Digital Exhaust #185
Siri’s body shaming and the internet of lips
You have opened Digital Exhaust — the slightly-on-the-later-side Sunday edition. Browse below the button for interesting stuff that I liked this week. As usual, the letter has a tech focus with attention to the human beings that use it. Welcome aboard to all my new subscribers.
In the Trenches
This was single-handedly the best thing I read all week. In The Trenches by Talal Hilal from The Mayo Clinic - Scottsdale offers commentary on the forgotten clinician in the trenches. In an academic world that increasingly rewards hoop jumping, these individuals remain the backbone of medicine. This Lancet editorial is behind the paywall but the author has a image/PDF shared on Twitter here if you can get thru.
Thanks to Digital Exhaust community member, Dr. John Pohl, for bringing this into my Twitter stream.
Sam Altman’s fever dream
Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the folks who brought your ChatGPT, offered his vision of our future this week. File under future creepy.
Positioning himself as a kind of prophet, this exponentialist manifesto offers hope for all of us. Steeped in Biblical tones and loaded with hyperbolic revelations, Altman positions OpenAI as a kind of escape from the fallen condition of our filthy humanity.
If AGI is successfully created, this technology could help us elevate humanity by increasing abundance, turbocharging the global economy, and aiding in the discovery of new scientific knowledge that changes the limits of possibility.
We want AGI to empower humanity to maximally flourish in the universe. We don’t expect the future to be an unqualified utopia, but we want to maximize the good and minimize the bad, and for AGI to be an amplifier of humanity.
To put his views in context, it’s worth noting that Altman is a subscriber to the wacky idea of the Singularity — A mythical tipping point where machine intelligence crosses a tipping point and doesn’t really need us anymore. This idea of computer rapture promises transcendence of our current human condition through advances in technology.
Kissinger on AI
This Wall Street Journal editorial on the future of AI from Henry Kissinger and Schmidt is solid. There’s less hyperbole then Altman’s fever dream noted above, but covers some of the more pressing questions arising with AI. I read their new book — I recommend if but only if you want more than this editorial offers.
This idea of pre-Enlightenment authority is mind-blowing:
The arrival of an unknowable and apparently omniscient instrument, capable of altering reality, may trigger a resurgence in mystic religiosity. The potential for group obedience to an authority whose reasoning is largely inaccessible to its subjects has been seen from time to time in the history of man, perhaps most dramatically and recently in the 20th-century subjugation of whole masses of humanity under the slogan of ideologies on both sides of the political spectrum. A third way of knowing the world may emerge, one that is neither human reason nor faith. What becomes of democracy in such a world?
Unlike from Altman, they are not celebrating this new, enchanted authority, but are rather stating the facts and the potential fallout.
Online Pill Mills
The public health crisis of pop-up websites that offer medications has officially gotten out of control. This investigative Wall Street Journal article on the Ozempic-pushing NextMed is just jaw dropping to me. The venture capitalists behind this should be called out.
Run by a founder who graduated from college 14 months ago, the service has web traffic that has surpassed companies like Calibrate Health Inc. and Found Health Inc. that have advertised weight-loss prescriptions for longer.
The company used before-and-after photos showing substantial weight loss by people who weren’t its clients. A leading customer-review site questioned whether some of the company’s reviews were fake. NextMed has also faced complaints from patients who say they paid for services they never received.
The Internet of Lips
This cringy prosthetic lip appliance attaches to your phone and allows remote lovers to feel the kiss of their partners. It also enables people with any number of oral diseases to kiss. CNN reports the app offers the option to hook up with a stranger and get on with it.
I can only imagine where this is headed.
Rewriting literature for a sensitive world
I loved this piece in The Nation on the whitewashing of Roald Dahl’s books — great take on this concerning trend. And how can you change those characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Dahl is defined by his wit and hard edged craziness. Take that away and you might as well just burn ‘em.
While there is a sense of inevitability around the rising tide of pediatric gender reassignment here in the U.S., this British Medical Journal piece outlines some of the pushback coming from European thought leaders. Well-referenced. The issue of gender reassignment in children needs open discussion among health experts.
Chart of the week
Wearable breast pumps are trending in search via Exploding Topics. This is a very cool site, btw. I’m tempted to subscribe.
Don’t tell me this newsletter doesn’t bring you valuable stuff.
My therapist the influencer
This Wired article (possible paywall) covers the issue of therapists who happen to be social media influencers. We need to be careful with this. As a recovering influencer, I can attest to the fact that human bandwidth is fixed — it’s really hard to dedicate yourself to your patient panel when your mind is drifting off on your second creative gig. It’s all shades of grey, of course. Some folks handle it all better than others, for sure.
+ A sign of the times: This is the first time I’ve seen this, but Wired is disclosing their editorial policy around the use of generative AI. Interesting. I expect this will evolve as the norm.
Most innovative companies in wellness
The top 10 most innovative companies in wellness of 2023 from Fast Company.
Siri’s body shaming
As reported by Apple Insider, Apple has filed a patent for “Electronic Devices with Body Composition Analysis Circuitry.” It describes a device like an iPhone that scans various parts of your body to confirm identity and provide health information
Glaucomflecken on hospital non-competes
This guy’s a nut. If you don’t know him, he’s an ophthalmologist comedian who does web clips that capture the reality of medicine. Here on Twitter he portrays a hospital administrator advocating for non-compete clauses.
Thanks again for being a subscriber. I put a fair amount of work into this collection. As always, I survive only if I keep moving and growing. If you could, please pass this along to someone who might want to subscribe. And have a great week.