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The Future Gets Closer, Part V: In Case You Missed It
July 4, 2011 2:40 PM   Subscribe

PBS Newshour covers recent advances in medical technology in an 11 minute video.

Meanwhile, in cancer treatment, one step closer to cancer-killing nanoparticles. On the rare disease front, rapamycin has been found to reverse progeria (mentioned previously), and could eventually lead to practical anti-aging treatments.
posted by StrikeTheViol (26 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah? Who's gonna pay for all this stuff? Dean Kamen invented that neat iBot wheelchair that walks up stairs, but discontinued it because the govt and insurers didn't want to pay the $26,000 per unit cost. So why should they want to pay for the Luke bionic arm or any of the rest of these expensive prosthetics, for which there will always only be marginal demand. The Defense Department is driving Kamen's research, which is the least they could do after sending all those kids overseas which substantial foreknowledge that a certain percentage of them were going to get their legs blown off by IEDs. Don't look for much trickle down into the civilian sector. We're already screaming ourselves hoarse arguing over how to pay for simple primary care, much less underwrite implants that allow paraplegics to play pong.
posted by Faze at 3:35 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah? Who's gonna pay for all this stuff?

Parochial "conservative" answer: When enough people in positions of power are sympathetic to people with disabilities, money gets spent.

Internationalist "liberal" answer: even if the US doesn't, other countries will.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 4:03 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah who's paying is an interesting question but I'd suggest we all return to discussing the video, because at 6:30 there is a monkey controlling a robot with its brain.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 4:13 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, it is using the robot arm to eat marshmallows.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 4:14 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah? Who's gonna pay for all this stuff?

It's amazing how Americans never seem to ask this question when it comes to blowing shit up to the tune of two-thirds of a trillion dollars a year.
posted by mhoye at 4:15 PM on July 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


It's amazing how Americans never seem to ask this question when it comes to blowing shit up to the tune of two-thirds of a trillion dollars a year.

False equivalence. The same people asking the first question aren't responsible for the budget of the second statement. More simply, we don't like that, either. Can we discuss the video, now?
posted by cavalier at 4:19 PM on July 4, 2011


The same people asking the first question aren't responsible for the budget of the second statement.

Are you talking about American taxpayers, or American politicians?
posted by mhoye at 4:21 PM on July 4, 2011


Faze isn't a politician, last I checked. Look, I agree with you, the defense spending is egregious. Maybe if 20% more of the general population recognized this and voted for a shift in priorities, you could get somewhere. But Faze isn't the one holding you back, derail as this all is.
posted by cavalier at 4:24 PM on July 4, 2011


It's amazing how Americans never seem to ask this question when it comes to blowing shit up to the tune of two-thirds of a trillion dollars a year.

Or consider the economic benefits of enabling people to re-enter work more easily, or otherwise be enabled go on to engage in socially beneficial activity of all kinds from arts to sciences, business and industry or even sports.

Or you could look at the cost of retro-fitting millions of buildings to comply with ADA laws, or the costs of building those features into new buildings. In the future we may be able to do away with the architectural parts of the ADA.

Or, hell, maybe the economic balance sheet should include the fact that a lot of the research in artificial/cybernetic prosthesis is funded by the DoD and DARPA to fix the soldiers they helped blow up by putting them in harm's way for an extremely dubious war in the first place.

But, no. Apparently trying to enumerate and quantify these real world social costs and deal with them in a truly equitable and mutually beneficial way is some kind of perverted socialism.
posted by loquacious at 4:25 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


One thing mentioned towards the end was the possibility of doing away with the motors etc and using the patient's own muscles, but it seemed to imply that the setup would look like brain -> nerves -> computer -> nerves -> muscles. Why? If we get really good at interfacing with nerves, why wouldn't the same techniques allow us to hook them back up to one another directly, no computer required?
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 4:30 PM on July 4, 2011


The ten-year forecast for the biotech and pharmaceutical industries aren't at all promising. Ostensibly due to the recession, R&D expenditures are vanishing. Companies are focusing on products that are currently in late-stage clinical development, and gutting basic research. A risk adverse FDA is rejecting any drug that may have an unfavorable side-effect profile. Smaller biotechs, which normally depend on venture capital to establish themselves, are vanishing, either running out of cash or purchased by large pharmaceutical companies who are outsourcing a lot of their normal research operations to small operations that don't have such a vested interest in getting new drugs to the market. They're assembly line operations rather than groups focused on actual research. Revenues from most "blockbuster" drugs are about to run out as their patents expire, and the pipeline for new drug entities is running dry. The U.S. used to attract the best research talent in the world, but our faltering economy isn't as attractive as it used to be, and our education system isn't up to creating a sufficiently talented workforce on our own. There's really no reason for optimism.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 5:12 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


wow this was derailed...i'm still waiting to hear about that two month radical diet that reversed diabetes.
posted by lslelel at 5:18 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Supposing you were serious about getting some sort of experimental prosthetic approved for use by the VA, I suspect the most effective method would not be some broadly-targeted public awareness campaign, but to instead target the very limited number of people who actually have a say in the decision regarding what prosthetics the VA uses. As far as I can tell from this document (cf. pp. 8-9), it comes down to one person: Dr. Lucille B. Beck, Chief Consultant, Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service (PSAS) SHG, VA Central Office.

Now maybe that wouldn't get you anywhere, because they already know all about these technologies and don't feel the budget exists for them, or feel the budget is better spent on other things, or just don't think they're effective. Who knows; it's pretty useless to speculate. But it's almost certainly not necessary to go out and convince 20% of the population -- yeah, that would work, if you could pull it off, but there are much more efficient ways to get your way within government most of the time, if you have specific and attainable goals.

More broadly, but it's been something I've been thinking about: one of the reasons I think progressive causes tend to fare so poorly in the U.S. is that those behind them tend to reach much too readily for the Hammer of Populist Appeal, neglecting the much more efficient Stiletto of Techno/Bureaucrat Persuasion. You don't see the Koch brothers or Wal-Mart going to the airwaves every time they want a pesky law changed; in fact when they do, it's generally because they're losing ground rather badly (e.g. Monsanto and those moronic HFCS ads). Since they seem to be rather good at getting their way, it might make sense to do what they do rather than its exact opposite.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:26 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


You just know rapamycin is going to turn people into vampires. Or rappers.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:43 PM on July 4, 2011


This isn't going to pay for itself through prosthetics. It's going to pay for itself through industrial robotics.
posted by dhartung at 5:59 PM on July 4, 2011


Monkey-controlled industrial marshmallow-eating robots, specifically. I, for one.
posted by hattifattener at 6:17 PM on July 4, 2011


We're already screaming ourselves hoarse arguing over how to pay for simple primary care, much less underwrite implants that allow paraplegics to play pong.

My dad's had, over his life, millions of dollars spent by his insurance company to do all sorts of surgeries and implant all sorts of high tech devices. Latest was a >$50,000 implantable pacemaker/cardioverter-defibrillator a few months ago. I don't see why you wouldn't expect this kind of spendy stuff to be bought for regular humans after enough time goes by. Can't imagine a bionic arm ought to cost you more than a couple hundred grand or something. People buy expensive cars, people have expensive unnecessary plastic surgery done. People will pay to get their limbs back and to see. Even if our healthcare system really does suck enough for this stuff will not be covered for most people, I still think there's going to be enough money in it and related technologies that there should be hope.
posted by floam at 7:37 PM on July 4, 2011


(related technologies: everything from exoskeletons, to general computer UIs, motion control, manufacturing robotics, remote-frobnicating robotics, whathaveyou...)
posted by floam at 7:40 PM on July 4, 2011


wait, so is faze sincerely complaining about lack of health/soc. services money or is this a routine or persona or something. i guess the only way to not be trolled is ignore it.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:09 PM on July 4, 2011


Exoskeletons for $50k seemed pretty reasonable.
posted by stbalbach at 8:50 PM on July 4, 2011


More of the same from Newsnight :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qt2jsMfMQ94
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 4:09 AM on July 5, 2011


As a transhumanist this excites me; I sure wish more people were also, then there would be more demand and drive these prices down.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 5:22 AM on July 5, 2011


Er, doesn't increased demand normally drive prices up?
posted by baf at 7:05 AM on July 5, 2011


The retinal implants that improve the sight of the near-blind makes me wonder what the implications are for augmented reality. Could you feed new images to those same implants?
posted by codacorolla at 9:15 AM on July 5, 2011


As a transhumanist this excites me

We can tell by the glowing, yes.
posted by griphus at 10:49 AM on July 5, 2011


Er, doesn't increased demand normally drive prices up?

It's a curve.
posted by floam at 2:59 PM on July 5, 2011


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