Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The new surveillance state and our robotic future.

Isreal et al. examine one of the many uses to which individual credit scores are being put - to determine our cardiovascular risk (useful information for health insurance companies). They also note that credit scores are also used by employers, utility companies, and automobile insurers to index high-risk behavior; and by life insurance companies that incorporate credit scores into actuarial models.) Here is the abstract:
Credit scores are the most widely used instruments to assess whether or not a person is a financial risk. Credit scoring has been so successful that it has expanded beyond lending and into our everyday lives, even to inform how insurers evaluate our health. The pervasive application of credit scoring has outpaced knowledge about why credit scores are such useful indicators of individual behavior. Here we test if the same factors that lead to poor credit scores also lead to poor health. Following the Dunedin (New Zealand) Longitudinal Study cohort of 1,037 study members, we examined the association between credit scores and cardiovascular disease risk and the underlying factors that account for this association. We find that credit scores are negatively correlated with cardiovascular disease risk. Variation in household income was not sufficient to account for this association. Rather, individual differences in human capital factors—educational attainment, cognitive ability, and self-control—predicted both credit scores and cardiovascular disease risk and accounted for ∼45% of the correlation between credit scores and cardiovascular disease risk. Tracing human capital factors back to their childhood antecedents revealed that the characteristic attitudes, behaviors, and competencies children develop in their first decade of life account for a significant portion (∼22%) of the link between credit scores and cardiovascular disease risk at midlife. We discuss the implications of these findings for policy debates about data privacy, financial literacy, and early childhood interventions.
Also, the well known futuristic author Margaret Atwood offers an essay, well worth giving a read, on our growing efforts to craft a robotic future. One clip:
Why do we dream up such things? Because, deep down, we desire them...If we were technologically capable mice, we’d be perfecting deadly cat harpoons, or bird-exploding rockets, or cheese-on-demand molecular assemblers...To understand Homo sapiens’ primary wish list, go back to mythology. We endowed the gods with the abilities we wished we had ourselves: immortality and eternal youth, flight, resplendent beauty, total power, climate control, ultimate weapons, delicious banquets minus the cooking and washing up — and artificial creatures at our beck and call.
And just one more:
...people are dreaming up robotic prostitutes, complete with sanitary self-flushing features. Will there be a voice feature, and, if so, what will it say?...If the prospect of getting painfully stuck due to a malfunction keeps you from test-driving a full-body prostibot, you may soon be able to avail yourself of a remote kissing device that transmits the sensation of your sweetie’s kiss to your lips via haptic feedback and an apparatus that resembles a Silly Putty egg. (Just close your eyes.) Or you could venture all the way into the emerging world of “teledildonics” — essentially, remote-controlled vibrators. Push the game-controller levers, watch the effect on screen. Germ-free! Wait for Google or Skype to snatch this up.

1 comment:

  1. What’s most interesting to me about this research is that it comes from the Dunedin Study in New Zealand that has studied a group of over 1,000 people for over 40 years now. They first came to worldwide fame by finding that the study’s participants at age 26 largely had the same personality that each did at age 3.

    The current study links the participants’ childhood cognitive abilities and self-control to their current cardiac age.

    Would a U. S. doctor have the knowledge and foresight to understand that significant factors in a middle-aged patient’s cardiac health came from their early childhood, infancy, or womb life?