TED Conversations

James Patten


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If you could give computers one magical power, what would it be and why?

Live TED Conversation: Join TED Fellow James Patten

James is an inventor who is exploring new ways that physical objects can represent and control digital information.

This conversation will open at November 14 at 1:00PM EST.


Closing Statement from James Patten

Thank you to everyone for sharing some great ideas! One theme that I was really struck by was the extent to which people wanted their computers to have human qualities. Also there were some great suggestions about new types of input and output, ways of processing information and many others. I think that within the next several decades many of the things mentioned here will some to pass (some much sooner than that). Ultimately what we think of as a "computer" will change drastically in the next several years, as things adapt to better suit human abilities. Thank you everyone for participating!

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  • Nov 14 2011: I'd love if computers could help us understand health, wellness, and the process of disease more richly. With all of the evidence-based medicine we have and all of the studies in all of our journals, I always feel like the "day to day" is lacking a little bit. It also happens that "day-to-day" health behaviors (really, just how a person lives their life) can lead to certain illnesses. Perhaps a reasonable magical power computers could have would be to provide individualized preventative medicine and health suggestions based upon the individual's genetics, environment, social ties and support networks, etc., ideally accounting for more than just the biological process of disease (meaning, the social determinants of health as well). If a computer could continuously monitor things like levels of stress and diet intake and other things we know cause disease, perhaps we could understand that disease process more fully, and, more importantly, understand what being health means more fully. Also, the computer would give feedback to health professionals and provide lots of data, allowing the entire evidence-based field to become more personal.

    I'm curious to hear what everyone thinks.

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