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RAND Artwork Explores Body Monitoring Devices

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By Lookout Staff

July 30, 2021 -- The benefits and risks of devices used to monitor the human body and transmit the collected data is the subject of "Internet of Bodies: Our Connected Future," a new artwork by the RAND Corporation's artist-in-residence Giorgia Lupi.

Lupi -- whose work is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art -- created the artwork for a quarterly residency program that helps "visualize data rooted in RAND's rigorous research and analysis," RAND officials said.

"Internet of Bodies"
Image from "Internet of Bodies: Our Connected Future" by Giorgia Lupi (Courtesy of RAND)

Lupi's work is based on the RAND report "The Internet of Bodies: Opportunities, Risks, and Governance," which explores "the benefits, security and privacy risks, and ethical implications of the growing" field.

The artwork is a "nod" to renown designer Charles Eames' 1977 film "Powers of Ten" -- which depicts the relative scale of the Universe magnified by a factor of ten -- to "illustrate the scale of the IoB landscape from both a macro and micro perspective," Lupi said.

"We took a speculative approach to Eames' film, in which we sought to raise similar questions about how perception of the human body will be transformed with and through IoB technology," said Lupi, an information designer and partner at the international design consultancy Pentagram.

"The visualization seeks to educate the viewer about this technology and their potential effects, while also artistically evoking the future 'data ecosystems' that will surround us when these technologies are employed at huge scales."

According to RAND researchers, IoB technologies "promise improved physical performance, revolutions in medical treatments, and convenience," but are by and large going unregulated.

"The FDA and U.S. Department of Commerce govern a fraction of IoB devices, and a patchwork of other organizations govern IoB data, but much of the space remains unregulated," the report found.

"Many devices fall outside of clear regulatory guidelines, creating opportunities for privacy infringement, increased healthcare costs and vulnerabilities that may be exploited by numerous actors."

There needs to be a fuller understanding of the long-term implications of these devices before the benefits of IoB can be fully realized, according to Mary Lee, a RAND mathematician and lead author of the research.

"The rise of devices that connect the human body to the web is accelerating rapidly," Lee said. "This Internet of Bodies could revolutionize health care and improve our quality of life.

"But without appropriate guardrails, it could also jeopardize our most intimate personal information and introduce serious ethical concerns.

"Lupi's stunning visualization should draw more public attention to this frontier and help inspire essential conversations around getting the balance right," Lee said.

Debbie Millman, designer and host of the award-winning podcast Design Matters and a co-curator of the RAND program, said Lupi's work helps viewers understand the potential of the technologies "in a visually compelling way."

For more information on 'Internet of Bodies: Our Connected Future', Lupi and the residency visit the Art + Data page on RAND's website.

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