Nano Takes on TEDxUTAustin

Against the backdrop of the newest engineering building on the University of Texas at Austin campus was a lively and vibrant atmosphere filled with the tunes of a live jazz band and more than 400 attendees passionately discussing the challenges of the future. A group of people played a slightly tweaked version of Jenga, which involved answering questions written on the blocks, while others signed a huge Canvas X, covering it with their goals and aspirations in gold and silver scribbles.

Bringing TED’s motto of ‘ideas worth sharing’ to life, TEDxUTAustin 2019 was an open and inclusive event, where novel ideas and innovations that transform thinking converged with a diverse body of minds. It was an atmosphere of curious minds ready to create solutions to the world’s biggest challenges and a sanctuary where imagination and neural connections ran wild.

The theme of the conference was “Origins of Tomorrow,” which focused on ideas and initiatives that bridge the gap between where we are today and where we hope to be in the future.

Being one of the only speakers on the future of healthcare, Nano CEO Steve Papermaster took on the responsibility of changing mindsets. By initially energizing the audience about the ways in which technology has changed every aspect of life through the App Store, Google Maps and Amazon, he pushed them to think out of the box and imagine the inconceivable.

“Why hasn’t healthcare adopted a technology platform?” he asked.

Steve discussed how platforms allow people to collaborate on a massive, global scale to solve unsolvable problems. These new technologies serve as a base upon which other applications or processes can be developed. Painting a picture of a future where humans can connect to the invisible and molecular world, where bodies could send real time alerts about an abnormal cell mutation or where specific viruses could be identified and avoided or where cures to illnesses could be downloaded, Steve emphatically drove home the importance of immediate health transformation.

Drawing on his time serving at the White House under former President George W. Bush asa senior advisor on health and technology, Steve explained how the massive undertaking of sequencing the entire human genome at first seemed inconceivable. But through the Human Genome Project, which Steve co-led, the impossible finally became possible.

With every talk in the conference curated to build on the previous talk, Dr. Moriba Jah, an astrophysicist, followed Steve’s talk by discussing the lack of traffic rules in outer space, as countries race to colonize that realm. The juxtaposition of decentralizing healthcare data in our inner space to centralizing traffic rules in outer space allowed the audience members to put together a continuous pattern of interdisciplinary connections.

As humans continue to grow and seek an understanding of the universe around them (Astronomers capture the first image of a black hole), so should we begin to dig deeper to unlock the mysteries of our inner space.