Technology blogger Shelly Palmer has a futuristic warning in his recent post, "Google = Skynet … Yikes!"
Will the IT future be a dystopia?
Palmer began with a profession of love for technology and then fretted about the latest Google announcement on privacy, contemplating a frightening future of giant databases filled with personally identifying information (prescription records among them).
Also this week, electronic prescription company SureScripts issued a report on the inverse relationship between the amount of a patient's drug plan co-payment and willingness of a patient to show up and pay for the prescription—a good use of information in pursuit of better public policy. SureScripts said its review was based on more than 40 million prescription drug records, which were drawn from diverse sources. SureScripts garnered this information, for the most part, without patient consent, but it said the data had been de-identified so that no patient records were compromised.
Technology is intrinsically neither good nor bad. But given the dark side of humankind, technology can be used as a tool for bad as well as good. It could become, with tomorrow's increasingly sophisticated capabilities—as Palmer frets—an agent of unprecedented evil.
The point is that there have been some sober assessments already about the pros and cons of health information technology. In my view, there need to be a more. When it comes to the application of our new technologies, there can be no presumption of innocence. That's in part because we as human beings are not innocent, but also because the technologies have become so ubiquitous and powerful.
Palmer is right in concluding "the time has come for learned colleagues to start a Socratic discourse about what parts of the genie need to stay in the bottle."
Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn.
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