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Digital cradle to grave in technologically connected new world

Posted: Sat, November 30, 2013 | By: Culture

By B.j. Ó Murchadha from 

Joyous times have come. A friend of mine, Carlos, for many years has become a father. His excitement was made well in advance of the child’s (Isaac) birth, alerting everyone on Facebook that he and his wife, Melissa, were at the hospital, waiting to finally deliver. A few hours later, the child was born. Everyone – from those living a few miles away, to those living out-of-state, and even those living in another country – gathered around to give their congratulations and love. What was witnessed by many wasn’t just any normal birth – it was the future of birth as we know it.

Months before, everyone that gathered online were also patiently awaiting the child’s birth, ‘following’ Carlos’ Facebook feed, given his perpetual desire to show off his yet-to-be-born child to the world. From 2D to 3D sonograms provided, and even the charts giving off the contraction timer, everyone came to know the baby’s looks, health, and movements as they were shared almost instantly.

Before the baby was born, he had already achieved an online presence for the whole world to see. And he’s not the first either. Though he’s most definitely one of many in a new generation where, “A quarter of babies have sonogram photos posted online before they have even physically entered into the world,” and that “the average digital birth of children happens at around six months with a third (33%) of children’s photos and information posted online within weeks of being born.”

This comes as no surprise, however. Where on the very first day of little baby Isaac’s life, “the amount of data generated by humanity is equivalent to 70 times the information contained in the Library of Congress.” You’d then logically assume that at least a portion of that data being generated are that of new born children, taken by proud newly parents.

Given the rise of ‘Big Data’, how will the future of birth evolve as technological innovation continues growing exponentially – especially in the medical sector? With sensor pills and/or nanobots, will parents be able to keep 24/7 updated tabs on their unborn child’s health and development via wireless text messages on their smart phones? From there, like normal – albeit humorous – text msgs between friends or lovers, they’d be shared instantly over the web, using social networking pages like Facebook or Google+.

Imagine that level of connectivity! Perhaps the Doctor or nurse had missed something, but you or a friend looking over the shared data didn’t. This could then potentially save your, or a friend’s, baby’s life. Wouldn’t it then be prudent for such connectivity to be advocated without hesitation?

The open-source and democratization of technology is unleashing a movement unlike any other seen throughout history. Not only are we sharing more data than ever before, faster than ever before, but we’re also connecting our personal lives with said data. Every step that we take, every film that we watch, every store that we visit, is shared online. Our genetic data can now be accessed at a relatively cheap price, and from there we can also share it online.

Unlike myself where I was born in the beginning of the internet revolution (I’m 22 years old), though still a decade away from the smart mobile phone revolution, new born children today, like Isaac, will attain a digital archive from pre-birth to death. Their entire lives will be chronicled online. The closest thing, thus far, to immortality – a digital immortality.

Some may look at this and be frightened. Not me. In my opinion, we are much better off with this brave new world. Not only are we more connected with the rest of the world, but we’re also beginning to look out for one another, to learn each others’ stories, and to share the gifts of life to whomever’s willing to listen, wherever they may be.

In all honesty: I, for one, welcome our new digital baby overlords!


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