After years as an entrepreneur and after attending numerous conferences I have to admit that the conference that visionary Zem Joaquim and her team (thanks also to James Joaquin & Obvious for the support) were able to put together at La Jolla last March was without hesitation the best one in my experience. 250 of the best forward thinking minds in the world met to SHARE THEIR VIEW ON THE FUTURE and – what is most important – DOING something about it.
I am going to try to give you here a sense of what was discussed (sorry I cannot discuss in any depth all the talks!), although I am sure it will not be quite the same as being there – but let´s give it a try!
We started by “the know your cell session” (brilliantly curated by Peter Diamandis). Can you imagine a top scientist like George Church talking about gene sequencing and gene editing and how for example CRISPR will allow to find better therapies for certain diseases?
One of the most fascinating areas that were discussed (we were able to even visit on site at Calit2-UCSDiego-UCIrvine) is the work of Larry Smarr & Dr. Robert Knight on the microbiome. Just unbelievable know how important is your “p..hh” and how it may help you not only to identify risk health but actually cure different pathologies. Some of the attendees were able to provide their own samples to populate the database ; – )
Seems like the whole healthcare field is moving steadily forward into prevention, and genetics and microbiome research are just two examples on how science and technology is rapidly evolving. The Health Nucleus project is even transforming prevention into an experience and clinical research project. Powered by Human Longevity, they are offering advanced and comprehensive health evaluation that we had the chance to visit as well. Spectacular installations and cutting edge technology to scan you in every possible way in eight hours to finally provide a report on where your health risks may be.
One of my favorite sessions was on food and just how much innovation is needed in that field. Given the lack of sustainability of current food industry and the harm being doing to our planet, these brilliant minds are committed to change what we eat, how we grow food and how we cook it. From something as simple as making a solar BBQ by Dr. Catlin Powers @onearthdesigns (in fact, saving lives of women in Himalaya), to bring back farmers and community back at the center of food in The kitchen project (Kimbal Musk), to artificially grown hamburgers (Memphis meat) to Caleb Harper at MIT developing what he calls a food computer, growing delicious, nutrient-dense food, indoors anywhere in the world. Mind blowing!
Health and food may sure have an impact on how much we live, and indeed the next session focused on how to help us live longer and better. One of the most respected entrepreneurs in USA, Dean Kamen, talked not only on what Deka Research is doing to improve lives of people with chronic diseases (such as dialysis at home or reinventing the wheelchair by self-balancing it to allow the user to go up and down staircases), but his more passionate project, FIRST, aimed “To create a world where science and technology are celebrated… where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes”.
To live longer we may have to shower less (tell my kids about it) and James Heywood (Patientslikeme enterpreneur) described his new venture, ABiome on getting blessed mother dirt (yes dirt) again on us in the form of a spray restoring and maintaining beneficial bacteria in our skin. Seems like when your kid does not want to shower there may be a good reason for it ; – )
As if our minds were not challenged enough, Willian MCDonough talked about the Cradle to cradle movement on how it is influencing the whole architecture field and creating a new paradigm on how we make things. Shifting the mindset from scarcity to abundant ways of creating and producing is the unique way to protect our planet and ensure sustainability.
There was also time to discuss about collaborative approaches, like the new venture from Linda Avey (ex 23andme founder) We are curious, a new personal data aggregating and tracking platform and Thomas Goetz, founder of Iodine a company that gives consumers better information — and better visualizations — of their health data.
Our advisor Adam Gazzaley at UCSF (he is the real reason we were invited, thanks Adam!) talked about how video games are not longer just games and how they may help to prevent cognitive decline and enhance memory. New healthcare therapies will have to be combined treatments, no longer silo approaches, where games, electrophysiology, drugs and cognitive therapies will all be combined to interact with the brain from a dynamic interactive perspective.
During my talk I discussed how the novel technologies developed at Neuroelectrics, allowing both brain monitoring and brain stimulation, may have a great impact in the near and in the far future. In the near term: the use of Starstim in close loop applications like epilepsy (diagnosing a seizure and prevent it from happening by injecting low voltage currents into the brain) or cognitive decline (by combining EEG, stimulation and video games such as the ones developed by Akili, Adam´s company) to be taken home. In the future: this technology may even change the way we communicate with humans, by allowing brain to brain communication. Our team´s paper published describing the first time two brains were connected from India to France was explained during the presentation (with my big helper ET who lost his cove ears during one of the parties).
As mentioned in the beginning I have not been able to go throughout all the talks: there were astronauts, cooks, entrepreneurs of all kinds, venture capital leaders, musicians, scientists, journalists… over all, a unique mix of people with an exceptional clarity on how the NearFuture will look like and pioneering their fields to bring the future to us. Thanks Zem for letting Neuroelectrics be part of the NearFuturist community!
(More info on each of the modules will be featured at Medium, so stay tunned at https://medium.com/near-future )