|Posted by haimdatsawh on September 29, 2012 at 9:10 AM||comments (0)|
Big Data in Your Blood
By QUENTIN HARDY
“Stretchable electronics” will be able to measure heart rate, brain activity, body temperature and hydration levels.
Very soon, we will see inside ourselves like never before, with wearable, even internal , sensors that monitor even our most intimate biological processes. It is likely to happen even before we figure out the etiquette and laws around sharing this knowledge.
Already products like the Nike+ FuelBand and the Fitbit wireless monitor track our daily activity, taking note of our steps and calories burned. The idea is to help meet an exercise regimen, perhaps lose some weight. The real-world results are uneven . For sure, though, people are building up big individual databases about themselves over increasingly long periods of time. So are the companies that sell these products, which store that data.
That is barely the start. Later this year, a Boston-based company called MC10will offer the first of several “stretchable electronics” products that can be put on things like shirts and shoes, worn as temporary tattoos or installed in the body. These will be capable of measuring not just heart rate, the company says, but brain activity, body temperature and hydration levels. Another company, called Proteus , will begin a pilot program in Britain for a “Digital Health Feedback System” that combines both wearable technologies and microchips the size of a sand grain that ride a pill right through you. Powered by your stomach fluids, it emits a signal picked up by an external sensor, capturing vital data. Another firm, Sano Intelligence , is looking at micro needle sensors on skin patches as a way of deriving continuous information about the bloodstream.
Make no mistake about these companies’ ambitions. “Ultimately, we see ourselves as a part of the healthcare ecosystem,” Amar Kendale, MC10’s VP of market strategy and development, said in an e-mail. In this future, he wrote, “data will need to be shared seamlessly between customers, providers, and payers in order to reduce heathcare costs and simultaneously deliver the best possible care.” Proteus hopes to use anonymized data from its customers to understand health patterns over an entire population, presumably to revolutionize medicine.
Those are not just lofty goals; they make a lot of sense. If this kind of information exists for a lot of people, it is arguably folly to not look for larger trends and patterns. And not just in things like your electrolyte count, because overlays of age, educational level, geography and other demographic factors could yield valuable insights. The essence of the Big Data age is the diversity of data sets combined in novel ways.
What is missing is much of a sense of what this is worth, and what it may cost, and the terms under which we’ll turn our data into a product. Nike and Fitbit already log a lot of personal data, and it is not clear what, if anything, they plan to do with it.
Nike acknowledged an e-mail asking for details about its plans, but did not get back after that. The software license for Nike+ does say that “Nike+ Product Software may include software that collects information about how you use your Nike+ Product,” but has no further details about what this means. Fitbit did not respond to e-mails.
Proteus says its customers will own their data and may share it, but must also grant the company permission to use it for product development and the cultivation of its data sets. As Mr. Kendale stated, MC10 sees data sharing between people and companies as something of a necessity.
For those of you troubled by Facebook claiming the right to know whether you like cats when you sign up, this is probably a significantly bigger deal. Others may not care, or even see themselves as actors in a global project to understand ourselves as never before. What may be troubling to all, however, is the haphazard way these new behaviors will be captured and determined. There are likely to be different strategies depending on company, country of use and whether the product is looking as something regulated, like a drug, or open, like a heart rate.
Those legal and corporate distinctions, of course, were all developed in a world where we weren’t able to see so much of each other, or deduce one behavior by crunching the data from several other sources.
There are also movements to use this data in entirely new ways, for patient-generated medical research. Linda Avey, who co-founded the personal genetics company 23andMe is now working on a start-up called Curious , which should be live by the middle of next year. Her idea is to get people with difficult to pin down conditions like chronic fatigue, lupus or fibromyalgia to share information about themselves. This could include the biological data from devices, but also things like how well they slept, what they ate and when they got pain. Collectively, this could lead to evidence about how behavior and biology conjure these states.
“All of the devices that are coming on the market will shuffle their data into different environments,” she said. “They are starting to realize that they can’t just be the keeper for that.” She hopes the companies will allow for common sharing of the individual data, leading to a kind of open source branch of medicine. So far, she said, few if any have committed to that.
A version of this article appeared in print on 09/10/2012, on page B4 of the NewYork edition with the headline: A Digital View Of Your Health, Likely to Be Shared.
|Posted by haimdatsawh on August 24, 2012 at 11:30 AM||comments (0)|
The modernization of Guyanese society must begin by transforming education
It should of great interest to track the future careers over the next 15, or 20 years of the 175 CSEC high-flyers (8 CSEC or more creditable passes), to see how many are resident in Guyana contributing to the development of Guyana, the country of their birth and which in some measure contributed to their academic successes. In fact, it may also be interesting to do the same for all those students who secured five or more creditable CSEC passes.
Over the past fifty years, the experience has been that the vast majority (90%) of our successful students have emigrated to other lands, and are making most valuable contributions to the development of their newly adopted homelands.
The accumulated consequence of this mass exodus of talent and brain/mind power has been that Guyanese social, economic and national development is, with few exceptions, left in the hands of workers who were not considered academic high-flyers, and who were not presented with sufficient appropriate, or adequate opportunities during their school careers to develop their God-given talents or potential. This is largely due to the academic emphasis of present school curricula to the exclusion of other aptitudes. Recent curricular studies have an academic emphasis which discriminates against male students, who relate more to curricula that offer hands-on or practical experiences. As a result of this extreme academic emphasis, many male students become disinterested, undisciplined, and either drop out or are pushed out. This phenomenon might also be a consequence of the feminization of the teaching profession.
The sad part of this situation is that the ‘not so successful,’ represent the vast majority of any age group, or age cohort. Even when some who are late developers have access to further education or higher education they seldom fail to seize the opportunity to emigrate. Apart from a depressing economic, political and social climate – the push factor – the opportunity to access a better quality of life, represents the pull factor.
Persons who go overseas to further their education at their own expense, should not be faulted for not returning. They can only recoup their investments in reasonable time by accepting employment overseas, since Guyana cannot offer them similar employment at a comparable rate.
Nevertheless, the big question is, can social and economic conditions be improved in Guyana, so that more students who elect to study overseas may view returning home to serve with favour? The short answer is, with the necessary political will, yes they can. But, even if we start now to do the right things, it may take at least twenty years before we begin to see the impact of our efforts.
It is customary to believe that educational change follows social change. However, there is a far more subtle feedback system at work, and this is particularly true of the relationship between school curricula and society. Japan, the USSR and Singapore are examples of countries that have used their education systems to leapfrog to modernization. While it may be reasonable to assume that the content of the curriculum tends to be moulded by external pressures, there is little doubt that it feeds back into society, influences that affect the rate of social and economic change. Doubtless, the most important agents of these influences are the individuals that the schools produce.
The modernization of the Guyanese society must begin by transforming education practice in Guyana so that it would provide for the needs of the next generation – not for the problems of yesteryear, but those of today and the remainder of the twenty-first century. The reforms will have to be comprehensive in scope covering all areas – organizational, structural, curricular, co-curricular, extra-curricular, certification, teacher education, physical plant, estate, and other areas of education practice. However, it will only be possible to discuss the modernization of core curricula here.
The most essential first step would be to arrive at a working consensus on the purposes of education in Guyana. For example, one purpose could be that educational outcomes should lead to the modernization of Guyana within a specified time – say by the year 2040. Next, we have to design curricula that have the potential to achieve this and the other purposes that have been articulated.
It is suggested that the critical step in curricular design is the modernization of the content by substituting science/applied science/ technology cores for the current traditional/ classical cores that had their origins as far back as the nineteenth century. Since the heart of science consists of asking questions about natural phenomena, and designing experiments or processes to find answers to these questions, every teacher can be coached to use the sciences to educate students.
In addition to the development of scientific literacy and its relevance to modernization – social, economic and national development – there are immense pedagogical and other benefits to be derived from science/applied science/technology based curricula. Curricular links can be established with other subjects/ disciplines or fields of study. For example, languages and mathematics can be taught across curricula. If the curricula at various levels are organized to form an ascending and expanding spiral or cone, permeating concepts or principles can be kept simple at the base (early childhood education level), and expanded and deepened as students ascend to the higher levels.
The need for content of wide applicability to enable students to continue learning outside of, and beyond the formal situation cannot be over emphasized. We can accomplish more with less. Ecological studies (under which nature trails may be classified) could form the organizing centre for wider environmental studies. The study of the environment not only develops practical sense and fosters scientific thought, but it is also an education in civics, and sociology. Learning activities in these areas should arouse the students’ interest in the community in which they live. We ought to bear in mind that there can be no national development without community development.
Editorial constraints do not permit further expansion of the above, but there is a very significant benefit that needs to be mentioned. In an era of mass education, and for a variety of reasons a significant percentage of the school intake comes unprepared for what is essentially a middle class experience, and they all have to jump the same academic hurdles at the same time.
Research has demonstrated that the age of eleven is no longer a watershed age as far as cognitive development is concerned. Because each individual is unique, levels of cognitive development differ considerably and as such, many students (late developers), are in need of a transitional period at this age when they are between the stages of concrete and formal/abstract operations. Further, a child may achieve the level of formal operations in one or more categories and remain at the level of concrete operations in other categories. There are a number of ways in which the concreteness of scientific and technological phenomena can assist pupils in this period of transition. For, example when mathematics is integrated with scientific and technological processes, it is reported that much of the antagonism towards the subject is lost. This particular finding should be of great significance to our Ministry of Education.
Clarence O Perry
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|Posted by haimdatsawh on March 19, 2012 at 8:35 AM||comments (0)|
Grounded In Facts- Syracuse University help rural Guyanese assess true land worth
Written by Demerara Waves Tuesday, 06 March 2012 14:38
(MAXWELL PERSPECTIVE/MAXWELL SCHOOL OF SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY)
Jane Read (left), an investigator in a large study of land use in Guyana, with Anthony Cummings, a doctoral candidate whom she recruited to the project; they’re reviewing one of the atlases created for the project (by undergraduate geography majors).
For nine months, Anthony Cummings walked sections of forest in Southwest Guyana making notes about the trees there, including fruit-bearing trees that support wildlife which is, in turn, a key food source for native populations. These trees are significant to indigenous populations for other, traditional uses, such providing material for a bows and arrows. And, raising significant concerns among the natives, these trees are of increasing interest to loggers who have begun operations in the region.
Cummings, a Maxwell doctoral student in geography, was collecting data for Project Fauna, a study funded by the National Science Foundation (one of the largest NSF-funded studies of its kind). Project Fauna is a six-year interdisciplinary project that includes data collection in 23 communities across 20,000 square miles of Guyana’s North Rupununi region. Researchers involved in the study represent at least 10 academic institutions on two continents.
“We were trying to learn how the indigenous people were impacting their environment and, in turn, how the environment was impacting their culture,” says Jane Read, associate professor of geography and one of the investigators on the project. She recruited Cummings, originally from Guyana, to assist
Cummings was a natural fit, having worked in the region since earning a bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of Guyana in 1999, most recently helping communities of the North Rupununi develop guidelines for natural resource management.
In addition to staff researchers, such as Cummings, the project relied heavily on Guyanese in each community to assist with weekly data gathering. “Each household was surveyed to find out if they hunted, where they hunted, and what they hunted,” he says. “There were also people walking specific areas to look for wildlife or signs of wildlife.”Although local contributors were paid for their efforts, the investigators wanted to give something back to the communities for their assistance. In April, leaders of 23 Rupununi communities were presented with atlases that provide detailed information about the topography, vegetation, and wildlife of their land.
“These are communities in transition,” says Cummings. “Long very isolated, they now have a major road going through. There are logging and mining operations coming in.” The atlases, he adds, help natives better assess their use of their own environment, and provide concrete underpinnings to any land-use negotiations they face.
“Most of these communities have legal title to their lands,” Cummings explains. “The state has given them a portion of land that they are supposed to manage forever, and that includes wildlife. The atlases provide the people with real data, with which to make decisions about their populations and about managing their wildlife.”
The atlases were created by geography undergraduate students Phil Curtis ’10 and Paul Koster ’11. Both had been Read’s students in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems, learning technologies that were instrumental in the project’s data collection phase. Curtis had also taken a cartography course, which he put to use designing the template for the atlases. Each atlas contains maps and charts showing spiritual sites, vegetation, animal species, population information, primary food sources, and hunting patterns.
“For instance, the people would record what animals they hunted and where by creating little Xs on these photocopied maps,” says Curtis, now a graduate student in environmental science at the University of California-Santa Barbara. “Paul and I would use satellite imagery to put all these points exactly where they belonged on the real map. Once this data was created, we could make the individual maps to create the atlases.”
Adds Koster, who will begin studying environmental law next fall, “Working on a large-scale project like this really helped me gain an understanding of what a powerful tool GIS is for displaying environmental data and being able to communicate scientific data to the general public.”
— Renée Gearhart Levy
Renée Gearhart Levy is a freelance writer, specializing in higher education, based in
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