Health IC Summit postponed

The topic is hot, the speakers great,  the sponsors excited, the venue terrific. We just didn’t get the registrants signed up. From the organizer’s note:

The Health Innovation & Convergence Summit (Health IC Summit),
originally slated for January 23-25th at the Roosevelt Hotel in New
York City, has been postponed. We have created a powerful conference
program of industry leaders to discuss "disruptive innovations" in
healthcare. Despite the compelling, timely subject and a faculty of
pioneering scientists, medical innovators and business leaders, we do
not feel we have generated the critical mass to deliver a high impact
conference experience to all involved. Therefore we’ve decided to
postpone the event to the Fall timeframe. We would like to thank you
for your interest in participating. Please sign up below to receive


TV Addicts: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet


Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ("chick-sent-me-high-yee") and
media studies professor Robert Kubey reported on people’s reaction to
television in a 2002 article in Scientific American, Television Addiction is No Mere Metaphor (SciAm subscription required although it’s posted elsewhere). Asking the question, "What is it about TV that has such a hold on us?" they note:

part, the attraction seems to spring from our biological "orienting
response" ….  It is part of our evolutionary heritage, a built-in
sensitivity to movement and potential predatory threats. Typical
orienting reactions include dilation of the blood vessels to the brain,
slowing of the heart, and constriction of blood vessels to major muscle
groups. Alpha waves are blocked for a few seconds …. The brain
focuses its attention on gathering more information while the rest of
the body quiets.

Couch potato-ism is in our DNA.
We’re hypnotized by the colors and the movement, not necessarily the
programming. The "formal"  features of television — quick edits, pans,
zooms, transitions, unexpected audio — activate the orienting
response, whether we’re watching Playhouse 90 or When Animals Attack.

Most research focuses on watching TV in a living room; most was done
in the days of the single screen. As video pervades everyday life, our
orienting response may get triggered during mobile phone calls,
elevators rides, ATM withdrawals and drives down the digitally-signed
highway. If TV is addictive, some people are going to want to control
it, restrict it, even ban it all together.

Program note: We’re preparing a briefing on anti-TV culture for a March edition of the Pervasive.TV Report newsletter. Sign up today.

Analog Cut-Off Date: 284 Million TVs Go Blank


Commenter Rachael Maloof thinks this discussion is bogus, that "the
only people who will be affected are people that still use antennae’s
to get a signal." Well, yeah, but that’s a lot of TV sets — 15 million
— and people are still buying soon-to-be-obsolete analog TVs without digital converter boxes this Christmas. Plus the 284 million existing sets won’t be able to disconnect cable and get signals over-the-air. Columnist Michael Rogers at MSNBC points out that:

…85 percent of
Americans now get all their television from cable or satellite
providers, so for the most part the change-over won’t affect them.  (A
lot of those households, however, also have second and third sets in
basements or bedrooms that do rely on over-the-air signals.) The real problem is the 15 million or so U.S. households whose only
television service comes over the air. For these people, predominately
lower-income and disproportionately black and Hispanic, the cut-off
will be bad news indeed.

taking over in Congress don’t like the current legislation’s provision
of $1.5 billion to subsidize converter boxes for the poor. In a
post-election letter to the head of the National  Telecommunications and Information Administration, they said:

"We continue to believe this plan is highly flawed and disadvantages
the poor, the elderly, minority groups and those with multiple analog
television sets in their homes," the letter, dated Wednesday, said.

also wrote that the $5 million budgeted for outreach, to get the word
out about the transition, is "woefully inadequate." The DTV transition
date is still fixed, but there will no doubt be a lot of wheeling and
dealing about who covers the costs.



Nab2005bugSamdonaldson_breakfastAt a breakfast meeting yesterday moderated by ABC’s Sam Donaldson (left), seven Congressmen and Senators discussed the U.S. government’s plan to shut down a quarter of a billion TV sets on December 31, 2006  [… maybe].

As part of a 10 year-old plan to revise U.S. bandwidth usage, Congress decreed that U.S. television broadcasters would convert to digital transmission, in part to free up spectrum for wireless communications. Once the cut over to a digital signal was made — once a station could show that 85% of its viewers take the digital signal —  analog transmission would be ended, plunging all the older, non-digital-ready sets into static.

Continue Reading →

UK Consumers Get Some Choice

In an eerie reflection of the U.S. debate over school vouchers, healthcare experts in England are divided over a new policy that allows patients covered under the National Health Service (NHS) to choose the best hospital for their non-emergency treatments. From BBC News:

Ministers say the Patient Choice reforms will cut waiting times and drive up standards of care. But union leaders fear it could force unpopular hospitals to close and that patients could make wrong choices.

The nationalized British system is notorious for its waiting lists. Last month, UK Health Minister Lord Warner bragged that the NHS will meet its commitment to deliver a maximum wait of six months for an operation. The average wait time is two months. Warner continued:

"But we want to cut waits even further. That is why the NHS is now working towards an even more challenging target. By 2008, no one will wait longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to the start of hospital treatment. Not only will this guarantee patients more certainty about their treatment, it will also finally end the NHS’ hidden waiting lists."

Aubrey de Grey on 60 Minutes

60min Last night, CBS News 60 Minutes covered "The Quest for Immortality" featuring an interview with Aubrey de Grey, keynote speaker at the Health IC Summit that I’m chairing in New York later this month. Aubrey’s matter-of-fact approach to the issues of extreme life extension, what he calls Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, makes it difficult to argue that aging is inevitable or that we shouldn’t try to find a cure for it. Ironically, his mildly skeptical and long-past-retirement-age interviewer was Morley Safer (age 74) who works with Andy Rooney (age 86) and Mike Wallace (age 87) on a program whose average viewer is pushing 60. The balancing view came from Jay Olshansky at the University of Illinois. It mainly amounts to "the search for immortality is always futile."

The web video starts with a short piece on Ray Kurzweil, although I don’t remember that from last night’s broadcast. The site has Firefox compatibility problems, so you may need to use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to see the clip. You can get the transcript here.

Aubrey de Grey’s Health IC Summit keynote is scheduled for Wednesday, January 25, 2006.