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Talking About Dolphins, Habitat, and Wearable Technology

I was intrigued to learn recently that the first dolphin conversation has been observed. We have long known – though many might dispute it – that we are not the only intelligent or indeed conscious animals on Earth. Depending on how it is measured we may not even be the most intelligent life form currently inhabiting this planet. We really cannot even be absolutely certain that there have not been other life forms on earth that were or are more intelligent than we consider ourselves to be. Whatever factors lead to the development of  intelligence other factors such as attrition due to the destruction of habitat,  predation, or a pandemic can wipe out a sustainable population of any geographically specific species in a short period of time and probably have done thousands of times perhaps leaving a few survivors to seek out or be discovered by others who might find enough genetic similarities to breed or provide ahandy meal.

What is certain is that our own species of hairless apes has relatively recently begun engaging in activities that are rapidly destroying the habitats that our fellow life forms rely on to survive and this behaviour cannot be considered intelligent as it will impact on us too. It is a great shame that at a time when we appear to have the means to live sustainably and in relative harmony with the planet that progress is seemingly only possible if the environment is damaged and little consideration is given regarding the impact of our activities, and the way we choose to live, on other species and the overall well-being of the planet. Of course if we all agreed to stop harming the planet and respect life and the environments that sustain it then that would be a huge step forward.

The dystopian future that H. G. Wells portrayed in his book ‘The Time Machine’ often haunts me. A world where technology is present and used but not understood and where our species has merely become a source of food for a stronger species

I think wearable technology has a role to play in that it might be adapted to help us to measure the impact we have on the environment in a variety of ways. For example our food choices might be monitored and we might be advised to make decisions about what we eat that are better for the environment. We might be advised regarding transport that has less of an impact or interact with intelligent home environments that maximise energy efficiency and help us to minimise harmful waste. We might for instance live in greener cities that use renewable energy resources and our wearable technology will enable us to make smarter choices living in them helping to keep us fit, healthy and safe.

We don’t have to plunder and damage the planet if we share resources and only use what we need being sure to take into account the impact of what we do and replant, replace, and renew as we go.

Permanent or Biodegradable Implantable Electronic Monitoring Technology 

Permanent or Biodegradable Implantable Electronic Monitoring Technology 
The existence of viable and potentially useful technology of this type is a relatively recent development and already there is talk that it could potentially have a number of applications including those useful for medical, military, criminal justice purposes and produce an increasing number of data sources that could be used in an increasing number of ways. Activity type monitoring collecting data on heart rate, respiration, location, temperature, and alcohol use are just the beginning. 

In the future our bodies may well be equipped with a fairly standard set of tiny networked sensors and other subdermal electronic devices that are designed to be permanent and may provide a variety of services including real time information (perhaps a bit like some cars that can be connected to computers to provide an ever increasing amount of diagnostic and information that can also be used to predict future problems) monitoring our status and any changes in normal functions. 

We may also have additional sensors implanted monitoring specific areas perhaps as a result of being assessed to be at higher statistical risk of developing certain congenital/hereditary) health problems. If this is likely to be necessary for only a short time period for example following surgery or because of other diagnostic information then the sensors could be made biodegradable in the same way that some sutures are simply dissolve or are absorbed over time. 

The main driver for the widespread use of this technology may well prove to be the health/life insurance industry with lower costs for those who are considered to be lower risk and much higher costs for those who are assessed as being at higher risk leading to a form of social sorting on the basis of health/life expectancy and lifestyle. 

There is therefore a slightly worrying element to the development of these technologies that may appear to be on the one hand a useful and beneficial use of technology but may also prove to be used in such a way as to become socially divisive and potentially open to abuse. Would we really want for example for our lifestyle choices to be precisely monitored and those that choose to lead riskier or indeed sedentary lives (poor diet, drinking, smoking, high adrenaline sports etc) to be compelled to pay more for healthcare than those who are in low risk occupations and don’t take risks and take every precaution in order to evidence that they have acted at all times within approved and safe parameters? 

Society may eventually be divided between those considered deserving of healthcare and those considered less deserving based upon their respective lifestyle choices. 

We may well ask how will society will treat those who might be considered to have been reckless with their health or who are predicted to be expensive to treat in the future but are without the resources to pay for the treatment of anticipated health problems? Who will own or have access to our data that might make predictions possible? Would data collected when for instance we were being monitored for alcohol use (that might include other unrelated biometric data) following a drink driving conviction be sold on to an insurance or finance company and used to assess our risk when we apply for life/medical insurance or if we apply for a loan?

The potential to place biodegradable devices inside the body that can monitor chemicals associated with pain and respond accordingly by administering precise doses of drugs (either internally or via external devices) might assist with the management and treatment of medical conditions and illneses but might also open up possibilities for control and manipulation. For example precisely controlled hormonal implants to treat medical conditions might also be used to attempt to control/treat undesirable impulses or behaviours in sex offenders. 

Implants might also be developed to administer pain, nausea, or other discomfort if someone was doing something or going somewhere that was prohibited. Implants might also be developed to manipulate or control people in different ways such as keeping them awake, relaxed or sleepy in order to remotely manage those in an institution such as a prison or indeed to respond in a variety of ways if certain substances were detected. 

Military applications of this technology are fairly obvious with the the real possibility of producing enhanced soldiers that might be precisely monitored and controlled. Implants that simply melt away might for example be mission specific. 

As is usual the technologies that are becoming available are being developed ahead of the ethical discussion and although much is now becoming possible that was previously science fiction we may have to consider fairly quickly what permanent and biodegradable implantable technologies are desirable and what are not and think carefully about how this technology might be used/abused and how it might be regulated.

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Dear All

Welcome to the newly revamped

We are now a dot com and will probably end up selling t-shirts and badges etc before too long.

In the weeks and months to come I hope to post as many links as I can under the umbrella of surveillance technologies of control and punishment including Electronic Monitoring in all its various forms.

Please bear with me as I get started and be sure to come back soon. I look forward to your comments in due course.



David A Raho

US Department of Homeland Security Built Domestic Surveillance Technology Into Predator Drones

‘The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has customized its Predator drones, originally built for overseas military operations, to carry out at-home surveillance tasks that have civil libertarians worried: identifying civilians carrying guns and tracking their cell phones, government documents show.’