The first day of Israel Brain Technologies’ BrainTech 2015 Conference was really about collaboration. All the speakers from different countries shared a similar vision, as if they had rehearsed together before getting on stage. To see the main ‘brain initiatives’ around the world, working together and meeting in Israel shows that we really have entered the decade of the brain and that the timing for neuroscience and related technology has never been better.
“Challenges? I see opportunities” – Inez Jabalpurwala from Brain Canada Foundation.
Henry Markram from the EU Human Brain Project pointed out that we will produce more results in neuroscience in the next 10-15 years that we have ever made in history. He then followed by saying that we don’t even know what we have produced yet. A good example of a huge meta-analysis they did showed that there is an incredible amount of knowledge available in millions of papers, but the lack of a global collaboration and isolated projects have slowed down progress in neuroscience. His message was clear: we need to have a big data approach for research and leverage all the knowledge already available.
He concluded very nicely, saying that if we keep a mentality like that, it will take hundreds of years to understand the brain, it sure will. “We brought the brain on the horizon and put a bull’s eye on it.”
The speaker that got the most attention is Shimon Peres, the ninth president of the state of Israel. At 91 years old, he delivered an inspiring talk about the brain and technology. He had everybody applaud when he said: “No Technology without Morality”, adding that science doesn’t kill and doesn’t know the difference between a nuclear power plant and a nuclear bomb. The ethics behind technology is a very important topic that we should not underestimate has the rate of change keep on accelerating.
After the inspiration, came the passion, with Ron Suskind on autism and Disney. He reminded us how we focus on the technology, but forget the people behind it. With his personal story of his son suffering of autism, his presentation touched everybody in the room. The point he made is that we need not to think for the patients but as the patients, to understand them in order to help them.
John Donoghue from Brown University, working on BrainGate, came on stage for a follow up on his one million dollar award from the BrainTech 2013. His work is a true inspiration in the field of Brain-Computer Interface. (We’ve all seen the picture of Matt Nagle controlling his computer or Cathy Hutchinson drinking her coffee.)
An amazing time with endless possibilities
My personal take home message of the day is that we live in an amazing time with endless possibilities. We now feel that we have a shot at breaking ‘the code of the brain’. The biggest challenge in history and we, the ‘2000 era’, are the ones doing it (trying, at least). In order to succeed thought, we need to all work together and collaborate more. This kind of conference is really inspiring for the next generation of ‘neurotech entrepreneurs’ (like myself).
One point that hasn’t been mention enough to my taste (personal opinion), is that we should focus and invest more in people than in technology. Because economy is result driven and often quarterly-result driven, it is natural to invest in the product and the solution itself, but “do you put your money on the horse or on the jockey?” (I don’t remember which of the speaker made that reference, but I couldn’t agree more).
Many startups were also present like Myndlift using Muse sensing headband for ADHD, Lunamind, the first mind-operated amusement park just to name a few. Tomorrow I’ll visit their booth and try all their applications!
I look forward for the tomorrow’s noon panel: Conor Russomanno from OpenBCI, Ariel Gartner from InteraXon, Stephane Dunne from NeuroElectrics, with Hamutal Meridor from Brainihack as moderator. Very exciting!
Tomorrow we have an awesome day! Full of BCI devices, games and startups.