Tag Archives: technology

MedTech Innovations Now and Beyond

Artificial Intelligence Meets Radiology

Artificial Narrow Intelligence is becoming a thing of its own with natural language processing also emerging as tools in healthcare. While IBM Watson is largely a marketing property, other healthcare giants are putting a real stake in AI. And coming up with semi-workable technologies. Note that AI is plateauing at the moment. Some sunspots include a company called Arterys which has developed a deep learning algo for radiology. Knowing folks in the radiology field myself, I would say that this could augment their scale-ability IF they as radiologists embrace and trust the algo to search effective. There will be push back of course, especially if the technology is cumbersome, requires a login, has a poor quality interface, the usual guaranteed problems. The iPad of the 90s WAS the PalmPilot so execution is essential for Arterys.

Cyber Pills Make the Fantastic Voyage

Nanotechnology is allowing for digestable computers to enter the body orally. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the very first pill of this kind last year. The pill is called Abilify MyCite joining the ranks of pills with totally goofy pharma names. How about Track-O-Matic. Hmmm, maybe not… This pill has sensors that communicate with a wearable patch to confirm that the drug in the pill has been taken. That information is relayed to a smartphone for the forgetful patient or the family or team of clinicians taking care of the patient. In the event of a court order for, say, a man who is required to take medication as part of his or her sentencing, this sensor in a pill might come in handy. 

Medical ChatBots Are A Thing, Sort Of

AI chatbots like in the struggling Kik App are pretty terrible at the moment. In the next 5 years there might be more messaging capability but I would not recommend talking with a chatbot about your feelings just yet. The benefits of an effective chatbot with Artificial Narrow Intelligence is to engage people in need of a human therapist and can direct them accordingly. A company called Ada Health is providing this service in Europe as of 2017. It’s been tested by over 1.75 million people. Meanwhile in the UK, the National Health Service is using a chatbot app for providing medical advice thus drawing down the on call nurses. However, I can tell you that having a conversation with a real nurse over the phone when you’re having an asthma attack is the only way to go because they know which hospital to go to and can give you medically sound advice…expensive but valuable.

Virtual Reality in Health Care

Playing video games is one way to distract people from pain. It’s especially potent if the patient has never played a video game before. Cue the VR helmet and you have a great distraction. Of course, there are elderTech folks developing the sounds and environments of your grandparents youth: dust bowl, anyone? While there are over 100 million sufferers of chronic pain in the US and Oxycondin has terrible side-effects (and is a scourge on society), VR and video games have mild side-effects like the feeling that you want to crash your actual car after playing Grand Theft Auto for 5 hours straight. Look to see this technology applied more widely.

Roche and the Acquisitions of mySugr

mySugr is a diabetes management startup from the Alps (Austrian-side). They have already registered patients from all over the world. The acquisition was around $100 according to TechCrunch. The good news is that mySugr is now embedded in Roche giving that pharmaceutical giant a new competitive edge. Other pharmaceuticals will follow suit. Meanwhile competitors like Livongo and Glooko are likely to be emboldened to cash out at a higher price point. This tactic is a classic in pharma: buy instead of build. It’s not hard to predict that more such acquisitions will happen in 2018.

CRISPR and Gene-Editing Is Not a Fad

In 2016, experiments were conducted to demonstrate how to treat mice with muscular dystrophy using CRISPR techniques. Genome editing is a thing and probably is a path to curing cancer in my opinion. MIT is leading the way. Could this technology be used to manage potential mutations of fatal blood disorders through something called base editing? Yep. Meanwhile, China is also pushing forward on human testing with this technology in part due to less ethical approach to science. How do you feel about that?

Insurance companies want to give you better rates for wearing fitness wearables

Qualcomm and Xiaomi + other smartphone providers are signing up participants with a price of $1000 if the user meets their daily walking goals. Imagine being paid to be healthy? I wonder if there is a business model there? Certainly, I would like a tax deduction for my gym membership and a free pizza to balance the health benefits while I’m at it (kidding;-P) But seriously, instead of Stickk.com where you punish yourself for not meeting your target, how about a pool of funds to pay out to citizens who meet their person targets? Make the target hard to game of course. Insurance companies are all over this predictably, largely because, it’s not that interesting outside of the financial team in these firms. Make insurance marketing the greatest it always wasn’t:-)


Lessons from a Masters In Business Administration: Technology and Operations Management

Technology and Operations Management: the Benihana chain in Japan deconstructed the mechanics for a restaurant chain focused on unique customer experiences. Benihana’s innovation was a highly profitable one. Chefs prepare the food at the table, which allows the company to save on kitchen space, while customers were rotated in and out at high speed. A limited menu meant far less waste. And the chefs also entertain their guests. Innovative win, which is now pretty much ubiquitous.

FOMO: is the fear of missing out, which is common in MBA programs when so many activities are occurring simultaneously. You will be overwhelmed with the connections, and the information bombardment…

[This is a synopsis of several books on the MBA experience including What They Teach You At Harvard Business School by P.D. Broughton]

The Age of Spiritual Machines: Part 4

Attacking Luddites, Cautious Progressivism & The Frankenstein Factor

Kurzweil tries to portray the original luddites as a small crazed movement that was inevitably destroyed. Luddites were originally a movement against textile manufactures in 19th Century England. They didn’t like how manufacturing had led to increased child labour, starvation and mass migration. These are negative, albeit short-term consequences of technology. The problem is that Kurzweil only sees the benefits of technology and believes that these luddites just needed to get other jobs, even if many British peasants ended up in the poor house. Kurzweil implies that this doesn’t matter, technology and change are great at all costs. The atom bomb’s use on Hiroshima is part of that progress. It is important to note that the luddites are a manifestation of the Human Factor. They may have been wrong to destroy the new weaving machines but they represent a broader human response to new technology; that is why the Segway is not a victim a fringe group of luddites but the wider public. Kurzweil goes so far as to demonizes those who might criticize his complete faith in the virtue of computer technology. Kurzweil blatantly demeans those who might criticize his ideas by quoting the most famous luddite of the 20th century: Ted Kaczynski (the “Unabomber”). Kaczynski is a criminal. This is a cheap attempt to associated evil with resistance or even questioning the value of change.

An example of where Kurzweil demonstrates absolute faith in the value of technological advancement despite obvious evidence that there are negative consequences in his theory of economic growth. Kurzweil makes the false claim that technology is fueling the expansion of economic well-being. He is ascribing technological advancement as the source of growth, not the people using the technology, new expansion of resources, changing international prices, changing demand etc. America’s economic growth has been below .5% for the past few years. Should we blame technology for the slow down and then claim technology is responsible when there is major growth? Kurzweil is not academic enough for my liking. Also, most economists point to the 1896 world depression as being caused by increased communication through telephone wires. Product sales increased in 1896 but products could not be delivered at the fast rate of demand causing an economic depression. Technology may trigger some depressions, technology may appears to trigger economic growth. Technology is part of the story not the whole story: something a computer scientist might have trouble believing. Kurzweil even hilariously attributes the fall of communism to technology! (172, AoSM) These claims are dubious.

A more balanced approach should be given to technology then the one that Kurzweil ascribes. This is called the cautious progressivists. They are not luddites. They are just more cautious than Kurzweil and they don’t believe in inevitability. Nothing is inevitable. They take into account the Human Factor and have learned from history that technology is not something to advance for its own sake alone. Everyone knows Frankenstein but few people understand the point of Shelley’s novel. Frankenstein is a harsh warning about the dangers of exploratory science on morality, human wellbeing…you know the people that technology should serve. Humanity is not impervious to disasters that are brought on accidentally by our own faith in technology: Chernobyl, the Titanic, Hiroshima, and yeah…even Jurassic Park. Kurzweil should re-read Frankenstein. This isn’t to say that technology is pure evil, it allows us to share ideas on a blog etc. Some great ideas may not actually benefit humanity in whole or in part, we should know that science is a powerful thing that must be handled with absolute care.

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The Age of Spiritual Machines: Part 2

Defining Kurzweil’s Work: Academic Analysis for a Non-Academic Work

The book The Age of Spiritual Machines explores the future of human/artificial intelligence using a classic exercise in “what ifs.” This is called speculative science and futurology. Because this is predictive, in the same way that a fortune teller is predictive, it is not a peer-reviewed academic book. Academics can and will easily criticize his work because the book is speculative. His predictions are lacking empirical evidence, given that nothing can be assumed to be constant in the future and we cannot measure events that have not taken place. If you have no empirical evidence in the future, you will need to use the past for your assumptions. He does this but comes up with wildly speculative ideas of how the future will word.

Academia requires empirical facts that can be strongly supported using the scientific method. In science, political, chemical, biological etc, academics do not “prove” anything is “true” but show that their findings are strongly supported by evidence. Unfortunately, the future has not occurred yet. Therefore it is futile to claim that Kurzweil’s predictions are strongly supportable or not supportable because there is no empirical evidence from the year 2019 for either argument.

Why Kurzweil is still valuable if it is not academic and might not even occur as predicted? To use a classic example, in Orwell’s dystopia 1984, he predicted London would be Landing Strip 1. This did not happen thankfully but that novel has contributed to a thought provoking assessment of political science, government, cultural and scientific thinking. Non-academic thinkers may choose to believe that Kurzweil’s predictions are highly probable. They are free to make that imaginative leap. They are also free to believe that in 24th Century, people will wear pants on their heads be it will be fasionable. It would be wrong however for someone claiming to be an academic to accept his predictions as factual or non-factual, they are speculative, period. Even if Kurzweil’s theories are likely or unlikely to occur as he predicts they are deeply thought-provoking and worthy of analysis none the less.

If it is futile to treat The Age of Spiritual Machines as an academic work, it is because academia is not Kurzweil’s audience. He is trying to stimulate the imagination with creative ideas. It is our goal to use academic analysis to better assess those ideas. Academia reduces the fun factor for non-academic minds but thinking logically, and critically will provide objective analysis that might be useful to better understand the questions proposed by this book: its implications and its flaws. Academics are inherently negative/critical/analytical (all the same result) because their goal is to target the weaknesses in an argument and dissect it. They should be free to criticize:

  • • His ethical views.
  • • His failure to seriously address the Human Factor (see below). His failure to address important questions that we might have about what he normative desires for the future versus what other people desire for the future.
  • • His theory of the good life versus other theory of the good life.
  • • His methodology wherever it is dubious
  • • His predictive skills in the past.
  • • His criticism of cautious progressivism.
  • • His faith in computers to provide only positive outcomes.
  • • His ignorance of the negative outcomes of technology.

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