The infographic, Envisioning the Near Future of Technology by Michell Zappa, an emerging technology strategist, is a summary of the material covered in LABMP 590.
The problem with a word like singularity is that it’s hard to visualize – like the edge of a black hole from which nothing returns. In this case scientists and students from around the world are trying to understand how to achieve a singularity and how it might affect us.
“Visualizations and maps not only stimulate discussion and raise interest, but they make large scale futuristic projects possible. Infographics and charts make complex concepts tangible,” says Dr. Kim Solez, professor of Pathology at the University of Alberta and lead instructor of LABMP 590, a course entitled Technology and the Future of Medicine.
With topics ranging from promise and perils of biotech, nanotech and AI, to medical ethics of the future and entrepreneurship in innovation LABMP aims to provide a balanced idea of the promise and peril of technology in medicine and give people confidence to deal with a range of scenarios and anticipate roadblocks. While targeted at graduate students, the course welcomes undergraduate participation from across all faculties.
Solez is a graduate of the Singularity University Executive Program where he's networked with doctors, tech advisors, heads-of-state, corporate CEOs and venture capitalists who share a common goal of finding solutions to futuristic problems. He sees the benefit of individuals from a variety of different disciplines coming together to solve tomorrow’s problems, a belief that is echoed in the diversity of the instructors – from physicians to physicists to computing scientists (this year features a guest lecture by the Dean of Science and gaming guru Jonathan Schaeffer).
Dr. Jonathan White, a general surgeon and instructor in LABMP 590, explains that all statements are temporary best guesses because things continually change. He believes we are going through a paradigm shift as the technology we’ve created begins to alter the way we think and behave, a fact that is being increasingly scrutinized at all levels of academia, government and corporate business.
Students, both present and past, have responded to the growing field of singularity. Undergraduate science student Daniel Phan is interested in taking LABMP 590, and wants to learn about positive feedback loops in hardware software cycles that could create a smarter than human AI.
Although science alumnae Shawna Pandya graduate from neuroscience before LABMP was offered, she sees technologies that were once in the realm of sci-fi such as Star Trek’s tricorder medical scanner coming closer to reality. After completing her science undergrad, she deferred medical school for a year to complete a Masters program at the International Space University in Space Studies.
"The goal was to go from point A to point B. But what if I didn’t get into medicine? What could I do for a year that I would be equally passionate about? The answer was space - where I have always focused my reading," says Pandya, who now guest lectures in LABMP 590.
She applied to both and got into both. She has combined her passions for space and medicine by researching space technologies spinoffs with applications on Earth. Her hunger to find out what was on the cutting edge of medicine led her to the Graduate Program at Singularity University, www.singularityu.org for those seeking to fundamentally reshape the future of humanity. This type of thinking heralds a shift from linear to exponential growth as technological trends move in a similar fashion.
“Question everything and think about how you could do it better, dare to think big,” says Pandya. “Consider 3D organ printing, nanotechnology and gene synthesis. If broken genes cause disease and if we can rewrite our own genetics then it’s entirely possible to conquer aging and disease. There are people out there who ask ‘what if’ every single day and are actively pursuing dreams which will have major reverberations.”
An interdisciplinary environment is the ideal environment for such futuristic thinking - where molecular biologist and space physicists can share their ideas and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Students and scientists need to take more risks. Much like the thinkers in Silicon Valley, a Disneyland for smart people, we must have the desire to be our own disruptive force, have a contrarian mind,” says Pandya.
LABMP 590 is offered in both the Fall and Winter terms. Check Bear Tracks for details.