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IBM Medicine Patents The Almighty Buck

IBM Granted Your-Paychecks-Are-What-You-Eat Patent 455

theodp writes "On IBM's Smarter Planet, at least as envisioned in Big Blue's recently-granted patent for 'providing consumers with incentives for healthy eating habits', the FDA will team up with employers and insurers to determine your final paycheck based upon what you eat. IBM explains that whether a given food item is considered healthy may vary based on a number of factors, including 'individual health histories, family health histories, food intake, exercise routines, medications, and other health related factors', and may even be time dependent ('incentives are greater for consumption of a particular food item during a designated lunch time and less for consumption of the particular food item during other periods of time'). Before being issued, IBM's patent request languished for ten years and was only granted after a Patent Examiner's rejection was overturned on appeal. IBM CEO Sam Palmisano has been a cheerleader for pay-for-monitored-healthy-eating on a national level, which seems to be neatly aligned with the goals of his fellow CEOs on the Business Rountable, who told President Obama in 2009, 'It's very important that we don't have a government [healthcare] plan competing with a private plan and finding out that our employees or the citizens in general could go to a plan that doesn't have the same incentives and requirements and behavioral characteristics to make sure that they do the right things long term'."
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IBM Granted Your-Paychecks-Are-What-You-Eat Patent

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  • Re:I knew it. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:06AM (#38514280)

    Why would anyone be unhappy with a true statement? What right does someone have to say what I can and cannot eat because I pay them to pay my medical bills? I find this in the same regard as the fireman who have to sign a contract saying they won't smoke, or the seatbelt laws that you pay 200-300 dollars in fines for not wearing a seatbelt. My personal life is somewhere other people have no business being.. I don't remove the toys from your kids happy meals, I don't walk up behind you and tell you that a slap battle with your kid is child abuse.. so kindly don't do it to me.

  • So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bruce McBruce ( 791094 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:08AM (#38514306)
    In essence, they just patented a concept of deciding that thin employees get paid more and fat employees get paid less, and indeed judging their personal lives? Sounds like they're cornering the supermodel engineer market.
  • by florescent_beige ( 608235 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:13AM (#38514352) Journal

    It is consistent with recent history that U.S. leadership believes they are entitled to mandate people's behaviour. If they really wanted to make people's lives better they would re-think their belief that fear and greed are the only two dimensions of human motivation. Fear being the problem at hand.

    Fear of unemployment, fear of China, fear of Islam, fear of the black man, fear of Mexicans, fear of government, fear of the competition, fear of young people, fear of old people, fear of liberals, fear of bombs, fear of crowds, fear of complacency, fear of men wearing fezzes, fear of sexuality, fear of strange.

    People eat comfort food because it makes them feel better. Americans feel bad. Maybe American leadership could make it a priority to help their citizens to have happy lives and stop it with the forcing people to do that they say.

  • Wow, creepy. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Feyshtey ( 1523799 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:14AM (#38514364)
    This whole concept just makes my skin crawl. Start with the thought that this cant really be implimented unless someone (IBM? FDA?) knows exactly what you eat at any given moment, and it just gets more and more twilight zone from there.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:24AM (#38514466)

    You can lose weight on almost any diet that restricts calories in some way. Not to downplay your weight loss, but people have been losing weight on every sort of diet imaginable for decades. The trick is *keeping* it off, of course.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:30AM (#38514518)

    Thanks, but I'd rather have the chemical preservatives than to take my chances with all the nasty bacteria and parasites that come with spoiled food. And I'd rather have the pesticides, engineered crops, etc. than to deal with the starvation that would result if every farmer suddenly decided to go organic.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:32AM (#38514532)

    That right there is one of the problems. It's one thing to give a bonus for employees that take care of themselves in general and quite another to pay for specific methods of doing it.

    As much as I do think that businesses should encourage healthy eating and clean living, I really don't think this sort of direct approach is really appropriate. If they want to help their workers they ought to be nudging them towards it. Making it as convenient as possible to access healthy snacks, subsidizing exercise programs and possibly encouraging people to use the stairs.

  • by khundeck ( 265426 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:34AM (#38514548)
    I barely want to point this out, but, what's "affordable" has a lot to do with where you geographically live.

        Fishing == rivers, oceans (ie. coasts, islands,..)
        Red Meat / Chicken == land (ie. farms, mountain herds, ..)

    What's missing in our 'food equation' is self-production and high-valued local produce. Whatever is good/sustainable for your region is what you should consider consuming. Reliance on cheap/subsidized imported food just won't add-up long-term.

  • Work != Labor (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clyde_cadiddlehopper ( 1052112 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:42AM (#38514632)
    My brother is over 50 and a baggage handler for a major airline. On his feet, lifting, walking, on the move continuously several hours a day. He's had no flab ... until this year. I saw him in November with a bulge around the middle. He had put on 30 pounds. "What happened?" "Desk job." Employers wake up! You are not the innocent victim of the obesity epidemic, you are a primary contributor. Every job description must include some activity other than "sit in chair, click mouse, press keys, answer telephone." Put labor back in work and your employees will get more work done and cost less in the long run.
  • by AdamnSelene ( 2183372 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:59AM (#38514816)

    Not to be glib, but [citation needed]. At least in the US, the food advice handed out by the USDA [] is generally considered to be accurate to the current information available to scientists. Everything I've personally seen contradicting it has been merely bare assertions without citation or data, or else points to a study done by a clearly biased group or individual. If you've got something substantive, I'd love to see it, as this is a special interest of mine.

    Nope, the USDA recommendations are subject to an intense amount of lobbying by the large food companies. Anyone who thinks that government scientists are free to speak their minds hasn't worked in government, and unfortunately their scientific research is largely ignored or reshaped by economic and political forces when it comes time to make policy recommendations (see Reagan, R., under whose administration ketchup was famously considered a vegetable in school lunches).

    If you really want to eat healthy, and wanted to eat what the science tells you is best, you might start with the research by Dr T. Colin Campbell and Dr Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr. who did large-scale studies of the effects of eating processed crap vs. whole foods. See for example their books The China Study and PlanEat for citations, if you want to understand the evidence and know what to eat.

    For the history of this, I recommend the anthropologist Sid Mintz who wrote Sweetness and Power, a history of sugar. In it he traces the shift in the British diet from healthy, farm-based foods to sugar-based foods and shows how that shift in diet was inextricable from the growth of cities and factories during the Industrial Revolution. In other words, he shows how the political economy of sugar has led to our present sugar and carb based diet. Unlike Campbell and Esselstyn, Mintz won't tell you what to eat, but he will tell you why everyone wants to sell you processed crap masquerading as food.

    The upshot, however, is simple. Eat no-to-little processed, sugar, dairy and high-carb foods; eat only a little meat and some fish; eat a lot of protein-rich legumes, nuts, vegetables and whole grains. Drink mostly water; avoid sugary soft drinks, fruit cocktails and even too much juice. And cook for yourself; restaurants suck (from a healthy eating perspective).

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:00AM (#38514824)

    Human civilization was built on carbs.


    Huge portions of the planet would starve to death without it. And if we tried to shift just the first world over to it, costs would inflate so high that you probably couldn't afford to eat that way either. Even in the first world, the majority of our calories come from carbs. We simply couldn't feed billions of people on anything else.

    Carbs are cheap. We can produce them in bulk at low cost. They can be stored in some cases for years very easily. Carbs feed the world and have fed the world for thousands of years.

    It isn't carbs that makes people fat. It's the lack of exercise. Just move every so often. Take up a sport. Something. And then you can eat mash potatoes every night and chase it with gravy. Just burn some calories.

  • by ChaoticCoyote ( 195677 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:10AM (#38514936) Homepage

    I live surrounded on three sides by ocean.

    Fish is hideously expensive, as compared to chiecken, beef, and pork.

    Same thign for fresh fruit -- I live in a state (Florida) that produces lots of fruit, but the stores have incredibly high prices.

    I know people on Food stamps (a large percentage of the U.S.population now, btw) -- and they can't AFFORD to eat healthy. There's a reason poor people are fat -- bad diet, because good food is too expensive.

  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:17AM (#38515022) Homepage

    Most foods on the market are contaminated with chemicals

    Um, all food is made of 100% chemicals.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:17AM (#38515024) Homepage
    Is to have a company cafeteria that gives away the healthy food free and charges you normal prices for the junk food.

    No need to adjust the paycheck - that is just stupid. You end up giving 1/3 to 1/2 the benefit to the government via taxes, and have to institute a complex tracking system.

  • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:37AM (#38515278) Homepage
    Can't afford healthy food, hmm? Let's see. Lentils can be had for something like $2.50 a pound. The good kind of lentils. Organic. Red kidney beans can be had for even less. Oatmeal for breakfast costs mere cents. You still need some more leafy green stuff and the like, sure, but if you can afford chicken or beef, you can afford lentils instead.

    I suspect cost alone is not why people are opting for the highly-refined-flour based "fast carbs".

  • I call bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Feyshtey ( 1523799 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @12:05PM (#38515638)
    I just checked the weekly print add for a local grocery.

    Chicken -- $1.88/lb for skinless and boneless breasts. Broccoli -- $1.12/lb Bread -- $0.98/loaf

    That's a relatively healthy meal for 3 people for $4. How would you eat worse food for that amount?

    The problem is not the cost. It's the lazy people that cant be bothered to actually cook, and use fast food as the convenient scapegoat.
  • Entitlement? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Feyshtey ( 1523799 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @01:01PM (#38516364)
    So your saying that poor people are fat and/or unhealthy because they get sick of eating inexpensive but boring healthy food? Well that certainly justifies a program that will pay you to eat it.

    See, this is the entitlement bullshit that we're fighting. Hate to tell you this, but if it's a choice between my kid eating lentils and oatmeal or not eating, he's going to eat lentils and outmeal and like it. It's not your problem to make sure I have a sparkling variety in my diet. People seem to have no freaking clue what a hardshit actually is anymore, which is to be expected from a society that cant be allowed to play dodgeball because someone might get hit with a ball.
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @02:43PM (#38517610) Homepage Journal

    Well, OK, but you need to be aware of the full consequences. Do you like any sort of physical activity at all? Statistically speaking, 100% of sports injuries are fully preventable by not participating in sports, so I guess we just won't cover any of those any more. No bicycling (you could get hit by a car), no walks (same), most certainly no DIY home repairs (people hurt themselves all the time that way).

    No matter who you are and what you do, there is SOMETHING you do frequently that others would like to ban to keep insurance costs down. If it's fair for your ban list to be implemented, it's fair for their ban lists to be implemented. I can just see that nirvana now! Every day on TV in the morning we'll receive our insurance approved activities list for the day. No need to think about it, when the whistle blows, move on to the next officially approved activity. Please be sure to consult an approved manual to make sure you're performing your activities in a fiscally responsible manner.

  • Re:Screw willing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Feyshtey ( 1523799 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @07:37PM (#38520814)
    I have done 6 12 hour shifts in dead end jobs, including doing janitorial work and car washes in a body shop during the weekdays, while flipping pizzas and waiting tables in shitty restaurants and bars at night and on weekends. Did it for a decade. It sucked. So I decided I wasnt going to do it anymore. I slept an hour or two less a night to teach myself the basics of a menial trade using books I got for a couple bucks at a used bookstore, and got a slightly better job. Then I worked my ass off, took any training I could find, and listened to anyone that would teach me something and got a better job. And a better one. And a better one. I dont know how many interviews i got rejected in. Seriously it must be in the thousands. But I didnt quit. I'm a business owner now because I would settle for nothing less. That could be gone tomorrow, but I'm not about to slink into a corner and quit. I'd build it up again because I want to raise my son in some degree of comfort I never knew.

    No one revels in the shitty situation other people are in, whether they put themselves there or not. But at some point it's up to those people to improve their lives or become complacent with being subsidized. The fact that I never quit trying should not require me to make sure they have braised beef and asparagus barbs in garlic butter instead of lentils and beans.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva