Fitbitters of the world, unite! How the Soviets invented fitness tracking
Health and fitness monitoring devices promise a future of good health and pre-emptive diagnosis. Not to mention reduced( for some) insurance premiums. So what connects our new preoccupation with personal productivity with the dogma of Trotsky, Lenin and Stalin?
At this years Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria, I happened upon a robot made of hacked and 3D-printed surgical components that they are able perform DIY keyhole surgery. Its builder, the Dutch artist Frank Kolman, was inspired by YouTube videos in which impoverished hackers and makers, largely without insurance, share medical tips-off and tricks. No money for bridgework? Try Sugru moldable glue.
A revolution is afoot in medication. And like all revolutions, it is composed of equal proportions inspirational advance and jaw-dropping social misfortune. On the plus side, there are the health and fitness promises inherent in the artefacts of a personal health surveillance industry all those Jawbone and Fitbits and Scanadu Scouts, iPhones and Apple Watches that promises to top $50 bn in annual sales by 2018. The devices arent particularly accurate( yet ), and more than half of them end up at the bottom of a drawer after six months. Still, DIY devices are already spotting medical problems before their users do, raising the likelihood of a future in which illness and medical conditions are treated long before the patient get sick.
On the minus side, there is Kolkmans terrifyingly practical robot, and its promise of a future in which DIY medicine is the only medicine the ordinary person can afford. The sunny western coast self-reliant rhetoric of the making and hacking and quantified self motions disguise the disturbing assumption that they can be a substitute for civic life.
We have been here before. Not much more than a century ago the Russian empire was a ramshackle agglomeration of colonies, held together by military force and hooch. There were no institutions for reformers to reform: no councils , no unions , no guilds , no professional bodies, few schools, few hospitals worth the name; in many places , no roads.
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