Responding to Ebola

Responding to Ebola

Improving the Health of the World

Having read the great article on Project Syndicate ‘Responding to Ebola’ I muse about the ability of wearable or even implanted tech to provide health system feedback and potentially allow rapid response to crises.

The horrific Ebola epidemic in at least four West African countries (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria) demands not only an emergency response to halt the outbreak; it also calls for re-thinking some basic assumptions of global public health. We live in an age of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases that can spread quickly through global networks. We, therefore, need a global disease-control system commensurate with that reality. Fortunately, such a system is within reach if we invest appropriately.

Are bio-chips on the way? With the advances in wearables and portable health devices, it is not unrealistic to presume a small enough implant could be just around the corner that measures the vitals and transmits them (maybe through contactless tech whose power is supplied by a localised induced field from the receiver instead of beaming potentially harmful signals 24×7). Screening could be effortless (and hands-free) and a periodic upload could provide signals of any outbreak of any known or unknown illness. With cloud integration, an organisation such as the WHO could detect and respond to issues as they arise.

OK, this goes a little farther than the ideas in the article. The question would then be ethical — if an individual would allow themselves to be hooked up to the system and monitored 24×7, or should we allow a planet-wide organization the ability to do this? For the greater good I would hook up, but given man’s track record I’m sure there would be numerous back-doors and it doesn’t stretch too far to see a Logan’s Run or Gattaca scenario easily materialise — even if it’s clandestine through hackers.

There is already concern about this issue, and some states have passed laws making it illegal to enforce the implanting of chips. The language is interesting — ‘enforce’ — which means it’s OK to volunteer.

What do you think?