Transforming lives with medical bionics
The inaugural TEDxUWollongong will take place on Tuesday 29 May 2012 from 5.30pm in the UniHall at The University of Wollongong (UOW). Described as an “intellectual circus”, TEDxUWollongong will feature a brilliant mix of world leading experts and inspiring speakers, focusing on the theme of “Medical Bionics: An Interdisciplinary Approach”.
Speakers will give the talk of their lives, condensing their life’s work and passion into a short, sharp and inspiring presentation.
The Master of Ceremonies - Dr Robyn Williams AM
Science journalist and broadcaster of ABC Radio National’s The Science Show and Ockham’s Razor.
The Scientist - Professor Gordon Wallace
Internationally recognised nanobionics pioneer, Australian Laureate Fellow and Founder & Director of UOW’s Intelligent Polymer Research Institute.
The Neurologist - Professor Mark Cook
World leader in the treatment of epilepsy, Chair of Medicine & Director of Neurosciences at Melbourne’s St. Vincent’s Hospital.
The Critic - Associate Professor Katina Michael
UOW researcher focused on the socio-ethical implications of emerging technologies.
The Recipient - Sue Young
Double Cochlear Ear implant recipient and founder of the Illawarra Cochlear Implant Support Group.
The Industry Leader - Professor Rob Shepherd
Director of the Bionics Institute, Professor of Medical Bionics at the University of Melbourne & leader of Bionic Vision Australia’s program to develop a bionic eye prototype.
The Entertainers - Dr Lotte Latukefu and Associate Professor David Vance
Lotte, an experienced opera singer and David, a concert pianist, will perform a musical interlude.
This historic, independently organised TEDx event will not only delve into the science and ethics of medical bionics, but will uncover how this cutting edge research is changing lives. Illawarra local, Sue Young, will share her incredible story. At the age of five, Sue was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss and by 12 she was profoundly deaf. For the next 38 years Sue wore bilateral hearing aids, using advance lip-reading skills and body language techniques to communicate.
A chance meeting with Professor Graeme Clark (inventor of the cochlear implant) and Professor Gordon Wallace (UOW) in 2003 encouraged her to do something about her hearing. Sue underwent her first cochlear implant in 2004, followed by her second in 2006, becoming the 22nd bilateral implant in NSW. For Sue, success of her cochlear implants has been a personal celebration of a new life.
“The Cochlear Implant Program has enabled me to merge from a black and white silent world into a new world full of colour, action and life. It has enabled me to attend UOW with minimal assistance and graduate as a professional. It opened many doors and opportunities to me in my personal life, creating new career pathways I only ever dreamed were possible”, Ms Young says.
“I can now apply sounds to action; I appreciate music especially live concerts, the sounds of an orchestra especially the violins and flutes bring tears to my eyes, I had no idea how beautiful these sounds are. I can watch TV without captions, go to the movies, hear the radio and the sound of my children’s voices. I am no longer tired in the early evening or have frequent headaches due to the intense concentration required for lip-reading, reading of body movements (non verbal communication) or continuously looking for direction of sounds as I did in the past”.
“And I learnt to dance! I can actually hear the music and dance to a tune”, says Ms Young.
While these new technologies are a dramatically improving the lives of patients like Sue Young, Associate Professor Katina Michael warns about the potential ethical implications.
“Medical bionics are prone to scope creep. Today a device might be used for prosthesis, rehabilitation, diagnostics, but in the future it might well be used for health insurance purposes to monitor whether or not the bionics implantee is doing what they are supposed to be doing, like exercises etc. Two decades from now, futurists like Ray Kurzweil believe these devices might even be used for convenience related solutions, such as accessing the Internet or paying for goods at point of sale”.
“One of the biggest dilemmas is how these medical bionics may be rolled out, for example, as an automatic identification device to replace bracelets like the MedicAlert for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Consent becomes a major issue here. Does the patient who has lost their cognitive capacities have the right to say ‘no’? What if the technology fails, and therefore fails to locate a patient? What if these technologies are used to track prison inmates? Do prison inmates have the ability to say ‘no’? A lot of people are talking about the need to track minors with GPS devices. While implants cannot do the job of GPS devices, they could work in concert with them in the future”.
Associate Professor Michael says the major issues of bionics have to do with trust, control, reliability, availability, liability and accountability.
“We are quickly approaching a time when medical bionics will be mimicked in the entertainment and commercial sector for very different uses. Are we ready to become bionic? Are we ready to live in an uberveillance society?”, she asks.
TEDxUWollongong, an independently organized event licensed by TED, is an invitation only event with only 100 places available for leading Australian health practitioners and key industry personnel. However, the event will be simulcast live upstairs at the University of Wollongong UniCentre. Please register your attendance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or joining the Facebook event at www.facebook.com/TEDxUWollongong. Live simulcast will also be screened online at www.tedxuwollongong.com.
Note to the Editor
The event will start with networking and refreshments at 5.30pm, with proceedings getting underway at 6.15pm. The event will run until 8.30pm, followed by media opportunities and networking. Photo opportunities after rehearsal on May 29 between 2-3pm. High resolution imagery of speakers, interviews and other times for photo opportunities available upon request. More information on speakers and the event at www.tedxuwollongong.com.
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 26 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. At TED, the world’s leading thinkers and doers are asked to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Talks are then made available, free, at TED.com. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Benoit Mandelbrot, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Two major TED events are held each year: The TED Conference takes place every spring in Long Beach, California (along with a parallel conference, TEDActive, in Palm Springs), and TEDGlobal is held each summer in Edinburgh, Scotland. For information about TED’s upcoming conferences, visit http://www.ted.com/registration. Follow TED on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TEDTalks, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TED.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self organised.Media contact: Bernie Goldie02 4221 email@example.com