The biggest technology flaws in 2021

The drug sold by Biogen is an antibody that binds to brain plaques. Aduhelm flopped in a large human experiment that showed no concrete benefit to patients with brain disease. Still, the company and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided to move forward in June because of objections from the agency’s expert advisers. Several resigned. One, Aaron Kesselheim, called the episode “probably the worst decision on drug approval in recent American history.”

Yes, we need new treatments for Alzheimer’s. However, this approval marked a worrying trend toward approving drugs using a weaker type of evidence known as “surrogate markers.” Because Aduhelm causes a measurable reduction in brain plaques – a marker for dementia – the FDA concluded that there was a “reasonable likelihood” that it would benefit patients. One problem with such guesswork is that no one knows if these plaques cause disease or are simply among its symptoms.

Aduhelm, the first new drug for Alzheimer’s in 20 years, is already a failure. Few patients get it, Biogen’s sales are minimal, and at least one person has died of swelling in the brain. Since the approval, the company has halved the price of the drug and its head of research has abruptly resigned.

RRead more: “How an Unproven Alzheimer’s Drug Was Approved,” the New York Times reported.

Zillow’s house purchase algorithm

“Do not get high on your own supply” is a well-known business principle. Real estate listing company Zillow did exactly that with disastrous results.

The company’s real estate listing site is popular, as are its computer-generated house values, known as “Zestimates.” The company’s mistake used its estimates to buy homes themselves, invisibly, to turn them around and charge transaction fees. Zillow quickly learned that its algorithm did not correctly predict changes in house prices. And that was not the only problem.

Zillow competed with other digital bidders, known as “iBuyers.” So it did what any homeowner decided to make a deal would do: it paid too much. This year, Zillow built hundreds of homes for less than its own purchase price. In November, the company closed its iBuying unit Zillow Offers, closed 2,000 jobs and took a $ 500 million write-off in what the Wall Street Journal described as “one of the sharpest recent U.S. corporate withdrawals.”

Zillow will stick to its original business of selling ads to real estate agents. Its Zestimates still has a home on the site.

Read more: “What went wrong with Zillow? A real estate algorithm derailed its great efforts,” the Wall Street Journal

Ransomware

Ransomware is malicious software that hijacks a company’s computer files by encrypting them. Criminals then demand money to restore access. It is a thriving business. Ransomware hit a new record in 2021 with more than 500 million attacks, according to cybersecurity firm SonicWall.

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