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Google Tackles Health 115

Posted by Soulskill
from the as-long-as-you-don't-mind-having-sponsored-cells dept.
Google has announced the formation of a new company called Calico, which aims to promote health and fight aging. Larry Page said, "That’s a lot different from what Google does today. And you’re right. But as we explained in our first letter to shareholders, there’s tremendous potential for technology more generally to improve people’s lives. So don’t be surprised if we invest in projects that seem strange or speculative compared with our existing Internet businesses." He expanded upon this in an interview with Time: "I'm not proposing that we spend all of our money on those kinds of speculative things. But we should be spending a commensurate amount with what normal types of companies spend on research and development, and spend it on things that are a little more long-term and a little more ambitious than people normally would. More like moon shots." The new company's CEO will be Arthur Levinson, who is currently the chairman of Apple and biotech company Genentech. Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking. Art is one of the crazy ones who thinks it doesn't have to be this way."
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Google Tackles Health

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  • Are they trying to keep everyone 23 years old so they don't cycle through workers in San Fran?
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      no...

      they're just going to do what 100 other startups are doing. providing health tracking, health tips, tools to communicate with your physician and so forth. Unique ideas that 100000 others have had.

      So this Art is actually just one of fscking many.

      And in 4 years they're going to buy one of those startups and kill their product to boost their own.

      • "they're just going to do what 100 other startups are doing. providing health tracking, health tips, tools to communicate with your physician and so forth. Unique ideas that 100000 others have had."

        I don't know if you are thinking small, or just one of those 'optimists' I've read about.

        Just think of the value of the sweet, sweet, sweet actuarial data once Google sets to work looking for correlations between medical data (the people with cheap EOLs, the people with expensive ones, anything else that an
  • by GT66 (2574287) on Wednesday September 18, 2013 @03:46PM (#44887001)
    HIPAA is getting in Google's way. They can't just "take" people's health information the same as they do general user data. So, in order to acquire what migh actually be considered "private" data, they have chosen to be a health care provider which then gives them direct access to that normally off limits data.
    • Also, if they can extend lifespans, they can pump ads at us longer.

    • And, I'm sure "improving health" will involve a strong dose of targeted advertising for all the pharmaceuticals that'll make their lives better.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        If they work, why not?

        Are you telling me if they had peer reviewed studies proving these drugs improved your health or extended your useful life you would not take them?

        • by GT66 (2574287)
          "Are you telling me if they had peer reviewed studies proving these drugs improved your health or extended your useful life you would not take them?"
          Ah yes, the ultimate offer that cannot be refused.
          • Are you telling me if they had peer reviewed studies proving these drugs improved your health or extended your useful life you would not take them?

            Ah yes, the ultimate offer that cannot be refused.

            Hmm... Suicide is illegal in many (most?) places, so if such a drug could be proven to extend one's healthy/useful life - especially if it extended it forever, would taking the drug be required and refusing to take it illegal?

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Suicide is illegal in many (most?) places

              Not these days... anyway, practically speaking it is not an issue -- only in a few places where the families are punished does it really matter, which is basically not the western world. Typically what is still illegal is helping someone else commit suicide. Which I think is fair -- it is much harder for society to really know that there was no coercion, no foul play. What if I write a note saying that when the time comes, I want to commit suicide, and perhaps be assisted... if someone knew such a note e

            • It's legal to refuse care now. That's one of the big things the "living will" is about: how much effort should be put into keeping somebody alive, and how drastic the measures.

        • by Forbo (3035827)
          That really depends on the side effects, how much the drugs cost, and my what my quality of life would be with or without them.
    • by geek (5680) on Wednesday September 18, 2013 @04:27PM (#44887509) Homepage

      You think they don't already have health data on people? How many times did you google herpes this year? Did you email your parents/kids telling them about your shingles, bad knees, bad eyesite?

      If other people over the age of 50-60 are anything like my parents and parents in law, virtually every conversation revolves around their new ailments. Google has a crap ton of this info in their systems already and are fully prepared to start spamming the latest Cialis ads at every that's every used the word "dick" in an email.

      • I'm sure they've had a good guess, but when you want to target someone for Viagra or Cialis ads, you want a high-percentage cross section of users, not just someone giggle-clicking. The better their data, the more they can charge for the better ad responses they'll get.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Can you avoid defeatist arguments? Why does everything have to be absolute? Just because something isn't complete doesn't mean it isn't worth anything at all! People like you make me sick. You are second such moron I replied to today on Slashdot.

    • by Gavin Scott (15916) on Wednesday September 18, 2013 @06:54PM (#44888941)

      This is not about you and me and our health data, it's about some billionaires who (understandably) don't want to see what happened to Steve Jobs happen to them.

      You can sit around and say this is Evil and whatnot, but honestly would any of us here behave any differently if we were in their position?

      Note that the president of the new company Calico is Art Levinson, who is currently also Chairman of Genentech and *Apple* so there's a direct Steve Jobs link here and even a quote in the press release from Tim Cook:

      Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Apple, said: “For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking. Art is one of the crazy ones who thinks it doesn't have to be this way. There is no one better suited to lead this mission and I am excited to see the results.”

      So this is all very science-fiction (both from a technology *and* a social point of view) and it will be fascinating to watch.

      From a Science point of view this is really interesting because at the moment there are relatively few sources of funding for basic life-extension research, since much research money comes from the government, and making people live longer is no more politically acceptable than talking about population control. So if you're a fan of applied biological research and specifically life-extension technologies then you should be pretty excited by Google's move here.

      Interesting times.

      G.

      P.S. I for one welcome our new genetically enhanced immortal geek overlords.

  • Step 1: Create billion dollar business based on people clicking internet ads Step 2: Make more old people to click on the internet ads (who else clicks on those ads) Step 3: Profit!
  • This probably will involve more ads. Google will scan your emails social postings, and purchases for signs of an unhealthy lifestyle and send you appropriate ads. Then they'll offer a free service to hold all your medical records. With ads.

    Watch for new Google terms of service which waive HIPPA privacy rules.

  • This is interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Andrio (2580551) on Wednesday September 18, 2013 @03:48PM (#44887027)

    I wish they were more specific though. What is this company going to do? Drugs? Medical devices?

    Overall, I like the thought of a major IT company trying its hand in healthcare. For some reason it seems promising.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What they should do is focus on improving the quality of medical information available on the internet; it's in line with what Google's core capabilities are and to be honest would be a tremendous help. Google is probably the single biggest contributor to hypochondria in the US today, and I hear (anecdotally from doctors) that doctors waste about 40% of their time with patients dissuading them from incorrect self-diagnoses done through Google searches. My ex-wife was like this, she had a constant discomfo

      • by Thud457 (234763) on Wednesday September 18, 2013 @04:25PM (#44887493) Homepage Journal
        1. google streetview cars will get caught stealing the password for grandma's pacemaker.
        2. google brainslug implant. back yourself up to the the cloud!
        3. google proctological exams -- taking privacy invasion to the next level.
        4. you know that 17.9% GDP the US spends inefficiently on healthcare? the good news, google's gonna streamline that to only 9.7%, the bad news, they're taking 1% of the total for their effort.
        • You know that 17.9% GDP the US spends inefficiently on healthcare? The good news, google's gonna streamline that to only 9.7%, the bad news, they're taking 1% of the total for their effort.

          It's better than the 5% or so the insurance companies currently skim off the top. Plus, I'd say a 40+% cut in expenditures would deserve a reward of that size.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What they are really after is a nice rent-seeking never-ending stream of money before Amazon beats them to it. All they need to do is patent a few points in the health-technology data flow and they will in effect get a micropayment from each medical/dental/pharm transaction. Brilliant! Do you have any idea how many of these are made daily? Every doctor, dentist, hospital billing, insurance companies, medicare, etc. would be paying. And with all this free medical insurance money on the way no one will balk.

    • by Hognoxious (631665) on Wednesday September 18, 2013 @04:19PM (#44887417) Homepage Journal

      Overall, I like the thought of a major IT company trying its hand in healthcare. For some reason it seems promising.

      It seems promising to me too. Promising in a similar way to a major interior design firm trying its hand at building nuclear reactors.

  • In order for socialism to be realized, it appears there must be some organization that takes the longest possible way around it. Perhaps this is just to make sure that all the bushes have been thoroughly whacked.
  • I'm glad someone is working on self-driving cars and life extension.

    Companies that lose sight of their core competencies wind up failing at both the new business (from cluelessness) and the old business (from distraction).

  • by spune (715782) on Wednesday September 18, 2013 @03:51PM (#44887071)
    1/5 children in America live in poverty. 2/5 lack adequate nutrition. But let's instead focus on improving the quality of life and longevity of the wealthy!
    • by pnutjam (523990)
      Yeah, it sounds like Cook is talking about Jobs. Boo Hoo... He was a rich (dick) who died relatively young. Meanwhile the life expectancy of white women who dropped out of high school has dropped several years and children go hungry in the richest nation in history.
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        That is only because the percentage of dropouts has gone down and now the only ones left doing that are the totally destitute and willfully ignorant. In the past white women could drop out without much impact on their families income or future.

        Children going hungry is a totally different problem that should be address with Free breakfast and lunch at schools for all students, not just the ones in poverty.

      • by geek (5680) on Wednesday September 18, 2013 @04:42PM (#44887695) Homepage

        Yeah, it sounds like Cook is talking about Jobs. Boo Hoo... He was a rich (dick) who died relatively young.

        Regardless of whether Jobs was a dick, he certainly was rich. He didn't die because of a lack of health care, he died because he was fucking stupid and didn't listen to his doctors, and pursued homeopathic bullshit remedies for an aggressive pancreatic cancer.

        Jobs would likely be here today running Apple had he not been a fucking idiot hippie with a grudge against modern medicine. In Jobs case, natural selection was not his friend.

      • Perhaps more importantly for an ostensibly scientific enterprise, he didn't even take advantage of standard of care for his condition. First, he dicked around with some alt-med nonsense, then he tried a real doctor, once things had gotten to the point where his outcome was atypically good.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Who says this has anything to do with the longevity of the wealthy.

      Birth control and sex education would help those figures a lot, but many people oppose that including many people in those situations. How do you think those problems can otherwise be solved? I don't think that is something technology can address. Culture is a tough thing to change.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      You do realise that poverty will never go away, because 'poverty' is defined as being some level below the mean or median income?

      America has been fighting a 'War on Poverty' since the 60s, and it's been a dismal failure for that very reason.

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday September 18, 2013 @04:02PM (#44887185)

        I think you mean a War against the Poor, aka the War on Drugs. A war on poverty would include things like access to healthcare, or equalizing education funds for schools, or job training, or any attempt to make folks other than entertainers famous.

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          I think you mean a War against the Poor, aka the War on Drugs. A war on poverty would include things like access to healthcare, or equalizing education funds for schools, or job training, or any attempt to make folks other than entertainers famous.

          You don't know much about American history, do you?

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            I know quite a bit about it.

            We do have not had any interest in dealing with poverty in quite sometime. LBJ was pretty much the last president to even attempt to address the issue. In more recent times shutting down welfare and hunting down non-existent welfare queens has been what we focused on.

    • by Andrio (2580551) on Wednesday September 18, 2013 @04:04PM (#44887221)

      Fighting poverty would require such things like raising the minimum wage to something you can live off of (this just failed to happen in DC, for people employed by major retailers like Walmart), putting a cap on interest rates by credit cards/loans, increasing education spending, etc.

      All these things are impossible to do by anyone as long as companies are allowed to buy what they want from politicians.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Fighting poverty would require such things like raising the minimum wage to something you can live off of (this just failed to happen in DC, for people employed by major retailers like Walmart)

        So you're going to 'fight poverty' by increasing the labour cost in the stores where poor people shop, so those poor people will have to pay more for the things they buy there, in order to fund those increased wages.

        That's why the left can't have nice things.

        • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday September 18, 2013 @04:11PM (#44887319)

          So explain why increasing the minimum wage actually does help the economy?

          Surprise surprise giving money to those who will spend it rather than sit on it helps the economy and the poor. Labor costs in stores is not the primary cost. You could raise the wage to $15/hour and the price of a bigmac to produce would go up a few cents.

          • by 0123456 (636235)

            So explain why increasing the minimum wage actually does help the economy?

            It doesn't. And it certainly doesn't help the poor, who will be replaced by machines if they're not productive enough to justify the increased wages.

            Hint: rich people don't 'sit on their money' like Scrooge McDuck in your comic books. They invest it in the businesses that provide jobs for those poor people.

            You could raise the wage to $15/hour and the price of a bigmac to produce would go up a few cents.

            So why not raise it to $100 and make everyone rich?

            • what about cutting down the work week?

              that can help as well as taking health care out of jobs.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by istartedi (132515)

              rich people don't 'sit on their money' like Scrooge McDuck in your comic books

              Actually they kind of do. [wikipedia.org]

              So why not raise it [the wage for a fast-food worker] to $100 and make everyone rich?

              That's somewhat of a straw-man. The previous poster probably understands that if you raise it too far you'd get wage-price spiral inflation. At least, I hope they do. I think the best way to look at this is that there's an optimal pay for the economy to function well, and that a lot of people think the working cla

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Hint: rich people don't 'sit on their money' like Scrooge McDuck in your comic books. They invest it in the businesses that provide jobs for those poor people.

              Not really, no. They usually have a diverse investment portfolio beyond a certain level, some in property, some in stocks and bonds, and the rest in various other investment vehicles. You don't get rich and stay rich by doing anything as risky as actually starting viable businesses (90% failure rate is a sucker's game), even VCs are only in it as long as it takes to pump up the company and sell it on to some starry eyed boob, or at least another VC who thinks they can pump it up even further.

              Ah you say, but

          • If you double the wages of a group one of three things will happen. 1) the portion of the price of the produce dedicated to covering labour costs will double. (Ie if 30c per big mac is for labor costs, that'd go up to 60c) 2) half of the people employed in that group will be laid off Or 3) some combination of the above (eg 50% price increase and 25% layoff) While some companies would cut into their profits to avoid that, I'd wager that most wouldn't and those that did couldn't cut deep enough to offset th
    • by NoKaOi (1415755)

      1/5 children in America live in poverty. 2/5 lack adequate nutrition. But let's instead focus on improving the quality of life and longevity of the wealthy!

      Starving children are not their target market. Keeping their target market alive longer to buy the stuff the ads they serve are advertising means more profit. It also means the data they collect about those people will be worth more, since data about dead people probably isn't worth anything.

      Google's product is people. If they can keep their product around longer, then they can keeping selling it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Is Google a government agency or a charity organization?

    • by GT66 (2574287)
      Poor and starving children do not buy expensive products. Sickly, desperate people however spend as much as they can to survive.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If old people could take care of themselves and didn't need to retire (at least not permanently), that would be a tremendous boon for everyone, including the poor. They'd no longer need to save for retirement, or more realistically, they'd no longer be up sheet creek once they get old and quickly burn through whatever savings they had while being unable to work anymore. Health care costs would decrease dramatically if old people got sick at no more than the rate that young people do. So even if we grant you

    • by bitt3n (941736)

      1/5 children in America live in poverty. 2/5 lack adequate nutrition. But let's instead focus on improving the quality of life and longevity of the wealthy!

      This reminds me of Faraday's response when Gladstone asked him what practical value electricity could have, namely that the government can tax it. If for some reason you suppose such research advantages will only be enjoyed by the rich, consider that all their extra working years equal free money to the state, whose costs for educating and raising each longer-lived individual remain fixed. Imagine what good those taxes could do to advance your social agenda.

  • Invent a flower substitute that has no calories to replace bread and pastas. And leave vitamins out of it.

    Carbs are 70% of McDonald's non-drink calories. I would love to drop weight on a Big Mac and Spaghetti diet.

    • Invent a flower substitute

      Plastic ones? Silk?

      OK, I rose to the bait, so I suppose I shouldn't get too lippy. But really, you write very orchidly.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      why don't you just eat less? first world problems, glamouring for food that's not food as a health solution.

      just eat a plate of spaghetti and a big mac burger a day and probably you'll lose weight quite fast.. or eat paper if you want to.

  • Well, maybe most of them have this much content, but there's nothing anyone can do with that link but speculate. Not sure why it's even deemed worthy of the front page.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... who thinks it doesn't have to be this way ...

    Does he mean the US insurance and health industry practice of inflating prices? A country that spends so much money on physiological health obviously won't have the resources to treat psychological health. Not a smart policy with a jobless recovery and the middle-class lifestyle suffering a financial 'squeeze'.

  • The longer you live, the longer they can siphon your data for ad revenue and sell you shiny things!
  • So the 0.1% will be able to defeat death and keep ruling forever. Our civilization is not at the right stage to do that, there are things that must be solved before giving that kind of power to people that clearly abuses it for their own good to opress the majority.
    • by Alejux (2800513)
      When technology to fight aging appears, it will be like any other technology; expensive at first then cheaper and cheaper. No government in the world would benefit from NOT providing anti-aging treatments to the general population. The aged population provide an enormous economical stress to countries, their pension funds and social security, and specially the healthcare costs, which have, by and large, the majority of it's cost geared towards treating diseases of old age.
  • It's a match made in heaven. When Google abandon projects there'll be nobody around from when they started (or at least none with all their slates on) to gripe about it.

  • TFS: "Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking. ..."

    Yes, I bet the friends and especially the families of CEOs (Cook's base salary $1.4 million, cash bonus $2.8 million in 2012) suffer a lot, more than those of the remaining citizens. Not to forget the grief that especially Cook has with all the criticism that Apple does almost pay no taxes.

    More on topic: I can well imagine how life prolongement via Google w

  • Well not really but they did have a project that they cancled that I used. Google Health. I guess they can restart that up. http://www.google.com/intl/en_us/health/about/ [google.com]
    • by watice (1347709)
      I actually found Google Health pretty useful, and my doctors were amazed when I pulled out that detailed medical history. They were able to easily cross reference CBC results & see trends easily. Microsoft HealthVault just doesn't compare in the ease of use & functionality that Google Health provided. I haven't been able to find a decent replacement for keeping medical records electronically stored since.
  • anti ageing app coming soon to your android device. Suck eggs Microsoft
  • Wait - Isn't that Revlon's tagline?

    Sounds more like pharmaceuticals and cosmetics than healthcare to me.

  • Google could organize it and make it available. Check Stay-in-Touch.ca
  • Doesn't S. M. Brin's (still-current) wife run a DNA testing outfit that purports to identify genetic predisposition to disease? Interesting market sector!
  • Lame. Go with something more accurate: GATTACA.

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