What breaks my heart is that this kind of tragedy is avoidable. He was only 51; died of colon cancer. All we need is to design a wearable device which continuously monitors your body for changes that correlate with "might be developing cancer". (An undershirt, for example.)
This is a solvable problem. Cancer causes measurable (but typically unnoticed) changes to the rest of your body. If it can be measured, it can be monitored; and when that change is detected, a quick trip to the doctor's office would likely save the next 30 years of your life (if it was indeed the very early stages of cancer).
Cancer is beatable; we simply need to beat it before it has the chance to incubate.
This is a problem that I would like to personally work on, but unfortunately it would take at least a year to arrive at a feasible design. It'd need only a small investment (~$1M) but I doubt any investor would be interested in "zero profitability for at least 12 months".
Unfortunately I don't think that a "continuous body monitoring device" will help. I'm no doctor but I have read enough on cancer to safely affirm that the number of "markers" associated to the plethora of cancers will trigger so many false positive to make the device useless.
Another alternative is to go to a doctor of nuclear medicine that has a MRT and tell him to make a full body scan. As long you don't have some metal implanted in your body this is harmless. Then ask him to see if anything is wrong with your body. Usually they will give you a DVD with the data they recorded for free. You can then take this DVD and give it to another doctor.
With a full body scan you can find an incredible wide range of things that could be wrong.
As far I know no insurance on the world pays for this without indication but its not really that expensive. Depending on the MRT device that you prefer and the country you are living in it costs about 3000$.
If you are afraid of a "closed MRT" there are also open MRTs:
Hardware and R&D investments are regularly considerably greater than a million dollars. Lots of investors are interested in zero profitability for 12 months (assuming you actually have a business case and a viable product). Outside of the silicon valley software tech bubble, hardware design and manufacture is still an expensive business. I know of a number of companies building machinery for renewable energy generation that have received collectively tens or perhaps hundreds of millions of pounds in funding with no short term profits likely. There's also a lot of medical engineering research going on in universities, which doesn't generally have the same profit requirements attached to it.
However, your concepts sound like vague ideas rather than anything based in reason or science. One dimensional sensing (eg a heartbeat monitor) is fairly easy,but good and reliable multi-variable embedded sensing is hard.
In a later post, you mentioned mapping teeth with a toothbrush. That's not a trivial thing to do - without a fixed frame of reference it would not only be very complex mathematically, but also pretty unreliable. Similarly, chemically analysing anything is not something you can easily do in an embedded and reliable fashion.
A million dollars would not get you very far with embedded, reliable chemical testing. You clearly don't even have a concept of how to do it.
Hey, thank you for the critique. It's a rare gift to find someone who's willing to disagree + solid reasoning + references to existing work. Thank you.
In a later post, you mentioned mapping teeth with a toothbrush. That's not a trivial thing to do - without a fixed frame of reference it would not only be very complex mathematically, but also pretty unreliable.
Of course. That is why I'd incorporate a frame of reference into the design of the toothbrush. The point of the post was to quickly paint a picture of what "the future" could be like if I were given time and freedom to pursue these designs. I assumed that if anyone was interested in the details, then they'd simply ask me to provide them.
The toothbrush contains two technologies that enable it to build a map of the surfaces of the teeth you brush. #1: a three-axis gyroscope + accelerometer (e.g. same as an iPhone's). This gets me the rotation of the toothbrush relative to the direction of gravity. Now, of course, this would not be enough by itself; we also need some way of determining the position of the bristles within the mouth. This is accomplished with sensor #2: along the length of the toothbrush near the mouthpiece, there are dozens of tiny light sensors. The more the toothbrush is inserted into the mouth, the less light that reaches the light sensors. This gets you a reading of "how deeply is the toothbrush into the mouth?" which you can easily combine with "what are the current angles of rotation?" to conclude e.g. "the bristles are therefore currently brushing the front surface of your bottom-left-rearmost molar."
Light sensors are easy to work with, but probably not the most reliable way of doing this. I would look into using some kind of sonar sensor, possibly. Or you could do something as simple as "detect which part of the toothbrush that your lips are currently touching"; that might work too.
The goal is straightforward: "to determine an accurate-enough approximation of how deeply the toothbrush is currently inserted into the mouth", because that can be combined with the rotation angles to give you a solid frame of reference.
I of course don't know which technique will prove to be the most pragmatic, since I haven't tested any them yet. =) This is a solvable problem, however.
I've got to run for now, so unfortunately I ran out of time to address your other [excellent] points. But I'm not sure anyone is even reading this discussion anymore anyway. Feel free to post a reply if you'd like to continue, or shoot me an email (see profile). Thanks again!
palish, if you have enough knowledge and are willing to invest the time given ~$1M, seriously make a kickstarter project. If this is actually both possible and doable like you say (I don't know anything about oncology), assuming it's practical enough for everyone to wear and doesn't have harmful side effects, this has got to be just about the biggest contribution to humanity that you have the power to make. (I imagine it would also be rather lucrative.) You have my word that I'd advertise the kickstarter project at the very least by word of mouth, and I'm sure many others would do the same.
Anything medical has extra risk. What if the device doesn't work perfectly? When my phone doesn't work perfectly, the call drops... but when my cancer device doesn't work perfectly I become over confident, and maybe miss other signs. Its a potential liability issue.
Using Kickstarter is a good idea, but I'm struggling with the moral implications of it. The chance that I'll succeed is inherently small, and I'd feel absolutely awful if that $1M wound up not resulting in some useful contribution.
Still, I have ideas, along with the skill necessary to test them. And if I were independently wealthy, then this is how I'd spend my time...
If I were to Kickstart this, then I'd keep a public daily journal of my efforts and short-term goals. There would be a webpage showing exactly how the money was being spent. I'd make everything as transparent as possible.
The thing is, most of my ideas will turn out to be impractical, but there's no way to know which until I test each of them. That process would require money from people who are okay with gambling on the off-chance that one of my ideas turn out to work. (Sidenote: if I happen to succeed, then I want to repay the people who funded me, at the very least.)
Here is a glimpse into the future I envision:
- A sensor in your bed scans for tumors as you sleep.
- If you have a heart attack, a sensor in your clothing immediately detects it and pushes an alert to your phone, which dispatches emergency services to your exact GPS location. (Most people keep their phone in their pocket or purse, so this seems doable.) A speaker embedded in your belt yells out step-by-step CPR instructions to the people around you.
- Your toothbrush takes your temperature and absorbs a sample of your saliva, which it analyzes for deviations from your long-term norm. It uses wifi to upload this data to your computer, along with a map of the surfaces of the teeth you brushed. The next time you use your computer, you'll see a visualization of your teeth; any surfaces which you missed when brushing are highlighted in red. (e.g. if you aren't brushing behind your molars, then those areas are highlighted.)
- As you're driving, a sensor on your rearview mirror will detect if you fall asleep at the wheel (your eyelids close for more than one second) which triggers an audible alert to wake you.
I'd love to spend my life coming up with pragmatic ways to use technology to benefit your health / monitor for emergency conditions. I'm just not sure it'd be ethical to use Kickstarter to fund possibly-crazy endeavors like this. I don't know.
It sounds to me like you have a pretty good idea of the technical details and challenges in such a project. You'd need to find someone with medical experience that you could work with to figure out the details, but you could find quite a bit of that expertise just by chatting with your local medical school. And at least in the short-term you won't have to worry about medical device certification, since most of the ideas you've mentioned would not directly get used for medical treatment; any actual diagnosis would still get done by a physician.
If you're serious about being willing to work on this proportionally to how much funding you get, then please by all means start a project. Pick a couple of appropriate ambitious-but-likely-possible goals, set expectations very clearly, and see if you get any takers.
Long-term, some of these devices would need FDA approval, but many of them wouldn't.
Speaking as a non-expert (only familiar with FDA approval processes through the experiences of friends and colleagues): none of these devices would constitute a class II or III medical device, since they'd only act as an early-warning system rather than as a primary diagnostic tool or direct treatment system. Some of these devices might fall under class I (which also includes things like tongue depressors), but meeting class I wouldn't necessarily prove insanely onerous, and some care would likely allow avoiding class I as well in some cases.
This is literally the field I'm preparing to go into after I get my PhD in systems bio. The absolute best way to develop models for markers is to study metabolomics data for a huge sample size.
Take, for example, urine samples from a large number of at-risk persons and see how a specific type of cancer manifests within the group. Run the samples on GCxGC-MS and do high-order statistical comparisons or train an ML model to pick up on the markers. Given the proper treatment, these may correlate to breakdown products attributable to the development of cancerous cells.
You can model any metabolome too: blood, breath, sweat, biopsy... Urine is probably the least invasive. You should learn a thing or two about how elimination works: glucuronidation and other reactions that modify substrates to be polar enough.
Probably not too interesting, but a start. It looks like the old robot power supply boards and force-torque sensor boards reside on my old lab's "internal" wiki. That's no good! I'll have to ask 'em about moving the files over to the public one. The latest designs (FPGA software defined radio) are being tested, so they've got a while before they'll be released. ;-)
Currently hunting for more problems, and a more elegant solution...
Offtopic, the reason I did this JSMin fork was just to challenge myself, not to make a political statement or anything like that. My cat was just diagnosed with feline lukemia. I know this project is a little silly, but it's been fantastic for keeping my mind off of real-world stuff. You're awesome for providing all of these examples; thank you.
More usefully, this serves to prove that Mr. Crockford was likely correct in his assessment.
On the other hand, is "do" the only reserved keyword which matters? Then it might be okay to special case that one instance as well.
There is no doubt that my approach is the wrong approach; I'm just curious whether it's easier to handle each of the ~dozen special cases than to fundamentally rewrite JSMin (as a full ECMAScript parser).
EDIT: Amusingly, I've special-cased the 'do' keyword in a fairly straightforward way, so now the code handles every example thus far. I wonder if these are the only special cases required, and whether they add any adverse side-effects. Also, you're extremely talented and creative.
Nobody is calling him a liar, they are just pointing out that his story may not be as factual as he portrays it to be. If he's choosing to air his dirty laundry in public, it's expected that people are going to comment on it. Those without inside information may not know what is true and what is not true. Those with inside information may feel that it's inappropriate to disclose the exact details which may discredit the argument. This makes the process very difficult. There's really no way anyone can say "everything michaelochurch says is wrong".
Those without inside information may not know what is true and what is not true.
Then email him.
There's really no way anyone can say "everything michaelochurch says is wrong".
It's incredibly creepy that HN is fact-checking a personal anecdote about a nameless company; an anecdote which he clearly wanted to share with us in order to simply chill with us and be happy with us. He wasn't even hurting anyone or saying anything about anyone. You all chose to dig for no reason at all.
Let me put it another way. His original story did not whistleblow anything. It was just a story without a particular purpose. It doesn't matter why he wrote it, nor does it matter whether it was true. He wrote it in order to feel happy. HN went out of its way to check whether it could ruin that happiness, for no reason whatsoever.
The same people come out of the woodwork anytime michaelochurch says anything about Google, and sometimes even when he doesn't say anything about Google. It is getting a little tiresome.
As someone with no stake in either condemning or defending Google, I'll just say that while I admire Google as a company, and have many friends who work there, this kind of reflexive attacking of anyone who criticizes Google's internal heirarchy, or thinks some of its decisions were wrong etc, and constant defense and glorification of everything it does, is grating. And people talk about Apple fanboys.
It doesn't matter if everything m_o_c says is exactly true or not. It doesn't matter if what went down when he was at Google is entirely his fault. Just give it a rest already.
His stories are just so far removed from reality we can't help it. It's like a programming language debate where someone says "Perl has no OO" and complaining that "Perl programmers come out of the woodwork to correct me every time I say that." Well yeah. It's the Internet. That's what we do.
More seriously, this affects my ability to hire people I want to work with. When I have to start by explaining away random falsehoods about Google, that wastes time I could have spent talking about projects or programming or something. You only get one first impression. It's better if the first impression is reality instead of a contrived fantasy world.
Also, I take exception with the statement that I'm "coming out of the woodwork" to post. I am in the top 10 highest reputation users here. I'm already out of the woodwork :)
I suspect what really affects your ability to hire people you want to work with is your posts on HN and what they convey about you (vs michealochurch's posts and what they convey about him).
Right now (and please take this as constructive feed back, because that is the intention) in your posts here you come across as someone who has totally drunk the Google koolaid and can see no wrong in anything Google does, and attacks anyone who says anything negative about Google or any of its products, with a special grudge against michaelochurch.
I am not sure that helps you hire the right kind of people. But hey, you know better.
 please note: I am not saying you are a fanatic. just saying you come across as someone who sees Google as some kind of Immaculate Workplace, that can never do wrong. Just feedback. I could be totally wrong.
Steve writes: ``One day I started getting jealous of this digital piano that people were playing every day. So I sent a nice email to someone in facilities asking if there was any chance we might be able to get a guitar. She said it sounded like a good idea and she promised to look into it.
A month went by, and I started to get a little sad, because I thought they were just not interested. But I sent her a little email and asked if there was any update. Just hoping, you know, against hope.
She told me: "Oh yeah, I'm sorry -- I forgot to tell you. We talked it over with the directors, and we all decided the best thing to do was to build a music studio."
So now we have Soundgarden over in Building A. It has two rooms: one with soundproofing and two electric guitars and a bass and a keyboard and a drum set and a jam hub and amps and all kinds of other crap that I can't identify except to say that it's really popular. The other room has a ukulele and some sort of musical drum and a jazz guitar and some other classical instruments.''
My experience is the same. Any opportunity that Google has to spend a lot of money on me, they take. And yup, that makes me pretty darn happy, especially coming from Bank of America!
If Yegge starts stalking m_o_c on HN that gives a different impression to neutral onlookers. That was my only point.
His post is the top-rated comment on the top-rated article. Yes, I read HN and reply to comments frequently. While we await some form of therapy for this obvious mental defect, we will just have to accept the more-than-occasional comment from me :)
But to be fair, I didn't go out of my way to look for michaelochurch, and, in fact, I was just defending someone else who was being blasted for being critical of Michael. If Google was brought up and nobody corrected Michael, I wasn't going to. Like you say, it's been covered again and again and it is probably not worth rehashing. Oh well.
I have run into other comments from Michael, and I treat them at face value:
Ultimately, I don't think I'm a crazy person. Bring up programming, we'll talk about programming. Bring up Google, we'll talk about Google :)
(Oh, and one more things: I do complain about Google on HN. I think Wallet being blocked on Verizon is dumb. I think the lack of the Android trackball is dumb. I think the whole fake-open-source process around Android is dumb. But seeing as how we live in an imperfect world, I'm willing to live with this. As time improves, things will get better.)
It is disappointing that you cannot see m_o_c's attention-seeking flamebaiting for what it is.
It's a shame you're happy to allow him to say whatever he likes about a company (and I'm not talking about Google) yet you're unhappy when people calmly correct him; even though you don't know the company, or who works there, or what the situation is, and the people correcting him do know the company, and the people working there, and what the situation is.
A huge chunk of this thread is taken up with pointless responses to m_o_c's comments. He flamebaits Google; Googlers cannot respond fully because stuff is still private; a bunch of people who don't know the truth either side pile on; useful discussion is pushed further down the page.
> If Yegge starts stalking m_o_c on HN
When m_o_c's comment is the first in thread on the first thread on HN there's no stalking needed. m_o_c is deliberately choosing to push the buttons of Googlers knowing that they'll really want to respond (and I'm grateful to them for showing some restraint).
I don't think we can blame Michael for writing comments that are upvoted to the top of the thread. I generally try to share my personal experiences as they relate to threads, and if the community as a whole finds them worth upvoting then so be it.
Perhaps you'd like a technical solution to your problem, in which case you can petition PG for a backend solution or you can whip up a quick browser extension to hide comment trees or to ignore Michael.
Steve Yegge says Google is a cool place to work. Peter Norvig thinks it is a great place to work. m_o_c thinks differently. All good.
Also, there's a "blind man and the elephant" thing going on. Google is a huge company. I'm sure Google is a great place to work-- for Peter Norvig. If you're already great, the rewards and environment are fantastic; if you're good and trying to become great, it's a bit sclerotic, because there are 10,000 other people who've been there longer than you and who also want to become great, and most of the work Google thinks it needs to have done won't help you improve or advance.
Google is not some horrible company. It's actually quite good, even if poorly managed. The quality of engineers is very high, and the perks are fantastic. It's just not the best place if you're in your mid-20s, still somewhat green, and want to become great. It takes too much time, and too much irrelevant people-pleasing work, to advance.
I suspect you would feel differently if you had an internal view of the things he said. I am, you might say, the least fanatical of all googlers, and am quite pessimistic about the company in a lot of ways. Even with that I feel a twinge of lol every time I see an m_o_c post on anything having to do with ethics, employers, and what not. What he "blew the whistle" on had nothing to do with ethical management by any sane person's definition. I am highly inclined to doubt his new foray into workplace controversy as well, considering how quickly it has followed on the heels of the last.
Personally, I'm happy to call him a liar, although I typically refrain because I can't really provide any evidence of it externally.
sure, I am not saying m_o_c is right, or ethical, or sane or anything. I don't know the man from Adam.
I am just some random hacker half the world away. All I am saying is, as an outsider who knows nothing about what is really going down, when I see a pack of people piling on to someone for saying something which seems like no big deal to me (large companies with tens of thousands of employees have a few unethical managers/political bs happening here and there duh), you give him more credibility than he might otherwise get.
"... If he's choosing to air his dirty laundry in public, it's expected that people are going to comment on it. ..."
These comments on this topic are disturbing.
Google is a public company. It's first priority is to shareholders. Google is also hierarchical despite what anyone claims. So it's more than likely that employees like @michaelochurch claim, are minced up in the bureaucracy. Start here, "Why Google Employees Quit" (2009) ~ http://techcrunch.com/2009/01/18/why-google-employees-quit/
I read your link. It just doesn't seem like the same Google that I'm working at. I guess you need to have a certain personality to work at Google; if you don't have it, it won't work for you.
There are a lot of people that I encounter who have never worked anywhere but Google. I feel sorry for them because one day some tiny thing is going to annoy them (oh noes, only two types of M&Ms in the microkitchens!), and then they'll leave. Only then will they realize how fucking miserable the rest of the world is.
Another problem is that people want to work for Google so badly that they accept crap offers, at least people writing to TechCrunch to complain, anyway.
(Also, FWIW, of all the offers I had for jobs in NYC, Google gave me the most money, not to mention benefits, bonus, and stock. And my other offer was an investment bank's on the core software architecture team.)
It just doesn't seem like the same Google that I'm working at. I guess you need to have a certain personality to work at Google; if you don't have it, it won't work for you.
As I said in another comment, I think this is a "blind man and the elephant" situation.
Your rank, age, and political success (measured in Perf) determine the type of Google you get. If you're Peter Norvig, Google is an awesome place to work. I can imagine few better jobs than Director of Research at Google.
If you're already great, Google is a fine place to work. If you're good and trying to become great, it's not. It's stifling, frustrating, and slow. At least, that's what I saw, but I was only there for 6 months and had already run afoul of multiple seriously unethical people (people who should have been fired). Google's a huge place. I far from got a sense of "the whole thing", but what I saw on the cultural front (7/20 all-hands) was certainly not encouraging.
I feel sorry for them because one day some tiny thing is going to annoy them (oh noes, only two types of M&Ms in the microkitchens!), and then they'll leave.
Yeah, see: I don't care about that stuff either way. The perks are nice, I guess, but I go to work for the work, not for the Xbox.
Google has perks down. Providing interesting work for even half the talent it takes in is an "area for development".
Another problem is that people want to work for Google so badly that they accept crap offers, at least people writing to TechCrunch to complain, anyway.
Actually, I think it goes the other way. Google pays very well, so people look at the numbers and expect more of the job than what they're actually going to get.
I'm not sure it's possible for a single company to provide advancement opportunities for most of its ambitious mid-level contributors. Mathematically speaking it makes at least as much sense to play the wider job market looking for a succession of "perfect fit" jobs for yourself every few years rather than sticking with Google and continually trying to win a shot at a series of slightly more prestigious positions.
Obviously if you were part owner of the business things would change considerably, but not everyone has the risk tolerance for that - it helps to be single with cash in the bank.
M-o-C may or may not be posting stuff that people in the know can parse as a lie. But you, my friend, are saying stuff that anyone with the "scroll up" skill can see is a lie.
Saying an unnamed thing failed for the vague "non-technical reason" is enough for one person to, indeed, really, call him a liar and another person to feel strongly enough about situation to blatantly-lie-about-the-liar-calling-situation...
Yeah Wow, he must have really gotten under some group's collective skin...
Except he wasn't lying about his own personal life, he was accused of lying about previous employers, places that employ others who may have an interest in not seeing their companies' names dragged through mud.
First of all, service providers have to give me a choice. Even if they offer a paid subscription it doesn't automatically mean they don't store personal information about me. These things would have to be part of the contract and I haven't seen many such contracts.
Right now, I don't feel I have any other choice but to block the trackers as aggressively as possible. I hope there will be better solutions in the future, because I really want to pay for services I like.
I think you need to set "showdead" in your profile to see this. It got killed pretty quickly, but netted me ~150 karma which was amusingly nontrivial back then. And as a byproduct, I think I became the first "public member" to get a glimpse of Arc, which was closed-source at the time. I won't disclose how (since I haven't asked for permission to share the details) but it was pretty much one of the happiest days of my life, for some stupid reason. I was young and giddy and felt like I'd just won something special.
To give you an idea of how ancient this is, check out the id of the thread -- only #27,615. Man, time flies when you're watching a community grow, eh? It's like watching a child mature over years -- into an increasingly-annoying version of themselves while slowly getting fatter and fatter over the years, of course. (I kid, I kid.)
Bonus: I just now noticed that I'd gotten into a debate with Paul B in that thread. Hah. I was too cocky back then... I should have been listening and asking questions, not talking!
Man, I miss those days so much. I never knew how rare they were until they were gone. Like, my girlfriend (now wife) and I went on vacation, during which we prototyped and launched a whole webapp in Rails 1.0! Who does that? Not me, anymore -- At least, not until I lose my day job like a bad case of music. Makes me wonder if I still have my old "hey, I'm 18 and ignorant of my own flaws!" level of productivity...
EDIT: Oh, look. I have the attention of the majority of HN. Allow me to now exploit you:
To whomever has read upto here: you hereby implicitly agree my EULA, in which you swear to enjoy each of your scientific pursuits with intensity and to your fullest degree; and sometimes even to a dangerous degree, if the mood carries you thus. Additionally, you agree to never allow an employer, family member, or any other authority to break your intrinsic spirit; for they have no means of dominating your spirit except that which you subconsciously allow them. You shall be true to yourself and to your own principles, regardless of society (though in privacy). You shall hereby refuse to believe any scientific statement as "true", however benign, except those in which you alone have proven to yourself to be true, by your own hand and evidence. (Though it doesn't hurt to check out what other people have to say on the subject, from time to time; in fact, it turns out to often be a more valuable course of action, for the careful analysis of a close friend can often reveal subtle flaws in your process and in your logic, while occasionally forcing you to re-evaluate your core reasoning for choosing that process in the first place, which always leads to the path of learning and thus improvement and satisfaction.) You agree to eventually die with no regrets. Let no one impose themselves upon your judgement without merit. You shall endeavor to enjoy life to the fullest extent of the law (where applicable), and to realize that money is merely a means, not an end unto itself. In your spare time, you shall research that which is impossible, but intriguing, in order to always have something to strive for, thereby improving your skill and your spirit. You shall follow your curiosity wherever it leads (but keep both eyes open for signs of danger).
Most importantly: thou shalt enjoy every week, else thou shalt fix your life's situation regardless of how immutable it may seem.
> Bonus: I just noticed I'd gotten into a debate with Paul B in that thread. Hah. I was too cocky back then... I should have been listening, not talking!
OT but funny story: back when I was first getting into programming heavily (I had dabbled for about 4 years, but wasn't particularly good), I started learning perl, and got into a flame war on freenode with some random guy I had never seen on before (in the three times I had visited). It was weird - everybody sided with him, so strongly that I was really confused. His username was strange, too - something about "toady".
Yup, I, a perl programmer of 2 weeks, got into a flame war with Larry Wall. Didn't realize it for years, until I saw his IRC nick mentioned somewhere else. Ouch.