Your transhuman future: 24/7 body monitoring

Paul Raven @ 25-03-2009

medical monitoring tagsCutting-edge medical hardware can scan and analyse our bodies with incredible accuracy, allowing doctors to diagnose and treat many of the illnesses that come as part of our mortal meatware. But these things can only be seen if we’re looking for them; we’d catch many more diseases and defects if we could be monitored constantly, rather than just when we visit a doctor or clinic.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) we’re a long way off from having nanotech swarming through our bloodstreams, but there are companies and research groups working to build realtime medical monitoring systems for the human body. SingularityHub rounds up a handful of them and takes a look at their current projects; here’s a description of one from Proteus Biomedical:

Proteus ingestible event markers (IEMs) are tiny, digestible sensors… Once activated, the IEM sends an ultra low-power, private, digital signal through the body to a microelectronic receiver that is either a small bandage style skin patch or a tiny device insert under the skin. The receiver date- and time-stamps, decodes, and records information such as the type of drug, the dose, and the place of manufacture, as well as measures and reports physiologic measures such as heart rate, activity, and respiratory rate.

So, till pretty crude by science fictional standards, but surely an improvement on being wired up to a room-full of medical monitors to record the same data. As nanotech and molecular genetic engineering converge, we’ll doubtless see systems like this become more powerful and more prevalent, at least in the richer countries.

SingularityHub points out one of the big benefits of this sort of monitoring, namely the vast tranches of data it would supply to medical researchers. But there’s a flip-side that need to be considered, namely privacy. Futurismic‘s own Sven Johnson reported back earlier this month from a possible future where biometric body scans of millions of US citizens was leaked to the public; think of the repurcussions of even more intimate data being exposed. [image by HouseOfSims]

And how about insurance? Once this sort of detailed medical data is available, it’ll become a mandatory part of your application for health coverage, and you can bet your boots that the insurance houses will use every little warning indicator as an excuse to bump up your premium… or deny you a policy completely.

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