Ehi Bing, am I sick?

Pancreatic cancer comes along with subtle symptoms that go unnoticed most of the time. Credit: Pancreatic Cancer Organisation

Voltaire once said: Judge a man by his questions, rather than by his answers.

Indeed, just Google for this, several have pointed out a variety of reasons why often questions are more important than the answers to them.  I might have stumbled upon just one more reason: by looking at your search history a search engine might be able to spot you have a pancreatic cancer well before you decide to go to your doctor to check your symptoms.

This is the amazing result reported by MIT Technology Review, based on a study made by Microsoft researchers.

They captured searches made on Bing related to pancreatic cancer showing that the person had been diagnosed with the cancer and then went back to correlate the searches that person made in the previous years before he was aware to have cancer. 

By doing this they were able to identify some patterns that manifested themselves 4 to 5 months prior the person went to see the doctor and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

This research highlights the fact that our searches on the web tells a lot about ourselves and by analysing the searches one could come up with a global answer that although it was not actually part of any question, it was the hidden reason that generated a certain pattern.

This research has focussed on pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancer, mostly because its symptoms are vague and people go to see a doctor when it the cancer has grown to an uncontrollable size. However, the method used can well be applied to several other diseases as well as to other fields.

By looking at the historical sequence of our question a smart (deep learning) algorithm may discover very important things about us that we are not even aware ourselves.

This is just another, astounding, example of the unexpected twists generated by a data economy and the tremendous power of those (few) harvesting the world data.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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