Ars on your lunch break: An early warning is key to kicking cancer

Below you’ll find the second and final installment of the After On interview with pediatric oncologist and medical futurist Daniel Kraft. Please check out part one if you missed it. Otherwise, press play on the embedded player, or pull up the transcript—both of which are below.

Today, we build on the amazing results Google attained with its experimental eye scan study and consider the unlikely things that might one day be meaningful early-warning markers for health problems.

Maybe shifts in vocal tone? Tiny subtleties in sleep patterns? Social media activity? Or deep algorithms that correlate these and many other signals? Could breath become a biomarker for cancer? (Almost certainly.) Could toe size foretell wild success on the NASCAR circuit? (Don’t count on it.)

We close by talking about the Cancer X Prize, which Kraft is overseeing. It’s all about early detection. Their highly quotable target is a test, which can detect multiple cancers in under 24 hours for less than $24, anywhere from Tennessee to Tanzania.

Some might prefer a prize targeting miracles cures instead. But big pharma, little pharma, Google, and countless others are investing billions on that long-term, long shot front. Meanwhile, the blunt-instrument cures we already have can save 4-5 times more lives when cancer is detected early. This gives big improvements in detection a stunning potential to save lives in the near term.

If you’re curious about the latest episode in the main After On podcast feed, this week it’s an interview with Yale ornithologist and evolutionary heretic Richard Prum. Rick boldly and brilliant refutes much of the common wisdom about sexual attraction, aesthetics, and more. And the wellspring of his unorthodox ideas is… Charles Darwin himself. If you’re at all interested in the deep roots of human behavior and biology, you’ll find this interview fascinating—even if you’re not interested in birds.

Finally, if you enjoy my conversation with Daniel, please consider browsing the full archive of the After On podcast on my site. Alternatively, you can find it in your favorite podcast app simply by searching for “After On.” I’ve posted deep-dive interviews with dozens of world-class thinkers, founders, and scientists—tackling subjects like cryptocurrency, astrophysics, drones, genomics, synthetic biology, neuroscience, consciousness, privacy, government hacking, and more.

And of course, I hope you’ll join me here again on Ars next week, when we’ll be serializing another episode from my podcast’s recent archives.

This special edition of the Ars Technicast podcast can be accessed in the following places:

iTunes: (Might take several hours after publication to appear.)




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