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Month September 2014

Bill Clinton Discusses “Moonshots” with Peter Diamandis, Endorses Abundance

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Bill Clinton Discusses “Moonshots” with Peter Diamandis, Endorses Abundance

“Why are you so optimistic about the future…don’t you read the papers?”

President Bill Clinton recently pitched this playful question to Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, in an on-stage interview at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative last week. A week earlier, the former U.S. president had appeared on CNN to recommend Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think, Diamandis’ book which was co-written with Steven Kotler. Now the two had an opportunity to discuss technology and the world’s problems face to face.

In response, he stated simply that he’s optimistic because of the numbers.

According to Diamandis, the cost of food has dropped thirteen-fold in the last hundred years. The cost of energy is down twenty-fold, transportation a hundred-fold, and communications a thousand-fold.

Technology, he said, is the force that takes what used to be scarce and makes it abundant. It is “the great democratizer.”

Check out the 15-minute interview for a closer look at the conversation:

In his introduction of Diamandis, Clinton summarized Abundance’s main theme: “If we can unleash enough human power to match our technological capacity, the 21st century will be a time of more shared prosperity and more ‘good news’ than ‘bad news’ stories.”

That’s exactly what the X PRIZE aims to do with its own unique approach.

Diamandis explained that X PRIZE utilizes incentive competitions to increase the rate of technological innovations by balancing competition (between teams) and cooperation (within teams). Applied to “moonshot” challenges, X PRIZE competitions invite teams from all over the world to compete for multimillion dollar prizes in exchange for solving some of the world’s toughest challenges.

The next intractable problem X PRIZE is tackling? Education.

Last week, the Foundation announced a $15 million Global Learning X PRIZE, which challenges teams from around the world to develop an open source software that will enable children to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic. The top five entries into the competition will be tested, and the winning software will be released on Android devices.

While Clinton acknowledged this bold venture into social policy, he expressed his concern with a larger issue: the huge number of children throughout the world struggling to have “recommended medicines adhere to their bodies because of nutritional stunting.”

He asked, “How are we going to feed all these people without making climate change much worse than it already is?”

Fortunately, Diamandis’ optimism seems to inspire the former President, arguing that we already have the intelligence and the tools to solve these problems as many of these answers are in the pipeline.

So if you’re weary of hearing about all the bad things happening in the world today, it’s comforting that former presidents are tired of it too. Yet knowing that real technological solutions to tackle the world’s challenges are being actively developed is encouraging.

Hopefully, the efforts toward “moonshots” in health and education are just on the horizon.


This Algorithm Finds the Safest Neighborhood Close to a McDonald’s Just From Photos

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This Algorithm Finds the Safest Neighborhood Close to a McDonald’s Just From Photos


The list of things computers can do better than humans is already long, and it’s getting longer every year. Now, you can add making environmental inferences.

We pride ourselves on the ability to read between the lines, find patterns and information where they aren’t immediately obvious. A hundred subtle (or not so subtle) details in a given scene may add up to the fight-or-flight judgement this is a safe place—or, run!

Turns out, computers can do the same thing, and they do it better than us.

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) showed human volunteers two pictures from different locations and asked them the questions: Which scene is closer to a McDonald’s, and which has the higher crime rate?

The humans were outperformed by a computer program.

The algorithm—developed by PhD students Aditya Khosla, Byoungkwon An, Joseph Lim and CSAIL principal investigator Antonio Torralba—was fed eight million Google images from eight urban areas across the US. Each image was tagged with key GPS data related to crime rates and McDonald’s locations.

The MIT program uses an algorithmic approach called deep learning where a computer is fed a huge amount of data and asked to independently sort individual elements. For example, on its own, the program noted you tend to find taxis, police vans, and prisons near McDonald’s—but you don’t find cliffs, suspension bridges, or sandbars.

“These sorts of algorithms have been applied to all sorts of content, like inferring the memorability of faces from headshots,” said Khosla. “But before this, there hadn’t really been research that’s taken such a large set of photos and used it to predict qualities of the specific locations the photos represent.”

Khosla thinks the algorithm could be used in an app that helps users avoid high-crime areas or aid McDonald’s in deciding where to build their next restaurant.

dog-wide-brim-hat-computer-visionWhile the MIT algorithm uses contextual clues to make a specific inference, other computer vision work is allowing software to more accurately identify exactly what those clues are—like that’s a dog wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

In this year’s ImageNet large-scale visual recognition challenge, the largest academic computer vision contest in the world, the winning team doubled the quality of computer vision classification and detection over last year’s outcome.

The goal of all this? Certainly better image search or maybe smarter apps. But also paired with a robot and camera system—improved computer vision and the ability to make simple inferences about what’s being seen make for more autonomous robots.

Such robots are already making their way onto the factory floor, and eventually, they may prove useful in other professional settings, or even in at home.

Image Credit: MIT CSAIL; Google

Big Brother Is Feeling You: The Global Impact Of AI-Driven Mental Health Care

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Big Brother Is Feeling You: The Global Impact Of AI-Driven Mental Health Care

happiness ai

Big Brother is feeling you—literally.

A few months back, I wrote about Ellie, the world’s first AI-psychologist. Developed by DARPA and researchers at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, Ellie is a diagnostic tool capable of reading 60 non-verbal cues a second—everything from eye-gaze to face tilt to voice tone—in the hopes of identifying the early warning signs of depressions and (part of the long term goal) stemming the rising tide of soldier suicide.

And early reports indicate that Ellie is both good at her job and that soldiers like talking to an AI-psychologist more than they like talking to a human psychologist (AI’s don’t judge).

More importantly, Ellie is part of the bleeding edge of an accelerating trend—what we could call the automation of psychology.

The goal in this story is to examine some surprising aspects of the long term ramifications of this trend, but before we get there a few more examples of exactly what’s been going on are helpful.

Our first example comes from Dartmouth, where computer scientist Andrew Campbell just announced that he successfully used data gathered by student’s smartphones to predict their states of mind and subsequent behavior.

Campbell’s original question was why some students fail when others succeed. His suspicion was that a myriad of factors like quality of student sleep and number of interpersonal relationships played an important role in success, so he built an app—known as The StudentLife app (built for Android)—that monitored things like sleep duration, number of phone conversations per day, length of those conversations, physical activity, location (meaning are you out in public or hiding in the dorm), etc. This data—combined with some machine learning algorithms—was used to make inferences about student mental health.

48 students ran this app for 10 weeks. The results were surprisingly accurate. For example, students who have more conversations were less likely to be depressed, students who were physically active were less likely to be lonely, and, surprisingly, there is no correlation between class attendance and academic success.

As Campbell told New Scientist: “We found for the first time that passive and automatic sensor data obtained from phones without any action from the user, significantly correlates to student depression level, stress and loneliness, and with academic performance over the term.”

The point here is not that USC’s Ellie or Campbell’s app are the end-all-be-all of psychological diagnosis—but it’s really a matter of time. In the same way that researchers are hard at work at a portable, AI-driven, handheld medical diagnostic device (see the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize), they’re getting down to work on similar breakthroughs in psychology.

Yet, diagnosis is only part of the issue. If we’re really talking about the automation of psychology, there’s still treatment to consider. And that’s where our second set of examples comes in.

Right now, a next wave of cheap, portable, and far more precise neurofeedback devices are hitting the market. One example is the Muse, a device Tim Ferris recently put through it’s paces. The goal of his experiment was stress reduction and, after two weeks of Muse training, Mr. Ferris reported that he a much calmer person.

Of course, the Muse is one product. But dozens more are hitting the market. And in every variety.

A few weeks ago, when I was at USC to meet Ellie, I also got to demo an immersive VR-based protocol for the treatment of PTSD, developed by psychologist Skip Rizzo. It’s an impressive piece of tech. With soldiers returning from combat, already Rizzo’s protocol has proven itself more effective than traditional methods.

brain scansAnd since brain science itself is advancing exponentially all of this work is only going to continue to accelerate. In other words, we’re none too far away from a combination platter of automatized psychological diagnosis and automatized treatment protocols—which means that mental health care is currently being digitized and about to become democratized.

So here’s my question, sort of a little thought experiment. Let’s say this works. Let’s say that by 2025, Google or Facebook or someone like that will have succeeded in their mission to bring free wireless to the world. Let’s say that smartphones follow the same growth curve they’re currently on and, again by 2025, have then become so cheap that just about anyone who wants one can have one. And let’s say that we manage to automate psychology successfully.

What are the results?

The easiest place to start is with the idea that we might soon live in a much happier world. I don’t mean this in a let’s hold hands and sing Kumbaya kind of way, I mean that when psychologists Ed Diener (University of Illinois) and Shigehiro Oishi (UVA) conducted a study of more than 10,000 participants in 48 counties, they found that happiness is not just a global concern, rather is the global concern. In their study, the quest for happiness is more important to folks than making lots of money, living a meaningful life, or, even, going to heaven.

Moreover, while some sizable chunk of happiness appears to be genetic, there’s also really good research showing that 40 percent of our happiness is entirely within our control.

What all this suggests is that once we have available (i.e. democratized) mental health tools, people will use these tools to strive for happiness. And, if early results are anything to go by, they might just find a little more happiness as well.

So, again, what does the world look like when we’re all in better moods?

Recent research shows that happier people tend to make more money and spend less money. So, does this mean that happiness is good for the banking industry (where that extra money might go if it’s not spent) and bad for economic growth (because that money is not being spent)? Truthfully, we don’t know.

When it comes to the economics of happiness, the research usually looks at the impact of money on happiness and not visa-versa. Check out this Atlantic article. The story sums up a lot of recent work, but again, moves from wealth to happiness and not the other way round.

More interesting, perhaps, is the question of unintended consequences. Consider the recent spate of work that has shown that happy people have a bunch of habits that unhappy people don’t. What we don’t yet know is if these habits are things that lead to more happiness or are they the results of being happy, but—it seems safe to assume—some of these habits will turn out to be more the effect (of happiness) than the cause.

Thus, in a happier world, we should see more of these effects. And the results will make for a very different world.

Let’s start with the fact that happy people are more curious and, by extension, more prone to risk-taking (in an attempt to try and satisfy that extra curiosity). So a happier society should be a more innovative society, as the result of all that curiosity and risk-taking.

And this is merely a single example. Researchers have also found that happy people tend to be less skeptical, less jealous, more grateful, more extroverted, better rested, more future-oriented, more willing to feel (but not dwell upon) negative emotions, dislike small talk, more generous, and, of course, more purpose driven.

By no means is this a complete list. But the point here is that while many of these changes may be causes of happiness, a number of them are bound to end up being its results. And, again, with serious effect.

oculus riftUniversity of Texas psychologist David Buss has called jealousy “the most destructive emotion housed in the human brain.” In his research, analyzing over a century’s worth of data, jealousy is the leading cause of spousal murder worldwide. So, if it turns out that, less jealousy is a by-product of more happiness (and not just a cause) then are we looking at a future with far fewer domestic homicides? Less spousal abuse as well?

What about a more generous world? Or a less skeptical world? Or a world that dislikes small talk (imagine what happens to reality TV then)?

The point here is that while all might this sound a little hypothetical—admittedly, it is—but the automation of psychology is already happening. All the data suggests that the democratization of mental health care should lead in the direction of a happier world. But what the data also suggests is that a happier world will be a far different world—meaning the impact of a shift in global mood will have some absolutely enormous socio-economic ramifications.

Stay tuned.

[Image credits: eggs in carton courtesy of Shutterstock, Digitalarti/Flickr, Sergey Galyonkin/Flickr]

This Week’s Awesome Stories from Around the Web (Through Sept 27, 2014)

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This Week’s Awesome Stories from Around the Web (Through Sept 27, 2014)

spiral staircase

This week, we saw history in the making as the first 3D printer arrived at the International Space Station. The stories we’ve been passing around cover a range of topics, from robots in seminaries to open access for scientific research. Enjoy!

ROBOTS: The Most Valiant Attempts to Program Our Five Senses Into Robots
Alexandra Ossola | Motherboard
“Scientists haven’t fully unraveled how we’re able to sense what we do; it’s both our hardware and software that contain codes that are difficult to crack. Still, scientists power through, discovering how their own senses work while crafting artificial versions of them.”

CULTURE: Why artificial intelligence is the future of religion
Michael Schulson | Salon
“’Technology is viewed as a way of saving us…if you eradicate God from the picture, you have no other means to achieve that end. There’s no other way to achieve victory over death other than by some hope that you have the technological means to make it possible. And it’s a huge dream to put on technology.’”

ORIGINS: Force of nature gave life its asymmetry
Elizabeth Gibney | Nature
“Many organic molecules, including glucose and most biological amino acids, are ‘chiral’. This means that they are different than their mirror-image molecules, just like a left and a right glove are. Moreover, in such cases life tends to consistently use one of the possible versions — for example, the DNA double helix in its standard form always twists like a right-handed screw. But the reason for this preference has long remained a mystery. Many scientists think that the choice was simply down to chance.”

CYBERNETICS: ‘I was blind… now I have bionic eyes’
Rose Eveleth | BBC
“‘People say you’ll see shapes,’ she says. ‘Well yeah but it’s the electrical impulses, and it’s about learning how to interpret them. It’s not that it’s hard, it’s just a learning curve.’”

EDUCATION: Online classes really do work, according to study
David L. Chandler |
“‘A number of well-known educators have said there isn’t going to be much learning in MOOCs, or if there is, it will be for people who are already well-educated.” But after thorough before-and-after testing of students taking the MITx physics class 8.MReVx (Mechanics Review) online, and similar testing of those taking the same class in its traditional form, Pritchard and his team found quite the contrary: The study showed that in the MITx course, “the amount learned is somewhat greater than in the traditional lecture-based course,” Pritchard says.”

RESEARCH: Grand openings: Changes that will bring scientific discovery more freely into the public domain are happening
The Economist
“Publishers, though they have often dragged their feet, are adjusting. This week the oldest, the Royal Society, and arguably the most prestigious, Nature Publishing Group (NPG)—both based in London—joined in. Each will now publish a journal that readers do not have to pay to look at.”

OCEAN EXPLORATION: Deep Sea Explorations Amaze with Live Stream Video
Jennifer Frazer | Scientific American

[Image credit:mcginnly/Flickr]

‘Soft’ Robots From MIT and Harvard Open Up Possibilities for New Class of Bots

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‘Soft’ Robots From MIT and Harvard Open Up Possibilities for New Class of Bots

The science of soft robotics is making big leaps as teams from MIT and Harvard have recently shown off new prototypes, hoping to challenge the way people imagine the future of robotics.

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, led by director Daniela Rus, already has a portfolio of untraditional robots, inspired by the movements of living creatures. Their robots fly like falcons, perch like pigeons, and swim like swordfish. This week, at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, a new robot was unveiled which moves like a snake through a pipe-like environment without the need for a human operator.

“I want to challenge the notion that robots have to look or act a certain way”, says Andrew Marchese, a doctoral candidate at MIT’s CSAIL who worked on the project.

Made completely of silicone rubber created using 3D printed molds, the arm is the latest entry in the burgeoning field of soft robots, whose movements are not constrained by the hard joints seen in traditional counterparts.

Soft robots has the potential to create safer, more resilient, and more efficient devices in a way that traditional rigid-bodied robotics cannot. Most robots cannot move in confined spaces and must be programmed precisely to avoid collisions, while this silicone arm, without rigid joints, can be much more nimble in it’s movement.

Other so-called soft robots still have inflexible elements such as high-pressure actuators and aluminum pieces which hold everything together. CSAIL’s robotic arm is so soft that a typical motor shaft cannot be attached. Instead, the team creatively solved that problem by using expandable channels on both sides which fill with pressurized air and strain the silicone, causing it to change shape and move. The team worked to develop complex algorithms to determine the curvature needed to make the diversity of motions required for the robot to navigate their pipe-like environment.

If CSIL’s snake-like robotic arm isn’t convincing enough, take at look at this nearly indestructible soft robot, developed at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Inspired by the non-rigid structure of animals like starfish and squid, and made from a composite of stiff rubber, silicone elastomer and polyamide fabric, this untethered soft robot can get up and walk freely through snow and fire and can even survive unscathed after being run over by a car. It is resistant to water, corrosion, UV damage, fire and a wide range of temperatures and environments.

Today, the combination of increased flexibility in design and manufacturing available through 3D printing, the growing variety of robust materials, and the recent surge of biomimicry, is yielding robotic machines which do not look or move anything like the mechanical looking humanoid bots envisioned in the past.

While these prototypes are in the experimental phase, future versions of both these robots could perform search and rescue tasks such as going into a collapsed building, where they could maneuver through tight spaces and withstand harmful conditions such as chemical contaminations or flames, which would be toxic to humans.

Futuristic Chinese Megastructure Would Include Soaring Towers, Massive Skyways, Urban Farms

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Futuristic Chinese Megastructure Would Include Soaring Towers, Massive Skyways, Urban Farms


Many of the world’s cities are hundreds, even thousands of years old. They evolved from the bottom up as populations changed and demanded change. A new road here, new building there. The result is striking and wild—a kind of physical history.

But what if you could start New York or London from scratch?

To see skylines of the future—look east. Perhaps nowhere is urban growth happening more rapidly than in China. Home to a burgeoning list of megacities (population over 10 million), the country is wide open to ambitious and imaginative urban design.

ufo-chinese-megastructure-cloud-citizen-41In a recent contest, the city of Shenzhen went looking for creative proposals for a financial district (think London’s Canary Wharf) including three skyscrapers, a scattering of cultural buildings, and a green space linking it all together.

The co-winning design is a massive complex called Cloud Citizen that’s nearly as wide as it is tall. The structure forms a fused city skyline complete with three towers—the tallest of which would be the second highest in the world (680 meters)—and a series of giant floating skyways. Cloud Citizen would house office, commercial, leisure, and cultural space and include suspended public plazas and roads.

But the building’s designers, Urban Future Organization and CR-Design, hope Cloud Citizen is more than a building—they want it to be a sustainable urban ecosystem.

The structure would harvest rainwater and be powered by the sun, wind, and algae. There would be farm modules to grow food, sanctuaries for wild plants, and in sheltered areas of the structure, “sky parks” providing a natural setting for residents and visitors.


Cloud Citizen is cool and unique, but it’s only a vision of the future—not the future itself.

Though the design took home the top prize, the contest administrators say the final plan will need “further consideration” and only be “implemented after approval by the statutory procedures.” Translation: It could (and will likely) change considerably.

Though clearly a design with lots of due diligence to come, as a concept for futurists, Cloud Citizen is an interesting morsel of food for thought. Are our cities destined to move beyond the iconic monoliths of the twentieth century? Urbanization continues apace. To control sprawl, cities may increasingly move key infrastructure skyward.


Instead of the standard sci-fi flying car trope, mega-structures like Cloud Citizen could make for fully three-dimensional road maps with car elevators and a network of criss-crossing roads in the sky. The fumes from gas-powered vehicles might be difficult to control, but electric vehicles would pose no such challenge.

Or really, why cars at all? If urban skylines were connected in three dimensions, why not have three dimensional people movers that rely on the building’s infrastructure—maybe some combination of multi-directional elevators and trains.

Just spitballing here. Undoubtedly, competing visions will bring forth diverse ideas and concepts in years to come. Whatever the future holds, however, you can enjoy the Cloud Citizen conceptual sketches in their full glory right now.





Image Credit: All images courtesy of Urban Future Organization and CR-Design

Plant Engineered to Supercharge Photosynthesis with Hopes of Increasing Crop Yields

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Plant Engineered to Supercharge Photosynthesis with Hopes of Increasing Crop Yields

While computers scientists find new ways to supercharge computers, a team of plant scientists have demonstrated that they can supercharge a plant.

Hoping to speed up plant photosynthesis, researchers from the US and UK have successfully upgraded a carbon-fixing enzyme vital to photosynthesis in a tobacco plant with two enzymes from cyanobacteria, which function at a faster rate. If photosynthesis can be performed more efficiently, plants would grow larger and crops could have higher yields, posibly as high as 60% according to computer models.

“This is the first time that a plant has been created through genetic engineering to fix all of its carbon by a cyanobacterial enzyme,” said Cornell Professor Maureen Hanson, a co-author of the study, in the release. She added, “It is an important first step in creating plants with more efficient photosynthesis.”

The study was recently published in the journal Nature.

Photosynthesis in plants involves the capture of carbon dioxide and water followed by absorbing light to generate oxygen and sugar that’s vital to producing plant tissue and energy. Unfortunately Rubisco, the enzyme responsible for fixing carbon dioxide, also has an affinity for grabbing oxygen from the air, which inhibits it and reduces the growth rate of the plant.

However, Rubisco in cyanobacteria works faster at fixing carbon, so for some time, researchers have been trying to get the genes that code for cyanobacterial Rubisco into a vascular plant in hopes that it would lead to greater plant growth. According to Hanson, the secret to success this time was also swapping in other genes that help manufacture the improved Rubisco.

But problems remain. One of the reasons Rubisco works so well in bacteria is that the enzyme is housed in oxygen-free, microchambers called carboxysomes. The next goal, then, is to get the 10-15 genes that code for carboxysomes into plants as well, which the team has already attempted using blue-green algae genes. 

glowing plantResearchers are increasingly looking to manipulate genes in plants to enhance their properties. Last year, a Kickstarter campaign for glowing plants from Genome Compiler, a Singularity University Labs company, raised nearly half a million dollars. Another group is reviving the nearly extinct American chestnut tree species with an anti-fungal gene from wheat. For years, Monsanto has produced genetically modified seeds that are resistant to herbicides, an effort that has attracted its fair share of controversy.

All of this tooling around with plant genomes does have a vital purpose: improving the world’s food production.

It’s no secret that human population is on an exponential growth curve (at least for the foreseeable next few decades) and longevity continues to rise. Somehow everybody has got to eat.

The effects of climate change also loom on the horizon, threatening to cause shifts in regions of arable land. While advances in fertilizers and pesticides have managed to improve yields, more robust crops that can withstand extreme climate conditions are desirable.

While some may recoil at the thought of GMO foods, it’s difficult to imagine how the needs of future generations can be met without them.

[Media: Dennis Tang/Flickr, Genome Compiler]


Shape the Future of Medicine at the Exponential Medicine Conference, November 9-12

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Shape the Future of Medicine at the Exponential Medicine Conference, November 9-12


Singularity University is proud to present Exponential Medicine, a four-day conference in San Diego to explore upcoming, game-changing technologies and their imminent implications for health and medicine. Singularity Hub readers applying for Exponential Medicine with code 500HUB receive $500 off General Participant tickets.

In the last century, breakthroughs in modern medicine have driven big gains in quality and length of life. Antibiotics, immunization, imaging and radiology, complex surgery, minimally invasive surgery—and more. It’s a long, impressive list.

But what will the next hundred years bring?

exponential-medicine-5The US spends some 18% of gross domestic product on healthcare and yet ranks last on a list of 17 developed countries by outcome. We face an increasing shortage of providers even as the healthcare burden and number of covered Americans is set to grow.

The challenges ahead appear daunting—but there’s reason to believe we can find powerful solutions, perhaps even sooner than imagined. The technological tools at our disposal are advancing as fast or faster than the problems they aim to solve.

Many technologies are developing at an exponential pace.

In 1990, it would have taken millennia to transcribe the human genome. Instead, it took only thirteen years. The technology moved quickly, surprising some, but it was still costly—hundreds of millions of dollars. A decade on? Illumina’s latest sequencing machine can map 18,000 full human genomes per year for $1,000 a genome.

As sequencing costs drop at twice the rate of Moore’s Law, we will likely see sub-$100 genomes in just a few years. This has the potential to bring us true personalized and precision medicine, especially with ‘omics done at scale and the crowdsourcing and advanced analytics applied to these massive datasets.

That’s the promise of exponential technologies—particularly at their convergence.

And of course, it isn’t just genomics. Artificial intelligence, robotics, information and data analytics, regenerative medicine, neuromedicine—these fields are on the exponential track too and will transform health and medicine as we know it.

How will accelerating technologies change healthcare? How can leaders implement today’s innovations to provide better care more cost-effectively tomorrow?

Running November 9-12, the four-day Exponential Medicine conference—Singularity University’s fifth annual program on the future of health and medicine—brings together a carefully curated group of talented faculty and participants to explore the world of exponential technology and reinvent health and medicine for the 21st century.

But what does that look like exactly?

Take Apple’s recently released Apple Watch. There’s little doubt that the device is squarely focusing on health. And it isn’t the first. The Apple Watch joins other smartwatches and fitness bands that use sensors to give users a real-time health dashboard. But this is only the beginning.

As the technology shrinks, health sensors may be embedded in clothing or discrete patches worn on the body. The data these devices collect may be integrated into a ‘check-engine light’ advanced warning system to help provide more continuous and proactive prevention and disease management.

google-glass-exponential-medExponential Medicine participants will explore how maturing wearable and increasingly “inside-able” technologies can motivate patients to make better lifestyle choices for more powerful preventative care, help doctors spot anomalies for earlier diagnoses, and manage more feedback loop driven therapeutics.

Of course, the more data we have, the better our analytical tools need to be. To bring utility to the slew of body monitoring data, rapidly advancing artificial intelligence may have an answer. Learn how intelligent software can take the impending digital flood of health information and make it both intelligible and insightful—empowering patients and practitioners alike.

Find out how robotic surgeons are already being used to make major operations minimally invasive; enter a world where 3D-printed tissues and organs and stem cell therapies promise to better maintain or repair our bodies; see how detailed genetic and biological information can drive therapies personalized to individual patients.

Kevin Noble, senior director of commercial strategy at Exponential Medicine sponsor and biotechnology pioneer Genentech, says, “The Exponential Medicine conference provides both early exposure to the potentially disruptive technologies that will shape the future of medicine and patient care, and the forum for deep discussion with leading scientists, entrepreneurs, and business leaders.”

This year’s event offers a packed lineup of thought leaders in tech and medicine including Peter Diamandis, Ray Kurzweil, Intuitive Surgical’s Catherine Mohr, Harvard’s Isaac Kohane, UCSF’s Laura Esserman and Jeff Olgin, SENS Foundation’s Aubrey de Grey—and many more. (Go here for a full roster speakers and bios.)

The faculty is world class, but so are the participants.

Exponential Medicine participants bring along diverse accomplishments and rich experience. And the real magic is in the mixing and merging of ideas from different areas of expertise to create solutions that are altogether new and often surprising.


Exponential Medicine will be held at San Diego’s beautiful and historic Hotel Del Coronado.

Steven Johnson says, “The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.”

Several new startups have emerged from prior programs (previously called FutureMed), including leading XPRIZE Medical Tricorder company, Scanadu, and health analytics company, Jointly Health.

Singularity University’s faculty chair for medicine, Dr. Daniel Kraft, is again chairing and curating the conference (check out Daniel’s perspectives on Medicine in 2064 here).

“Unlike most medical meetings, which are relatively siloed by medical speciality,” Kraft says, “What we have found most remarkable since our first cross-disciplinary programs is the mashup of forward-thinking innovators (many from outside of traditional biomedicine) who when exposed to exponential technologies, disruptive mindsets, and the many challenges in healthcare, are coming together with clinicians, pharma, the device world, and even payors and regulators, to drive impactful new thinking and innovations which are hitting the clinic sooner than most would have imagined possible.”

The venue—San Diego’s Hotel Del Coronado (the oldest and most iconic resort on West Coast)—facilitates an intimate and inspiring mix of innovation and ideas between participants and faculty alike. Talks are held in the main ballroom, while technology demos and networking happen in the extraordinary Crown Room. There are breakout sessions, workshops, meals, and entertainment throughout the hotel, on the main lawn, even on the beach itself.

The pace of progress is accelerating. As Peter Diamandis says, “The only constant is change.” The question is: Do you want to be proactive or reactive?

Start the conversation, share your innovations, make stimulating and productive connections, and shape the future of health and medicine this November 9-12.

Apply now to join us in San Diego!


Image Credit:; Singularity University

What We’re Reading and Watching This Week (up to Sept 20, 2014)

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What We’re Reading and Watching This Week (up to Sept 20, 2014)

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In the midst of all the technological progress being made globally on a daily basis, sometimes it’s tough to appreciate how we’re changing as humans. This week, we’ve been exploring articles and videos from around the internet that delve into the cultural and societal changes that technology induces.

Enjoy this week’s offering from the best of the web!

Don’t forget, tonight is the launch of the first 3D printer into space thanks to a partnership between Made in Space and NASA! You can watch the SpaceX launch live here at around 11 PM PST: 


Fingerprint Words: The verbal tics that make up who we are—and how they spread to others
Matthew Malady | Slate
“In many cases, when we decide to latch onto these sorts of words, it’s because we’re using language to put on a show.”

Could Mars Want Independence From Earth?
Think Fact | YouTube

A Grand Quest to Create Virtual Life
Simon Parkin | Technology Review
“‘My new creatures have the beginnings of a proper mental life. I’m sure a lively debate will take place among philosophers of mind about these things, but I do think I finally know how to give my creatures the rudiments of an imagination.’”

The biggest trigger for starting your own company is feeling stuck in your job
Bill Synder | Quartz
“Organizational diversity (or the lack of it) may have more to do with the choice of becoming an entrepreneur than the perceived appeal of being one’s own boss.”

35 Jobs That No Longer Exist
Mental Floss | YouTube

3D Printing Market Evolving Fast as Print-on-Premises Disrupts Early Leaders
Jonah Bliss | 3d
Perhaps no two companies are doing more to bring 3D printing to consumers’ fingertips than Staples and Home Depot. Both recently launched competing print-on-premises plans, which allow anyone to pop into a store with their object on a thumb-drive, and have it quickly printed for them.

The Art Of “Defictionalization”: Turning Fake Movie And TV Products Into A Real Business
Jake Rossen | Fast Company
“You’re not actually selling cologne,” Hottelet says of the reverse product placement. “You’re selling the connection people have with the film.”

2030: Privacy’s Dead. What happens next?
Tom Scott/dConstruct | YouTube

[Photo credit: James Brook/Flickr]

Know What Chemical Elements Are Inside Your Smartphone? A Good Chunk of the Periodic Table

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Know What Chemical Elements Are Inside Your Smartphone? A Good Chunk of the Periodic Table

Ever wonder what that mini monolithic-shaped computer you carry around in your pocket is made of?

Gallium? Check. Arsenic? Check. Lead and tin? Check and check. Good thing all that is safely housed inside and you’re not gonna eat it for lunch.

Hot on the tail of Apple’s iPhone 6 announcement, the American Chemical Society has produced a video titled “What’s in your iPhone?” that delves into some of the chemical elements used to make smartphones. Check it out:

This video is part of a series called Reactions that explores the chemicals of everyday life. In this episode, the video pulls information from a Compound Interest blog post on smartphone composition written a few months back.

Andy Brunning, who runs the blog, does a great job describing the complex process behind modern phone manufacturing, including this nice infographic revealing exactly where all the chemical elements reside:

Elements of a smartphone

It’s hard to believe how many precious metals go into the electronics we use everyday. In fact, for every million cellphones processed, over 17 tons of copper along and 1/3 of a ton of silver can be recovered from e-waste, among other precious metals like gold and palladium. 

In light of this insatiable consumption, every few months someone comes along to predict when major resources like rare metals will run out due to our thirst for glowy gadgets. Scarce or not, rare elements are big business and have inspired the launch of a few companies interested in mining asteroids for these metals.

With Apple’s report that 4 million iPhone 6 preorders were placed within the first 24 hours, you can bet that the chemistry of smartphones will only become more complex as advanced materials and technology increasingly find their ways into our hands…literally.

[Image credit: Andy Brunning/Compound Interest]