Opinion Piece: We digitize the body — and humanize technology.

Sabine Seymour
Apr 15, 2020 · 2 min read

The Portuguese version was published in WATTSON.

How can you use body data to monitor your lifestyle (from food to exercise) to boost your body’s resilience against diseases?

I am an athlete 24/7. I need sun, oxygen, exercise, thus my passion for physical outdoor sports like skiing, surfing, golfing. I watch what I eat, how much I sleep. Exercise plays an important part to strengthen my immune system and a study by the University of Bath confirms that immune competency is enhanced by regular exercise. I also believe food is medicine. We need to avoid processed food, eat organic, close to the source, or use tools to grow at least some herbs at home.

I believe that with data we can better understand our human body. I am a body sensorist.

In the current situation we use data to understand the current disease pattern and future implications of the epidemic, however, data ethics and privacy shall not be compromised. Right now, we are fighting a pandemic, which requires sharing our resources and data points by using exponential technologies that have a macro impact. Stanford’s folding@home, for example, is donating your unused computational power to accelerate the open science effort to develop new therapies.

In order to understand disease trigger points and the impact of the environmental changes on our health in the future, we need longitudinal quantitative — biometric and environmental — data from an early age. And the data needs to be uniformly formatted to be useful for all stakeholders in health. An individual can aggregate data from the Apple Watch, connected blood pressure monitors, rings that monitor sleep patterns, or apps that capture environmental data. The access to the devices and tools, however, needs to be democratized so any individual independent from the socio-economic background or geographic region they live in can become a human sensor hub. The app and device interfaces require to be simple, transparent, and developed using privacy by design.

We need to start the data collection early as possible, as seamless as possible, in a format that is readable for all specialists without infringing data privacy.

Besides the data we need unbiased algorithms to understand, prevent or limit the outbreaks of epidemics. These algorithms need to be inclusive and contextualize biometric and environmental data that is collected from healthy individuals over time and honor the data privacy of the citizen declared by GDPR, the European General Data Protection Regulation. I argue that we need to develop a process that certifies algorithms to make it transparent and simple for citizens like a certification for organic food.

We must create products of social value that cover externalities to keep our environment clean and our human capital healthy.

It is imperative to develop new innovative business models around health data that honor privacy but are effective in detecting epidemics or preventive and personalized treatments and incentivization schemes for citizens to provide the life-saving data. And we need to strengthen our local bio-dynamic food production and environmental conservation.

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