire concrete actions, here and now. “

When we think about how to design a healthcare system for the next 100 years, we have to design in the ability to change and adapt. We should be adding elements found in biological and organic systems.

For example, a forest grows organically. The trees adapt to the local climate, to competition and to natural threats. The forces of nature impact the forest. The forest does not grow because of rules established by the Ministry of Natural Resources. The rules are irrelevant in the longterm. The system must be designed with adaptation in mind for the long term.

So let’s look back at the teachings of Professor Brenda Zimmerman. A professor at York University running the healthcare management programme or HIMP. Brenda who was a friend spoke and wrote about the importance of modeling complex adaptive systems. Adding biological and organic properties to systems, such as healthcare.

What if Canada’s healthcare system adopted some of the principles and properties of complex adaptive systems. Adaptation and change would be built in.  It is ironic that the workers within healthcare work with the biological systems hard wired into their patients. But the healthcare system that they work in is hard wired to fail by the obtuse rules that prevent adaptation and change. Control and regulation are more important than the ability to adapt and change.

So it is the right time for a big thought experiment by the thought leaders in healthcare,wherever they are. And if they are courageous enough to speak out because resistance awaits any new ideas, even great ideas that will help our healthcare system survive and thrive for the next 100 years.