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The debate over moving toward a national database of digital health records continues to rumble in the political distance. To those who are sick, though, the issue is immediate.

5 min read

A close friend of mine, Tom, has been diagnosed with the rare genetic condition alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Its progress now requires him to seek a liver transplant. Because Tom isn't in critical condition, he is low on the transplant donor waiting list. He can, however, take advantage of the living donor liver transplant technique, which uses a portion of a compatible liver. A number of family members and friends have volunteered to be tested to see if their livers are suitable, so he's hoping that sometime soon he will be able to get a new liver.

As you might expect, before you can get a transplant, you need to pass a battery of tests to see whether you can withstand the surgery. Tom recently updated me on his latest screening trials and tribulations.

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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
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

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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