Predictive medicine: Grey matter and grey areas

As technology unravels the mysteries of the human mind, deeper, more intimate knowledge is now in the hands of health providers and businesses.

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Emerging technologies are changing the way that health providers treat patients, and the way businesses interact with customers, employees and other stakeholders. In theory, this should change society for the better – but will it?

In this episode of our podcast series, Transforming business with MinterEllison: ideas and challenges that are shaping our future, we’ll be investigating the extraordinary leaps being made in medical technology – and the monumental impact these will have on the future of business and the health sector.

We spoke with Professor Nita Farahany, a leading American scholar, on the ethical, legal, and social implications of emerging technologies. Nita was in Australia for AMP's Amplify festival, of which MinterEllison was a proud sponsor.

She discussed technology already being used by businesses that can decode brain activity to reveal what people are really thinking and feeling.

Podcast highlights

"This is really promising technology, but it's quite new, and given how new it is, and given how much people identify their sense of self with their brain and with their minds, I think it's different to other kinds of technology."

"And because it's so new, and because it's such a sensitive area to be monitoring, we haven't yet established what societal norms will be with respect to an expectation of any kind of mental privacy or freedom of thought or liberty in cognition, or in the mind. As a result, I think that the technology already is far ahead of where protections for individuals might be. Trying to find a balance between integrating what can be incredibly promising technology while protecting individuals against the potential for misuse of this technology… I think are at risk."

"Technology offers us great promise. The question is how we're going to make it accessible to people, and how we're going to distribute it, and how we're going to ensure that the information is used for good and minimise the harms that can come from misuse of that kind of information."

We also spoke with partner, Jonathan Kelp, who told us more about where technology is already transforming medicine and health care.

"The demand and appetite for improvements in technology is not only driven by the healthcare practitioners, but also increasingly by consumers themselves… The ease with which patients can self-monitor has already come a long way in the last five or 10 years."

"We know from past experience that legislation and regulation will always lag behind the technology, often dramatically so. And this applies no less to healthcare than in any other industry or sector."

"It's really important for governments to ensure that appropriate protections are being put in place, whether that's around data protection or privacy. But also looking at the actual devices themselves and ensuring that there is an appropriate regulatory framework for dealing with, for example, a tracking device or an app that's used on a smart phone."

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