Design flexible software
Let’s take the digital pill as an example. A patient who only occasionally forgets to take his medication doesn’t need to share all his data with his doctor or family members. All he needs is for the technology to alert him directly. But there are some patients who constantly forget. In their case, data-sharing is important to give them the help that they need. The situation differs from one person to the next – and the technology should adapt accordingly.
Get engineers to work with philosophers
The first step in developing this new type of personal and intimate technology is to redefine how we view technology: it’s not there merely to collect and share data but should also help us do so responsibly. We can redefine that view by getting engineers to work with philosophers, for example in research teams.
These teams can apply the theory of technological mediation, which advises us to reframe the human-machine interface in terms of freedom rather than autonomy. Technology influences our behaviour and that means that our actions are never entirely autonomous, but we can exercise our freedom by being conscious of how we are using technology. Personal and intimate technology should support users in that respect.
We need software that knows what patients can do themselves
To ensure that technology provides this support, we need software models that allow users to agree on data-sharing protocols. For example, a patient and her family can agree that she takes her medication every day at 6 p.m. and that if she doesn’t, the software will alert her family.