Moving from Internet of Things to Internet of Bodies

In an extract from his new book Growing Young, Sergey Young discusses how wearable, portable, embeddable and ingestible tech will deliver early diagnoses, radically reducing disease and death.

Longevity.Technology: Over the next few weeks, we’ll be serialising Sergey Young’s new book The Science and Technology of Growing Young ahead of its launch on 24th August. Young is a longevity investor and the founder of the Longevity Vision Fund; he is on a mission to extend healthy lifespans of at least one billion people and his new book seeks to detail the practical steps people can take to live healthily to 100 and beyond, as well as offering his perspective on what cutting-edge breakthroughs are on the longevity horizon. Are you ready to live to 150? It’s happening whether you’re ready or not, says Young.

It is twenty years in the future. You wake up and glance at your smart watch. It is 7am, your heart rate is 60 beats per minute, and your blood pressure is 120/80, so your watch tells you, there are no signs of atrial fibrillation, stroke, seizure, or other dangers. Having established that, you rise out of bed and rub the sleep from your eyes. Invisible, long-wear contact lenses scan deeply into your retinas for the first indicator of infectious disease or macular degeneration. All clear. Your shower runs a full-body scan, before your ultrasound bathroom scale checks your organs, soft tissues, and arteries for any signs of tumors, disease, and obstructed blood flow. Your diagnostic toothbrush and microbiome-monitoring commode watch for dangerous changes in your cells and gut, while your computer-vision-equipped bedroom mirror checks your skin for potentially dangerous mole growth.

As you sit down for breakfast, a tiny chip embedded at the tip of a blood vessel just beneath the surface of your skin tracks nutrients, immune cells, vitamins, minerals, foreign substances, and disease indicators. After breakfast, you begin your workday, your phone silently analyzing your voice for signs of cognitive and neurological decline, while also inspecting tiny particles in your breath to pick up the first indicators of respiratory disease, viral infection, and simple chronic halitosis. And finally, when you lie down to sleep at night, your bed monitors your movement, temperature, breathing, and other signals that might indicate the onset of ill health.

These wearable, embeddable, ingestible, and portable devices collecting your health data are not working alone. They are all connected in an Internet of Body (IoB), working to amass a 360 degree view of your health. This constant torrent of health data flows through the 8G Wi-Fi hub to your smartphone, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze the information in real time, and at all times. You know instantly when an important gene has undergone a dangerous mutation, or when a potentially cancerous cell has begun to multiply. The health data that these devices quietly collect about you are compared to the entirety of global health knowledge, including thousands of recently published medical papers and scientific reports, hospital records, and the data collected from the IoB networks of billions of your fellow Earthlings.

You no longer feel anxious about your annual physical exam at your family doctor, dentist, or OB-GYN, because your IoB has already given you and your doctor a pretty good idea of how you are doing. Likewise, you sleep well, knowing that you and your family members will never face a sudden, unexpected health crisis. It is not just you and your family, though – diseases are routinely diagnosed early and accurately, preventing tens of millions of premature deaths all around the world. Rich, poor, urban, and rural citizens alike have equal access to this early warning system, without ever having to visit a doctor.

And the best part of all? You probably won’t really have to wait twenty years for this to become real, as some of it is already here with us today.

We have imagined a world where your personal diagnostic devices will all be connected in a kind of Internet of Body – to each other, to apps that help you and your medical provider monitor your health, and to huge central repositories of data from individuals all around the world.

This data will fuel powerful machine learning algorithms designed not only to detect and diagnose disease but also to prescribe and even administer the right treatments in real time. Your anonymized data, added to that of your family members, your neighbors, and other individuals using this technology everywhere around the globe, are what will really make the potential of the IoB come alive.

A new class of artificial intelligence will combine your whole genome sequence, your epigenetic assessment, your microbiome fingerprint, your family disease history, your nutrition and lifestyle choices, and all other known baseline data about you. It will cross-reference this information against diagnostic data from hundreds of millions of individuals and billions of devices around the world, plus data from hospital and health center records, mortality records, drug indications databases, and tens of millions of medical papers in the National Library of Medicine. It will then calculate all of this data together, consider every cause, condition, surgery, pharmaceutical, clinical study, risk, and statistical probability, and then make a diagnosis whose margin of error is so low that it will be statistically insignificant. The Internet of Body will not stop with a one-off diagnosis, though.

The algorithms will continue monitoring your DIY diagnostics, learning from your health data, and offer ongoing, up-to-date monitoring for the rest of your life.

The ability to process biological data from multiple diagnostic sources is not only about early and accurate diagnosis; it is also about leveraging that personal data to prescribe the best possible treatment for you and you alone. Health care is about to radically change – moving not just from a reactive to a proactive footing but also shifting focus from the universal to the personal. This is the fascinating and hopeful world of precision medicine.