Continuing my coverage of the [IBM Edge2014 conference], IBM's premiere conference for System Storage and related products, I attended EdgeTalks: Innovation That Impacts Our World that offered a series of inspiring talks styled after the famous [TED] conferences.
Surjit Chana, IBM Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and VP of Strategy for IBM Systems and Technology Group, served as emcee to introduce the speakers.
- Ron Finley, Renegade Gardener
Back in 2003, "South Central" was [renamed to South Los Angeles]. But as everyone in IT knows, merely renaming something doesn't fix any of its problems. Ron was tired of seeing empty lots filled with old mattresses, used condoms and discarded tires, and wanted to beautify his immediate surroundings by planting vegetables in his front yard.
The city of Los Angeles [cited him for growing food within city limits], and even threatened him with jail time. An appearance with comedian Russell Brand helped Ron gain national attention.
Ron's army of volunteers, the [L.A. Green Grounds], filed a petition. As of October 2013, it is now legal to grow food on your parkway in Los Angeles.
Ron explained that South Los Angeles is a [food desert], where it is nearly impossible to get healthy, organic food. He is concerned the "drive-thrus" of fast food restaurants kill more of his neighbors than [drive-by] shootings.
Ron has discovered this problem is not limited to Los Angeles. The American food system is designed to fill you with processed food and chemicals, made worse by a health care system happy to cut you open or prescribe you more chemicals and drugs. Everywhere processed food goes, chronic disease follows. The USA exports obesity to the rest of the world.
"To change a community, and you must first change the composition of the soil." -- Ron Finley
The rise in cancer, diabetes, and childhood cardiac arrests inspired Ron to start the [Ron Finley Project] consisting of community farms, a marketplace that accepts EBT, SNAP and other government food programs, and portable "container cafes" based on standard shipping containers that could be placed near a garden to help sell the food grown locally.
- John Wilbanks, Chief Commons Officer at Sage Bionetworks and Senior Fellow in Entrepreneurship for Faster Cures
John works at [Sage Bionetworks], a non-profit 2009 spin-off from Merck.
We live in the age of cheap data. John prefers the term "cheap data" rather than "big data". Mapping the first human genome cost $3 Billion USD, now John can get his own genome mapped for about $1200.
John feels this cheap data changes the way we justify our opinions. From baseball scouts to the analytics demonstrated in the movie [Moneyball]. President Barack Obama used social media to help win elections. And cheap data is coming to health and medicine.
John gave an interesting example. A grad student wanted to study alcoholism among undergraduate students. The traditional method would have been to gather privacy permission slips from volunteers. Instead, he "friended" 4,000 undergraduates, and looked on social media containing the [distinctive color of red beer cups] for photos taken on Monday through Wednesday, indicative of a drinking problem. This innovative approach allowed the grad student to complete his research in less than six weeks.
Cheap data doesn't mean we have wisdom. John explained the wrong way of doing things. There are several machine-learning apps for smartphones to check for melanoma. Take a photo of your suspected mole, and the app will determine if it detects skin cancer, and recommend a biopsy. Incentives to sell apps, and to perform biopsies, result in 90 percent false positive rates. There is no financial incentive to improve accuracy.
Sharing is the innovation that converts cheap data into wisdom. Get the world's smartest people to compete to create wisdom. Collaborating with IBM on Dialogue for Reverse Engineering Assessments and Methods [DREAM] platform, a competition for modeling breast cancer was launched. Requiring all participants to share their code in real-time allowed the accuracy of the model to jump three orders of magnitude in just nine days. Over 60 teams participated. The winning team was awarded an article and cover of [Science Translational Medicine] magazine.
John feels that there are very few genius [data scientists] in the world, and they are isolated, hideously overpaid, managing hedge funds or search engines, but would probably rather be looking for cures for cancer.
Progress is not made if every company only has its own people looking at its own data. John wants data to shared amongst the world's scientists to create wisdom. However collaboration flies in the face of the competition that all the reward systems are based on in health care.
As an experiment, John wanted to make his own genome public. However, that requires "informed consent" for others to use his private health information, and it took him six months of legal and ethical rules to develop a system for him to provide this consent for public use.
In much the same way that gardens and fields were the first [commons] shared by farmers, John feels we need to cultivate the public domain, the "digital commons". This can truly transform medicine and health care.
- Peter Singer, Technology Expert and Best-selling Author
Peter shared insights from his latest book [Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know].
The first web page appeared in 1991, and now there are over 30 trillion pages. Over 98 percent of military communications occur over civilian internet communications. The [Internet of Things] adds everything from smart cars to medical devices into the equation.
But along with all the benefits the web has brought society, there are also risks. Every second, nine new pieces of malware are discovered. An astounding 97 percent of Fortune 500 have admitted to being hacked. Over 100 governments have established a cybermilitary force.
(Instead of Powerpoint slides, Peter had a slideshow of his personal collection of the world's best and worst cybersecurity art. Studies show that audiences remember 60 percent more if they are looking at pictures when they hear a speaker.)
While IT folks are good at dealing with both hardware and software, they traditionally don't do well with "wetware", the human side of things. Essential cybersecurity terms and concepts are often misunderstood.
Business leaders over-react to some threats, but completely ignore others. Consider that 70 percent of cybersecurity decisions at companies are made by executives who have no training in cybersecurity. No single MBA program offers cybersecurity courses.
There is a shortage of talent to deal with cybersecurity. Hiring managers are only satisfied with 40 percent of the employees they hire in this Cybersecurity space.
Incentives help explain why some industries like financial services do security well, while others like health care do poorly.
In an effort to find which employees do not take cybersecurity seriously enough, Companies have resorted to sending [phishing] emails to their own employees. Those that click are caught, and must attend mandatory training, or are subject to dismissal. Unfortunately, senior executives are twice as likely to click on phishing emails than the general workforce.
Peter recommends companies focus on resilience. You can never build high enough walls to eliminate threats. Instead, focus on bouncing back after attacks, similar to the anti-bodies in the human body deal with illness.
Ben Franklin said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Peter cited a studied that found proper cyberhygiene would have prevented 94 percent of attacks. The most successful foreign military attack on the U.S. military happened when a soldier saw a memory stick in a parking lot, and was curious enough to connect it to the secure military network to see what it contained.
We need to build an ethic. We teach our kids to cover your mouth when you cough. This does not protect your child in any way, but is an ethic to avoid spreading disease. We need to teach the same ethics related to cybersecurity.
All three were excellent talks focused on innovation. Ron Finley used gardening in otherwise empty urban spaces to help grow people as well as food. John Wilbanks used innovation to help bring the smartest minds to determine models for identifying cancer from genomes. Peter Singer marveled at the innovation of the Internet, and how proper cyberhygiene is needed to keep it secure.
These talks were recorded and available on this [98-minute YouTube video]. For those on Twitter, my handle is @az990tony and the hashtag for this session was #ibmedgetalks.
technorati tags: IBM, #ibmedge, #ibmedgetalks, TED conference, Surjit Chana, Ron Finley, Ron Finley Project, South Los Angeles, Russell Brand, LA Green Grounds, container cafe, John Wilbanks, Sage Bionetworks, Moneyball, cheap data, Barack Obama, red Solo cup, social media, DREAM, data scientist, Science Translational Medicine, human genome, Ben Franklin, Peter Singer, cybersecurity, public domain, digital commons, cyberhygiene