25 September 2020As someone who runs a design studio, it is not uncommon to hold a design degree. However, I do have a neuroscience degree as well, and when people find this out, they always ask, “why?”The answer is simple: I planned to be a psychiatrist.So what happened? It was a really tough decision that weighed on me a lot, but finally I decided to apply to art school instead of med school. Then at least I'd never wonder "what if..." And if I really wasn't happy, I could always go back and apply to med school later.I never looked back. And I learned an approach to tough decisions: go for it and if it doesn’t work out, you can usually go back to where you were before. It was this thinking that helped make moving to NYC, Montreal, San Francisco and finally London, for work after graduation, a bit easier.I often give this advice to students, who may answer: is it not a big waste of time and money? It seems that so many want to know exactly where they are going, and then simply get there in a nice, efficient straight line. I'm not sure this is always possible, or even desirable. It is however, understandable. Uni is so costly these days. A tuition freeze and some scholarships meant my student debt was manageable, so I was lucky—the cost was well worth it.If for whatever reason, your path leads in many directions, in this new world of disruption and convergence, it does not mean a big waste of time or money. A diverse background always feeds into what you do later on. In my case, my design studio MOTHandRUST works with a lot of science clients, which means my background is an advantage. I lead science-related projects that I am genuinely interested and passionate about. It makes it easier for me to convey scientific ideas and findings in compelling ways. I can quickly understand and grasp the needs and vision of my science clients. I understand a range of audiences both inside and out of the organisation. Finally, I see the similarities between the Art and Science, not just the differences.
23 July 2020
We've always been interested in artificial intelligence here at MOTHandRUST. We've posted about AI exhibitions we've been to. When the Center for Brains, Minds and Machines based at MIT asked us to partner with them for a rebrand, we were thrilled (a crop of an early presentation seen above).In the studio (via Skype), we've been chatting about AI on and off quite a bit throughout lockdown, as multiple AI-powered projects are being used to predict, explain and manage the different scenarios caused by the health crisis.According to Wired, a 2019 study covering 19 countries’ artificial intelligence health care markets estimated a 41.7 percent compound annual growth rate, from $1.3 billion in 2018 to $13 billion in 2025!Below are some key thoughts brought up in our casual conversations...An early fascinating example of AI's role in spotting an outbreak:In the New Year’s Eve of last year, the artificial intelligence platform BlueDot picked up an anomaly: a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. BlueDot, based in Toronto, Canada, uses natural language processing and machine learning to track, locate, and report on infectious disease spread. It sends out its alerts to a variety of clients, including health care, government, business, and public health bodies. It had spotted what would come to be known as Covid-19, nine days before the World Health Organisation released its statement alerting people to the emergence of a novel coronavirus.
AI has already had many roles in the global fight against the coronavirus, as well as in healthcare in general. For example, it's well known that developing a treatment is costly. Very costly. A huge part of this cost is eaten up by the money and time spent on unsuccessful trials. But with AI, scientists can use machine learning to model thousands of variables and how their compounded effect may influence the responses of human cells. Beyond diagnosis and treatment, AI has the potential to make getting appointments, paying insurance bills, and making other medical systems and procedures more efficient and cost effective. The list of potential roles AI can play goes on and on.Data, data, data:A big reason for AI not being able to do even more is that we simply did not have the data to deliver the solutions. There are so many issues around data that need to be addressed: our health care systems generally don't give up information easily to train AI systems, there are the privacy regulations, the error-filled health databases, and the data gathered being organised it in a way that's not useful for machines and so on.A fascinating fact: the amount of medical data in the world now is estimated to double every couple of months or so.As we sort out all the issues around data, AI lags a step behind us. Yet we still imagine that it possesses more foresight than we do... However, we believe that next time round, things will be better.
22 May 2020
I've been reading quite a bit about the scientific developments behind tacking COVID-19 and there is so much information out there, but news about this drug stood out to me...When the body's immune response over reacts, as it does with some COVID-19 patients, a lot of damage can be done. Howard Hughes Medical Investigator Bert Vogelstein and his team at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine will start clinical trials shortly, with a drug that may ease this hyperinflammatory response before it starts.As symptoms would be managed before they become severe, this could reduce the need for ICU admission or ventilator use. Of course, a vaccine would prevent someone from getting the illness in the first place, but a drug such as this one could be extremely useful before a vaccine is available.For a bit of the science, when macrophages, and other immune cells, detect a virus particle, they send out cytokines (as per the tiny purple specks in the image above). Cytokines help by bringing other immune cells to the scene – and this is what ultimately helps the body fight off a virus. However, macrophages can also release catecholamines, which amplifies the response, so even more cytokines are released. Once this starts, the whole process snowballs - and there seems to be an inability to properly switch it off. The drug being tested is an alpha blocker, that may limit cytokine release.Like many scientists, HHMI scientists are joining many of their colleagues worldwide in working to combat the new coronavirus. Stories of some of this work will feature on their site, so I'm looking forward to reading more.
The story featured in this post may be found here.
20 August 2019
Hello the MLE,
Reporting back from the AI: More Than Human exhibition at the Barbican.
Overall, it’s okay. It can be summed up as a barrage of examples of various AI-related objects and experiences. The only context provided is a crash course history of AI - which only added to the feeling of superficiality. With so many examples, there is little room for depth.
The exhibition would have benefited by focusing on the only the past 20 years, which is already more than enough. This would allow for a deeper look, a linking between pieces, an insight into what is proving to become a reality and why this is significant, and so on. This would have made the exhibitions much more interesting and meaningful.
Of course, I was personally interested in examples of how AI may help save us from environmental destruction, as well as the ethical considerations.
On the positive end: Neri Oxman and Mediated Matter Group’s Synthetic Apiary creates the conditions for an eternal spring for bees; and the Personal Food Computer developed at MIT is a “slow robot” that proposes an alternative to environmentally ruinous agriculture.
On the negative end:
An open letter to pre-emptively ban lethal autonomous weapons. An Amnesty International website showing how the US-led coalition’s air strikes on Raqqa in Syria in the war against Islamic State — many of them carried out by AI drones — led to hundreds of civilian deaths.
On the creepy end:
A video exploring the use of AI in China’s social credit system, set to roll out in 2020. This is depicted in a cute, colourful and fun animation focusing on all the positives, which is not at all appropriate for such a controversial topic.
And finally, I found it quite funny that there were a number of displays that were suffering technological malfunctions…. But at least the robot bartender was working! The future is bright!
18 May 2018
I know you have already seen this, but I am posting for the benefit of our science clients. I'm sure they will appreciate, as we have already had a right laugh about this many times...
Have a nice weekend!