Sunday, April 25, 2010

Supercomputing and human intelligence

As of November 2009, the world’s fastest supercomputer was the Cray Jaguar located at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, operating at 1.8 petaflops (1.8 x 1015 flops). Unlike human brain capacity, supercomputing capacity has been growing exponentially. In June 2005, the world’s fastest supercomputer was the IBM Blue Gene/L at Los Alamos National Laboratory, running at 0.1 petaflops. In less than five years, the Jaguar represents an order of magnitude increase, the latest culmination of capacity doublings each few years. (Figure 1)

Figure 1. Growth in supercomputer power
Source: Ray Kurzweil with modifications

The next supercomputing node, one more order of magnitude, at 1016 flops, is expected in 2011 with the Pleiades, Blue Waters, or Japanese RIKEN systems. 1016 flops would possibly allow the functional simulation of the human brain.

Clearly, there are many critical differences between the human brain and supercomputers. Supercomputers tend to be modular in architecture and address specific problems as opposed to having the general problem solving capabilities of the human brain. Having equal to or greater than human-level raw computing power in a machine does not necessarily confer the ability to compute as a human. Some estimates of the raw computational power of the human brain range between 1013 and 1016 operations per second. This would indicate that
supercomputing power is already on the order of estimated human brain capacity, but intelligent or human-simulating machines do not yet exist.
The digital comparison of raw computational capability may not be the right measure for understanding the complexity of the brain. Signal transmission is different in biological systems, with a variety of parameters such as context and continuum determining the quality and quantity of signals.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Radical transparency

Social networking and Web 2.0 has made it easy to find out about the friends, resume, activities, and interests of the many people who permission-in and broadcast this information.

Financial privacy disappeared for groups of the population as benefits outweighed costs in peer-to-peer lending, real estate, expense management, and purchasing with Prosper, Zillow, Expensr, Mint, and now Blippy.

Health data is the new frontier as people are starting to publicly post their genome files, and perhaps blood test information with the SNPedia, Personal Genome Project, and DIYgenomics. Some people are tweeting their weight, and could possibly do so with their sleep-tracking Z scores and other quantified self tracking activities.

In the farther future, who will be the first to tweet their neural feed? The unexpurgated feed that would be captured directly from the brain, not medicated by language, typing, consciousness, and culture as now. As with other successful technology roll-out paradigms, truth culture is likely to be opt-in, and the competitive advantage could likely be with those who do decide to disclose.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Health 2.0 business models

Health 2.0 is about re-envisioning every aspect of health and health care. New business models are starting to develop to support this innovation ecology. First, accompanying the new paradigm of community research (peer cohort studies à la Patients Like Me (lithium) and DIYgenomics (MTHFR mutation/Vitamin B-12 deficiency), could be social venture finance, corporate sponsorship from supplement companies and other remedy vendors, crowdsourced finance (i.e.; Kickstarter), and philanthropist contributions. Second, the traditional venture capital model is already being applied to health 2.o startup companies, including through organizations such as the Health 2.0 Accelerator. Third, whole new industries may sprout from the nascent efforts of health advisors and wellness coaches. The health advisor is the analog to the financial advisor or mortgage broker, able to integrate a client's health data streams, needs, and interests with available offerings, across a spectrum of economic models: insurance reimbursable, HSA dollars, and direct out-of-pocket spending.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Mobile app concept: Disaster Telediagnosis

Disaster Telediagnosis is a mobile app idea that takes advantage of the bandwidth and mobility of 4G. It is a massively scalable peer-to-peer clearinghouse application providing live streaming video communication between people injured in a crisis situation and remote physicians for diagnosis and ongoing support until hand-off to local health authorities.

Whenever an injured party needs to interact with a physician, anyone with a smartphone can take a picture or stream live or archived video coverage to the internet clearinghouse to be connected in real-time with any available physician worldwide. There may be multiple interactions between patient and physician, both of whom are mobile, over the course of the case, and continuity can be preserved through high-bandwidth video connectivity. The internet clearinghouse could provide language matching or automated translation, and would log all calls based on GPS and other tagging attributes. Remote physicians could review and annotate patient electronic medical records, and the archived video files would provide patient history.

Figure 1: Disaster Telediagnosis
Any citizen with smartphone video capture could record injured parties describing their conditions, or otherwise document the status of the injured or dead. Video is streamed to the internet clearing application and on to available physicians, possibly with specialized language capabilities.

This application concept is accepted for presentation, if a demo can be realized, at the Clear 4G Symposium at Stanford in Palo Alto, CA, June 15, 2010; any interested developers and collaborators please contact the author.