Speaking at the 30th anniversary TED event in Vancouver earlier this week, Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page hypothesized a system that would make people’s medical records available anonymously to research doctors for the sake of having access to a wide pool of medical information.
He also used the idea to make a compelling point about how and why we share data online.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone’s medical records were available anonymously to research doctors?” Page said. “When someone accesses your record — a doctor — you could see which doctor accessed it and why. You could maybe learn about what conditions you have. I think if we just did that, we could save 100,000 lives this year.”
Page notably had vocal cord nerve issues in 2012 that resulted in the temporary loss of his voice. It was a rare condition with very little information on it available. He described being embarrassed to go public with the news, but did so at cofounder Sergey Brin’s urging. When he did, he “got all this information, got a survey done on people who have [similar medical conditions].”
According to Page, there’s a lesson to be learned here with regard to sharing information online. In light of the NSA’s domestic spying controversy, many are tempted to go into lockdown and never volunteer data again. But he clearly believes that sharing information — in the appropriate context — can be a powerful tool for world change. Had he never revealed the specifics of his vocal affliction, he might not have found someone who could help him get his voice back.
“We’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater and we’re not thinking about the tremendous good that can come from people sharing information with the right people in the right ways,” he said.
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