I wonder what percentage of technological investment goes into products that do nothing to improve health and lifespan. New filters for your smartphone camera are cool, and you might even make the case that they improve your ability to express yourself. We're allowed to have fun, after all - we don't have to devote every spare moment and dollar to the fate of the human race*. I still feel we don't have the balance right between fun and responsibility.
Here's some technology that doesn't merely exist for its own sake. UCSF is developing a mapping platform that can be used to predict where malaria is most likely to spread, so countries with limited health resources can most effectively invest in prevention efforts. Malaria, almost unknown in the US, kills nearly half a million people a year. When I tell people in the US I've had malaria, they're often surprised. Everyone I knew in West Africa had had malaria at some point, and everyone knew someone who had died of it. Everyone.
What I didn't know until I started writing this was that malaria prevention efforts have been gaining meaningful ground over the last fifteen years - a 37% reduction in incidence and a 60% reduction in mortality. Imagine what could have been done if there was a profit to be made.
* Actually, this is merely a cultural assumption. Maybe we do have such an obligation, and its moral imperative has been too easy to ignore.