Once per month we host openings at our art gallery, with music and wine and food, and a few years ago a man attended, looked around and concluded that this was the right demographic and asked me if we would like to offer our guests samplings of craft ale. “Wow,” I said, “Free beer. Where were you when I was 18?”
Meanwhile our Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, the one with his middle aged body always straining against his white shirt, clearly retains the priorities of an 18 year old male:
Cheap beer. (free would be better)
Beer available in every corner store, at all hours.
No more police raiding our tailgate and bush parties.
Higher speed limits.
Larger classes (no one notices when you skip class or look at porn)
Fewer silly artsy classes.
And who needs ambulances, trees, day care, endangered species, cooler climate and health care if you have cheap beer?
And then I see that it’s not just Elon Musk who wants to visit the moon. Branson and Bezos as well. With all the money and resources at their disposal the best these billionaires can come up with is flying a rocket to the moon? Perhaps becoming honorary colonels in Trump’s Space Force? A cool idea when you’re 18 and you have not yet noticed our population is inching toward 8 billion and our planet is suffocating.
And then we have derogatory nicknames and ill founded declarations of extremes and of certainties flowing from the mouths of politicians. “It’s a disaster.” “The worst.” Taunts and threats and chest beating. It is High School all over again.
There is one irony in all this I just noticed. The man who lost over a billion dollars “building” hotels and golf courses and grand casinos in the decade between 1985 and 1994, is now reduced, in his building ambitions at least, to erecting a tax payer funded wall.
Meanwhile, we are now able to serve samples of an exquisite assortment of craft ales at our gallery openings during which we sometimes engage in intelligent adult conversation.
Can your smartphone usage predict your mental health? Silicon Valley seems to think so and millions are pouring into a start up called Mindstrong. The concept is that its “app, based on cognitive functioning research, can help detect troubling mental health patterns by collecting data on a person’s smartphone usage — how quickly they type or scroll, for instance.”
The app has generated tens of millions of dollars in investments from people like Jeff Bezos of Amazon and one of the company’s executives in Dr Tom Insell the former head of the National Institute on Mental Health. He acknowledged that the app isn’t perfect but the CEO told STAT that it “could provide unprecedented insight into conditions like depression”. They also told STAT that it “can even predict how a person will feel next week, or at least how a person will perform on the Hamilton Rating Scale for depression — kind of like a weather app for your mood.”
There is one little problem with the hype for this company. The program has never been validated by independent scientists and none of the results from 5 clinical trials have been released. They did publish a pilot study of 27 subjects and presented a poster of that which states that this is feasible.
This project came to my attention while I was reading Bad Blood Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal. The book deals with a long standing health startup begun by a 19 year old Stanford dropout. Elizabeth Holmes was afraid of needles and decided that it would be possible to perform all blood testing with just a small finger stick as is done with blood sugar levels. Her idea was that the testing could be done instantaneously and people could even have these units in their homes.
She patented the idea, set up a company and managed to raise sufficient funds to value her company at $9 billion. Members of her board included former US Secretaries of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger as well as General Mad Dog Mattis who went on to become Secretary of Defence under the Trumpster and Rupert Murdoch. Along the way, she managed to get testing done with the US Military and two pharmaceutical companies but those efforts failed. She also had arrangements with Safeway and Walgreens Pharmacy chain.
Investors have lost over $600 million in the venture including over $100 million by US Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, and the heirs to the Walmart fortune. The founder was recently charged with criminal fraud.
So, if I’m a tad skeptical about using smartphones to measure mental illness, there is a reason. First, let’s have the data subjected to peer review in reputable journals.