If you’ve ever taken a stomach-wrenching poop, stood up, examined said onyx-colored floater with your eyes and thought to yourself, “Well, that can’t be good,” but decided it was too much effort/stress to actually ask a doctor about it, I have some good news for you. According to a report by Sanjay Mehrotra, chief executive of memory chipmaker Micron Technology, your porcelain throne will soon have the capability, by way of artificial intelligence, to scan your poop and let you know if you just ingested a bunch of iron, or if you’re actually bleeding internally.
“Medicine is going toward precision medicine and precision health,” Mehrotra said at the Techonomy 2018 conference in San Francisco, as reported by CNET. “Imagine smart toilets in the future that will be analyzing human waste in real time every day. You don’t need to be going to visit a physician every six months. If any sign of disease starts showing up, you’ll be able to catch it much faster because of urine analysis and stool analysis.”
In other words, the same machine intelligence that will likely take over your job, your life and later become your robot overlord, will begin its siege on everything you love via scanning your poop for impurities.
So, to what, uh, end? Anish Sheth, author of What’s Your Poo Telling You and a consultant for Toi Labs, a company designing its own smart toilet, tells me that the main benefit will be to detect changes in stool consistency and bleeding, especially in patients who have colitis (either Crohn’s or Ulcerative colitis). “If the toilet can detect microscopic blood it may be a huge benefit to early colon cancer detection,” says Sheth. Additionally, Sheth says that by measuring stool volume and frequency, a smart toilet can give immediate feedback and recommend users drink more water and consume more fiber.
But just how reliable will such a test be? Per a report in Outer Places, Micron — one of the world’s leading producers of memory chips and related hardware — has already proven itself capable of diagnosing medical issues using artificial intelligence. “In fact, a combination of AI methods has proven itself even more effective at spotting breast cancer than humans,” they report.
Smart toilets focused on hygiene and comfort are already common in places like Japan, of course, but despite America’s notorious dislike of proper anal cleansing, it looks like they’re finally on their way here, too. The Daily Mail reports that experts at the European Space Agency and MIT have teamed up with sanitation specialists to create the “FitLoo,” a “high-tech lavatory will screen urine for the presence of extra proteins and glucose, gathering data through sensors located inside the bowl. These will detect fluctuations in levels of these substances, as well as the presence of other markers that might be an early warning of cancer or diabetes.”
According to Sameer Berry, a third-year resident physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, toilet manufacturing giants like Toto and Matsushita have already pioneered the smart toilet revolution when they released WiFi-connected toilets that measure body mass index, biochemical makeup (sugar, protein), flow rate and temperature of urine. “Inui Health (formerly known as Scanadu) announced FDA approval for its smartphone-connected urine analysis which can detect bladder infections, pre- and gestational diabetes and kidney disease, all in the comfort of one’s home,” writes Berry in his article for CNBC.
But of course, as is the case with any technologically empowered intelligence, privacy advocates have their concerns. “The only question is whether the data gained from smart toilets will be private… or monetized like your browser and purchase history,” writes Chris Mahon in the same Outer Places article.
Privacy issues aside, the idea of someone selling my poop data to the highest bidder, who will then use said information to sell me customized toilet paper for a cleaner wipe, is a future I wholeheartedly endorse.