Six Radical Visions for the Future of Health (including Self-Serve Pharma)

Today I gave the closing presentation at the National Medicine Symposium, rounding out deep discussion over several days on how to get better use of medicines. I developed six radical ideas that could be part of the future of health. The intention was to be provocative rather than rigorous, generating new ways of thinking about how healthcare may evolve.

Here are brief summaries of the six visions I presented:

1. Complete data.

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Image source: Toto

The amount of information that we have about the health of an individual could become comprensive, generating terabytes of data from just one person. Bathrooms that monitor not just what we excrete but also analyze our skin color and tone as we look in the mirror are just the beginning. Images and sensors could record everything we eat and all medicines we take, providing far better analysis on the effectiveness of drugs. Odor is a highly data-intensive yet effective way to identify maladies. We could build virtually complete data sets of our health on a second by second basis.

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How to raise money from crowds: 11 crowdfunding platforms and examples

Crowdfunding is one of the more interesting (and important) neologisms of the last few years. It takes the idea of crowdsourcing (getting services delivered by crowds) and applies it to raising money.

In a later post I will write about the implications of the rise of crowdfunding for venture capital and other early stage funding sources. Here I will just cover some examples of crowdfunding, many of them in creative domains.

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Kickstarter is a well developed creative crowdfunding platform, covering films, music, games, theatre, technology and far more. It uses the common all-or-nothing model, so projects are only funded if they raise their target funds in a defined period. It does not offer equity in the ventures, but project creators can provide specific rewards for funders. Kickstarter gained attention when the new open source competitor to Facebook, Diaspora*, sought $10,000 and has already raised over $180,000 before the funding period is over.

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Will self-sustaining military robots feed on corpses?

There’s always a story behind the story.

The Economist magazine this week points to an online story with the headline: Vegetarian robots: Munching machines – Robots that forage for fuel and run on steam power.

I was most interested in the description given of robots that sustained themselves by searching for fuel, but I also wondered why it specified ‘vegetarian’ robots. So I searched for EATR (the acronym for the robots) and found a great story about how the original story was that the robots could eat biomass, including dead human bodies. This video tells the story.

In short, Fox News released a story with the headline: Upcoming Military Robot Could Feed on Dead Bodies.

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The Economist on online freelancing and the future of work: crowdsourcing goes mainstream

The Economist this week addresses the wonderful world of online freelancing and crowdsourcing, under the rubrik Work in the digital age. The full article is well worth a read.

The article points to the potential for online freelancing and piecework to account for a substantial part of global labor. While The Economist has touched on the issue before, this is now something that is a significant business issue which is going to start attracting a lot more coverage. The Economist notes:


Millions of workers are embracing freelancing as an alternative to full-time employment or because they cannot find salaried jobs. According to IDC, a market-research firm, there were around 12m full-time, home-based freelancers and independent contractors in America alone at the end of last year and there will be 14m by 2015. Experts reckon this number will keep rising for several reasons, including a sluggish jobs market and workers’ growing desire for the flexibility to be able to look after parents or children.

Technology is also driving the trend. Over the past few years a host of fast-growing firms such as Elance, oDesk and LiveOps have begun to take advantage of “the cloud”—tech-speak for the combination of ubiquitous fast internet connections and cheap, plentiful web-based computing power—to deliver sophisticated software that makes it easier to monitor and manage remote workers.

One of the key issues is that work on these sites is no longer limited to graphic design and web development – larger, more sophisticated, more complex, and better-paid work is shifting on to these sites.

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One more reason why Australia is a global hub for crowdsourcing: Ideas While You Sleep

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I was recently introduced to Yvonne Adele of IdeasCulture through a Twitter introduction from Tim Longhurst – a great connection to make!

Not long ago I wrote how Australia is becoming a global hub for crowdsourcing platforms: Freelancer.com, 99designs, DesignCrowd. Yvonne’s service Ideas While You Sleep adds to the burgeoning collection of crowdsourcing services based in Australia. Yvonne described to me how the service works.

The concept is that challenges submitted by 4pm will receive an pack of 100 ideas with an action plan by 10am the next morning, currently at an introductory price of A$495.

Ideas While You Sleep draws on 440 brainstormers, who are ranked in experience from apprentices to premium. As they successfully contribute to projects, they are promoted to a higher roles.

Teams are always designed with diversity in mind, so they include the full range of levels of experience as well as background. Team members are rotated as new projects come up.

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What Yahoo!’s purchase of Associated Content means for the crowdsourced (crap?) content industry

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Yahoo! has just purchased Associated Content, with price variously reported at $90 million (by All Things D) and slightly over $100 million (by AdAge).

Associated Content is the second largest player in crowdsourced content after Demand Media, which is looking at an IPO which is likely to be valued over $1 billion. AOL, which was originally considering buying Associated Content when it wanted to get into the space, decided to grow its own business called Seed, which is already a strong player. Other players include Helium.

The model is primarily of advertising arbitrage – identifying where advertising returns from search visitors can exceed the cost of content. Since online advertising doesn’t pay much, content costs need to be very low. As a result the quality is not always earth-shattering.

I wrote last year about how the proliferation of crap content, and how the rise of reputation systems will make it easier for us to identify content quality and reliability. However we don’t have these yet.

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Launch of online community SMETechnologyForum.com – join the discussion!

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We have been busy working on a number of major initiatives this year. One of the most important directions for Advanced Human Technologies is creating communities in which we provide useful content and a place for sharing and discussion.

Our first community is SME Technology Forum, which brings together community insights on leveraging tech for small and mid-sized companies. Check it out. And when you’re there please participate if you have anything to add to the discussions or comments.

We’re keen to get your contribution to the community. We’d love to post any useful articles you have. Also do let us know if you or anyone you know has learned valuable lessons on applying technology to business – we’d be happy to do an interview to write a case study. Full details on how to contribute to SME Technology Forum here.

We will be launching more communities soon, both ones dear to our hearts, as well as custom communities for companies that want to build a rich B2B community for their customers and prospects. Keep posted for more new communities – they’re intended to be valuable for you!

Autopoiesis and how hyper-connectivity is literally bringing the networks to life

When I started writing my book Living Networks in early 2002 I thought that it was important to demonstrate that the concept of ‘living networks’ was not just a metaphor, but a reality: we, together with the networks that connect us, are literally a new life form.

To show this I drew on the literature on autopoiesis, which was proposed as a new way of understanding the nature of life, and wrote a lengthy introduction to the book. My editor, very rightly, thought it was the wrong way to begin the book, and the introduction never saw the light of day.

This morning when someone mentioned living networks to me I remembered that this was a literal phrase that I had never explained, so here is the introduction, seen for the first time. We are indeed part of an emerging higher-order life form, and that is a wonderful thing…

Introduction: How Connectivity is Bringing Our World to Life:

We who are privileged to be alive today are participating in the birth of a new lifeform: the global networks. All the talk of the “new economy” in the late 1990s reflected many of the changes at play in our world. In truth they may well have underestimated the importance of the juncture we are at, which represents a complete change in the nature of society and business. Since the dawn of humanity people have been the dominant force on our planet, for better and—sometimes—for worse. Now people as individuals are being transcended by a higher-order lifeform, which is connecting and merging most of the people and all the digital devices on the planet into a single entity.

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SME Tech Forum Series: Getting Results from Crowdsourcing on 31 May

After the success of its SME Technology Summit last December, The Insight Exchange is launching an ongoing series of events in the space, the SME Technology Forum Series.

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The series kicks off with a very exciting evening event in Sydney on 31 May on Getting Results from Crowdsourcing. Full details are on the event page.

The keynote panel discussion features the CEOs of some of the great companies that are making Australia a global hub for crowdsourcing:

Matt Barrie of Freelancer.com

Alec Lynch of DesignCrowd

Yvonne Adele of Ideas While You Sleep

as well as long-time lead user of crowdsourcing tools

Phil Sim, CEO of MediaConnect.

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Launch of Left Coast Festival and Rose Vickers’ Flohawk show

It’s great to see Sydney’s continued rise as a creative hub, with the wealth of talent on hand compounded by the immense energy going into great events and festivals such as Creative Sydney.

This Wednesday 6-8pm Sedition Gallery is launching the 50 day Left Coast Festival, including visual works, installations, video, hybrid music / dance performances and more with an event themed Red, with unconfirmed ‘whispers’ that Laurie Anderson might attend while she’s in Sydney.

The event is also a launch for the talented Rose Vickers’ show Flohawk, about transience, mortality, the brevity of life’s stages – an image from the show below.

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Maybe see you there!