To apply big data analysis methods to problems affecting the human condition, and to share the results with the world as a whole.
Big data is a growing and ever present part of modern life. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon are collecting enormous amounts of information all day, every day, and using powerful supercomputers to analyze this data.
In most cases, the data collected expands only one small area of human knowledge – marketing. Our spending habits, browsing habits, the kinds of products, services, and human interest stories we’re interested in, are all tracked in order for large corporations to better serve us with targeted advertising and new products.
Service providers, product manufacturers, political parties and even world governments make use of this data and the results extracted from it, ostensibly to “make us happy”.
I won’t argue that material goods contribute to happiness, but so do many other things. Health, living conditions, the arts, and even the weather are all at least equally, if not vastly more important to the human experience than targeted advertising and new technologies.
What if instead of tracking browsing and spending habits, we tracked medical records, biometric data, food and drink intake? What if we could analyze this data on the scale at which we currently analyze “#What’sTrending”?
How much more quickly could important medical and scientific research be performed, if rather than conducting a new study on 1000 subjects, with all the associated costs, we could simply ask our supercomputer a question about what the dangers of smoking are, and that computer could poll a database of millions of health records, and display the results for us. It works for marketing, why not make it work for us?
Firstly, there is the challenge of convincing people to share their personal data. I suspect, however, that even if such a project was opt-in only, we would see many millions around the world excited at the prospect of making life better for both themselves and future generations by simply making records of the things they’re doing from day to day. And if we highlight the personal benefit that every participant could take advantage of I’m sure there are few who wouldn’t want to be part of such a program. How much better could your doctor diagnose a medical condition if he or she could access not only your medical records, but charts on all your biometric data and eating habits for the last 2 weeks, six months, or even years. Think of the advances that could be made by analyzing the data from a single human being in their first 18 years.
Next, there is the danger of closed systems. In order for a system like this to live up to its full potential, the entire process should be open. A completely open process is the best way to ensure that literally anyone and everyone could collaborate on making the world a better place. We would need to use open source software (much of which already exists and could easily be applied to this project), open standards for data collection, documentation, and scientific methods. And finally open research, where all results and experiments, and peer reviewed journals are also shared. By keeping every element of the system open, we not only allow for universal collaboration, irrespective of funding and training barriers, but as a bonus we could perform these same analytical methods on every aspect of the process itself, promoting rapid evolution and agility.
Finally, there is the issue of funding. A project like this will cost money and time. I suggest we can begin in earnest on a volunteer basis, and that in short time it will become clear to businesses and governments that there is nothing more costly than to ignore the issues that affect us all.
Every big idea has to start small – the GOOD for you is no exception. The first part of our program is a simple logging and journalling app. It will allow users to keep track of what they’re doing and how they feel, and store this information in a personal database that remains in the users’ control.
At the other end of the system will be a server that allows researchers to query the personal databases of the entire group of users without allowing the server access to personally identifying information, and to process this anonymous information to test for a given hypotheses. Once a test has been performed, the results are then made publicly available, saving much duplication of work and expensive set up.
A researcher could, for instance, design an experiment that queries all men between 25 and 35, and compare those that smoke against a control group that doesn’t, looking for average happiness in each group.
This is just a simple example, but it’s easy to see how powerful such a system is. And unlike social networking platforms, each query is completely anonymous, which would likely lead to more willing test subjects. The user benefits are easy to see, as this app can display helpful information to users based on their individual habits as compared to the average user.
As time progresses, features will be added to this app allowing for complex tasks like diet and exercise suggestions, which could be based not only on results gathered by the GOOD for you‘s servers, but even traditional programs designed by your family physician, personal trainer, or dietician.
With a solid foundation, the possibilities for extending the GOOD for you are endless. We can accept and log biometric data, such as heart rate and galvanic skin response, which becomes all the more relevant as wearable computing becomes the norm. You could voluntarily share your personal database with your doctor, in order to give him or her a more complete picture of your minute to minute health. And while we’re on the topic, with sufficient security and end to end encryption, the GOOD for you could easily be integrated with existing digital medical records systems, and could even become the de-facto medical records system itself, making it easy for medical professionals to design, share, and record relevant health metrics with finer grained security and far more powerful analysis than anything that exists today.
But why stop with our bodies? There’s no reason this system couldn’t be used for measuring and analyzing everything in our environment that can be measured and analyzed. Building temperatures, humidity, power usage – driving metrics like speed, braking, and fuel economy – everything we currently measure at one time or another is something that would benefit from a system like the GOOD for you, where data collection and analysis are standardized for the advantage of everyone on earth.
We know that everything in the universe is interconnected, so that when you do things for the common GOOD, for the greater GOOD, it’s GOOD for you.
-Richard R. MacInnis
We’re currently looking for volunteers to help with the following:
- Android app development
- iOS app development
- Server side programming for data collection and analysis
- Community recommendations from researchers, scientists, doctors, nurses, personal trainers, dieticians, etc.
- Beta testing and bug reporting
To get involved, or just let us know what you think, sign up for The Much Better