Insuring the Future

March 21 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Economics   Year: 2008   Rating: 11 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

A few weeks back as I was flying all across the country from Hawaii to Wichita to Atlanta giving presentations on nanotechnology, genomics and robotics to a variety of different industry associations, I had the opportunity to read Peter Bernstein’s best-selling book, Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk.

Although it was written in 1996, I highly recommend it for anyone seriously interested in contemplating the future. This is because -for better or worse – the future will largely be determined by the insurance industry’s ability to understand – and thus underwrite – the future of various technologies.

For example, while I am personally optimistic about nanotechnology’s ability to create everything from scratch-resistant car panels to tailor-made drug delivery vehicles capable of killing cancer cells at an early stage, these products will not be commercially mass-produced until the insurance industry understands the environmental and health-related risks associated with new nanomaterials and nanoparticles.

Similarly, RFID (radio frequency identification) technology and nanosensors have the ability to create a host of wonderful applications. But until the insurance industry can adequately assess the potential dangers of how prolonged exposure to wireless technologies might impact people, the RFID industry could advance at a much slower pace than many people (including industry experts) expect.


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Allstate Insurance Using Video Games to Refresh Elderly Drivers' Skills... Seriously

October 13 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Social Issues   Year: 2008   Rating: 8 Hot

Allstate, the second-largest insurance provider in the US, recently sent out video games to 100,000 of their clients aged 50 to 75. “The set of five games, together called InSight and made by Posit Science, are designed to improve the mental acuity of older drivers.” Allstate expects to see fewer accidents among the group receiving the video games than from those who did not.

Allstate professes that “ten hours of game play turns the clock back 10 years in terms of memory, useful field of view, processing visual information, and general cognitive functions.”

The idea of training the brain to perform better is something that has been studied for centuries. Think of it as putting your brain through its own workout routine – it needs to do lifts, squats, push-ups and of course cardio. This is most commonly in the form of games.

So will we be seeing more and more brain training in the future?

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Genetic Discrimination: Who Will Protect Us?

March 27 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2008   Rating: 6

Yesterday we outlined the falling costs of full human genome sequencing, and how it may well hit a magic price point within the next year or two. Now, we’re looking at the implications of mandatory genetic testing by doctors and employers, and what that might mean for insurance and employment.

As clinically available genetic tests become increasingly affordable that brings us to the cusp of the era of personal genomics. It won’t be long before your entire genome can be sequenced for under $1,000, and that service may even get integrated into health care plans. But what happens if the test isn’t optional anymore? There are growing public fears that doctors and employers could enforce testing, and use it as a source of discrimination.

Could poor genetic makeup become grounds for limiting or denying access to insurance or a job? Could we end up living in a Gattaca -like future?

A policy document pushing for federal legislation to protect the public against genetic discrimination was just recently released by the American College of Physicians (ACP). The monograph included six policy positions, which covered the need for uniform state and federal protection, and specific prohibition against genetic testing usage for insurance or employment decisions.

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