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  • Writer's pictureMaram T

Our Body’s Data

This insights report is a recap of the TED Circles: Our Body's Data workshop held on Sat June 19, 2021, 10–11:30 am ET. transform this hosted TED Circles are a free, online, safe, and inclusive place to connect with innovators from all over the globe. This workshop included representation from at least 4 countries including Canada, the United States, England, and India.

Workshop Goals

The pandemic has placed a spotlight on the data generated by, for, and from our bodies. In light of National Indigenous History Month + Pride Month, we met to discuss:

  1. What are the ethical concerns when collecting data generated by human bodies?

  2. Are there differences in data based on ethnicities?

  3. Who should own data from our bodies?

  4. Who should govern the technologies that use the data from our bodies?


For additional inspiration, here are two HBR articles and a TED Talk that represents the topic:

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Workshop Insights

We began the discussion by considering the Ted Talk by Talithia Williams related to influencing a doctor’s decision by keeping track of her own body’s data. This opened up a conversation in regard to how our body’s data can influence the medical industry.

With our continual technological advancement in methods of recording our physical data, and analyzing medical results using AI, James raised a relevant question on whether technology can eventually replace doctors. The audience then raised concerns regarding the replacement by first pointing out the accuracy of the data collected, and how these can be validated. Secondly, is identifying the root cause. There are certain protocols and an overall holistic conditional analysis needed in order to present an accurate medical prescription, therefore it can be challenging to make particular conclusions by just tracking a particular set of data.

Diana: "Technology can provide means of collecting data, but at this point, we do not have technologies to fully replace humans."

The discussion then transitioned to the relevant policies and decision makings regarding our body’s data. The current major regulation in Europe in terms of the privacy and security of the data gathered is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The regulation is rather strict, with examples of policies like the limit on the amount of time that organizations can store the information of individuals, certain purpose limitations, etc. Though some companies are still yet to be in the process of understanding this regulation and implementing it.

Then the audience drew the connection to data collection of newborns by embedding chips in their brains at birth, as well as Elon Musk’s current neural link project by connecting electrodes in the brain of monkeys to transport and capture data. Currently, there is also research on to use of biosensors or remote sensors to collect data from neurons. These advancements might seem scary to the public, however, it is even more relevant to understand what data we possess, and how valuable our body’s data are.

T Smith: "A lot of us don't understand what that information is and what we're saying yes or no to."

looking at the Harvard Business Review article, the author seems to indicate that the patients or the person that the data is coming from owns their own data. But it seems as if not only do we not understand the ownership of that data, we also don't understand what that data is, who's collecting them, what they are doing with it, and in what shape or form it is coming back to us.

Martina: "Data collecting should also go with educating of the regular person how to use this data, how to understand it and how to make conclusions related to his health condition."

Even if we are able to have access to our own body’s data, it can be difficult to understand it. Every person is unique, and even though some patients might be having normal blood pressure levels, the data may indicate there are no risk factors, they may be still facing, heart attacks or other diseases. The definition of “healthy” becomes ambiguous. In certain scenarios, someone might be smoking, and possessing poor life habits, but still showing “healthy” data.

Gouri: "We do not know who is healthy, and what the definition of a healthy person is."

Just by the analysis of our body’s data, the lifespan of the human population is becoming longer, but it can still be hard for us to make the conclusion that we are becoming more healthy as before.

Akansha then brought the conversation back by asking the question “Can machine compete with human intelligence in the future? if so, to what extent?” The audience pointed out that QSI technologies can make millions of decisions in a second, which is far beyond human capacities, but we should not let quantum intelligence take control of our decision, rather we should just choose our decision freely and let the QSI perform data collection, and it should organize all the activities and all the resources.

Participants discussed how blockchain can be a useful implementation due to its security and encryption verified at every point. It can be dangerous and harmful at the same time if the data is protected with bad intentions due to the lack of control and regulations been posed. Therefore the responsibility cannot be distributed in blockchain unless there's another level of authority.

To conclude the session, the audience revisited the topic of policy and pointed out the importance for organizations and companies to have scrutiny before any formal decisions and actions are taken; as well as the importance of the growth of focus on policy establishments, compared to the rapid advancement in technology in order to maintain and ensure of justice and positive society.

Once again, our gratitude to the global transform this community for returning week after week and bringing their diverse perspectives.

If you enjoyed this conversation, join the global transform this community for future editions.


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