Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Summary to this Point

It may be time to summarize what little I've said so far. Here are some of the points:
1. Desktop and laptop computers and cell phones will become appliances to provide entry points into the Internet. The operating system will be a browser. Printers will have net interfaces rather than cables to a particular computer.
2. Converging needs for authentication and technical developments to permit secure, continuous, and painless identification of users will overcome the "ethical" arguments for anonymity, and eventually provide systems capable of safe use for public and private health data.
3. Google and others will offer document storage that includes all kinds of documents, programs, and databases--a hard disk in the sky. Individuals and organizations will each have their own space and access requirements in dataspace.
4. Once individuals or organizations decide to use Googlelandia or DataSpace, or whatever it is called, then sharing data can be done through links rather than physical merging. Source code repositories do something similar at present, but the process of constructing a present collection documents from previous change fragments would need to be speeded up by many logarithms to be practical for general use.
5. Documents are data, and databases are structured documents. I offered a fanciful description of an application that would present a sample from a collection of documents, and allow the user to select and name commonalities for analysis. After sufficient hints, the analysis engine would be able to pick similar data out of the entire collection and make it available for analysis.
6. Dr. Susan Snow, imaginary descendant of our epidemiologic ancestor John Snow, begins a day in her office examining surveillance data linked together by a web-based system, and incidentally uses a map display that shows disease rates and counts simultaneously as different dimensions of " buildings" floating about the earth's terrain.
7. The next chapter will describe a long-ignored, but favorite idea for measuring and displaying the impact of disease on a society, or upon selected sub-populations.
8. In later episodes, we hope to find time to visit an imaginary clinical facility where the same ideas are applied slightly differently to the needs of medical care.