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April 2014

Caine’s arcade

By | DIY | No Comments

When I was told to watch a short film about a 9 year old boy’s cardboard arcade, located in his dad’s used auto parts store in East LA, I took it lightly, alongside the heavy bundle of various information I have to filter daily. But then as I watched it, my heart grew bigger and I was deep into the story, sharing one of those moments, when hope for the future of humanity conquers fears of its demise.


Here’s the backstory

Caine Monroy is a 9-year old boy who spent his summer vacation building an elaborate DIY cardboard arcade in his dad’s used auto parts store.

He dreamed of the day he would have lots of customers visit his arcade, and he spent months preparing everything, perfecting the game design, making displays for the prizes, designing elaborate security systems, and hand labeling paper-lunch-gift-bags. However, his dad’s autoparts store (located in an industrial part of East LA) gets almost zero foot traffic, so Caine’s chances of getting a customer were very small, and the few walk in customers that came through were always in too much of a hurry to get their auto part to play Caine’s Arcade. But Caine never gave up.

Caine's optimism

Caine’s optimism

One day, by chance, filmmaker Nirvan Mullick walked into Smart Parts Auto looking for a used door handle for his ’96 Corolla. What he found was an elaborate handmade cardboard arcade manned by a young boy who asked if he would like to play. Being offered two turns for $1, or a Fun Pass with 500 turns for $2, he got the Fun Pass.

After the successful flashmob, the movement didn’t fade out, but intensified online in an attempt to raise money for a scholarship fund for the talented young boy. With the straightforward claim “Imagine what this kid could build with an Engineering degree!“, the target of 100.000,- $ was surpassed within 3 days! That’s what I call chipping in.

I will conclude by asking you (and myself) how we may be able to make a difference just by sometimes stopping and having a better look at the everyday scenery we usually pass by in a robotic manner?

Star Trek Tricorder

Rethinking health

By | Healthcare, Technology | No Comments

For most of the 20th century, humans have been passive consumers. Then something great happend: with the advent of personal computers, we slowly embarked on a race for individual expression, igniting the democratisation of innovation.


The PC, and more recently the Internet, were such great paradigm shifts, that social and educational barriers were broken and old hierarchies overturned. In its early days, computing was exclusive to governmental institutions and corporations, limiting creativity and development. That all changed dramatically when we reinvented its purpose.

Nowadays we are witnessing derivations of this model taking shape in other industries. As with any technology, Moore’s law is ever-present when it comes to the medical field.

Since the Humane Genome Project wrapped up, nine years ago, you may be aware that the cost to sequence a human genome is dropping, but you probably have no idea how fast that price is coming down. Gene sequencing has gotten faster and cheaper at a pace rivaling the computer industry.

 

Imagine a world where you have your own medical testing lab on you at most times. Does it sound like something out of Star Trek? Well, it is not that far away. In fact, I am sure a lot of you are already tracking your vitals through apps and gadgets, such as Runtastic or Jawbone’s Up. As applications like this evolve, we are steadily creating our own health databases, just like we have done for our media or social interactions. For example, IBM’s Watson made the move from answering trivia questions to making medical diagnoses in Toronto’s General Hospital. Now picture having a personal Watson with access to your medical history and current development. Not SF, more like just around the corner.

Our personal genome is one of the crucial pieces of information that can make a difference in this context, because being connected to such analytical systems, we will have the ability to actively compare and single out various causes of conditions.

Recently, UK based company Oxford Nanopore made important steps in exactly this direction by creating a disposable DNA sequencer that’s the size of a thumb drive, and powered by a USB port. The MinION can read more than 150 million base pairs in up to 6 hours. While larger human chromosomes contain up to 250 million base pairs, that’s a very impressive step towards the democratization of low cost sequencing (under 1.000 $). Watch the founder of the X Prize, Peter Diamantis, reference a series of disruptive technological developments and advocating technological democratization at TEDMED:

Although there is much to be discussed on the issue of PH (personalized healthcare) I’d like to leave you with two questions:

– how will our future diagnostic processes and overall healthcare look like going down the road of personalization?
– what other areas would this model work on?