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TEDxGlasgow 2018: RETHINKING Tech for Good

Dominique Adams



TEDxGlasgow recently held its 6th annual event at the SEC Armadillo in Glasgow attracting 4,000 attendees including the DIGIT editorial team.

With 20 inspirational speakers, three demonstration halls and three break panels it was a busy day full of talks on a diverse range of subjects. To date, this has been the largest TEDxGlasgow event and was the first time it was streamed live online.

Broadcaster Clare English and Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director at the Scottish Government returned to host the event. How to scale a business, the study of dark matter, the power of hope, the potential of hyperloops, the need to transform work culture, the ethical use of robots and the fact every white European is related to Charlemagne are just a few of the topics that were covered.

Standout Speakers

Speakers included actress Karen Dunbar, robotics Professor Sethu Vijayakumar, columnist Darren McGarvey (aka Loki), Professor of Astrophysics Catherine Heymans, journalist Kirsty Wark and many more. The high calibre of the speakers came across strongly and it would be hard to pick a stand-out individual, however, Vijayakumar brought a quadruped robot onstage with him and that won our vote.

DIGIT’s own Brian Baglow spoke alongside Dr Liberty Vittert, Callum Sinclair Partner at Burness Paull, Jude McCorry from the DataLab on a panel hosted by Gillian Doherty CEO of the DataLab. The four fiercely debated the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, the use of personal data and Facebook’s role in the debacle. Spoiler alert, Baglow and Vittert were voted the winners of the panel debate by a landslide.

The Tech Highlights of TedxGlasgow 2018

Using AI to Treat Aggressive Cancers

Incremental changes through expensive trials is the current approach to tackling cancers, which are complex ‘systems biology,’ and near impossible to cure. However, this can often leave families and suffers feeling hopeless and lost at sea. According to doctor and technologist Jack Kreindler, endurance, adaption, hope, strong leadership and data are key factors needed to take a new approach to developing innovative treatments.

Kreindler believes there is great potential in harnessing Genomics, next-generation biomarkers and AI within adaptive clinical trials. By connecting all of these, doctors can begin the process of navigating treatment previously thought impossible. Using machine learning to sift vast amounts of data, cancer researchers can learn how better to treat, and even prevent such diseases. He urges researchers to rethink their approach and take a more collaborative approach that embraces the application of AI.

Working Well in the 21st Century

Wark strongly advocates that businesses need to change their approach to how we work. She recommends that rather than work the normal hours, employers need to give a day back to their employees saying that we are living analogue lives in a digital age. However, employers should not think of this as an altruistic move detracting from their coffers: studies have shown that they will benefit financially from a significantly more productive workforce with less sick days.

Currently, 12.5 million work days are lost due to sickness, stress and mental health problems stemming from an unbalanced work life. By giving back Wednesday or Thursday employers can expect higher output from their workers.

Sending your Robot to Mars? List of Thing to Pack

Vijayakumar, who holds the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering Microsoft Research Chair in Robotics at the University of Edinburgh and is the founding director of the Edinburgh Centre of Robotics, spoke about how robotics would be critical to the survival of humans saying that “robotics is not an option but an absolute necessity.”

Humanoid robots will be essential for off-world exploration, which Vijayakumar predicts will be an inevitability in the future. However, before they can be deployed to explore planets they need to develop their perception, control and adaption. Safe interaction will be a top priority to ensure that the humans working alongside them or use robotic wearables are not injured by them.

Beyond sending robots to Mars, he explained the potential robotics has in assisted living and how these innovations could transform the lives of elderly and disabled people. However, he stressed the need to secure IoT robots and wearables citing the danger of cyber criminals hijacking such equipment.

Hyperloops: Collapsing the Barriers of Distance and Time

The current transport system is gradually decaying, and journeys are becoming longer with ever more people commuting over an hour to get to work. The average person now spends roughly four years of their life travelling. Virgin Hyperloop’s Nick Earle explained how a hyperloop with speeds up to two to three times faster than high-speed rail, an end-to-end on-demand Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) experience and no stops can reduce a five-hour journey to a 60-minute ride.

Not only would it give people their commute time back it would also be beneficial for the environment as it has a low carbon footprint. Commuters could choose to live anywhere they want and not be tied to locations close to their work – meaning you could reasonably commute from Scotland to London daily.

According to Earle, the first hyperloop will be implemented in India covering the route from Mumbai to Pune, shortening the four-hour journey to 25 minutes. This will mean that millions of Indian people will have the ability to spend more time with their families and ease pressure on existing travel and residential infrastructure.

Main Takeaway

Overall, the key themes of the day were the big need to take a more creative, compassionate, inclusive, supportive and collaborative approach our lives. By thinking outside the box and working with people from other fields of expertise breakthroughs, innovations and new concepts will emerge more rapidly. Nurturing budding talent and greater empathy with the end user will ensure that technology is an enabler, which is used responsibly, ethically and to add value to lives, rather than dominating it.

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Dominique Adams

Marketing Content Manager, Trickle

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