My latest trend alert has taken me a long time to prepare, much longer than I expected. Below is the repost and the title links to the Innovation Management publication:
The amount of data organizations are expected to manage for planning, transparency, compliance, etc. is expanding, but the amount of data which could benefit these organizations if analysed effectively is growing exponentially with the aid of social media, RFIDs, machine translators, and other tools. The total amount of digital data is growing exponentially leading to the coining of the term big data which has become a major buzzword in the enterprise and even in the general press, but what is the real value behind the hype?
What is changing?
According to International Data Corporation (IDC)’s fifth annual survey in 2011, 1.8 zettabytes (1.8 trillion gigabytes) of information were created and replicated in 2011 alone which is up from 800 gigabytes in 2009, and the number is expected to more than double every two years surpassing 35 zettabytes by 2020. However, this data includes everything from covert government strategies and medical records to holiday photos and spam. Not all of this data is inherently useful, but all of it can be collected, managed, and analyzed to reveal patterns and trends which could improve decision making at every level for security, system optimization, market research, scientific discovery, etc.
Data analytics has been around for decades, but the current tools are too limited for the massive, fast moving, and disparate information that is increasingly required for analysis, hence the need for big data solutions. And those solutions present new possibilities in data analytics by allowing for greater complexity of data to discover events and populations that may only be seen with the right volume, velocity, and variety of data. With greater segmentation of datasets, big data solutions also allow greater tailoring for an organization’s clients, customers, employees, etc. The biggest challenges are in asking the right questions and ensuring that as much data as possible is included.
Some organizations are already addressing these challenges for the health and energy sectors as well as marketing and cybersecurity. EcoFactor mines thousands of data points about weather, regional building codes, home value, and others to reduce energy consumption in smart homes by 17%. WellPoint is using IBM’s Watson-as-a-Service, the cloud application of IBM’s Jeopardy winning artificial intelligence, to mine millions of pages of medical data to help doctors and nurses improve their decision making while face-to-face with their patients. American retailer, Target, is following the purchasing habits and other information about its customers and coupling that data with behavioural research to improve its target marketing. Zions Bancorporation is using big data solutions to identify phishing attacks, prevent fraud, and stop hackers. The city of Santa Cruz is leveraging data to forecast high crime areas that can be patrolled to reduce offenses, and the US government is also applying big data to homeland security as they search for signals and online activity that could indicate real world security risks.
Why is this important?
Big data is certainly hyped, but the potential is equally big. Epidemics might be spotted sooner, security threats may be detected earlier, and customer demographics could be made more specific. Regardless of the many opinions about big data and its hype, the data itself will continue to expand exponentially, and more organizations will find themselves hitting the ceiling of previous data management capabilities.
Data has become a commodity, and as it becomes even more valuable, some organizations might loosen their hold on ever more types of data for the sake of mutual benefit. While organizations will still have to maintain compliance for the sake of privacy, intellectual property, and other security concerns, parts of an organization’s data may eventually become more valuable to them released to the wild than securely isolated in their own storehouse. Imagine mining the data of several organizations across multiple sectors added to all the data freely available on the internet, and the potential of big data for organizations of any size can be better understood
I was scanning and found a few articles about elective amputation. Electing to amputate a limb? Well, official elective amputation is reserved for those with diminished use of a limb when even a dumb prosthetic, much less a modern prosthetic capable of reaching and grabbing, would actually be better than their own limb. However, there was some suggestion that a minority of people might want to volunteer to amputate their completely healthy limbs. These people are dominated by a condition called body integrity identity disorder. They are usually completely normal in all or most respects with the exception of this one very odd obsession, amputating a specific limb at a specific point. In the above link, Dr. Michael First says one man with the disorder lost his arm in a car crash. Did he feel suddenly normal with a loss of a limb? No, because he wanted to lose his legs. He yearned to be a double leg amputee, and losing his arm did nothing to diminish this desire. The disorder has been known for decades, but prostheses are only now coming to a point where sympathizers might defend the ethics of allowing such extreme desires.
I combined this strange disorder with Anonym’s story for my latest trend alert for Shaping Tomorrow which I will reprint below. Anonym is a biohacker. She is going straight DIY punk style to enhance her body to feel something beyond current human limitations like magnetic fields. She has approached doctors, but they do not want to help her for ethical reasons. So she has resorted to implanting herself with special magnets using an anatomy book, scalpels, and buckets of vodka.
People with body integrity identity disorder may not believe themselves to be transhumanists, but any transhumanist who wants to be a cyborg may benefit from the ethical discussions these people pose. Actually, I found that Kyle Munkittrick beat me to the punch. While I was trying to write this trend alert, I found his blog post in Discover Magazine’s Science Not Fiction. I have a few reservations with Munkittrick’s narrow view of society, but he brings up some important questions about what the legal and ethical ramifications are of allowing people to do what they wilt in regards to asking doctors for help.
To see the rest of the sources for my trend alert, you may have to login to Shaping Tomorrow, but here is the alert as it appears in ST:
My body, my choice?
As technology advances to a point of enhancing human functionality and not just adornment or redressing loss, technology and the philosophy of transhumanism are influencing the way we define the human body by raising new ethical boundaries and issues about personal choice and control.
Body modification has been happening for centuries with ear piercings and tattoos. Recent decades have even brought about the legitimate medical practice of gender reassignment in some countries. Yet when a young woman wants to extend her senses to feel magnetic fields, doctors refuse to help. Anonym is a biohacker who is implanting her fingertips with magnets in her own kitchen with medical books, scalpels, and buckets of vodka. Seeking to enhance her human experience, she is also working on a way to internally sense the magnetic poles–something scientists believe humans could be biologically enabled to do.
Prostheses are going fashion forward and adding greater benefit to the lives of the disabled. The curved blades worn by paraplegic Olympic hopeful, Oscar Pistorius, are a prime example of practical prostheses which function better than those that look like natural legs, hands, etc. Researchers are developing prostheses with an increasing range of motions and functions which could eventually strengthen the ethical argument for voluntary amputation for people with body integrity identity disorder, a psychiatric condition marked by an overwhelming desire to have one or more limbs amputated. Official elective surgery is reserved for those patients with lost or reduced functionality in an attached limb, but some people with body integrity identity disorder are voluntarily freezing and damaging their limbs—often having to do so more than once—to force doctors to amputate.
Voluntary amputation and DIY implantation may be extreme examples, but gene therapy, brain enhancements, and possibly certain forms of life extension will also be part of the ongoing and ever more complex debate over what an individual can do to themselves or what they should be allowed to have a doctor more safely do for them. The behavior of such people is being defended and heralded by some bioethicists who align the individual’s right to amputation and implantation with abortion, euthanasia, etc. “My body, my choice” is the rallying cry for a growing number of people seeking more personal freedoms regarding health.
In the future, there may be specialist doctors specifically trained to handle the needs of people seeking “transhumanist operations”. Transhumanists anticipate a time when technology is able to do more than supplement a lost limb but actually grant humans greater functionality, both mentally and physically, than that which nature provides. Eventually, society will have to address the concerns of transhumanists medically and legally, potentially revolutionizing society. Should legal and ethical systems protect individuals from themselves, or should personal rights prevail in voluntary extreme body modification and other elected enhancements?
Enhanced humans could play a mediator role between humans and robot workers. Eventually, people with certain prostheses may be sought out by employers to perform particular functions more efficiently. If that should happen, employers may even be willing to pay for an employee’s required procedure. Like most technologies, countries which do not allow such augmentations may cause greater social disparities, and such disparities would be heightened even more once scientists are able to enhance the brain.