Vet to the Future: Evolution or Revolution?


The year 1995 was a good one to be the CEO of Kodak. The company made millions, employed hundreds of thousands of people, and enjoyed a near monopoly on camera film and photographic paper. The term “Kodak moment” had slipped into common lexicon to describe an event worthy of recording for posterity. It was as ubiquitous as Facebook or Google are today. It was too big to fail.

Until it did.

Less than a decade later, after years of plummeting revenue, Kodak filed for bankruptcy. The shutterbug behemoth had crashed and burned in a way nobody had thought possible. Nowadays it only exists as a small company that does little more than finance movies.

Kodak’s mistake was to choose evolution over revolution. The digital camera might seem like a very modern technology, but it was actually invented back in 1975. In a twist of cruel irony, the man who invented it, Steven Sasson, was an engineer at Kodak. But the first digital camera was, frankly, terrible. It was the weight of a brick, took 23 seconds to take a photo, and was only able to offer black and white images more blurry than disputed snapshots of Bigfoot.

So Kodak dismissed it. It would never catch on, they said. Nothing would ever displace traditional film. They chose evolution – to carry on doing what they always had – rather than revolution. This was their fatal mistake.

By the late 1990s it had become clear that digital was the future. But while Kodak had busied itself improving celluloid, other companies had been developing digital cameras. Suddenly, nobody wanted what Kodak was selling, and their digital technology was so far behind that they had become a dinosaur, waiting for extinction. The world had changed, and they hadn’t changed with it.

But, I hear you cry, what has this got to do with vets? Don’t worry; I’m getting to that.

What happened to Kodak was just a sign of things to come. Society is entering a period of untrammelled change in a way not seen since the Industrial Revolution. The veterinary profession will face the Brave New World just like any other. IBM has developed a supercomputer called Watson which can diagnose diseases quicker and more reliably than a doctor, while robots that carry out intricate surgical procedures have been trialled. 3D printing could reduce the cost of veterinary equipment, while advances in genetics could revolutionise numerous treatments.

The Webinar Vet has chosen to pursue revolution over evolution, firstly by pioneering online training, and more recently through HoloVet, a technology that generates holograms to be used for training and planning procedures. This is a nascent technology but, just like the digital camera in 1975, we believe this is the foundation of a great change in the future of veterinary education.

The future is coming, whether we like it or not. When it gets here, we had better be prepared.

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