TransVision Tuesday Morning Session II
24 July 2007 (updated 12 March 2011)
I’m in Chicago for TransVision 2007. Here are some notes and thoughts from Tuesday morning session II.
James Hughes spoke on Cyborgs today and in the future. Ideas of improving human nature emerged along with the enlightenment. They anticipated the ideas advocated by Transhumanism. Diderot speculated on machine brains and resurrection. Benjamin Franklin speculated on defeating disease. Condorcet claimed there would be no limit to the perfection of humanity. External devices, chemical management, cybernetic augmentation and redesign, present and future, work toward transcending the body’s limits. JD Bernal projected cybernetics in 1920s. Vannevar Bush proposed direct brain interfaces to computers. Kline and Clynes imagined body suits for controlling astronaut bodies from ground control. 8 percent of americans have artificial organs today. Nanotissue engineering is growing tissues and neural bridges. Robert Freitas has been foresightful in proposing nano red blood cell - respirocyte. Prosthetic limbs and joints are advancing well, with smart legs and arms that connect directly to nerves. Sprinter with prosthetic leg can outrun olympians. Implants for depression help stimulate nerves at controlled rate. Visual implants already working at low resolution. Cochlear implants have become common and are improving. Implants for persons who have lost control of their bodies are being worked on. Brain-computer interfaces with motor cortex of brain are allowing control of movement. Nanoneural network in brain is distant goal toward which we are advancing. More research support is needed for neural interfaces, biocompatible nanomaterials, and medical nanorobotics. We need to ensure safety and access to technologies.
Andrew Rosenson spoke on the future of medical imaging. It started with DaVinci’s drawings. Harvey showed the circulatory system and the brain in drawings. Elias Zerhouni of NIH says imaging should be predictive, personalized and preemptive. Star Trek showed scanner beds that don’t look too different from today’s bone scanners. CT scans are on the cutting edge. They have advanced from pixelated black and white to smooth color images. Ultrsound has approved to 3d images. George Lucas wrote first program for 3d medical imaging from star wars experience. Moore’s law is working in genomics and imaging. Integrating images and info from many advancing sources has become a challenge. Computer aided detection now facilitates detection of problems. Scale of radiology is changing, looking at not only anatomy, but also molecular structure. Merging PET and CT scans has been helpful, with each providing its strength. We can now see thyroid output in real time. New cardiac CT scan is a big deal because it is fast enough to show heart without blur of movement and in 3d rotating shades and colors. Old scans only showed silhouettes. We can now do virtual colonoscopy. We can see 3d aneurysms. You can see this at Heart Scan of Chicago. We can see neural pathways that look like wigs. Where will we be tomorrow? We’ll miniaturize the machines.
Michael Weiner spoke on innovation, and how innovation is an innovation. It’s difficult to get investment. Some ideas are too early or too late. Perhaps there is a way to make money on early stage innovation? The overhead for management team is costly. What if you invest in many early projects cheaply, and wait for some to emerge as successes? Make patents and wait for others to want them, when it is viable. You can sell it later. If you are an inventor, you should treat your idea like a child. Would you take your child to a nursery school that kills some of the children? That’s what venture capital does. Find old guys that have a track record of good ideas. Maybe they have other ideas they are unlikely to patent later in life. This has produced good results. Device for killing cancer cells flowing in blood. Device for collecting adult stem cells in blood. Device for signaling stem cell differentiation. Device for restarting heart in acute heart failure, after all else has failed. Technology for making implantable devices safe for mri. These might not have been invested in. Girl had her life saved by heart device for dogs, but the device has not been taken to market for 15 years. Now they’re working with the inventor to make new patents. Wilson accidentally discovered how to make a small pacemaker while working on sheep. Venture capital would not have worked, FDA would have blocked it, but a small bankrupt business made it happen. Working with this guy, they have come up with new patents. They’re now developing visible stents and heart assistant devices. Look at good ideas for long term potential first and money making second. Find the right financing vehicle. Give it a chance. Accelerating innovation takes innovation in process.