Automation, Robots and The Pink Collar Future

Editor’s note: Last night I participated in “I am Robot. Hear me roar,” an online discussion hosted by HuffPost Live and using Google+ Hangouts to support several people connected via webcam. The discussion questioned how automation can make human workers obsolete. Will robots make your own job as a caretaker obsolete? I was asked to participate because of my interest in tech futures that include Healthcare Robots. Jamais Cascio also participated and offered some quite interesting insights. He shared the following article with the audience and gave me permission to republish it here.

Different perspectives: Following the article are two videos.
First is a PBS report that looks at robots and automation as replacing human workers. It’s what many Democrats worry about, and many unemployed workers complain about.
Second is a heart-warming movie trailer from Robot and Frank, which opens in theaters this month and gives a rosier view of technology that’s more like a friendly assistant than a job killer. This optimistic view is similar to the picture Republicans paint, but with no worry about those left behind and unemployed.
So which is it? Just as futurists consider different scenarios and what may lead to their preferred version of the future, you too can decide which version you like and either help make it happen for yourself, or prevent it from happening to others. As you think about this, realize that technology won’t slow down, but its impact on society can be controlled with smart policy decisions. Add your own perspectives below.

Robot Images

The Pink Collar Future

By Jamais Cascio, futurist, writer, speaker and founder of Open The Future

The claim that robots are taking our jobs has become so commonplace of late that it’s a bit of a cliché. Nonetheless, it has a strong element of truth to it. Not only are machines taking “blue collar” factory jobs — a process that’s been underway for years, and no longer much of a surprise except when a company like Foxconn announces it’s going to bring in a million robots (which are less likely to commit suicide, apparently) — but now mechanized/digital systems are quickly working their way up the employment value chain. “Grey collar” service workers have been under pressure for awhile, especially those jobs (like travel agent) that involve pattern-matching; now jobs involving the composition of structured reports (such as basic journalism) have digital competition, and Google’s self-driving car portends a future of driverless taxicabs. But even “white collar” jobs, managerial and supervisory in particular, are being threatened — in part due to replacement, and in part due to declining necessity. After all, if the line workers have been replaced by machines, there’s little need for direct human oversight of the kind required by human workers, no? Stories of digital lawyers and surgeons simply accelerate the perception that robots really are taking over the workplace, and online education systems like the Khan Academy demonstrate how readily university-level learning can be conducted without direct human contact.

Read More …

10 Forecasts for the Future of Healthcare

World Future Society's special report on 20 Forecasts for the Next 25 YearsFORESIGHT may be the single most critical skill for the 21st Century. Knowledge quickly goes out of date, but foresight enables you to anticipate and navigate change, make good decisions, and take action to create a better future.

That’s why I’ve been a member of the Central Texas chapter of the World Future Society for years, where I meet interesting people with widely varied perspectives of the future. It’s also why I participate in so many Linkedin discussion groups on emerging healthcare issues.

The following ten forecasts came from the World Future Society’s special report, Forecasts for the Next 25 Years. It’s a promotional piece to attract new members who then get a subscription to The Futurist magazine.

Forecast #3. Nanotechnology offers hope for restoring eyesight.

Flower-shaped electrodes topped with photodiodes, implanted in blind patients’ eyes, may restore their sight. The “nanoflowers” mimic the geometry of neurons, making them a better medium than traditional computer chips for carrying photodiodes and transmitting the collected light signals to the brain. Read More …

Flying with Medical Devices and Supplies

Image of Wheelchair and Airport SecurityGuest article by Marlo Sollitto, AgingCare.com

Recent reports allege that security officials at a Florida airport forced a 95-year-old woman with cancer to remove her adult diaper as part of a security pat-down.

While this is an extreme example, some medical equipment and assistive devices– such as pacemakers, wheelchairs and oxygen tanks – can hinder airport security screening procedures.

In response to the incident involving the adult diaper, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials released this statement: “While every person and item must be screened before entering the secure boarding area, the TSA works with passengers to resolve security alarms in a respectful and sensitive manner.”

How can caregivers ensure their elderly relatives are treated with dignity, yet expedite the process of getting an elderly loved one through airport security safely? AgingCare.com asked Sarah Horowitz, spokesperson for the TSA’s Office of Public Affairs, to weigh in on how certain assistive devices may affect airport security:

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IBM Software Aims to Extend Seniors’ Independent Living

IBM Software Aids Research Aimed at Extending Seniors’ Independent Living

IBM "Smart CondoEDMONTON, Alberta and MARKHAM, Ontario, Nov. 8, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — [CASCON]

IBM today announced its software is being used to correlate data from sensors capturing patient activity and replicate that in a virtual world with avatars that represent the elderly subjects in a unique pilot aimed at providing health researchers and students with insights on how to care for Canada’s aging population.

Since June, 2011, University of Alberta researchers in collaboration with Edmonton’s Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital have been using IBM software to study elderly clients who volunteer to stay in a model, self-contained “independent living suite” at the facility. The suite is instrumented with sensors and equipped with smart devices collecting information about their daily activities.

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Healthcare meets Bluetooth Low Energy technology

 

By Wayne Caswell

Bluetooth v4.0 with low energy is transforming the healthcare industry, creating efficiencies and promoting responsible personal health monitoring, as shown by the innovators in this category. The finalists include:

1. Pancreum LLC created the CoreMD, a wireless communication and power infrastructure for low-cost replaceable/disposable wearable medical devices for patients with diabetes and other chronic diseases that can sense body conditions (temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, interstitial glucose, etc) and/or deliver subcutaneous drugs (insulin, glucagon, vasopressors, etc).

2. Dan Corkum smart medicine caps took advantage of the unique advantages of Bluetooth low energy technology to develop a connected medicine packaging and treatment adherence aid system that transmits data on whether the patient is taking his medicine correctly to physicians or support personnel.

3. Arturas Vaitaitis and Jung Bae Kim submitted a concept for an ID wristband and health monitor for newborn infants that includes a motion sensor, monitors the baby’s activity, and prevents sudden infant death syndrome by sending vital data via Bluetooth technology to a smartphone/computer.
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Brain Entrainment for Better Sleep and Health

restful sleepBy Bruce Meleski, PhD, Intelligent Sleep Consultant (part 2 of 2)

The human body has many pulses, rhythms, and frequencies that can be measured and recorded.  Heart rate is one of the best known, represented by beats per minute.  Depending upon the efficiency of the heart, there can be wide variations in one’s heart rate.  Certain conditions also impact heart rate such as exercise, stress, or anxiety.

The brain has electrical frequencies that can be measured and changes during the day are normal.  Sleeping slows the brain frequency to a very slow rate allowing the body to rest.  Sleep brain waves are known as delta brain waves.  Read More …

Sleep Balance – Your Path to Better Sleep

Restful SleepBy Bruce Meleski, PhD, Intelligent Sleep Consultant (part 1 of 2)

In the modern world, sleep is the ultimate human balancing act, providing rest and recovery while living in a 24 hour stimulated environment with lights, noise, smells, toxins, and stressful events continuously.  As a result, many people suffer from sleep loss and sleep related issues.

From chronic disease to athletic performance and mental acuity, if you lose sleep it impacts your life in some way.  It is not just the amount of sleep but also need the right type of sleep.  Slow wave sleep allows the body to restore at the cellular level.  Without this cellular repair, the risk of disease increases for obesity, diabetes, depression, and hypertension.  Loss of sleep also affects our day to day performance.  Sleep loss impacts athletic performance, memory recall, focus acuity, and reaction time.

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Apple iPad helps autistic people communicate

As a companion piece to a “60 Minutes” interview with Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, CBS focused on how touch-screen tablet computers — like the Apple iPad — are helping non-verbal autistic children communicate with their parents. It’s one more example of iPad accessibility and why we think it’s the ideal computing device for seniors.

Forecasts for the Future of Healthcare

World Future Society's special report on 20 Forecasts for 2011-2025FORESIGHT may be the single most critical skill for the 21st Century.

Knowledge quickly goes out of date, but foresight enables you to anticipate and navigate change, make good decisions, and take action to create a better future. It’s why I’ve been a member of the Central Texas chapter of the World Future Society for years, where I meet interesting people with widely varied perspectives of the future. It’s also why I participate in so many Linkedin discussion groups on emerging healthcare issues.

9 Forecasts for the Future of Healthcare

The following nine forecasts came from the World Future Society’s special report, 20 Forecasts for 2011-2025. It’s a promotional piece to attract new members who then get a subscription to The Futurist magazine.

Forecast #1: The Race for Genetic Enhancements Will Be What the Space Race Was in the 20th Century. Genetic therapies and biomedical enhancements will be a multibillion-dollar industry. New techniques will enable doctors to change your DNA to revitalize old or diseased organs, enhance your appearance, increase your athletic ability, or boost your intelligence.

Read More …

Smartphone does Vital Signs

Ki Chon, left, in his lab with PhD candidate Christopher Scully.

Ki Chon, left, in his lab with PhD candidate Christopher Scully.

Hold the Phone for Vital Signs

WPI researchers turn a smart phone into a medical monitor.

October 6, 2011 — An iPhone app that measures the user’s heart rate is not only a popular feature with consumers, but it sparked an idea for a Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) researcher who is now turning smart phones, and eventually tablet devices, into sophisticated medical monitors able to capture and transmit vital physiological data.

A team led by Ki Chon, professor and head of biomedical engineering at WPI, has developed a smart phone application that can measure not only heart rate, but also heart rhythm, respiration rate and blood oxygen saturation using the phone’s Read More …

RX Integration

image of blood  pressure cuffThis article by Lee Distad is republished with permission from ResidentialSystems.com.

Finding Opportunities for Health Care Technology Integration

In the AV and automation channels there are categories that are widely adopted, such as AV distribution, as well as ones that are less so, such as energy management. At least at present, home health care is a category that is in the latter group. But a partnership between CEDIA and manufacturers of these technologies is seeking to make it both better known and a successful profit center for integrators.

CEDIA’s director of technology, Dave Pedigo, has been personally embedded in home health care research for the past year. As he puts it, “The elevator to get on and understand the category would be to take away the technology for a second and look at sheer numbers: there are 100 million in the U.S. alone who are reaching retirement age. At the same time there’s a serious shortage of doctors: as many as 150,000 fewer than needed according to the Wall Street Journal.”

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Are we Bringing Health Care Home or Sending it Overseas?

Doctors at We Care Health Services, IndiaGet ready for outsourced health care. Last week I wrote TeleHealth: The Doctor Will See You Now, Remotely, but what if Remotely means someplace in India or China?

As Dr. David Lee Scher notes, interest in mHealth is driven by several factors, including:

  1. The rising costs of health care;
  2. The worsening shortage of primary care physicians, and an even greater shortage of specialists;
  3. The shift away from diagnosis-related fee for service management of diseases to reimbursement based on wellness & measured outcomes; and
  4. The advent of more widespread use of electronic health records (EHRs).

Read More …

A BusinessWeek Guide to Assistive Technology

Senior with iPad“Jonathan Avila uses his iPad in ways most people might not realize are possible: The device reads e-mail to him while he’s traveling to work, tells him which way to walk when he is lost, and even lets him know if there’s a sidewalk on the other side of the street. Avila needs these features because he’s visually impaired.”  (Read about iPad’s Secret Abilities from Rachael Kin’s BusinessWeek article…)

In the article, Rachael describes how the iPad helps people with disabilities by reading e-mails, voicing directions, and zooming in on text. Her recorded interview with SSB Bart Group in this (listen to the audio podcast) seems to support our view that the Apple iPhone & iPad are ideal accessibility devices and also make for good home health gateways between medical sensors and monitoring services.

Getting People with Disabilities Back to Work

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Biofeedback: The Cutting Edge of Assistive Technology

Paragraph extracted from an article by Kari Jaehnert

“Imagine using EEG brain signals to control things by merely thinking about them. There are several computer programs that use biofeedback to assist persons with disabilities. For example, a person may use brainwave frequencies to control Infra-Red (IR) devices in their homes such as TV’s, VCR’s and radios or use the electrical wiring already installed in your house to send and receive signals to control lights, garage doors, security systems, etc. through a system called X10 communication. This type of environmental control gives people with disabilities a great sense of independence and control over their surroundings.” [See also Smarter Homes for Home Healthcare on this site.]

One such product, from Brain Actuated Technologies, is a headband that can control computers through thought. Check out their case studies.

Vision: What to Do When You Can’t Read the Fine Print

Glasses“EVERYTHING seems to stiffen up as people age, and our eyes are no exception. As the years go by, the lens of the eye becomes harder and less elastic. The result is a gradual worsening of the ability to focus on objects up close, called presbyopia.”

In this New York Times article, Michelle Andrews gives lots of good advice and weighs the options seniors have as their eyesight weakens.

Watch for future articles about what to do around the house for people with failing vision. You may have already noticed this Guide for iPhone Users who are Blind.

Vision: A Guide for iPhone Users who are Blind

BrailleI’m a huge fan of smart phones and tablets as the ideal gateway for home healthcare apps, but I always wondered how a blind person could use an iPhone since there are no tactile buttons.

I was delighted to find the Assistive Technologies Blog, a publication of the Virginia Department of Education’s Training and Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC) at VCU. It had a pointer to an interesting book, “Getting Started with the iPhone: An Introduction for Blind Users.” This book is available in paper, electronic Braille, text or DAISY for $18.00. Another Braille book of interest is “Social Networking and You: Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin for Blind Users.”