The Amazon whisperer, invisible interfaces, FDA vs 23andMe, and robots usher in a new polical order

A backchannel look at what's on our radar.

The Radar team does a lot of sharing in the backchannel. Here’s a look at a selection of stories and innovative people and companies from around the web that have caught our recent attention. Have an interesting tidbit to contribute to the conversation? Send me an email or ping me on Twitter

  • The edges of connected realities — Steve Mason’s TEDxSF talk, in which he discusses the evolution of connected environments and quotes Yves Behar: “The interface of the future is invisible.” (Jenn Webb, via Jim Stogdill, via Rachel Kalmar) Mason’s talk is a must-watch, so I’ll just provide direct access:
  • Why the FDA is targeting Google-backed 23andMe: Unnecessary MRIs, mastectomiesChristina Farr wrote: “One San Francisco-based neurologist, who asked to remain anonymous, told me that some of her healthiest patients — all 23andMe customers — have begun demanding unnecessary and expensive MRI tests for Alzheimer’s disease. ’23andMe’s test is creating chaos with people in their 20s and 30s,’ she said. ‘They generate havoc and walk away.’” (Via Jim Stogdill)
  • A Letter I Will Probably Send to the FDA — From the other side of the FDA vs 23andMe spat, Dr. Scott Alexander wrote: “…23andMe has raised awareness of genetics among the general population and given them questions and concerns, usually appropriate, which they can discuss with their doctor. Their doctor can then follow up on these concerns. Such followup may involve reassurance, confirmation with other genetic testing, confirmation through other diagnostic modalities, or referral to another professional such as a genetic counselor. In my experience personal genomic results do not unilaterally determine a course of treatment, but may influence an ambiguous clinical picture in one direction or the other, or be a useful factor when deciding between otherwise equipotent medications. Banning the entire field of personal genomics in one fell swoop would eliminate a useful diagnostic tool from everyone except a few very wealthy patients.” (Via Mike Loukides)
  • Chaim Pikarski, the Amazon whispererJason Feifer wrote: “[Pikarski] has an entire team of people who read reviews on Amazon, looking for moments when people say, ‘I wish this speaker were rechargeable.’ Pikarski then makes a rechargeable version. … This is the heart of C&A: Each buyer has a specialty — beach products, cellular accessories, and so on. Their job is to scour the web to learn all the features people wish a product had, and hire a manufacturer, often in China, to make the desired version. (Via Tim O’Reilly, via Kevin Slavin)
  • The Robots Are HereTyler Cowen wrote: “The rise of smart machines — technologies that encompass everything from artificial intelligence to industrial robots to the smartphones in our pockets — is changing how we live, work and play. Less acknowledged, perhaps, is what all this technological change portends: nothing short of a new political order. The productivity gains, the medical advances, the workplace reorganizations and the myriad other upheavals that will define the coming automation age will create new economic winners and losers; it will reorient our demographics; and undoubtedly, it will transform what we demand from our government.” (Via Jenn Webb)

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