Converting Science Fiction To Reality: The Transformative Power Of Technology - InformationWeek
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5/29/2008
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Bob Evans
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Converting Science Fiction To Reality: The Transformative Power Of Technology

Think there's no more magic in this business? Still have people trying to tell you that IT doesn't matter? Think again. I spent most of Wednesday at Carnegie Mellon University and among the people I spoke with was Jay Srini, the Chief Innovation Officer for the neighboring University of Pittsburgh's Medical Center Health Plan. Jay spoke about the extraordinary advances being made in the spaces where IT and medical technology and bioengineering meet health care.

Think there's no more magic in this business? Still have people trying to tell you that IT doesn't matter? Think again. I spent most of Wednesday at Carnegie Mellon University and among the people I spoke with was Jay Srini, the Chief Innovation Officer for the neighboring University of Pittsburgh's Medical Center Health Plan. Jay spoke about the extraordinary advances being made in the spaces where IT and medical technology and bioengineering meet health care.At the very moment we were discussing that, a stunning collaborative effort between Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh involving those extraordinary new technologies was being announced: "Two monkeys with tiny sensors in their brains have learned to control a mechanical arm with just their thoughts," reported The New York Times.

This remarkable advance, which was published online on Wednesday by the journal Nature, "is the most striking demonstration to date of brain-machine interface technology. Scientists expect that technology will eventually allow people with spinal cord injuries and other paralyzing conditions to gain more control over their lives," the Times wrote.

As Jay Srini wrote in an e-mail message this morning after reading the Times' article, "the innovation in Pittsburgh is best exemplified in this NYT story today ... Neurobiologist Andrew Schwartz from U. Pitt School of Medicine has converted science fiction to reality." Srini was one of about a dozen entrepreneurs, investors, and C-level execs participating in InformationWeek's Startup City event Wednesday in Pittsburgh, and she spoke about her need in her new role to be constantly looking for new technologies and dynamic startups that are enabling transformative advances in health care and value to patients.

Straddling her involvement with the two world-class research universities separated by about six city blocks, Srini is on the advisory board of CMU's School of Computer Science, while over at Pitt she was UPMC's VP of Emerging Technology before becoming Chief Innovation Officer.

So Jay's lovely phrase that innovation and technology today are helping to convert "science fiction to reality" isn't just some dreamy idea -- it's real, it's right now, and it isn't limited to Pittsburgh or health care or neuroscience. The only limits are our imaginations and the scale of our desire to convert "science fiction to reality."

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