Would telemedicine become the doctor for the poor…

Providing clinical care via telecommunication services has the potential to transform how we think about primary care. With its spread in the future, patients would not necessarily need to visit their GPs, and in the long run, even artificial intelligence-powered chatbots could dispense medical advice in case of minor problems. Telehealth platforms allow people living in remote areas to still get proper care, and medical professionals in rural towns and remote areas can have access to specialty services, and patients can be treated in their own communities. It’s a win-win scenario. Or is it, really?
What if authoritarian governments, aware of scarce human resources regarding medicine and healthcare, only allowed the privileged, loyal circle to go to the doctor personally, and let ordinary citizens or members of the oppositional forces see a doctor only virtually?

…and biotechnology the medicine for the rich?

The creation of a two-tier citizenry with different biological chances for life might also arise using biotechnology. Remember the science fiction movie, The Island? Cloned humans were living in a colony not being aware of their actual identity: they were produced to provide auxiliary body parts or become surrogate mothers for the rich who wanted to live as long as possible, wanted to avoid diseases or the hardships of pregnancy.
With the advancement of 3D bioprinting, it is highly unlikely that in the future, we will create or clone human beings, trends show instead that technology allows us to manufacture tissues or at best organs. But what if authoritarian governments restricted access to the achievements of biotechnology for the privileged? What if only the chosen ones could receive 3D printed tissues, personalized treatment or medicine? The rationale might be that these people embody the backbone of the state and so the state should ensure their longevity and health above others. You might say that governments should do that for every single member of the community – and you would be perfectly right about that. But experience shows that authoritarian regimes don’t really have the best interests of the largest group possible in their minds.
authoritarian governments
Source: www.northeastern.edu

Population genomics and preventive community management

In April 2018, news outlets surfaced that one of the biggest state in India, Andhra Pradesh, will secure the DNA base of 50 million citizens through the blockchain. On 20 March 2018, Estonia launched the first stage of a national state-sponsored genetic testing and information service providing 100,000 of its 1.3 million residents with information on their genetic risk for certain diseases. Already in 2015, MIT Review reported that a genetics company in Iceland named DeCode Genetics collected full DNA sequences on 10,000 individuals. And since the population in Iceland totals around 320,000 citizens, and they are fairly closely related, DeCode said it could extrapolate to accurately guess the DNA makeup of nearly the whole population of the country, including those who never participated in its studies.
By 2025, between 100 million and 2 billion human genomes will have been sequenced, researchers said. The rise of population genomics is visible – and governments will assume more and more roles in managing this huge chunk of biological information. As genome sequencing could reveal the innermost secrets of human life – alongside with risks for the future -, this information is invaluable and incredibly sensitive. For example, pharmacogenomics studies drug response due to the genetic code and argues that medications do not have the same effect on people. Nutrigenomics looks at your genetic map and tries to explain your tendencies to react to food in your own unique way. These types of information could mean incredible power over people.
For centers of control, the acquisition of genomic data meant not only a grip over the present health state of citizens, alongside with the future. What if authorities had the chance to categorize people based on their health risks? What if the quality of health services depended on the health risks people carried in themselves? Would a society built up by genetically inferior and superior casts evolve? Would authoritarian governments push citizens towards this dystopia to be able to manage communities according to their interests?
authoritarian governments
Source: www.technologyreview.com

The atomic bomb of digital technologies – artificial intelligence

The amount of available digital data is growing at a mind-blowing speed, doubling every second year. In 2013, it encompassed 4.4 zettabytes, however by 2020 the digital universe – the information we create and copy annually – will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes (!). We need specific algorithms to make sense of these incredible chunks of information. And it seems that the method of machine learning and deep learning can create such smart programs that are not only able to make sense of data but also predict outcomes that humans would never be able to catch. Nigerian start-up, Ubenwa has developed an A.I. algorithm able to diagnose childbirth asphyxia based on an infant’s cry. On the other end of the spectrum, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved the use of an algorithm which monitors vitals of patients suffering from a severe illness to help predict sudden death from heart attacks or respiratory failure. The algorithm, named the Wave Clinical Platform, was developed by medical technology company ExcelMedical.
Thus, it seems that although there are limited fields – especially computer vision and natural language processing – where A.I. has proved its worth, in those areas, its achievements are mind-blowing and undeniable. And what if autocracies, dictatorships, and tyrannies discover the potential in A.I. for themselves?
Acclaimed Israeli historian, Yuval Noah Harari, believes that the conflict between democracies and dictatorships lies at the heart of their abilities for data processing. Throughout the 20th century, democracies were better at gathering and making sense of information through their distributed sources of data – as opposed to authoritarian leadership as they have more limited sources. However, artificial intelligence may soon swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. A.I. makes it possible to process enormous amounts of information centrally. In fact, it might make centralized systems far more efficient than diffuse systems, because machine learning works better when the machine has more data to analyze, Harari said. That centralization is the key to the possibility to create digital dictatorships.
Imagine a society where you are surveilled through millions of cameras, your every move is recorded in a central database alongside public records, health information, achievements in school or at your workplace. Your online activities are recorded effortlessly, and your data is placed next to your family’s and friends’ accounts. How easy would it be to influence citizens through means like that? How easy would it become for the government to discern information about our lifestyles, mood, priorities and predict our behaviors? Would docile people with the ability to blend in with the system be rewarded and persons with dissenting opinions or even different tastes be punished?
authoritarian governments
Source: https://blog.kolabtree.com
Do you think it’s science fiction? There is a country where 200 million CCTV cameras ensure that nothing remains hidden. It becomes child’s play to judge or track anyone’s moves. In some pilot programs, the state assigned “social credit” to its citizens based on track records, their families and friends, their past actions, their online activity, job, healthcare status – every single step they do. The “social credit” is undoubtedly built up according to the government’s expectations, and docile subjects get high points – with more options, better school, and job prospects or better healthcare. People, who have done anything against the interests of the state get low points – and the gates will close before them everywhere. In the worst cases, they are condemned to house arrest without actually being convicted.
No, it’s not from the screenplay of the next episode of Black Mirror.
It’s China.
No, it’s not happening in the far future.
They have introduced the pilot system in several cantons already and plan a nation-wide roll-out in 2020. Yes, you’ve read that right.
Within less than two years.
So, how much time do you think we have until democratic governments understand the potential in digital technologies and start to build in the necessary checks and balances to maintain our way of life? How much time do we have until the positive outcomes of digital (health) technologies could be cemented in our societies?