TED Conversations

James Patten


This conversation is closed.

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: A USB device that when connected to my skin could perform a complete physical analysis, including scanning for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses.
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      Nov 14 2011: Hi Richard, that is a great idea. My company shares studio space with another TED Fellow, Oliver Medvedik, and Oliver runs a small synthetic biology lab. One of the things they are working on is building low cost lab instruments. It seems like the natural course for this sort of work is toward medical diagnostics. I think others are working on cheaper diagnostic tools as well. Of course, regulatory approvals and patents are obstacles to be overcome in this effort, but it seems like things are inevitably heading in this direction.
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        Nov 14 2011: Kodak did some very interesting related work in developing the Ektachem400 body fluid analizer back in the 70's. Info may be available...
    • Nov 14 2011: similarly, how about a handheld device that could scan food and breakdown the nutritional values, including things like the amount of pesticides..

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