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Seven rules for meeting up

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(Meeting up, as in meeting me. You know, like a date, or a coffee – a “catch-up”, or whatever. There’s no good general word for all of those, I think. Meeting up will have to do. Anyway – these are my rules. Make of them what you will.)

1 – Respond. It’s not fixed in the diary until there’s word of confirmation on both sides. An unacknowledged invitation sitting there for a week just says “I’m not sure if something more important might come up”.

2 – Be punctual. Three minutes early is on time. On time is already a bit late. You’d rock up to collect your OBE “on time” would you? Every minute that passes says “you’re just that bit less important to me”.

3 – Communicate. If you’re going to be late, say so as soon as you know. Of course there’s no signal underground, but imagining that yours will be the special tube train that will do Hampstead to Embankment in one minute isn’t really going to work out that well. “I’ll be half an hour late”, then arriving after 20 minutes is better than saying “I’m just up the road, see you in about ten-fifteen”. (Ten-fifteen is a trigger phrase for me, btw. It’s minicab talk. Here, we use real Earth minutes.)

4 – Stick to the plan. Once our meeting’s confirmed, it stays confirmed. You don’t need to check in with me the day before (or on the morning) to “see if we’re still on”. Why would we not still be on? It’s not a crime if you do check – but not to show up, because “we didn’t confirm beforehand, did we?” most certainly is. And if you do just forget, that’s ok. I’ve done that. We all have. It happens. Go to no. 5.

5 – You flake, you make. The onus for coming up with a replacement plan falls on the person who pulled out of the appointment. Should that really need saying?

6 – Three strikes. If for any reason meeting up doesn’t happen three times in a row then everyone can retire gracefully, knowing that it’s not meant to be. I used to grieve over these “never managed to meet-ups, did we?” until I realised I could just let them go. Yeah, but surely if they’re all really good reasons? Nah. The first missed one should intensify the importance of its successor. If it doesn’t, then it’s ok to let it go if it’s just not working out.

7 – Yoda’s Rule. “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’.” Less said for one-to-one invitations, more for bigger gatherings, “I’ll try and make it” pretty much guarantees that you won’t be on the next invite list. Just so you know.

Do you have any others?

Flappy Bird – actual strategies

Flappy-Bird

(I can’t believe I’m writing about this.)

Back in the day, as an obsessed martial artist (yes, really – it was a LONG time ago) I used to go on these full-on intensive training weekends. Starting Friday night, going on late, up at 5am for knuckle push-ups on gravel; all that stuff. Hours and hours of training. You’d think we’d get knackered. But not really, not like you’d expect. Instead, your mind would go to shit.

Master Lai told us this would happen: he’d point to arms, legs, centre – then tap his head. “Always the first to get tired.”

And so it is with Flappy Bird. The infuriating game, with its ludicrously simple interface, works just like this. Once you’ve got a basic grasp of the movement, a single pipe is dead easy. Maybe even ten in a row. But after that?

That’s where the game has got interesting for me, once you get past the “regular ten” stage. Prompting thoughts on actual strategy. Finding a depth to the game that you’d never guess from a few minutes looking at the mechanics of it.

So, stuck as I have been for a few days on a high of 29, I’ve been looking at what’s going on. This is what I’ve found so far:

1. You die when you decide it’s time to die. You don’t (once you’ve got that basic movement) die at the first pipe. And probably not for the first few. But at some point your brain starts telling you that you’re a bit tired/you’ve stopped concentrating/you can’t possibly have got this far/OMG you’re nearly at your high score… And then the coordination goes, and you die. Because it was the right time to die.

2. The score can be a big prompter as to when it’s time to die. So – strategy 1 – cover up the score counter. Try it. A bit fiddly in terms of obscuring the upper pipe on high gaps, but I found at least some bliss in ignorance.

3. My second strategy was to think rhythmically. Instead of focusing on pipes, find the tempo required to sustain level flight. Sticking to that, instead of the almost overwhelming urge to give a (terminal) last thrust on gate exit, makes a massive difference. You have to be able to deal with quickening and interruption to rise and fall between gates, but if you can return to that underlying tempo, you’ll improve.

4. But I still hit a lot of pipes. Time for some reframing of the target. On the principle that if you aim for a stretched target, you’ll have a better chance of getting to what you need, I then tried another approach: visualising the gate as being about half its real height. Try to keep the bird in that imaginary central zone, and suddenly you’re clearing the pipe ends by much bigger distances.

5. Still unsatisfied, I looked for another approach. If I could manage one gate; or even consistently manage ten; why could I not manage 30? So this led to the next strategy: doing it by tens. Someone clever once said you don’t have to do something for ever, just for a day at a time; so how about breaking the longer journey into parts? Maybe this one didn’t work so well, but it was fun to explore the difference in how it felt.

6. Then I reviewed why I was dying. This “level flight” thing wasn’t actually not all that useful. I might enter the gate at the right height, but that last bump just before exit was causing 90% of crashes. So, the next approach, and the most successful so far – the rising diagonal. Again, using an imaginary safe zone rather narrower than the gate, visualise it a rising 30° angle. You enter very low, and greatly reduce the chance of that late head-hit.

7. Some things are always beyond your control: I get an occasional glitch which slows down the horizontal scrolling. Death. If there’s a really nasty sequence of high-low-high-low. Death. Too bad. Move on. Do what you can.

So there you have it. An utterly basic game on first sight. But within it: performance review, rhythm, target-setting, staging, mental fatigue, muscle memory, microprecision, feedback loops and much much more – all recorded with one, inarguable, integer. That’s why it’s such a piece of bloody genius. Now to try it blindfolded…

Dis Harmoni

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If you need a GP out of hours, you might end up on the receiving end of services from Harmoni.

Harmoni run the weekend GP service in my area. When I needed them, a few weeks back, I was initially massively impressed. My call to the local GP practice was routed smoothly through to NHS Direct; and they managed to find me an appointment in less than two hours time.

With Harmoni – based within a local NHS hospital. Great! I got there at 11am but was asked straight away if I could possibly come back later, as things were badly overrunning. Erm, ok, said my pale and shaking face. 2? 3? -Whatever works for you, said the weary receptionist. I settled for 3.

Whatever had been going wrong with the booking and queueing system had clearly gone very wrong by the time I arrived back at 2.50. People everywhere – crying kids, coughing old people, someone throwing up in a washing up bowl. Lovely.

At 4, after a few nudges to the effect that a) I was pretty damn fecking ill and b) I was actually an 11am appointment, I got my turn.

All went normally until the GP started to write out the prescription. There it was, up on the screen, on the fancy patient management system thing. And there he was, dutifully copying down every detail on to the green pad on his knee. I asked about the printer. -Ah. It’s broken. I keep reporting it, but they won’t get me a new one.

And this laptop situation? I pointed at the thing you can see in the picture. The one with the A4 paper stuck to the screen, with instructions on how to bodge it together with an external monitor. He just shook his head, sadly. Can I take a picture? Sure, he said – actually quite pleased by the idea. We had a little chat about how everything took longer because he had to copy out prescriptions by hand when the system was supposed to print them.

Printers. £50. Laptops. Not a huge amount more. People. Sitting there all day, getting sicker and sicker.

I did some sums. They didn’t come out very well for Harmoni.

If you hear of them bidding for services in your area, remember this picture. Somebody, somewhere, thinks this is an acceptable level of service, and you’re paying for it.

UPDATE 17 March: A letter from Harmoni, addressing my “complaint” – for apparently this blog post constitutes one… They’re going to bollock the receptionist for what actually seemed like a rather humane move, allowing me to shiver in the comfort of my own home for my hours of waiting. But they are replacing the laptop and printer. So I suppose that’s a sort of happy ending. Oh, and a slightly pompous sign-off: “It is also valuable to note that handwritten prescriptions are also perfectly acceptable.” Point rather missed there, but hey.

Five questions for Identity Assurance

Identified

We’re getting closer to the launch of the government’s “identity assurance” (IDA) service – providing a way of confirming that people are who they say they are online, when they interact with government services.

There’s much on the IDA team’s blog about progress to date, and much to like. Such as the upfront decision to separate the confirmation of identity bit from what government’s there to do, and to open up a choice of identity providers (IDPs) who’ll be able to offer different ways of creating and using an online identity.

But there’s still too much that isn’t clear about the scheme. And given its importance – it will be essential if there’s going to be a major improvement in transactional services – here’s some of the detail I’d like to see:

1. how does it actually work? (and I don’t mean at the theoretical level described in the “Good practice guides”, but using real examples of real services, processes and data) It’s all well and good saying that I will be able to choose an identity provider, and be able to set up a trusted relationship with them online…but what’s actually going on to make this happen, and to support me once it has? How will they know I am who I say I am? Will they have access to something that only I would know, and if so, what? If they’re an organisation I’ve never (knowingly) had any dealings with before, what will they know about me? If they’re a new entrant to the identity provision market (as some in the running are) – where are they getting their sources to do checks? And, as ever, what’s being passed around to whom, how’s it held, secured, indexed…and all the rest of the usual, essential hygiene issues around personal data?

I have a feeling that as these details emerge we could be in for some interesting food for thought about what information is being shared by whom. But best we start to see some real examples so we can get our heads round it, and to make sure we’re comfortable with who knows what about us. Given we’re dealing with that most treasured currency of all – personal data – I think we need much more transparency about what’s being proposed. And we’ll only have realistic scrutiny if there are realistic proposals to chew on.

2. will government department x actually hand off the responsibility for identity confirmation to identity provider y? This has to happen for the service to work as intended, yet it has big implications for the accountability of delivery. Will heads of service still take responsibility if things go wrong in the checking process, or if they find they’re transacting with fraudulent or misidentified accounts? Who does the service user contact to fix things that go wrong, now that more than one organisation is involved?

Make no mistake, I’d absolutely love to see it happen – so I’d be reassured if a government department made a clear statement of this intention and, furthermore, that it no longer intends (or needs) to operate its own version of identity checking in favour of that provided by an IDP. It’s relatively easy to do new, parallel things in government. But confirmation that there’s actually been a change is usually only provided by stopping doing an old, superfluous thing.

3. following on from that, how will the service be paid for? The IDPs aren’t in it out of the goodness of their hearts – how are they incentivised, how can we have assurance that they’re being paid a fair rate, and what’s the outcome for them financially if they get things wrong, or provide a poor quality service in some other way?

4. who’s watching what I do? We live in sensitive times – aware that beady eyes are watching all that we do online. Who will be watching our transactional exchanges – as we’re identified, and then as we go on to use services? One of the big selling points of using a layer of IDPs independent of government was that there’d be no creation of a vast, centralised database of identity and activity. What’s the assurance that such data capture isn’t happening anyway – creating just such a central viewpoint, albeit one in which lots of separate things connected to us are being indexed together?

5. and lastly – where’s the big picture here? Where’s all this going? Will an identity be reusable across more and more services? What will happen when services require different levels of assurance? (For example, an identity created using some basic checks to access a relatively insecure look-up service might need to be ‘strengthened’ to access something that’s more complex in terms of money or confidentiality. How?) How clear will it be to the user what level of trust they’ve achieved using a particularly identity?

And if more and more services can be accessed using the same online identity, doesn’t that create the “all eggs in one basket” problem, as well as creating a virtual single “person” that government’s dealing with – reviving lots of the problems that IDA is designed to avoid? Are we expecting people to try and reuse the same identity as much as possible, or to create a few at different levels of trust, or to start from scratch every time they touch a new service? If there’s the ability to reuse an existing trust relationship (for example with a bank or a mobile phone company) what effect might that have on fair competition for new customers? And how will government in general address the lack of provision of an IDA option as IDA’s use becomes more widespread. Customer expectation is going to rise (as it should for any useful, improved service) and at some point it’s going to become unacceptable for an area of government even to try using a non-IDA verification method. Or has that already happened?

They’re tricky questions and, as ever, not complete nor perfectly phrased. Please do comment with anything else you’d like to know more about. But I’d really like the IDA team in GDS to share much more of their thinking in these areas – and where there are still details to be ironed out, to be open about them. This will lead to more robust solutions, less uncertainty about the myth and reality of what’s planned, and a lot of external help in planning for and addressing the issues that will inevitably surface when millions of transactions are being supported by IDA.

UPDATE 23 Jan: The Identity Assurance team have published a blog post that gets into more detail on some of these issues, and points to a number of posts to come, on issues ranging from user research to the outcomes of a private beta that will apply identity assurance to two specific “exemplar” services – HMRC’s PAYE and DVLA’s “view driving record” services.

This makes you part of the problem, Itsu

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Pret used to do it. Maybe they still do. They had little stickers on their tills saying it was a “Nightmare!” that they had to add on tax to their hot food sales. Oh yeah, same founder, innit? Remind me what school – sorry, charitable foundation – he went to? He has a bit of form for shouting about the evils of taxation.

Yeah, Julian. “The taxman”. That nasty grey bloke in a suit just trying to piss off your customers so that he can hoard a load of cash in some big safe at the end of Whitehall.

Seriously. In case it’s escaped his attention, that’s the same taxman who funds the maintenance of the pavement his customers cross to get through the door, and who oversees the security of supply of the power and other utilities that keep the business running. Who pays the wages of a good proportion of people who buy things over the counter. Who sorts out all the tedious issues of planning, building design, sewage and rubbish collection, that just can’t be done sensibly by one organisation alone, and without which an Itsu could simply not exist. And much, much more. Yes, that taxman.

So if you see this sort of sticker next time you’re in there, let them know, politely, that you think it’s a load of misinformed old rubbish. Or send their MD some feedback. Or just avoid them entirely.

Friendly advice

I’d be hopeless as a politician. Retreat to rational debate gets you precisely nowhere when you’re up against the gong-clangers and firestarters of the populist mob-stirrers.

So it’s with some mixed feelings that I write about an utterly bizarre story that looks like it might actually work against the interests of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Ah yes. Them. (A reminder about my problem with them.)

In this particular story they’ve done two odd things. Firstly, they’re sounding off about the failure of local authorities to stop doing a thing they’re legally required to do; a thing which helps ease the pressure on, erm, taxpayers. Right. (As I publish this, I see that @tim2040 has written along similar lines, including the point that collecting such a tiny amount of money is something of an unwanted chore for the councils in any case.)

But if you dig into the detail a bit, it becomes a bit more clear that they’re actually hoping that the whole legal requirement bit gets wiped out. Ok, but that’s the second odd thing.

Because the TPA has this peculiar Jekyll & Hyde characteristic. On the one hand, the cowardly, rent-a-gob demagoguery of the “I can’t believe they’re spending money on THIS” faction, hauled out to berate, well, anything delivered by public services – whether or not it’s got much to do with the paying of taxes. And on the other, some rather more worthy aspirations around winding down the role of the state in matters of surveillance and data.

Ok, I am a little suspicious that the weight here might be firmly on the “winding down the role of the state” bit, but the end results are often quite sensible, and bring about useful pressure and scrutiny on some of the heavy-handed nonsense we’ve seen from the current administration and its predecessor.

But usually, these messages are delivered under the banner of the TaxHaters’ close cousin, BigBrotherWatch. And what makes this electoral roll story interesting is that they’ve chosen not to use this sub-brand when opining on something which is natural BBW heartland. My advice would be to look carefully at what impact this might have on their overall strategy.

Is it a mistake? Does it signal an intentional shift in position and brand? It looks very blurred to me. To a rational observer, the sight of the TPA asking a local authority to break the law and spurn a source of income that would make matters easier for taxpayers… I mean, it makes them look a bit silly… which is a good thing, from my perspective…

Oh hang on. I’m doing the rational thing again, aren’t I? As I say, hopeless.

The two lessons I remember most

Kiruna

I was thinking the other day about the things I learned at school that were really worth learning. Not the history dates, nor the chemistry formulae. Not even the mysteries of iron ore mining at Kiruna. (Gratuitous reason to use the photo above – I finally got to visit it this summer.)

No, the useful things that really made a difference to me were conveyed very simply, and stuck.

Step forward Mr Smith, woodwork and metalwork class, 1980. We have to draw up a specification for a table. I do an enthusiastic job of describing the perfect table, giving measurements, appearance, functionality etc. etc. I’ve got some brilliant ideas about tables, me.

Mr Smith likes the thoroughness, but meticulously adds his pencilled notes to each one of my design points. Although he gives a bit of acknowledgement to some of my thoughts on materials and so on, he’s basically tweaked every answer in exactly the same way. “…will be finalised by surveying what users of the table want (or need)”. I’m a bit downcast, as I thought I’d done it perfectly, but what he’s done is to open my mind to user perspective and iterative design. Just like that.

And then, in 1986, Mr Atherton did something extraordinary in A level Economics class. We’re doing interest rates, exchange rates, balance of payments and all that macro stuff. He poses a small question – what if X changes? And then leads me, absolutely brilliantly, through a massive series of “and then what will happen..?” questions. Eventually, as I find I’ve managed to loop together pretty every construct of an economic model in a logical sequence that actually makes sense, I’m unable ever again to think of a Big Change Thing without digging through all the “so what else changes as a result?” consequences.

So, Mr Smith & Mr Atherton. User-centricity and the fundamental interconnectedness of all the big things. In two quick lessons. Thanks. Profound, life-long, world-view-altering thanks. (I’d love to find a way for them to read this.)

If you had moments like this, what were they? And what would a curriculum that distilled all these and delivered them in concentrated form be able to achieve?

The offer

He came to me at dawn, from the fog.

Stood beside me. Said: “This can I offer…”

“Time: four hours more a day, yours for free.

Take your lost mornings back. Many evenings too.

And more…relief from sickness, headache, insomnia, dread.

More energy, clarity, firmness of purpose,

maybe a little slimness, possibly a little fitness.

You’ll smell better, taste better, have better teeth

and perhaps be a little harder when required.

More certainty of what you like and don’t;

of who’s worth spending time with and who isn’t.

Perspective – seeing who you really are,

where you are, where you’re going and where you want to go.

Wonderful new relationships and maybe some healing of the old”

I marvelled, head reeling. I said, “I understand.

This I want, but at what cost?”

He replied:

“In money, nothing. I’ll even give you a thousand a year.

But there are other, heavier prices to consider:

What if you’re not who or where you thought you were?

You’ll change – maybe more, maybe less

but accept it’s an unknown.

You’ll be a stranger at times

to those you love, work and play with.

You may have to leave them, even where you live,

or change your profession entirely.

In many groups, you’ll be an outsider,

a threat, an object of pity and ridicule.

You will see the sharp edges of things you’d hidden before.

And maybe for good reasons.

You may lose home, partner, even children.

You may walk alone for years.

At parties you’ll be awkward; in the pub, shunned;

branded the loner, the loser, the killjoy.

You may withdraw, or seek new diversions

but new directions will emerge,

and with them, a new you.”

I marvelled.

“Yes,” I said. “I want this.

How long do I sign up for?

A lifetime is unthinkable.”

“Of course it is,” he said.

“These changes may take minutes or years,

but you only have to commit to today.”

I nodded, and gave him the bottle.

Roll up, roll up…

Bus crash photo, by Paul Clarke

…for all the fun of the fair

There’s a good chance you’ll see something today, if you haven’t already, about a pseudonymous online character for whom life seems to have taken a very recent and very awkward turn.

This character specialises in winding people up in extreme ways, in generating and thriving on outrage, in what we call (safely, for once) “trolling”.

“Hello people with some particular cause to be sensitive, hello public servant, hello anyone who may disagree with me – you’re a c**t, this is why, and I’m actually really on your side for saying it. Oh, and one day you’ll thank me that I stood up for those rights.” “Listen to me, notice me, tell all your friends how outraged you are and hope they join in…yada yada yada.”

I’m not linking to or referencing the specific details here, as I avoid doling out troll food – but he seems to have bitten off a big one this time. Repeated taunting and goading of a community who not only have some pretty good reasons behind their pride and sensitivity, but also a track record (first successful petition to be debated in Parliament, anyone?) of organising and supporting each other.

And support blends seamlessly into the formation of a mob, and from there, the path to actual, real-world, nastiness can spiral upwards rather quickly.

Thing is, our Defender of Freedom didn’t really do the tightest job of hiding his real identity. Pieces to camera in his natural voice behind a mask; social media accounts under his pseudonym showing real people with real names, in identifiable locations. Almost like he wanted to be outed eventually. Hmm.

And now that doxxing has happened. Personal information is out there. Whether it’s accurate or not is anybody’s guess. Whether the entire episode is some extraordinary situationist stunt to promote a brand of soap is still a possibility. (Ok, it’s not.)

Did he want to be unmasked? Was the online attention not enough any more? Did some sort of martyrdom – however you want to interpret that – represent a fitting culmination to a sustained period of effort?

OK, so what’s my point here?

It’s one of those cases that features a regular theme on this site: the gap between nice, clearly-marked, “how-the-world-should-be” and its messy reality.

My opinion is that you can’t slip a fag paper through the logical thought process that says one should have the freedom to cause the potential for offence. Any attempt to lock out that freedom will fail to work, and even if it did, would take more away from us than it gave us back. Potential is of course an important word here: the online media he uses are seen “by choice”, not forced into people’s homes…yeah, right. It doesn’t work like that, of course. Rubbernecking always trumps rationality.

Yes, we’ve built rules like banning public incitement to hatred, but they don’t adapt easily to media where my choice to subscribe (or my friends’) drive what I see. That word “public” again… but this is getting into more detail than I intend to in this post.

Back to the point: which is that this case made me think about how reactions, and change, really work. You know, in the normal world.

Where I grew up, when things were changing fast, like going through school, being a teenager, finding your feet in a new area – there was a contrast between the official boundaries intended to guide behaviour, and the “corrections” that would be applied by the environment. Bluntly: if you really pissed somebody off, you’d get thumped. And the rules? Irrelevant. At some point, with enough sustained “correcting” going on, there might be a shift in the official rules to keep us all sane, and we’d all lumber onwards.

The first bit of that process might be brutal, and horrible, of course. But it’s what happens. You can say what you like – be as offensive as you like – but it doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. They might not be legal. Or a Good Thing. But you can’t just vanish them away. Do I condemn any violent action that might result from a case like this? Yes. Do I see that it might also be an inevitable component of something more wide-ranging? Yes to that too.

We need corrections. They’re part of making change: whether that’s to a price, a set of laws or to the behaviour of a society.

There are no smooth dials on society – or levers that leaders can pull to make big things happen as planned. (From Gove to Pickles to Duncan Smith the reality of this is now hitting hard, but that’s definitely another post.)

In today’s example I can’t help feeling there’s a certain irony in a professed free-market libertarian being prepared to test the market – and its possible application of a correction – in quite such an extreme and personal way.

I am very interested to see how this plays out. And we should take an interest, perhaps from a distance – without lobbing in a ton of troll food – on how it does play out. It matters. The seismic societal change here is one where everyone can create content and reach an audience (or be reached by it). Despite a lot of fury on the internetz, there’ve been remarkably few examples of that boiling over into actual, tangible, harm.

We’ve had outrages about Daily Mail articles, we’ve had anger about privilege and so much else, but something about this one feels very different. Hard people are involved here. For whom the jokey “I’ll do time…” phrase beloved of Private Eye’s spoof comments thread may well have a different resonance.

“It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye” as they say.

We’ll see, won’t we.

About me, but not of me?

Silhouette of boy in sea

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

Bear with me here.

Lots of agitation at the moment about the prospect of our health records being flogged to the highest bidder and scattered to the four winds in the interests of progress and profit.

So here’s a thought to chew on: how are we so sure they are actually our records?

What are these records, anyway? A gathering of facts – of some very personal facts for sure – my weight, my addictions, my phobias, my illnesses. But it’s also a record of my transactions, medical interventions, successes and failures.

And that latter aspect takes us, in this contorted line of reasoning, to a more complex place than merely a collection of details about me.

For transactions have two sides. Givers and receivers. Ministers and ministered. To choke off the supply of feedback on interventions is to poke a stick in the eye of rationality and science, surely?

There’s a ready assumption that it’s “my record this” and “my record that” – but what if we were to reframe this? What if we were to accept (after a huge public thrashing-out that has shown no sign of taking place so far) that by receiving we also have to give? That the quid pro quo of that new medication is the giving up of that transaction, of its success or failure, so that others may learn, and that we all may benefit? Thus science would march onwards with its boots reinforced by the tough leather of real-world evidence.

Of course those two constructs I mentioned above: facts about us, and about our transactions, can’t be neatly separated like that. To make sense of my intervention you have to know about my underlying condition. Evidence of interaction may not have much meaning without a historical context. So while it may be more palatable to argue for the sharing of intervention experiences for the greater good, pieces of the “us” stuff will inevitably be attached.

But pause for a moment – consider what the debate about personal data would look like were we to acknowledge that just because something is about me, it isn’t necessarily of me.

Insistence on opt-outs from data collection would start to look like an act of selfish resistance, a dogmatic adherence to an ideology of paranoia, a one-way street in terms of the flow of benefits. Yeah, give me the treatments, but don’t expect to be able to learn anything based on the outcomes.

Deanonymisation (the jigsaw rebuilding of supposedly laundered data to reidentify personal records) would start to look less like an absolute evil, and more an equivocal risk to be weighed against benefits. See those benefits of sharing as benefits to us all, and the harsh black and white of much of the debate around rights and records melds to a rather more nuanced sea of greys.

This is hardly a popular line of thought. But I think it merits a bit more of an airing. Where else would you expect to preserve such transactional asymmetry? What is so sacrosanct about our physical existence that makes it right to fight against information sharing when this may act against the rational interests of our collective societal body?

Having set your stall out against data sharing or anonymisation, or in favour of informed consent to share, are you still so sure of the moral rock on which you’ve built it?

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