Problems handling finances are often the first sign of cognitive decline, said co-author Daniel Marson…This behavior, Dr. Marson said, “is a strong indicator that you’ll be diagnosed with dementia,” often within a year.
—New York Times story about financial consequences of dementia and how doctors are trying to get more on top of it.
The thing is, doctors are pretty terribly positioned to recognize this or do anything about it. What’s the doc supposed to do? Ask for your Mint login after he stethoscopes you and says “breathe”?
On the flipside, there are other people who are extremely well-positioned to see this now: financial services software providers like Mint and financial services firms like banks and credit card processors. They are already running fraud detection software that looks for ‘unusual’ spending patterns. I know I’ve gotten calls from my bank for extremely small deviations from my normal spending patterns (essentially, if I do anything besides by computers, music equipment, food, or liquor my money providers are like ‘WHERE IS THE REAL JEB AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH HIM?’)
Provided that the article is accurate, and there is something systematic here, that there’s a detectable heteroskedasticity in the financial datastream of the newly demented, shouldn’t it be easy for your banks to figure this out? You’d get a little letter in the mail, “hey, your mortgage payment was late for the first time in 29 years. Also you bought a lot of junk from QVC. Please go to the doctor for a neurological evaluation or we’re shutting off your debit card.”
They say that Facebook can guess with pretty good accuracy when two people are about to start dating from their click- and activity streams. I wonder if they can ever tell before the people can tell. I wonder if we aren’t leaving all sorts of diagnostic clues to our impending psychological or neurological problems all over datacenters in Northern California & New Jersey. Its like Big Data meets Big Medicine. “This guy deletes a lot of Facebook comments within ten minutes of writing them. Start showing him ads for Paxil.” At what point does this kind of possibility create a liability? Like, “Ladies and gentleman of the jury, Finn’s decrepit mental state was clearly visible when he ordered sixteen different editions of The Master & Margarita from Amazon Prime, and yet the defendant, Citibank, did nothing. That is why you must award the family of the dog he ran over with his psychedelic van six million dollars.”