Minefield

Picking up on last week’s post, ‘Twelve-Thousand Step Program’, which focused on humanity’s obsession with data, and the ever-growing abundance of it…this week’s post zeroes in on one of the (virtually unlimited number of) potential abuses of that data.

With advances in Technology, we are going to encounter Ethical questions and considerations never before contemplated outside the realm of Science-Fiction. For example: What if there were a scientific test that could reveal one’s predicted age at death, with a fair degree of accuracy?

Our Time Has Come.

Per a recent CBC article, an epigenetic (i.e. related to changes in ‘gene expression’) clock has been developed to predict that very thing.

As the article states, “As we age, there are a few ways you can think about how old you are. There’s how old you feel, or how old the calendar says you are. And now by using “epigenetic clocks,” scientists can also tell how old you are according to your DNA. Steve Horvath, a professor in the Department of Human Genetics and Biostatistics at the University of California Los Angeles, is at the forefront of this research. He’s developed an epigenetic clock that he ominously calls GrimAge.”

Of course, this tool uses genetic-based data to reach its conclusions…about our conclusions. Changes in diet/exercise and other risk factors would alter a prediction; an accident, by its very nature, would be unforeseeable (i.e. the test is neither foolproof, nor magic).

Questions Abound.

Would you want to know your estimated time of death?

Perhaps more pertinently, would you want others to know?

What if the test could be run without, or even against, your express consent? What if it could be run without your knowledge? What would happen if the results were to fall into the hands of the healthcare industry, a potential employer, or someone with criminal intent?

What if results were created fraudulently, and then circulated to public and private institutions?

The Bigger Message.

As riddled as this specific test is with question and concerns…it’s important to remember that this is only one example amongst countless others.

One of the key principles for Emerston’s new project, is that society needs to start thinking through potential scenarios before putting the pedal to the metal. To work with more intentionality, rather than just making as many technological advances as possible, as quickly as possible.

It’s true, human beings have achieved some amazing things. Some of those things have been incredibly beneficial for humanity…others, horrifyingly destructive. Bottom line, we are moving at a pace for which we are ill-equipped to handle, and we are nowhere near ready for the kinds of questions that are going to be asked of us.

Humanity is like a three-year-old with an advanced chemistry set…for the first little while, we might make some cool stuff… but eventually, we’re going to set the house on fire or blow the place up. And it feels like we’re getting a little closer every day.

It’s not too late to change course, but doing so is going to take a lot of hard work by a lot of people. And that means we need to start paying more attention to understanding and addressing our most critical concerns, rather than cheering on every new technology-based toy that comes to market.

#weaponsofmassdistraction

References:

Please join me each week for experiences, observations, and thoughts related to our upcoming project launch. Your likes, comments, and shares are very much appreciated…and thanks for taking the time to stop by!

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