Study Will Follow 10,000 New Yorkers for at Least 20 Years

What to Know

  • Kavli HUMAN Project aims to track nearly everything about 10,000 participants from New York City
  • Researchers want to keep the project going for at least 20 years, but it could last much longer
  • The study will yield rich, layered data on both individuals and groups and will have enormous applications years from now

A large-scale study will track nearly every aspect of 10,000 New Yorkers lives for decades, according to reports.

The Kavli HUMAN Project looks to map out everything about each participant’s life over at least 20 years. This includes numerous factors about the participant's health, such as sleep patterns and diet, to details about his or her financial, social and educational lives. Physical data such as each person’s GPS location will also be logged.

In total, data on 10,000 New Yorkers from 4,000 households will be tracked by a smart-phone app and physical evaluations, Vox reported. Researchers want to keep the project going for 20 years, but it could last much longer.

Computers will crunch the data on each individual, hopefully painting a picture of the behavior, biology and environment that influenced that person over many years.

The long-term goal of the multi-million-dollar project is to “enable the development of theories, therapeutics, and policies that improve the health and quality of human life.”

Paul Glimcher, the director of the project, is a scientist and New York University professor. He says the project is still in the planning stage but that researchers will start recruiting participants next year.

Glimcher says researchers will keep the sensitive data secure in “the red cube” — slang for a super secure facility only accessible to several system operators who must be biometrically identified. The data itself will be anonymized. 

“These are people who are, because of their commitment to making New York or the world a better place, sharing fundamental data about themselves. And we have an obligation to them that we will never breach, to protect them,” Glimcher told Vox. 

Glimcher says the study will yield rich, layered information about individuals and groups that will be useful to all of humanity years down the road. It won’t only help in a practical, scientific sense, but also in the way that we see ourselves as individuals and as a species. 

The plethora of information may be attractive to some, but off-putting to others.

“We are building a map. And that map will be of use to society, whether individuals choose to see where they are on that map or not,” Glimcher told Vox.

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