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Paying for Genetic Data With Cryptocurrency

A startup is betting on the blockchain to get people to sequence and share their genomes

3 min read
Illustration of blocks in the shape of DNA
Illustration: iStockphoto

As the cost of DNA sequencing continues to drop, academics and biotech companies have been waiting for more individuals to sequence and share their full genomes. But so far, that isn’t happening.

Personal genomics companies, such as 23andMe and Ancestry, perform consumer genotyping, a relatively inexpensive process that identifies single DNA letters at regular intervals across the genome. While such genotyping has become popular, academics, medical researchers, and pharmaceutical companies want something different. They seek whole genome sequences—every single one of the roughly 6.4 billion letters in the human genome—to do research, develop drugs, and more. But they’re not getting them: Consumers have been loath to pay upwards of US $1,000 for full genome sequencing and even more wary of sharing that detailed, private data.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
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A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
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Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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