Monthly Archive: January 2012

British pharmacy chain announces roll-out of new smart pills loaded with microchip

(Medical Xpress) — A new pharmaceutical program that many Britons might find literally hard to swallow, has been announced. Pharmacy chain Lloydspharmacy has partnered with American technology firm Proteus Biomedical to bring to the British public a product called Helius; a tiny microchip that is swallowed in pill form and whose purpose is to help remind patients to take their medications on time and to offer bio-feedback such as body temperature, heart rate and even sleeping patterns.

The microchip, which becomes active when subjected to water, can be either embedded directly in regular medication pills, or placed in a placebo meant only to deliver the pill to the stomach in conjunction with regular medication. In either case, the microchip, or “ingestible event marker” (IEM) as Proteus calls it, is powered by a thin film non-toxic battery. Once activated, the IEM sends a tiny uniquely modulated high frequency throughout the body, using the body as a conduit, thus, no radio frequency is used. Instead, a patch is applied to the skin on the outside of the body to listen for bodily interactions with the electrical signal, allowing for measurement of the heart-beat rate, internal body temperature, respiration rate, posture and sleeping patterns. All of this information is relayed via Smartphone app to a web site that provides statistics in graph form. Thus, patients can simply check their chart to see if they have taken all of their pills or not. The information could also be sent to the doctor who prescribed the medication to see if it’s having the desired effect.

The whole idea is get patients to take all of their medications when they are supposed to be taken, which is a serious problem. The World Health Organization recently announced that it believes that as many as half the people in the world don’t take their medications correctly, putting themselves at risk.
What’s not clear is how long the microchip operates inside the body, and what happens to it once it dies. Is it digested, or is it flushed out into the sewer system wholly intact? And if it’s flushed, what happens to all those millions of chips that wind up in sewage treatment facilities?
Such questions appear to be beside the point at this juncture, as the real issue is whether people will buy into the new technology, and if they do, if it will help them take their mediation properly. On the one hand, it might help people live better or longer. On the other, it appears that such pill takers would have to wear the patch that reads the data all the time and would have to have their Smartphones near at hand constantly as well. There’s also likely to be privacy issues as patients would have to rely on promises made by corporations that may or may not be securing their medical histories as well as patients would expect.

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Twenty top predictions for life 100 years from now

Last week we asked readers for their predictions of life in 100 years time. Inspired by ten 100-year predictions made by American civil engineer John Elfreth Watkins in 1900, many of you wrote in with your vision of the world in 2112.

Many of the “strange, almost impossible” predictions made by Watkins came true. Here is what futurologists Ian Pearson (IP) and Patrick Tucker (PT) think of your ideas.

1. Oceans will be extensively farmed and not just for fish (Jim 300)

IP: Likelihood 10/10. We will need to feed 10 billion people and nature can’t keep up with demand, so we will need much more ocean farming for fish. But algae farming is also on the way for renewable energy, and maybe even for growth of feedstock (raw materials) or resource extraction via GM seaweed or algae.

PT: Good chance. According to Dennis Bushnell, chief scientist at the Nasa Langley Research Center, saltwater algae that’s been genetically modified to absorb more nitrogen from the air than conventional algae could free up to 68% of the fresh water that is now tied up in conventional agriculture. This water could go to thirsty populations.

2. We will have the ability to communicate through thought transmission (Dev 2)

IP: Likelihood 10/10. Transmission will be just as easy as other forms of brain augmentation. Picking up thoughts and relaying them to another brain will not be much harder than storing them on the net.

PT: Good chance. Synthetic telepathy sounds like something out of Hollywood but it is absolutely possible, so long as “communication” is understood to be electrical signals rather than words.


3. Thanks to DNA and robotic engineering, we will have created incredibly intelligent humans who are immortal (game_over)

IP: Likelihood 9/10. It is more likely that direct brain links using electronics will achieve this, but GM will help a lot by increasing longevity – keeping people alive until electronic immortality technology is freely available at reasonable cost.

PT: Good chance. The idea that breakthroughs in the field of genetics, biotechnology and artificial intelligence will expand human intelligence and allow our species to essentially defeat death is sometimes called the Singularity.

4. We will be able to control the weather (mariebee_)

IP: Likelihood 8/10. There is already some weather control technology for mediating tornadoes, making it rain and so on, and thanks to climate change concerns, a huge amount of knowledge is being gleaned on how weather works. We will probably have technology to be able to control weather when we need to. It won’t necessarily be cheap enough to use routinely and is more likely to be used to avoid severe damage in key areas.

PT: Good chance. We will certainly attempt to. A majority of scientists in the US support a federal programme to explore methods for engineering the Earth’s climate (otherwise known as geoengineering). These technologies aim to protect against the worst effects of manmade climate change.

More readers’ predictions

  • English will be spelled phonetically (jim300)
  • Growing your own vegetables will not be allowed (holierthanthou)
  • The justice system will be based purely on rehabilitation (Paul)
  • Instead of receiving information from the media, people will download information directly into their brains (krozier93)
  • Crops will be grown in sand (jim300)

5. Antarctica will be “open for business” (Dev 2)

IP: Likelihood 8/10. The area seems worth keeping as a natural wilderness so I am hesitant here, but I do expect that pressure will eventually mean that some large areas will be used commercially for resources. It should be possible to do so without damaging nature there if the technology is good enough, and this will probably be a condition of exploration rights.

PT: Pretty close. Before there is a rush to develop Antarctica we will most likely see a full-scale rush to develop the Arctic. Whether the Arctic states tighten control over the region’s resources, or find equitable and sustainable ways to share them will be a major political challenge in the decades ahead. Successful (if not necessarily sustainable) development of the Arctic portends well for the development of Antarctica.

6. One single worldwide currency (from Kennys_Heroes)

IP: Likelihood 8/10. This is very plausible. We are already seeing electronic currency that can be used anywhere, and this trend will continue. It is quite likely that there will be only a few regional currencies by the middle of the century and worldwide acceptance of a global electronic currency. This will gradually mean the others fall out of use and only one will left by the end of the century.

PT: Great try! The trend on this is actually more in the opposite direction. The internet is enabling new forms of bartering and value exchange. Local currencies are also now used by several hundred communities across the US and Europe. In other words, look for many more types of currency and exchange not fewer, in the coming decades.

7. We will all be wired to computers to make our brains work faster (Dev 2)

Big Morongo Wildlife Preserve (2007) Will deserts become tropical forests?

IP: Likelihood 10/10. We can expect this as soon as 2050 for many people. By 2075 most people in the developed world will use machine augmentation of some sort for their brains and, by the end of the century, pretty much everyone will. If someone else does this you will have to compete.

8. Nanorobots will flow around our body fixing cells, and will be able to record our memories (Alister Brown)

PT: Good chance. Right now, medical nanorobots exist only in theory and nanotechnology is mostly a materials science. But it’s a rapidly growing field. Nanorobots exist within the realm of possibility, but the question of when they will arrive is another matter

IP: Likelihood: 7/10.

9. We will have sussed nuclear fusion (Kennys_Heroes)

IP: Likelihood 10/10. This is likely by 2045-2050 and almost certain by 2100. It’s widely predicted that we will achieve this. What difference it makes will depend on what other energy technologies we have. We might also see a growth in shale gas or massive solar energy facilities. I don’t think that wind power will be around.

10. There will only be three languages in the world – English, Spanish and Mandarin (Bill Walker)

IP: Likelihood 8/10. This does look like a powerful trend, other languages don’t stand a lot of chance. Minor languages are dying at a huge rate already and the other major ones are mostly in areas where everyone educated speaks at least one of the other three. Time frame could be this century.

Elevator - artwork by Gabriel Orozco Space elevators ‘will certainly be around’

11. Eighty per cent of the world will have gay marriage (Paul)

IP: Likelihood 8/10. This seems inevitable to those of us in the West and is likely to mean different kinds of marriages being available to everyone. Gay people might pick different options from heterosexual people, but everyone will be allowed any option. Some regions will be highly resistant though because of strong religious influences, so it isn’t certain.

12. California will lead the break-up of the US (Dev 2)

IP: Likelihood 8/10. There are some indications already that California wants to split off and such pressures tend to build over time. It is hard to see this waiting until the end of the century. Maybe an East Coast cluster will want to break off too. Pressures come from the enormous differences in wealth generation capability, and people not wanting to fund others if they can avoid it.

13. Space elevators will make space travel cheap and easy (Ahdok)

IP: Likelihood 8/10. First space elevators will certainly be around, and although “cheap” is a relative term, it will certainly be a lot cheaper than conventional space development. It will create a strong acceleration in space development and tourism will be one important area, but I doubt the costs will be low enough for most people to try.

14. Women will be routinely impregnated by artificial insemination rather than by a man (krozier 93)

PT: Pretty close. At the very least, more couples are choosing advanced fertility techniques over old-fashioned conception. Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, in which an artificially inseminated embryo is carefully selected among other inseminated embryos for desirability, is becoming increasingly common in fertility clinics. Using this technique, it’s now possible to screen an embryo for about half of all congenital illnesses. Within the next decade, researchers will be able to screen for almost all congenital illnesses prior to embryo implantation.

IP: Likelihood 5/10.

15. There will be museums for almost every aspect of nature, as so much of the world’s natural habitat will have been destroyed (LowMaintenanceLifestyles)

PT: Pretty close. I cannot comment on the museums but the Earth is on the verge of a significant species extinction event. Protecting biodiversity in a time of increased resource consumption, overpopulation, and environmental degradation will require continued sacrifice on the part of local, often impoverished communities. Experts contend that incorporating local communities’ economic interests into conservation plans will be essential to species protection in the next century.

IP: Likelihood 2/10.

16. Deserts will become tropical forests (jim300)

IP: Likelihood 7/10. Desert greening is progressing so this is just about possible.


17. Marriage will be replaced by an annual contract (holierthanthou)

IP: Likelihood 6/10. I think we will certainly see some weaker forms of marriage that are designed to last a decade or two rather than a whole lifetime, but traditional marriage will still be an option. Increasing longevity is the key – if you marry at 20 and live to well over 100, that is far too long a commitment. People will want marriages that aren’t necessarily forever, but don’t bankrupt them when they end.

18. Sovereign nation states will cease to exist and there will be one world government (krozier93)

PT: Great try! However, I think that the trend is in the direction of more sovereign nations rather than fewer. In the coming years, corporations or wealthy private citizens will attempt to use earth-moving technologies to build their own semi-sovereign entities in international waters.

IP: Likelihood 2/10.

19. War by the West will be fought totally by remote control (LowMaintenanceLifestyles)

IP: Likelihood 5/10.

20. Britain will have had a revolution (holierthanthou)

IP: Likelihood 7/10. Well, possible, but not as likely as some other trends.

Original Source

You can continue to contribute to the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #100yearpredictions. Ian Pearson is a future technology consultant and conference speaker. Patrick Tucker is spokesperson for the World Future Society and deputy editor of The Futurist magazine.


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Five Companies Who Did Something Positive for the World in 2011

10th January 2012

By Lauren

While no company is perfect, it’s good to know that at least a few for-profit entities did some good things for the environment and society in 2011.

Occupy Wall Street has us all thinking about the bad things companies can do – and rightly so, because often those things are very, very bad. (The 2008 financial meltdown, anyone?How about the ongoing foreclosure crisis?) But sometimes some companies take steps in a positive direction, and it’s worth giving those efforts a look as well.

First, let me make one thing clear: a company’s inclusion on this list does not mean it is outstanding in every facet of its business. Quite the contrary. But each of these companies has done at least some things this year that are worthy of praise.

It’s also worth acknowledging that there are scores of companies that launched socially responsible initiatives in 2011, and many of them were surely commendable. But the purpose of this article isn’t to pat companies on the back for giving back to the world; really, every company should be doing that, at the bare minimum. Below you’ll find only companies that engaged in efforts that are changing – or at least have the potential to change – corporate America for the better. That’s a slippery metric, no doubt, but it offers a good starting point for examining corporate social responsibility.

1. Ben & Jerry’s

In October, when Occupy Wall Street was in its relative infancy, the Ben & Jerry’s board of directors recognized the power of the movement, and issued a letter of support. The letter, titled “We Stand With You,” read in part:

We, the Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, compelled by our personal convictions and our Company’s mission and values, wish to express our deepest admiration to all of you who have initiated the non-violent Occupy Wall Street Movement and to those around the country who have joined in solidarity. The issues raised are of fundamental importance to all of us. These include:

–The inequity that exists between classes in our country is simply immoral.

– We are in an unemployment crisis. Almost 14 million people are unemployed. Nearly 20% of African American men are unemployed. Over 25% of our nation’s youth are unemployed.

– Many workers who have jobs have to work 2 or 3 of them just to scrape by.

– Higher education is almost impossible to obtain without going deeply in debt.

–Corporations are permitted to spend unlimited resources to influence elections while stockpiling a trillion dollars rather than hiring people.

Ben & Jerry’s is known for having maintained its social and environmental standards even after “selling out” to Unilever. But still, it was a bold move for a corporation to throw its support behind a movement that is largely defined by its anti-corporatism.

The company also gave out free ice cream to protesters in New York and D.C., where the company’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, did a little ice cream scooping of their own.

Some protesters have expressed concerns about Ben & Jerry’s co-opting the Occupy movement, and that’s fair. They have reason to be skeptical. But it’s noteworthy that Ben & Jerry’s is the only major company to have explicitly endorsed Occupy Wall Street. In fact, it’s hard to imagine another large company that would.

2. Patagonia

Outdoor gear and clothing company Patagonia made waves towards the end of 2011 when it rolled out an anti-consumerist ad campaign featuring the slogan “Don’t buy this jacket.”

Introduced on Cyber Monday (the post-Thanksgiving shopping holiday), the ad campaign is tied to Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative to reduce excess consumption. The five tenets of the initiative are to:

–Reduce: make useful gear that lasts a long time

–Repair: help consumers patch up their Patagonia products

–Reuse: help shoppers find homes for gear that’s no longer needed

–Recycle: take back old products that are un-fixable

–Reimagine: “reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace”

The initiative isn’t new, but the advertising tactic is – and it got a significant amount of attention. Not all of the attention was positive, but at the very least the ads sparked a conversation about consumerism.

Despite some reports to the contrary, Patagonia says it did not donate any gear to the Occupy movement; still, one has to wonder if the company’s latest ad campaign was influenced by Occupy’s anti-corporate message.

3. H&M

In the past, H&M has been targeted for doing a number of irresponsible things, from making “disposable” clothing to stealing designs and destroying perfectly good clothes that could have been donated to people in need. But this year the company did at least one positive thing: it announced that it would aim to procure all of its cotton from sustainable sources by 2020, which is considered an ambitious goal among major retailers.

As part of its new focus on sustainability, H&M launched its “Conscious Collection” in April. The line is available worldwide and features more environmentally friendly materials like organic cotton and recycled fibers.

Also, by the end of this year H&M will have replaced most of its hangers with multi-function hangers that are meant to reduce waste in the long term. As for the old hangers, H&M claims that 85% of them have been recycled.

These steps may be relatively modest, but they’re significant within the “fast fashion” industry, which is notorious for its waste. The hope is that H&M’s efforts will become the industry standard, and chains like Forever 21 and Zara will be pressured to follow suit.

4. Hewlett-Packard

HP topped Corporate Responsibility magazine’s 2010 list of corporate citizens, in part because of the company’s instrumental role in leading the electronics industry away from the use of so-called conflict minerals – materials mined in areas where human rights abuses are rampant.

In partnership with the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition and the Global eSustainability Initiative Extractives Group, HP has lobbied for legislation to curb the use of conflict minerals, especially from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Another result of HP’s lobbying efforts is that electronics companies now must report whether their products are manufactured using conflict minerals.

HP is recognized as a leader in this realm, in part because the company chose to dig deep into the conflict minerals issue even though a company review showed that its products could not be linked directly to conflict mineral sources. HP executive Zoe McMahon told CNET last year, “Because our suppliers are not using material from the DRC, that gave us some comfort. But to this day, there is still no certification mechanism that can assure us wholeheartedly that they are not sourced from the DRC. Once metals are with smelters, it’s difficult to know where the material comes from.”

Although HP’s conflict minerals efforts didn’t start in 2011, the company did advance its agenda by participating in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Due Diligence Guidance pilot program, which is focused on ensuring “responsible supply chains of minerals from conflict-affected and high-risk areas.”

5. Method

Since it was founded, Method Products has been recognized as a ground breaking sustainable home care company. This year the popular maker of soaps and home cleaning products continued to revolutionize the way sustainable products are sold by helping them reach a broader audience – the Walmart- and Target-shopping set.

Method’s popularity is thanks in large part to its marketing strategy. Rather than tout the environmental benefits of its products (of which there are many), the company focuses on “rid[ding] your home of toxic chemicals” – something people of all political persuasions can get behind, rather than just the liberal and environmentally-inclined. This strategy helped Method get its products on the shelves of major chain and grocery stores, thus helping bring sustainable products to many more consumers. And unlike Seventh Generation, Method’s leaders so far appear to remain committed to the company’s sustainability goals.

Now this is kind of cheating, because this product was launched in 2010, not 2011, but Method’s super-concentrated laundry detergent continued to have a positive impact on the detergent industry this year. While other companies have been filling shelves with 2x concentrated detergents (which are better for the environment and consumers than non-concentrated detergent), Method went six steps further, releasing an 8x concentrated detergent. As Fast Company notes, the product may be “the greenest laundry detergent to ever hit store shelves,” and the only reason other companies haven’t followed suit is because they’re focused on selling consumers more product – not doing what’s best for the environment.

While no company is perfect, it’s good to know that at least a few for-profit entities did some good things for the environment and society this year. May we see broader leaps in the new year.

About the Author

Lauren Kelley is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer and editor who has contributed to, The L Magazine and Time Out New York. She lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter here.

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Open letter to UK Surveillance Regulators

A healthy society depends on the law-abiding majority being respected and trusted as they go about their daily lives

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