August 16, 2010
Singularity Summit Promises to Stimulate Your BrainThe Singularity Summit, held in San Francisco this past weekend, is not new to me since I helped market the very first one, which was held at Stanford in 2006. The goal of the first Summit was to further the understanding and discussion about the Singularity concept and the future of human technological progress.
The idea over time is to improve people’s thinking about the future and increasing public awareness of radical technologies under development today and of the transformative implications of such technologies understood as part of a larger process.
It was founded as a venue for leading thinkers to explore the subject, whether that be as a scientist, enthusiast, or skeptic.
Speaking of skeptics, the last talk of the event was by James Randi, who some think of as a magician, but he is also known as a debunker.
I first learned of Randi's work at TED where he spoke several years ago. The title defunker equates to his strong and very vocal skepticism, which he writes and speaks about extensively. Fascinating as ever, Randi has the ability to draw you into his logic even if you don't necessarily agree with him.
Gregory Stock is a renown biophysicist who I had the pleasure of meeting at PopTech in Maine more than five years ago. What I love about Stock is his ability to move from academic, physicist and author to entrepreneur and philosopher all within a one hour window. He also has a very engaging curiosity about random things outside his world when you talk to him one-on-one that most experts lack. He wrote the book Redesigning Humans, which is considered a transhumanist classic, now eight years ago.
You can't have a Singularity Conference without a bunch of Artificial Intelligence (AI) geeks running around, which at this event, included Eliezer Yudkowsky (also a profilic writer about human rationality), Ben Goertzel, who is Chief Scientist of AI firm Novamente and Ray Kurzweil, who joined us remotely via video and as always, delivered a rivoting and mind-expanding talk.
My favorite line all day was a Kurzweil one: "My feelings about the brain, the mind and AI - If it quacks like a duck, it is a duck. If it seems conscious it is conscious" -- meaning a conscious being.
Below Ben Goertzel on the Singularity Summit Stage
Psychologists Irene Pepperberg and John Tooby (considered a pioneer of evolutionary psychology) also brought their perspective to the table as did neurobiologists Terrence Sejnowski, Brian Litt, Dennis Bray and Demis Hassabis, who is a research fellow at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at the University College of London.
"Futurists like to predict how genetic engineering and computational implants will allow humans to become a super-species, but few examine the application of similar technologies to nonhumans," says Pepperberg.
David Hanson, who I first met at TED more than six years ago, is a well known roboticist. When I first met him, he was working at Disney Imagineering and while you may not think of a roboticist as an artist, this one is. Formerly a sculptor, he has merged his artistic way of looking at the world with his left brain ability to design and develop a robot with human-like expressive capabilities. He holds a patent on Frubber, a novel material that imitates the look and feel of human skin. I had an opportunity to touch it while I was talking to their very human robot named Zeno. (a video of my experience coming later this month).
Below David Hanson and his very human-like robot Zeno, who has a sexy British accent and has accepted a date with me as soon as he is given 'legs' - I told David I'd fly to Dallas for the occasion.
Also on the agenda was Anita Goel, who works at the intersection of physics, nanotechnology and medicine, Lance Becker, a Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and Venezuelan born Jose Luis Cordeiro who is the Director of the Venezuela node of the Millenium Project. Jose, who I met at the cocktail party the night before the event, has been working in Asia. Prior to that however, he lived in Ecuador for a year around the time the currency changed over to the dollar.
Engaging and witty on stage, Steve Mann doesn't look like your ordinary professor. A pioneer in the study and practice of virtual reality, he has been dubbed the world's first cyborg. He even published a book with its name in the title: Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer. Together with collaborator Ryan Janzen, a Canadian researcher, scientist and composer, they demoed the very powerful and mesmorizing Hydraulophone, a tonal acoustic musical instrument played by direct physical contact with water where sound is generated or affected hydraulically.
Below Toronto-based Steve Mann is engaging, interactive and wows the audience with his examples of virtual reality and demo of the Hydraulophone on stage.
Other impressive talks from other disciplines included Shane Legg, who won the 2008 Canadian Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence Research Prize, Ellen Heber-Katz whose research focuses on molecular biology and genetics of healing, and Ramez Naam, who is the author of More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement.
Since I'm a right brain, I must admit that my favorite part of the day was playing the Hydraulophone, which I'm doing below with Ryan Janzen's guidance and interacting with Hanson's robot, the very endearing Zeno.
August 16, 2010 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Europe, Events, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Robotics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
August 11, 2010
Medical Trends: Tech Advancements is Making Everything SmallerEverything is getting smaller from assisted living contact lenses to ensure you don't take the wrong medication when you get older to nanobots performing a number of medical functions.
Basic nanomachines are already in use today with nanobots being the next generation of nanomachines. Nanobots will be able to autonomously move through our system and perform micro-surgery as they go. As we 'go smaller,' nanobots will not only work inside of us, but they'll perform miracles on the lab side as well.
Engineers have been able to shrink a laboratory onto a chip as well as well as turn a cell phone into a microscope. We'll also be able to use nanobots to augment our blood supply and our immune system, as well as clean out our arteries.
Other developments I learned in a lecture by Stanford's Daniel Kraft who was addressing Singularity University students at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, were around regenerative medicine, stem cell research and bone marrow transplants.
In treating cancer, there are many more targeted treatments happening, such as more specific, and less invasive diagnostics. They're doing research with animals, where dogs can detect through 'smell' whether someone is 'diseased' or not. They're currently working on nano-based noses that can very reliably predict who has disease and who doesn't. In the future, a breathalizer test may be enough to detect whether someone has cancer or not.....and a dog's nose might be your screen.
Stem Cells allow you to do a number of important things, including re-grow skin and build new limbs. Merely turning on the right genes in the right order allows for the possibility of re-creating a new limb if you have lost one.
In order to be a stem cell, the cell has to be able to self renew as well as give rise to mature, specialized cells. As for stem cell sources, you can harvest stem cells through bone marrow as well as through your blood and other places.
"Stem cells seem to know where to go and what to do when put in the right environment," says Daniel. He gives us examples of regrowth and re-creation using stem cells, including the possibility of rebuilding a new bladder using your own cells on a scaffold. There are so many patients who die every year waiting for an organ. Imagine being able to re-create organs so the tragedy of lack of organs or the inability to recreate them is a thing of the past?
June 11, 2010
Gideon Diagnoses Infectious Diseases & MoreI learned a bit about Gideon's product at this year's Israel Conference. Gideon is an easy to use online application, updated weekly, that helps you diagnose infectious diseases and stay up to date on the latest trends in epidemiology, treatment and microbiology. More in the video below.
June 03, 2010
Solar Technology Panelists Strut their Stuff: Get Out The SunSolar panelists talk about the industry and where they fit in. We learn that 17% of SCE's portfolio is now renewable, solar makes up 6% of their portofilio, which will grow substantially over the next few years. Geo-thermal is 57%; Wind is 26%; Biomass is 7% and Small Hydro is 4%. They would like to double their renewable portfolio.
Co-founder of HelioFocus Dr. Ori Zik has raised $20 million of venture money so far. They focus on boosting conventional power plants with solar steam (as long as the technology is located less than one mile from the power plant). Zik sees tremendous opportunities in Asia and has recently signed a deal with the Chinese. What makes them unique? Zik says: 2 kinds of DNA. The new CEO is 35 years old, so we blend youth with experience and we don't take No for an answer."
Capstone's CEO Darren Jamieson gives an overview of the Company, which manufactures micro-turbines. It was founded about 20 years ago with the concept of making a hybrid vehicle, but has always been ahead of its time. As such, they moved to the stationary power business and has grown 20% year over year, despite the difficulties in the economy.
Because there is only one moving part, it's a great application for moving solar dishes. The technology can run on multiple fuel types. Even though the manufacturing is done in California, their largest market is Europe. They currently get 30% + efficiency for heating and/or cooling buildings, which is less than a five year payback for their customers. Now Capstone is moving into new areas such as the Marine Market and the solar concentration market.
April 29, 2010
David Shenk on Gene Expression & SuccessAuthor David Shenk talked to us at the TEDxSF event this past week on Gene Expression.
In scientific terms, gene expression is defined as "the process by which information from a gene is used in the synthesis of a functional gene product." Shenk talks about what 'gene expression' means in the context of our lives and why earlier understandings and belief systems around gene expression must change and has changed.
He references Bell Curve thinking which suggested that genes were simply something we were born with and whether we were successful or not, depended on our 'gene pool.' (see Bell Curve debate).
Success of course, is not just about genetics and those of us who have overcome genetic obstacles know that success IS in fact, the result of so many other things, including the lifestyle we choose, our environment, and the process we tap into. The current thinking is that a trait 'emerges from the interaction between the gene and the environment,' a quote he attributed to professor and researcher Michael Meaney.
Watch Part II of his exploration of genes and success.
April 05, 2010
If We Could Only SEE that We are ALL Designer Thinkers
IDEO's Fred Dust talks about the importance of Design and I LOVED the approach he took. Using examples of 'creators' who are not traditional designers, he demonstrates that we are ALL design thinkers. We are creating and altering design in our lives all the time. Every minute of the day, we are making design decisions without even realizing it. Referencing Julie Gilbert, Antanas Mockus and Dr. Jay Parkinson, he shows us how breaking rules and trying new things can open up groundbreaking ideas and opportunities.
Columbian mathematician Antanas Mockus used mime techniques to decrease violence in a part of Bogota, and then used those principles to teach police how to implement them in other areas.
Dr. Jay Parkinson was revolutionary in how he treated his patients. He put his Google Calendar online and patients would book through the open calendar and then pay for their appointment using PayPal, bypassing the healthcare system altogether. The concept became Hello Health, which took his prototype and allowed other doctors to practice this way too.
Hello Health is a mixture of secure social network and electronic medical record that enables doctors and patients to connect both in their office and online via email, IM, and video chat.
The take away from Dust, is that we're all designer thinkers. Every problem is a design problem. We in fact, transform our environment on a regular basis to make it easier for people around us, i.e., how we adjust our physical bodies when we're in a conversation with someone, where we stand in a conversation, how we adjust our voice -- all to improve the situation and the 'design' environment around us.
Photographer Rick Smolan talks about his own life as a designer and creator, through the world of photography. He references common trends we're seeing in our digital lives today: personalization and customization. People are grabbing at things that allow us to personalize our creations because it makes them feel connected.
In walking us through the Obama Capsule Project and sharing the history behind how The Day in the Life of Series became successful, he laughs and says, "sometimes telling people to shoot for the moon and believing that you can is the best advice that you can give."
Thinking outside the traditional photography book paradigm, Smolan brought us a fresh new approach to publishing: personalization at its best. He believed in his project and the world around him joined forces to help him make his vision a reality.
To echo a sentiment that was shared by many of the speakers at TEDX on Saturday, don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself: what makes you become alive? When you're alive, you're living your true purpose. When you are living your true purpose, you ARE giving the world what it needs.
TEDX Berkeley: Inspiration, Music & Form Under the Wheeler RoofTEDX held their first Berkeley event, with curators Jessica Mah and Kai Chang behind its organization together with dozens of other co-organizers and volunteers. Held in Berkeley's Wheeler Auditorium, I ran into TEDsters I've known for years, but the event also drew a number of students who heard loud and clear: Anything is Possible. Find Your Purpose. Follow your Dream.
Psychologist Dacher Keltner who focuses on the biological and evolutionary origins of human emotion, talked to us about the idea of compassion and sympathy breakthroughs. He used the example of Miklos Nyiszli, where 75% of soldiers refused to shoot the enemy.
To give us some background on others who have given this topic some thought, he also brought up Alfred Russel Wallace who believed that something as 'raw' as cmpassion and sympathy couldn't be formed by evolution.
Let's face it. Compassion is highly contageous. Human goodness has to be viral. We've all seen example after example where gratitude has spread through networks. Keltner shows us an unfortunate and yet not surprising chart on sympathy and compassion across about a dozen countries, which ranked U.S. children close to the bottom, only to be surpassed by the Brits. (the chart was referred to as A Compassion Deficit, sadly appropriate I thought).
Another favorite on the TEDXB stage was an overview of the latest research and unveilings of David Ewing Duncan, who wrote a book I'm eager to read called "Experimental Man: What One Man's Body Reveals about His Future, Your Health, and Our Toxic World. From mercury and obesity to lifestyle and chemicals in our environment, we explore what we can do from what we learn through very early testing and what is simply beyond our control. He gives us examples of what cutting-edge medical technology can and cannot tell us about our future health and what the implications are, including Orwellian possibilities. He talks about four of them: 1. Big Brother - we have to be careful about what we learn and where our medical records end up. 2. The Obama Effect - things are changing but we still have a long way to go. 3. Discrimination 4. Genetic thrallism (Gattaca) David also shows us some frightening results of mercury from fish and discusses anxiety and fear factors - how and where they come into play. Physician Daniel Kraft gives us a future glimpse of medicine, with so many examples that it was overwhelming - so many implications. Fascinating and yet scary innovations that are within our grasp today and more coming within the next decade, shared a common theme: it's all going digital. There's an increasing integration of IT, devices and the web. We look at new 'creations' of wearable devices, which are continuously shrinking in size. Seniors can now wear attachable and embedded devices which means that loved ones can monitor their health and changes from miles away. Wearable devices are turning up trends we've never been able to discover before. Robotic surgery will enable surgeons to be 'super-enabled,' by adding layers of augmented reality and augmented decision support in real-time. With brain-computer interfaces (BCI), you can use thought to control things you couldn't in the past. Minute robots will be able to move through your colon and perform surgery. Chips can turn into microscopes. Microbots will clean out our arteries after gobbling down a heavy-cheese layered pizza.
Other speakers included Neuroscientist Bradley Voytek, inspired by the personality shift and decline of his grandfather's brain from Parkinsons, TED prize winner Jill Tarter from SETI who reminded us that we are all made of stardust and come from the same source, and Diane Benscoter who talked about how her brain was affected by her time spent with the Moonies. Eric Cheng encouraged us to save our oceans, Amit Deutsch shared his experience about a trip taken with Palestians in an effort to move closer to understanding and further away from hatred and Gerver Tulley, who I heard speak at TED several years ago, showed examples of students who learn in an exciting, dynamic way at the Tinkering School.
Amit Deutsch Bradley Voytek Drue Kataoka Eric Cheng Eric Gradman UC Men's Octet Gerver Tully SETI's Jill Tarter Curator Jessica Mah UC Men's Octet TED Berkeley's recap here.
March 28, 2010
From mercury and obesity to lifestyle and chemicals in our environment, we explore what we can do from what we learn through very early testing and what is simply beyond our control.
He gives us examples of what cutting-edge medical technology can and cannot tell us about our future health and what the implications are, including Orwellian possibilities. He talks about four of them:
1. Big Brother - we have to be careful about what we learn and where our medical records end up.
2. The Obama Effect - things are changing but we still have a long way to go.
4. Genetic thrallism (Gattaca)
David also shows us some frightening results of mercury from fish and discusses anxiety and fear factors - how and where they come into play.
Physician Daniel Kraft gives us a future glimpse of medicine, with so many examples that it was overwhelming - so many implications. Fascinating and yet scary innovations that are within our grasp today and more coming within the next decade, shared a common theme: it's all going digital. There's an increasing integration of IT, devices and the web.
We look at new 'creations' of wearable devices, which are continuously shrinking in size. Seniors can now wear attachable and embedded devices which means that loved ones can monitor their health and changes from miles away. Wearable devices are turning up trends we've never been able to discover before.
Robotic surgery will enable surgeons to be 'super-enabled,' by adding layers of augmented reality and augmented decision support in real-time. With brain-computer interfaces (BCI), you can use thought to control things you couldn't in the past. Minute robots will be able to move through your colon and perform surgery. Chips can turn into microscopes. Microbots will clean out our arteries after gobbling down a heavy-cheese layered pizza.
Other speakers included Neuroscientist Bradley Voytek, inspired by the personality shift and decline of his grandfather's brain from Parkinsons, TED prize winner Jill Tarter from SETI who reminded us that we are all made of stardust and come from the same source, and Diane Benscoter who talked about how her brain was affected by her time spent with the Moonies.
Eric Cheng encouraged us to save our oceans, Amit Deutsch shared his experience about a trip taken with Palestians in an effort to move closer to understanding and further away from hatred and Gerver Tulley, who I heard speak at TED several years ago, showed examples of students who learn in an exciting, dynamic way at the Tinkering School.
UC Men's Octet
SETI's Jill Tarter
Curator Jessica Mah
UC Men's Octet
TED Berkeley's recap here.
Sarah Palin: the Dangerous AirheadThis past week in the Huffington Post, Mona Gable writes an amusing but scary account of Palin's most recent examples of her ongoing hunger to become a celebrity and folksy hero, regardless what it takes.
Her first example is Palin's documentary deal on Alaska she struck with The Discovery Channel.
Gable writes: "beyond semantics, what were the folks at Discovery Channel thinking? Did anyone there consider the irony of hiring a woman to host a "nature" show who disdains nature? I mean, before she fleeced you for more than $1 million an episode, (for that matter, John McPhee would have been excellent, and I'm sure he'd have done it for much less), that maybe it wasn't the smartest choice given her strange relationship to the truth and her polarizing politics? Did you forget that in her brief and erratic tenure as governor, Palin had a dreadful environmental record, championing such animal-friendly policies as the aerial shooting of wolves? Or refusing to give protected status to such endangered species as the beluga whale? Even now, Palin proudly and avidly flaunts her ignorance about climate change."
The essence of Gable's piece however is about her "refusal to take responsibility for stirring up violence on the right with her incendiary rhetoric."
She writes about Palin's suggestion that Obama was "paling around with terrorists" when she was running for vice president. Mona also reminds us of her other vocal assertions, when she "claimed that the president had inserted "death panels" in the health care bill, precisely so they could kill her Down syndrome infant and her aging parents."
Read more, including her final plea for someone to hold Palin accountable and set things straight.
March 26, 2010
Out of Hospitals & Into Your HealthTeam breakout sessions from this week's Economist & Berkeley Haas School of Business presented on-stage: innovative ideas around the areas of finance, new business models, education, healthcare, energy and sustainability.
Below is the idea presented on healthcare entitled: Out of Hospitals and Into Your Health, which won the audience sentiment at the end of the event. Also refer to the more extensive summary of the event.
March 25, 2010
The Economist's Innovation & Ideas Economy Event at BerkeleyI attended The Economist's Innovation event at Berkeley's Haas School of Business this week, a new format and style for them.
The discussion that was both compelling and controversial was on day one between Nathan Wolfe of Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, Juan Enriquez of Excel Venture ManagementLife and death in a techno-utopia and Ray Kurzweil who came in via live video stream. Topic? Can technology save you—and the planet? In other words, how much can we count on technology to fix issues and how much do we need to rely on ourselves? Humanity?
A discussion I missed but wanted to not only watch but participate in, was the one entitled: Is America turning into a third-world country? The Economist's New York Bureau Chief Matthew Bishop has a conversation with Arianna Huffington. Every time I leave America's borders and return, I am reminded how much it is. Where you sit on this issue depends on where you sit economically and geographically. Silicon Valley should be its own country, since so many of its views and daily realities are so far removed from the rest of the country.
Social entrepreneurship was a big theme. Can free-market thinking solve the world’s most serious problems? What is the future of social entrepreneurship? What are the costs and benefits of micro-capitalism? Acumen Fund's Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder, Acumen Fund, LeapFrog Investment's Andrew Kuper, VisionSpring's Jordan Kassalow and Dan Reicher, Director of Climate Change and Energy Initatives at Google, discussed.
On day two, they had breakout sessions in several important categories including financial markets, new business models, green technology & sustainability, and healthcare.
Given that the overall programme was business school focused, Mashable's Ben Parr and I, who are so entrenched in start-up culture, were a rarity in discussions with larger entity heads of marketing and innovation at companies like Cisco, Intel and other corporates in the Valley.
We were both on the same team for the new business model team break-out, which involved building a new prototype to attract engineers for a company that looked and felt like Facebook. Creating a 'home environment' at the workplace is so automatic for Silicon Valley start-ups that the exercise, designed to keep gen-y workers, was a much more natural exercise for us.
How to influence change within the minds of more traditional older school executives is a much harder challenge, something which Charlene Li addresses in her upcoming book Open Leadership, due out in mid-April.
Innovation Court ended on day two with on-stage presentations by the break-out teams in each of their respective categories. The winner would be awarded a cover placement on the Economist, which happily went to Healthcare - "Out of Hospitals and Into Health.". In my opinion, the right choice. The recent 'win' is a step in the right direction, although clearly it's only the beginning.
I shot a series of videos towards the end of the event, of the teams presenting on stage which will follow in subsequent blog posts, all of them moderated by The Economist's Vijay Vaitheeswaran.