Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to attend the two day Wired 2014 technology conference held at Tobacco Dock in London. Given that the event was two weeks ago you may find it surprising to hear that I am still awestruck by some of the talks, but I am.
With a line-up of speakers as diverse as HRH The Duke of York and musician will.i.am - alongside some of the world’s most influential and brilliant minds from the worlds of life sciences, digital media, geopolitics, art and advertising - it was hard not to be blown away.
It was an almost impossible task to note down all of the ideas, innovations and expertise that were presented during the event, but I will attempt to paint the picture as best as I can.
Day one featured a sequence of disruptive, entertaining and engaging talks ranging from Asimo the humanoid robot, to a 22 year old who is building his own self-driving car to a publisher who is attempting to fight extremism in the Middle East using comic books. But, for me, it was the first session of the day that stood out above the rest.
The morning session was focussed on “Decoding the body” and featured talks that were as exciting as they were controversial, pushing the boundaries of ethics in the search for medical utopia.
The opening talk was given by Anne Wojcicki who confounded the company “23andMe” which has been using big data and bioinformatics to map your genome in order to predict what diseases or illnesses that you may be susceptible to. They are hoping that this will help in the advancement of medicine as it would allow pharmaceutical companies to create drugs which would be specifically tailored to your genes and therefore be a lot more effective.
This idea was carried through into the second talk by Andrew Hessel and his company “Autodesk”. In his job role as a “Bio-Hacker” he has been using electron microscopy to visualise tiny viruses and then use a DNA synthesiser to design and print molecules that would fight the disease and only target that specific virus.
There was also a very insightful talk given by Nina Tandon from “EpiBone”. Nina is a stem-cell researcher who has been working on growing bone in a lab so that it could be inserted into the body to replace broken or degenerately degrading bones with no fear of rejection. They have also pushed this concept one step further and have toyed with the idea of modifying tree cell DNA to grow homes and also tinkered with cow cells to grow leather without a single animal being harmed.
This session was a very captivating one as it highlighted that the future of biological advancement will always be met with the age old question of “are we trying to play God?” and what would happen if the technology falls into the wrong hands and could be used for bio terrorism. Who knows what the future holds, but one thing is for sure, medicinal advancement is progressing at a rapid pace and we will all have to confront this debate sooner than we think.
Part 2 of the review coming soon…
By Ricky Patel