I'm not on a diet, I'm fasting.
March 4, 2018 12:10 PM   Subscribe

My smartwatch constantly measures my blood sugar by sending tiny electric shocks to my ear.

Satire, in case it wasn't clear (and I think only about 30% of this is physically possible in any case, so).
posted by queen anne's remorse (54 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
These are my friends. God help me.
posted by greermahoney at 12:21 PM on March 4 [8 favorites]


That's amazing. And horrifying. And reflects the level of health-related startup insanity all too well.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 12:25 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Making You Bored For Science: And reflects the level of health-related startup insanity all too well.

He's not kidding. A link to the careers page of Health IQ floated across my twitter feed today. It's... well... just take a look.
posted by Kattullus at 12:57 PM on March 4 [42 favorites]


Living in the Bay Area this did not read as satire at first which is both chilling and a mark of very good satire.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:58 PM on March 4 [12 favorites]


Kattullus: That's amazing. I mean, good luck to them, but... that's amazing.
posted by Leon at 1:01 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Holy cow, that Health IQ page reads like an ADA lawyer's dream...
posted by strixus at 1:02 PM on March 4 [22 favorites]


Kattullus that link is Horrifying
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:02 PM on March 4 [8 favorites]


"Historically accurate drinking water" is a fantastic turn of phrase.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:16 PM on March 4 [17 favorites]


Wow, this encapsulates so well why I'm not in the productivity and fitness channels in the Slacks I'm in. Y'all can keep your Pavloks and your links to Asian Efficiency.
posted by limeonaire at 1:20 PM on March 4


It's not something I do personally, but the whole Quantified Self thing is really much more interesting than this makes it out to be. On the one hand there is a lot of woo out there, but there's also some ideas that are potentially valuable, which shouldn't be lumped in with that stupid bio water or whatever. Specifically, I'm thinking about the people who closely monitor various health-related parameters all day, every day. Some people do it on spreadsheets, others do it on any number of apps out there. It can get really obsessive, and on the extreme end of things you have people recording stuff every 20 minutes.

Overall, though, a lot of the people who get into this sort of thing are people who may or may not suffer from chronic illnesses, who are unable to get a diagnosis from their doctor, and who therefore feel that their needs aren't being met by the healthcare system. They turn to monitoring their own health symptoms in an effort to create a more personalized medicine, because they feel that a general medical model leaves them in the dark (think about, for example, blood test results where the normal range is defined by a population average, where someone might be an outlier).

I first heard about this in a medical anthropology class, and I was really skeptical, and (hating Silicon Valley as I do) really wanted to brush it off as a SV bro-culture thing, but the more I read about it, the more sympathetic I was. I don't think it's generally a great idea to self-diagnose and then create your own treatment regiment, but I also have some chronic health issues that have never been addressed, and I can't stress enough how powerless you feel. That's where I think this satire really misses the mark, because a lot of people start doing this not out of some belief in masculine superiority, or to maximize their productivity, but because they're desperate to start feeling better.

No, we don't need people flat-out refusing to see doctors because they subscribe to the Lancet, but I think that's an extreme end of this and not what most people are after. It's not controversial that, say, women are very frequently not listened to when they complain of health issues, so it shouldn't be surprising that people feel like they need to take their health into their own hands. Again, not saying this is the future of medicine, but it's not really a joke either.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:46 PM on March 4 [12 favorites]


I thought that the McSweeney's piece was pretty good for the most part--it's about the presented attitude as much as the obsessiveness--but monitoring blood sugar really isn't a joke for a lot of people.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:54 PM on March 4 [6 favorites]


And, to be clear, "a lot of people" includes me.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:55 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


It's not the measuring blood sugar that's the joke, it's the doing it via electric shocks to the ear.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:56 PM on March 4 [13 favorites]


Also, read the link Kattullus linked- that kind of extreme bullshit is what's being satirized here, not people with chronic conditions.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:58 PM on March 4 [8 favorites]


Electric shocks to the ear as a reliable blood sugar measurement would be fantastic. There's no such electrochemistry that I know of, though, unfortunately.
posted by clawsoon at 2:01 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


I thought it was going to be an article about a revolutionary new CBGM system.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:02 PM on March 4 [7 favorites]


This is kind of like reading a Margaret Atwood novel, where you suspect that everything in it is based on something from real life.
posted by clawsoon at 2:09 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]


The extreme bullshit can still be useful to people, though. I mean startups are ridiculous, and that’s an insurance company anyway? but I’ve read about people using apps to monitor energy levels, or use home EEG devices, or whatever, because they want to feel more in control of their health. It sounds like woo bullshit except that there aren’t many alternatives when people feel their medical needs aren’t being met. Yeah, “raw water” is dumb bullshit, but I’m not about to laugh off the idea of regular automatic blood glucose monitoring just because we can imagine some tech bro doing it.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:15 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


Like, I’m not saying “don’t laugh at the thing in McSweeney’s,” I’m just saying there’s more depth to some of this. Yeah, it’s the attitude that’s being satirized, but some of the stuff joked about isn’t actually as inconsequential as it’s made out to be.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:19 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I'm not even American, let alone familiar with startup culture, can I just assume Kattullus' link is satire? Thing is you are all discussing it like it's serious, which concerns me, without that I would have just read it as satire without even thinking.
posted by deadwax at 2:29 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: isn’t actually as inconsequential as it’s made out to be.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:30 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


From Katullus' link:
FEATS OF STRENGTH

We end most standups with a feats of strengths competition. Our current record wall sit time is 5 minutes.
Do we get Festivus off?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:34 PM on March 4 [11 favorites]


I'm not even American, let alone familiar with startup culture, can I just assume Kattullus' link is satire? Thing is you are all discussing it like it's serious, which concerns me, without that I would have just read it as satire without even thinking.

The main FPP link is satire. Kattullus's link is [REAL]! and terrible!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:35 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I have shocked people in the ear (by turning the charge on their implant too high!) and it is not pleasant!
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:41 PM on March 4


Self-mortification as a means freeing your self for higher concerns, repentance, or to vicariously experience the divine through suffering is a longstanding practice through many different faiths. It's not unsurprising that it should find its way to the rites of the Silicon Valley technocrats.
posted by Grimgrin at 3:09 PM on March 4 [6 favorites]


I suppose it made them ear-itable?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:09 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]


I find it very believable that there are people for whom a "quantified self" is addressing a failure in the healthcare system. But I seriously doubt that this is where the majority of the money spent on wearables comes from (it's certainly not the market that these firms are targeting). A cynical aesthete might suggest that quantifying your life kills taking pleasure in those actions (as in intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation) and it looks like they would be right, according to a team at Duke.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 3:13 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Also, as someone with rubbish knees, that HealthIQ page is making me super glad I already have a job. (And on preview, I see strixus already called out the problem for ADA-compliant hiring...)
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 3:21 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


tiny electric shocks to my ear

Gah, I was prescribed (okay, okay, I was allowed to borrow) this device from a psychiatrist (who was a friend's aunt) which sent tiny electric shocks to my ears. I normally have no interest in sending tiny electric shocks to my ear, but she hooked me up with free x-rays once, so I felt obligated to at least try out her machine that sent tiny electric shocks to my ear. I can't remember what it was supposed to fix, but I don't think it did much other than hurt my ears.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:23 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Kattullus's link is [REAL]! and terrible!

Optimism

There is little need for a devil's advocates at a startup. The whole rest of the world is fighting against you. The inside of a startup should be a bastion of hope and optimism. If you are kind of a curmudgeon this is probably not the place for you.


KLAXON! KLAXON!

AH-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOGA!

BUBBLE!

REPEAT, BUBBLE!

THIS IS THE STRONGEST EVIDENCE SINCE THE SECRET THAT THERE IS A BIGASS FUCKIN BUBBLE SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHTMARE ITCLOWN ECONOMY!

SELL EVERYTHING AND RUN!


AH-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOGA!
posted by Don Pepino at 3:43 PM on March 4 [12 favorites]


I've toyed with the idea of a piano training app that gives a mild electric shock when one plays a wrong note. And a less mild electric shock if one keeps playing the same wrong note. Of course I'd only use it on myself.
posted by lagomorphius at 3:44 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Ah, Lagomorphius, sounds like you have some familiarity with skinner's research. I studied behavioral psychology, and I thought the same thing - but for me, my idea was to create a computer program that played a tone whenever I spelled something incorrectly. Similar idea (punishing stimulus).

However, Skinner's research showed that punishment makes a very poor learning tool - because it does not give you information about the right key to press, but instead about the wrong key to press. This is true for humans and animals - we don't learn instinct, we learn context-based complex behavior chains.

A better technique is called "differential reinforcement of successive approximations" aka "Shaping". This is where you have a target behavior (playing the piano song) and, over time, you reward better and better playthroughs. Also, it's useful to work backwards - first memorize the end of the song, then the bit before that and the end, then the bit before that, the next bit, and the end, until you've built up the whole song.
posted by rebent at 4:31 PM on March 4 [8 favorites]


The article is funny and spot-on for the type.

Healthiq, holy fucking shit.
posted by medusa at 4:34 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Electric shocks to the ear as a reliable blood sugar measurement would be fantastic. There's no such electrochemistry that I know of, though, unfortunately.

...

Yeah, “raw water” is dumb bullshit, but I’m not about to laugh off the idea of regular automatic blood glucose monitoring just because we can imagine some tech bro doing it.


I remembered reading at some point about Google’s healthcare arm working on contact lenses that could measure glucose constantly via tears, but upon further googling it looks like it didn’t work, unfortunately.
posted by Itaxpica at 4:44 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


People keep trying to make near-infrared work for glucose monitoring, too. So far, nothing has been able to match the specificity and accuracy of enzymes (glucose oxidase and glucose dehydrogenase) which evolved to bind to glucose. There is not yet any pure-technology solution, only a hybrid where we grow fungi, steal their enzymes, and attach the enzymes to electrodes.
posted by clawsoon at 5:36 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


I was prescribed (okay, okay, I was allowed to borrow) this device from a psychiatrist (who was a friend's aunt) which sent tiny electric shocks to my ears... I can't remember what it was supposed to fix

I think it might've worked?
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:02 PM on March 4 [18 favorites]


Don Pepino: That's unfair. "The whole world is against us so we must work tirelessly to bring our vision to fruition" is not inherently a sign of a bubble. It could be a cult. Hmmm... tech startup that goes all Jonestown. Possibly in a bid to secure insurance payouts. Maybe too on the nose?
posted by Grimgrin at 6:11 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I’m not about to laugh off the idea of regular automatic blood glucose monitoring just because we can imagine some tech bro doing it.

A friend of mine who is diabetic and works in medicine has been one of the testers for something that does this recently. Not sure of the details but it is some kind of implant or device and works with her smartphone. Its pretty neat.
posted by fshgrl at 6:56 PM on March 4


Re Healthiq: assuming this is a real business, what are they "shipping"?

I don't know Jack about fraudulent business practices, but I suspect this isn't what it seems. For starters, where are they going to find a group of grown-up willing to take that "cohesive huddle" thing seriously?
posted by she's not there at 7:10 PM on March 4


Every employee who joins takes a pledge to celebrate the health conscious while they work here and for the rest of their life

I...I... that’s now how jobs work, dudes. Once you stop paying me, I stop adhering to your rules. The end.
posted by greermahoney at 7:19 PM on March 4 [11 favorites]


Not sure of the details but it is some kind of implant or device and works with her smartphone. Its pretty neat.

The search term is CGM.

Currently available models are not so much an implant as an inconveniently bulky lump you stick to your belly, that has a little cannula arrangement that sits just under the skin. They don't run for very long before the (non-replaceable) batteries go out, and the associated consumables are horrendously expensive.

The manufacturers are also all about vendor lock-in, which says to me that they're fully aware that cheaper alternatives will become available quite soon.
posted by flabdablet at 7:53 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


CELEBRETORY HUDDLE
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:54 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Oh, we're well past the Dexcom Belly Lump. The Freestyle Libre Pro is basically a quarter that sticks on your arm for two weeks. You put a reader, or an Android phone near it, and it gives you historical glucose logs. You really do just forget it's there.

iPhone isn't supported because Apple is still in a NFC pissing match with Walmart. Not even joking. It's been years.

I doubt the author knew that the only weird thing about his glucose tracking is that it was on a watch. GlucoTrack is a thing too.
posted by effugas at 2:16 AM on March 5 [6 favorites]


Sleep? I don’t sleep. No, instead I engage in periodic rest-hacking.
I'm a bit concerned that I maybe identify too much with this...
Well, except for maybe not the raw pond water or whatever.

I would still like the automatic blood glucose monitoring though, though maybe the electro shocks to the ears would be detrimental to oomox.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:58 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


That HealthIQ jobs page has been edited:

> We received recent feedback on our careers page and how we describe our culture and workplace as somewhat of a health-topia. It appears some have interpreted it as a bro-topia. Wow, that wasn’t what we intended. We are a highly diverse (45% female)....

Archive.org has older versions of the page but since the site uses JavaScript to generate the page HTML, the content is not retrievable; all you get is a placeholder animation.
posted by ardgedee at 5:06 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


I tell you what, I wish we had a gym and showers at the office. Maybe not right in the middle of the floor but right there.
posted by thelonius at 5:10 AM on March 5


Well, unless someone copied the text or took screenshots of everything, it looks like it's gone from the world. I went looking for the tweet which had alerted me to it, and it does include a screenshot of some of the more egregious sections. Though missing was my favorite bit of ridiculousness, the phrase: "We believe winners have always won."
posted by Kattullus at 5:43 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Well, unless someone copied the text or took screenshots of everything, it looks like it's gone from the world. I went looking for the tweet which had alerted me to it, and it does include a screenshot of some of the more egregious sections.
- posted by Kattullus

Oh good because i was looking at the live link and was just like... 'this sounds okay to me? What am I missing?' I really struggle to find time to exercise and the idea of an office gym and free healthy lunch options sounds, honestly, really pretty good to me.

But having looked at the screenshot, I get it now. No feats of strength for this weakling; they probably wouldn't want to hire me anyway.
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:20 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


I think this has some of the origial language intact. Here's the winners part:
A track record of success. We believe winners have always won. We believe, too many people have only had success by association. Their resume says they went to Stanford, worked at Google, Uber, etc but it is unclear what they really contributed or accomplished at these places...
posted by Karmakaze at 6:24 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


Looking at the research page from Kattullus's link to the Health IQ startup providing life insurance for healthy people, in the first figure THOSE WITH HIGH HEALTH IQ LIVE LONGER the percent decrease in mortality doesn't look correct. Shouldn't a 33% reduction in mortality shown on the left in men be less of a decrease than a 47% reduction as shown in women?

Anyway, why would someone buy life insurance, which is a long-term investment, from a startup? More startups fail than succeed. You have a greater chance of losing your policy within a few years than of keeping it.

I do like what they say near the end of the page that GEN X HAS HIGHER HEALTH IQ THAN ALL OTHER GENERATIONS. OH YES WE DO!
posted by waving at 7:13 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


You have a greater chance of losing your policy within a few years than of keeping it.

On the upside, you'd have the peace of mind that comes only from knowing that the folks who picked such a superb color scheme for your policy document's meaningless bar graphs were also hell on wheels at wall sits.
posted by flabdablet at 8:08 AM on March 5 [8 favorites]


I can't imagine how the HealthIQ office smells...
posted by Marky at 2:23 PM on March 5


By the by, a very complete survey of why non-invasive glucose monitors don’t work. (PDF)


Or to be fair, why they don’t work yet.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:55 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


By the by, a very complete survey of why non-invasive glucose monitors don’t work. (PDF)

Wait... strips cost 5 cents to make, and they only cost 21 cents on Medicare? This news needs to reach Canada.
posted by clawsoon at 8:20 PM on March 5


« Older The beat goes on   |   Rock, star Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments