Interface with Big Brother

I touched last week on the politics of transhumanism. Technology that feeds information directly to our senses and/or sends data from our bodies to the Internet and machines without the more indirect input by a key board or voice command will soon become common, less the realm of science fiction or cutting edge aide for the handicapped or injured. Big Brother would like to do more than watch.

I’m more worried about the latter than the former.

On the medical front, patients with pacemakers have long been able to call a certain phone number, place the receiver over the pacemaker, and download information on the function of the pacer and their heart. More recently, portable outpatient monitors have been designed to communicate by cell phone, remotely alerting caregivers – and emergency responders – if the patient has a heart attack or arrhythmia. Now, there’s a new smartphone, the EPI Life, available in Asia that allows the user to create an EKG (or “ECG,” an electrocardiogram) of his heart rhythm. The EKG is sent over the phone to be read by at a central location and the patient receives a text message telling him or her what to do.

If you’re trying to lose weight or stay in shape, there are programs for your smartphone that can use the GPS location of your phone to track your walk, run or ride. Wii, Nintendo’s game computer with hand controls and floor pads to sense movements of the body, allows us to turn ourselves into the “interface” with the machine. A company called Neurosky is selling headsets that are supposed to be able to read “brain waves,” allowing players to control video games with their minds.

The U.S.’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are moving in to regulate medical “apps” and medical devices like the EPI Life that that communicate over the airways. It’s not enough that the doctors who read the information are licensed by their States or that adults chose to take advantage of available technology, there’s fees, fines and control at stake. The move is just part of the Obama Administration’s attempts to control the Internet and health care.

You have a chance to learn more and give your opinion about government involvement and possible interference in teletechnology and telemedicine. The FDA and the FCC will hold a joint meeting – a “Convergence” - in Washington on July 26 and 27. You have until July 19th to register to attend or testify at the meeting and July 25th to send in your written or electronic comment. You can interface with the government, here.


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