A weekly round up of news and views from the tech, creative and business world.
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The doctor will see you now
Google X, the semi-secret, all-ambitious facility run by Google is dipping its toe into the medical waters with “Baseline Study” – an initiative which aims to research human health through crowdsourcing medical data from participants.
The project aims to monitor aspects of health, being proactive in the way we approach medicine by pre-emptively preventing disease before it happens, rather than curing it once it has become present. Tests include the collection of bodily fluids (blood, sweat and tears, I’m sure) with participants handled through an external agency – not knowing what trial they are participating in to ensure the impartial outcome of tests. A project of this scale has not been attempted, but is now possible thanks to technological advancements, and access to Google’s programming skills and expertise (and investment).
With the medical industry expected to be worth $10.8 trillion worldwide in 2017, this is an especially lucrative area for Google to be investing in, though not free from controversy – especially regarding how the collection of medical data impacts privacy. Head honcho Larry Page has recently been outspoken regarding the importance of data mining, claiming that if there was less fear towards it, thousands of lives could be saved. Adversely, what could this data do in the wrong hands? From life insurance premiums to recruitment tests, our DNA could give away more about us than an incriminating Facebook profile ever could.
I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man
What’s the difference between a corporation and a person? A business is made of people, but is not technically a person. Right? Unfortunately, the legal fiction recently established by the US Supreme Court suggests otherwise, when it granted corporations the rights of freedom of speech and religious objection. Corporations are increasingly claiming the rights and privileges of individuals, often without the corresponding responsibilities of citizenship and tax contribution.
But what if Jay-Z was right? What if an individual could become a corporation too, enjoying the privileges of an individual and a corporation, enjoying massive international tax breaks, choosing the regional laws we abide by and being able to ‘merge’ with whoever we want without the restrictions of marriage legislation? Catherine Rampell outlines several attractive advantages of becoming a corporation, making it sound as omnipotent as a spreadsheet-weilding T1000. Nothing stops a corporation: even if you killed, stole, funded terrorism or destroyed the global economy, you wouldn’t spend a day in prison. Businesses can be ‘executed’, having their corporate charter revoked or made insolvent through financial penalties, but have proven to be able to rise again under a different guise but unnervingly similar make-up.
Moving Brands saw an interesting test of Rampell’s thesis at this summer’s RCA Design Interactions show. Jennifer Lyn Morone™ Inc is a registered corporation, as part of an unmistakably-RCA-sounding art project that aims to establish the value of an individual. She categorises her past experiences and present capabilities as ‘biological, physical and mental services such as genes, labour, creativity, blood, sweat and tears.’ She even has her own share certificate and neon sign. Morone’s project is a stark reminder that the difference between business and businessman is not as clear cut as you might think.
Let the right one in
As the world dives headlong into the technological era, there are undoubtedly paradigms that will change alongside it. Up until recently, the idea of hacking brought to mind somebody decoding your password and getting in to your computer or account. We’re reaching the point, however, where hacking of our physical world is far more prevalent. With new apps like KeyMe and KeysDuplicated, all it takes is a couple of pictures from a smartphone to order a copy of your key— or whatever key you manage to get a photo of the front and back of, if you catch my drift. It’s not just your keys either; there’s already proof that the ever-more-intelligent smart cars that are seeping into the market are susceptible to hacking. Hackers can tighten seatbelts, kill the engine, control the steering, and even disable the brakes. Car companies say it’s not something to worry about (?!), because in these examples the hackers had their computer physically plugged in to the car, and they would need remote access for this to be a threat. Hackers, meanwhile, are asserting that they already do have the ability to gain remote access. While nothing has come of this yet, measures must be taken to button up security in new technology, to avoid the potential for disaster. This insight is driving some companies to consider changing their security practices right now, upgrading for something more secure (at least for the time being): Hilton hotels are looking to upgrade all of their locks from traditional keycard to smartphone controllers. On the surface this may seem like a more vulnerable option, but when you compare the technical and cryptographic capabilities of a smartphone versus an encoded plastic card, it’s evident that the smartphone is a more secure arrangement…for now.
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