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Preparing for a More Contradictory Future

About a decade ago now, the British Medical Journal ran one of my favorite academic parodies - a review article that attempted to conduct a meta-analysis of whether or not wearing a parachute when jumping from a plane could help prevent injury or death. Finding no one had studied the subject, the authors concluded:

Biosocial Networks

My colleague Jake Dunagan and I are going to be contributing occasional pieces to Fast company's new Co Exist site. My first piece, on Biosocial Networks, is up here.

Here's the intro:

Adolescence, Bacteria, and Thinking Beyond Risk

David Dobbs has a typically outstanding piece in this month's National Geographic about teenage behavior, arguing, in effect, that what appears to be difficult behavior among teenagers is an adaptation that makes them more capable of learning. It is a great example of an increasingly important theme in health: That we need to move beyond just seeing risks and problems, and instead also look for strengths and assets.

High-Resolution Tools for Understanding Well-Being Ecosystems

Popular Science has a great article examining the future of understanding health ecosystems. As the story's author Virginia Hughes describes it, scientists are now beginning to map out the bacteria--good and bad--that cluster on different people in different parts of the body, and are learning to think of an individual's health state as part of a broader relationship with bacteria. You are a health ecosystem, in other words.

Three Lessons from Genetics for Thinking about the Future

There have been a lot of great articles looking back at the history of genetic sequencing to mark the ten-year anniversary of the sequencing of the human genome. The path of genetics research has been decidedly, unexpectedly slow--a frustratingly process that also offers some great lessons for thinking about the future.

How Our Bodies are Becoming Social

As part of the Chronicle of Higher Education's series on ideas and issues that will define the coming decade, Alondra Nelson writes about an idea we've been kicking around for a while: That over the next decade, she argues, our DNA will do as much to define our social interactions as it will do to define our health experiences.

As Nelson puts it:

If the therapeutic utility of the genome is somewhat intangible, the social life of DNA is unmistakable.

The Geneticist Will Skype you Now

One of the more startling statistics I learned last year came from something by geneticist and science writer Misha Angrist: At least as of a couple years ago, there were roughly as many board-certified physician-geneticists as astronauts in the United States. This is a problem, given that our need for trained geneticists is likely to be a great deal higher than our need for astronauts in the coming decade.

What If Your Genetics Defined Your Community?

Imagine a world where people band together in activism around their genetic makeup. They wear real-time sensors, share their biomarker data with each other, influence government, and get group discounts on custom medications.

This is the vision embodied in the "artifact from the future" above. It's called Networked Health, and it was released as part of IFTF's HealthCare 2020 map.

Can I Have a Featherless Chicken and a Side of Healthy Bacon?

The New Scientist has a great round-up of the various efforts geneticists are undertaking to modify farm animals. The story doesn't break any new ground, per se, but it's remarkable for the sheer breadth of ways that genetic engineers are attempting to redesign animals.


As the New Scientist describes it:

Take the Genetic Test for Longevity

What if there was a simple spit test you could do that would predict how long you are likely to live? Would you want to know?

Having this kind of test may be closer than we think. A study done by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine was just published in Science to show 33 SNPs that are associated with exceptional longevity.

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