Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Other People With Your Name

Still from The Double Life of Véronique (1991). Image Source: Wonders in the Dark.

I have a friend who wants to streamline his online image for professional reasons. He wants to deal with the Facebook photos which other people obligingly took, posted, and tagged with his name without asking. He wants make sure that nothing weird comes up when you google him, either correctly (some detail he would rather not remain permanently public) or incorrectly (some detail that is falsely associated with him).

Depending on how common your name is, you will be familiar with the experience: you google yourself, and up come the other people with your name. If you have a common name, then you have the comfort of the crowd; but then you have the problem of having any Web presence at all (assuming you want one).

But since my friend has an unusual name, for a long time googling him only brought up results about him. As the Web's reach deepened, another person appeared online with his name.

Crunching the Dataset of Immortality

The smaller Google barge. Image Source: Portland Tugboat LLC via Business Insider.

Google's expansions show how different aspects of the tech revolution and globalization can combine with radical results. In this case, an investment opportunity arises from a mash-up of social networking, genetics and data processing. The MSM focussed recently on Google barges off the coasts of California and Maine. These are supposedly luxury Google Glass showrooms made out of shipping containers.

But Google is preoccupied with more than gadgets. It has recently set up camp at the crossroads of data-crunching and life itself with its new venture, Calico. Researchers at Calico aim to extend the normal human lifespan by 20 to 100 years. An innovation like that would be worth a lot of money to the company which successfully develops it. Time comments that in 2012, "the regenerative medicine industry was estimated at $1.6 billion. Scientia Advisers, a life sciences consulting firm, estimates that the industry could reach $15 billion to $20 billion over the next 15 years."

With Calico, Google will combine all the bits of private information accumulated from a person's life with, according to Mashable
each person's genome — a partial genome can be mapped today for $99 via 23andMe (another Google investment), but many are hoping a full genome will cost as much in the next few years. Daniel Kraft, medicine and neuroscience chair of Singularity University, affirms that this will require people to relinquish some privacy, in hopes of helping others and themselves, but predicts it to be something many will do. "Lot of folks will be happy to share elements of health history," he says.
From Techland:
Calico ... will be run by Arthur Levinson, former CEO of biotech pioneer Genentech, who will also be an investor. Levinson, who began his career as a scientist and has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, plans to remain in his current roles as the chairman of the board of directors for both Genentech and Apple, a position he took over after its co-founder Steve Jobs died in 2011. In other words, the company behind YouTube and Google+ is gearing up to seriously attempt to extend the human life span. ...

Apple may have set the standard for surprise unveilings, but excepting a major new product every few years, these mostly qualify as short term. Google’s modus operandi, in comparison, is gonzo airdrops into deep “Wait, really?” territory. Last week Apple announced a new iPhone; what did you do this week, Google? Oh, we founded a company that might one day defeat death itself. ...
It’s a lot easier to take Google’s venture seriously if you live under the invisible dome over Silicon Valley, home to a worldview whereby, broadly speaking, there is no problem that can’t be addressed by the application of liberal amounts of technology and everything is solvable if you reduce it to data and then throw enough processing power at it.

The twist is that the technophiles are right, at least up to a point. Medicine is well on its way to becoming an information science: doctors and researchers are now able to harvest and mine massive quantities of data from patients. And Google is very, very good with large data sets.
Like China's one child policy, this project will undoubtedly suffer from unintended and unforeseen consequences.