This week I had the honor to attend and serve as faculty at what is perhaps a dream conference for those of us who care about technology, science, health and medicine. The conference was Exponential Medicine, sponsored by Singularity University. As was the case last year, the conference takes place at the iconoclastic Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. Although the setting is certainly enough to draw a crowd, Exponential Medicine goes way beyond the usual technology conference. When conference founder, Dr. Daniel Kraft, asked me to keynote at last year’s event, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. I soon found out and wrote about my experience here on HealthBlog.
Singularity University was created by someone well known to those of us who follow technology. Ray Kurzweil has been called the Edison of our times. He is an author, computer scientist, inventor, futurist, and currently serves as director of engineering at Google. If you don’t know the name, do a web search and be blown away by this man’s inventions and accomplishments. This morning, he provided a keynote on the closing day of the conference (albeit by video conference from his office in Palo Alto). According to Ray, we are right on the path for his prediction of “the singularity” or that time when the accelerating progress in technology causes a runaway effect wherein artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control. Taken to the extreme it ushers in the end of humanity, but I don’t think Dr. Kurzweil believes this is inevitable. In fact, it may instead be a time when humans and machines reach their full, symbiotic potential.
More than 500 physicians, researchers, engineers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, students and other people attended Exponential Medicine. Attendance was up about 150 from last year’s conference which was then called FutureMed. One thing I can promise you, no matter how successful you’ve been, how many accolades you’ve received or how smart you think you are, you will be humbled in this crowd. Frankly, every person attending could serve as faculty for this conference which has established a reputation for hatching successful new startups including several finalists in the coveted XPRIZE competition.
The conference also features an Innovation Lab where attendees can get hands-on experience with some of the coolest new inventions and solutions. This year that included a company, BioLucid, that I got to know a few months back when they visited with me at my office in Redmond. BioLucid is creating some of the finest, immersive, three dimensional, virtual reality educational resources on human anatomy and physiology that I have ever experienced. I say experienced because when one dons an Oculus Rift headset and BioLucid fires up their software, you feel as though you are literally flying through the human body.
It is very clear to me that the next decade will see disruptive innovation in health and medicine as never before. Machine learning, augmented reality, machine vision, robotics, cloud analytics, personalized medicine, genetic therapies, micro-fluidic labs on a chip, 3-D printed vaccines and organs, remote monitoring, drug delivering drones, and more will usher in a kind of singularity between patients and physicians. The time is near when physicians and patients will truly be equal partners in care.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft