Google and Johnson & Johnson have recently announced that they will be collaborating to develop new forms of robotics to assist with surgical procedures. At present, Johnson & Johnson is one of the largest global manufacturers of operating room equipment. As a result, Johnson & Johnson’s collaboration with Google, a global leader in technology, networks, and data, carries the potential to significantly alter or renovate how surgery is carried out. While the details of the collaboration are not yet public knowledge, the work will be run through Google Life Sciences, which is part of Google’s X division that employs approximately 100 doctors and scientists. The work at hand builds upon Google’s previous foray into the medical sciences last year, which saw the creation of an API specifically crafted to store and share DNA sequencing information using its cloud infrastructure.
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This collaboration reminded me of Cori Hayden’s book When Nature Goes Public because of this new collaboration’s focus on interacting with life itself via monetized and technological apparatuses. Of course, such forms of interaction are not new, and certainly they are not new sites of study or focus for STS researchers. However, the scale at which this interaction might take place, through the collaboration of two corporate giants, Google and Johnson & Johnson, appears to merit further thought. How to study such large-scale distributed medical and genetic socio-technical collaborations, systems, and implications? As genetic matter heads “to the cloud,” how can STS researchers contribute to the related and rapidly growing body of scholarship?
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Spencer Platt (Getty Images). 2015.
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