From Big Data and Big Diseases to Drones

Wednesday, Oct. 2: “Big Data, Big Disease, Mining for Medical Breakthroughs”

8:30 pm


Eric Horvitz: Distinguished scientist, Microsoft Research

Eric Horvitz, distinguished scientist with Microsoft Research, on increased use of personal health monitors: “People are starting to ‘instrument’ themselves with wrist monitors. I think this is going to be a really source of big data, allowing us to record and monitor health in very exciting ways.”

Steve Miller, chief medical officer for Express Scripts, on new-drug testing: “There are more than 5,400 drugs in human testing right now. Last year, the FDA approved more new drugs than it has since 1998. So the number of new products coming into the market is extraordinary, which is the good news. But not one of these products is going to be very affordable.”

In a scheduling change, Chris Anderson, former editor of “Wired” magazine, addressed the audience in the evening’s final session.


Chris Anderson, from “Wired” to drones

No longer a journalist, “Now I run a Tijuana drone faculty,” he said, referring to his new  venture, drone manufacturing for peaceful, as opposed to military, purposes.

“Believe me, there will soon be a time when people won’t remember the drones had a military component,” he said, “much like they don’t remember that the internet was originally built for the military.”

Asked by The Atlantic’s Steve Clemons to provide an example for future drone use, Anderson cited agriculture and crop surveys: “I was completely blown away by this application, in one of the biggest industries in the world, that being agriculture. Drones allow us to use water more efficiently and to limit the use of pesticides. …What drones can do is give you instant feedback. You know, when I first got into this business, I thought drones were the future of flight. But now I think they may be the future of food.”

What about the use of drones in place of commercial pilots: “The only reason to put a human in the cockpit is for sensibility awareness. You have to have somebody always looking around, making sure you don’t hit something. The good news is, once we crack this problem (with drones), we can do a better job than any human. They never blink, they don’t fall asleep, they can see at night, they have a super-human sense of avoidance. When that happens, that would be awesome.”

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