IBM exec’s Ridgefield ‘smart home’ has attitude

I hope this will be my last post about the Ridgefield home. Trayor Lesnock, president and founder of Platinum Luxury Auctions and I were interviewed today by Anna Quinn at Danbury’s newstimes. The full story is here. The Wall Street Journal story is here and the Platinum Luxury Auction page is here. The video with the drone is here. Back to healthcare and technology below.

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Growing An Ear On A Forearm With Autologous Cartilage

Artificial ear

Photo Credit: U.S. Army

This story may seem unbelievable at first, but it is true. A 21-year-old Army soldier was in a car accident which caused her severe bodily harm. In addition to numerous wounds, her ear was severed. Army plastic surgeons did an amazing total ear reconstruction. They harvested cartilage from the soldier’s ribs. Then they carved a new ear from the cartilage, which was then placed under the skin of the forearm to allow the ear to grow. The ear was then transplanted to the soldier’s head. She had no loss of hearing, and after some time, is expected to look perfectly normal.

The cartilage from the soldier’s hips is called autologous, meaning it came from the same person. It may turn out more and more cures come from ourselves. I have written a number of stories here about pluripotent stem cells. We all have them, and they are capable of being repurposed into different kinds of cells. Stem cells have been used as the “ink” to 3-D print organ tissues and, eventually, complete organs. Some stem cell-based tissues have been implanted and others are used to test the efficacy of new drugs. For example, cardiac tissue has been created in the lab which acts like a heart in key aspects. It will be used to test new drugs. Better to test unproven drugs in a petri dish than in a human. Exciting times are ahead.

Humans are gradually looking more like Robots. Robots are gradually looking more like humans. The Singularity predicts in the not very distant future, we will not be able to tell the difference between biological and non-biological “beings”. I will be writing a chapter about this in Robot Attitude. I hope to make considerable progress on the new book in August. In the meantime, consider reading Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare for more about stem cells and regenerative medicine, and Election Attitude – How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy to learn more about elections and voting in America. 

Source: Army surgeon transplants ear ‘grown’ on Soldier’s forearm | Article | The United States Army

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House Auction

Whipstick Office

I have gotten quite a few email and social media questions about why I auctioning my home. It starts back in 2001 when my wife and I designed the home with an architect, landscape architect, and home automation consultant. We wanted the new home to be beautiful but full of advanced infrastructure and technology. I said I would live there forever. Things change. The big change is with children. We are blessed to have four of them. They loved to visit the Whipstick house at holiday times. The pool table, kitchen, and 102-inch theatre got plenty of use. However, as the children got older, got married, and had children of their own, things changed. Some moved far away, and they did not visit as often. When children get married, they have in-laws. At holiday times, the children need to see both sets of grandparents. 

After being married 50 years, we are happy to live anywhere, but the big house became more than we needed. We decided to downsize to a Toll Brothers carriage house about 12 miles away. We are quite happy there. I miss the office, but was able to get the same cabinet maker to use the same South African ribbon mahogany to remodel a room in the carriage house to be my office. It is not as large, but it has the same ceiling coffers and features. I no longer need so many book shelves and file drawers, since all my documents are all digital. In fact in the new office, I have no file drawers.

Now the question is how to sell such a special home. As I told the Wall Street Journal, I like the auction model because it is action oriented. See quotations in the WSJ article. I learned about Platinum Luxury Auctions from a friend, I checked out their website, and visited a property they were auctioning not too far away. I liked their approach and professionalism. After signing up with them, I was quite impressed with the marketing program they launched last week. The producer came in with some amazing cameras and a high-end drone. See the video from the drone here. The website, video, and WSJ article are getting a lot of hits from all over the world. The showings began this week. A very professional business development manager will be at the house every day for three weeks from 12 to 5. 

Some say an auction is a risky approach to selling a home. I say relying completely on the traditional home selling method is also risky as the carrying costs mount. One is wait and see, the other is make something happen through an aggressive marketing program and professional handling of bidder interest. I will know if it was a good decision on July 28. I am optimistic. If you have a friend who is looking for a Ridgefield, Connecticut outpost, please share this with them.

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Falling in the Hospital

Hospital Bed

Most seniors fear falling more than disease. Hospitals fear falls also. Between 700,000 and 1 million patients fall in hospitals each year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.[i] Most patients who fall are not seriously injured, but the cost of one-third of falls resulting in a serious fall-related injury is more than $13,000, and the patient’s length of stay increases by an average of 6.27 days.[ii] In 2015, medical costs for falls in the U.S. totaled more than $50 billion.[iii]

Qventus, Inc., a Mountain View, California, technology startup is determined to reduce the number of falls in the hospital. The traditional method of prevention is to respond to a call button alarm. If you have spent any time in a hospital, you know the alarms are nearly continuous. It is impossible for the already busy nurses and aides to respond quickly to every alarm. Qventus is applying AI and machine learning to the problem.

The data used to build the software model includes call lights, bed alarms, electronic medical records, patient age, patient medications and when last administered, and the vitals last recorded by a nurse or aide. By applying machine learning technology to this assortment of data, the Qventus software can identify patterns. With enough historical data, the company believes it can accurately identify patients at high risk of a fall. The software would send a special alarm directly to an electronic badge worn by an appropriate nurse for quick response.

At one California hospital, use of the Qventus AI software has resulted in a 29% reduction in falls since 2014.[iv] Some large investors are believers in the Qventus vision, and have invested over $40 million in the company. The cash infusion will enable the company to expand significantly beyond the handful of hospitals it now has as customers.

[i] “Fall Prevention Toolkit Facilitates Customized Risk Assessment and Prevention Strategies, Reducing Inpatient Falls,”  AHRQ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2018),
[ii] Lola Butcher, “The No-Fall Zone,”  Hospitals & Health Networks (2013),
[iii] Emma Ockerman, “AI Hospital Software Knows Who’s Going to Fall,”  Bloomberg Businessweek (2018),
[iv] Ibid.

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Regulation or Strangulation?

Internet Regulation

Regulation is needed in many areas, like banking and healthcare. Sometimes,  however, regulators get carried away, and strangle innovation with too much regulation. This almost happened with Bitcoin. The regulation we need I call light regulation. In 1995, I was Chairman of the Global Internet Project. The board and I traveled around the world meeting with government leaders and policy makers to convince them not to regulate the Internet. The Internet was an infant then, and we were concerned the growth and development of the Internet would be strangled with too much regulation. The U.S. Congress was clueless about the Internet (and still is as demonstrated by the incredible questions asked while Mark Zuckerberg testified). The Europeans, however, were aggressive and proposed a number of strong regulations. One was to impose a “bit tax” on all information which flowed through the Internet. A second was to ban the use of caching, which is what enables the Internet to perform well. Fortunately, both of these ideas went nowhere.

Brussels shifted its efforts to privacy. The result was The European Data Protection Regulation which went into effect on May 25th, 2018 in all member states to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe. It also applies to any company in the world which has European customers or users. This is why you have been seeing so many privacy policy pop ups and emails. Unlike how I felt in the mid-1990s, the time is right and the need is strong for privacy regulation of the Internet. The only question is whether the GDPR may be overkill. The 261 page beast has 11 chapters and 99 articles. Lawyers and consultants love it. I am cautiously optimistic it will be tolerable and helpful worldwide.

On a happy note, on Thursday, July 5, the European Parliament voted down the Copyright Directive, which had been approved by the EU’s Legal Affairs Committee. The goal behind the legislation was to change how copyright works on the Internet. There are many parts to it, but the two I was most concerned about are Article 11 and Article 13. With the strong pressure from media companies and publishers, it is possible the articles could be modified and voted on again.

Article 11 would have enforced strict checks on links within articles. For example, if I write a post about artificial cartilage and provide a link to an article at The Mayo Clinic, I would have been required to pay for a license to do so. Article 13 would have made publishers responsible for the content they post on their site, including comments posted by readers. So if you posted a comment about an article and included a picture of a link to another site which included copyrighted material, the publisher website would have been liable. This issue has been fought for decades.

Article 11 & 13 could have been a disaster for the Internet. Big publishers, media companies, and Internet giants have the resources to manage the regulations with big resources – but not so for small ones.. Although the regulation was European, millions of web sites of all sizes have European customers or readers (as I do). Small companies and thought leaders would not have been able to pay to provide links. The result could have been a global reduction in the sharing of ideas and innovation. Good ideas and thoughts do not all come from big organizations. One might argue to the contrary.  Without verifiable links, the regulation could have given rise to the spread of real fake news.

The really good news this week is members of the European Parliament agreed to allow internet voting. This will allow EU citizens to vote from non-EU countries and, presumably, allow expatriates in the U.S. or Asia to vote. In the U.S., we continue to disenfranchise 100 million potential voters because of our antiquated system, and a United States Senator sick at home cannot cast a vote in the Senate. Read more in Election Attitude – How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy.

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