Future Of Humanity Podcast with Carl Taylor
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Augmented Reality Training, Detecting Microsleeps, and the Future of Health with Dr. Leila Alem – Episode 12

  • August 8, 2018


Episode Summary

Augmented reality is becoming increasingly more common, and many wonder how we will use it. Some are hoping it can give us better, healthier lives. ArcSense is a company seeking to do just that, using bleeding edge augmented reality technology to help us deal with stress. Dr. Leila Alem is the co-founder of ArcSense, with an impressive 25-year history in the field, seeking to use augmented reality to improve our health.

Carl talks with Leila about how augmented reality affects learning, and the various fields and professions it can help. Leila then describes how damaging chronic stress can be on our mental health. Finally, Carl and Leila talk about how future generations will deal with being connected constantly.

What We Covered

[03:20] – Companies Leila has worked for and how they interacted

[05:00] – Learning through augmented reality

[10:15] – Different fields Leila hopes to improve in the future with augmented reality

[13:40] – Defining cognitive load and how to measure it

[15:30] – What are microsleeps?

[22:00] – Leila’s work in the health field

[24:00] – The dangers of chronic stress

[26:50] – What is ArcSense?

[30:00] – The blurry line between physical and digital

[35:00] – Are we becoming too connected?

[38:00] – What people can do to take advantage of augmented reality

[40:00] – Where Leila believes humanity will go in the future

Tweetables

Links Mentioned

ArcSense’s main website

Leila’s LinkedIn

Leila’s Twitter

Transcript

Read Full Transcript

Dr. Leila Alem: When you're dealing with IT4G, you know, for developing world, you need to account for building capacity, but delivering the service is important, but you also want to augment the people and train them on the jobs so that they are able to learn on the job and become better doctor [inaudible 00:00:15].
Speaker 2: A wise man once said.
Speaker 3: A wise man once said.
Speaker 2: The best way to predict the future.
Speaker 3: Is to create it. You are about to experience [inaudible 00:00:31]. Scientists, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, you're listening to The Future of Humanity podcast.
Carl Taylor: Welcome back, or if this is your first time, welcome to the show. My name is Carl Taylor and my mission is to educate you on just what the future of humanity may hold and more importantly, ensure you are equipped to be able to make informed decisions in your own life and help shape the society that we live in. Now, today's episode is with an incredible woman who has had a fascinating career. And we're discussing augmented reality, we're discussing the future of health, we're discussing visualization of the invisible, we are discussing wearables, we're discussing the trends that we're seeing in terms of society moving forward. Now, joining me in this discussion is Dr. Leila Alem, a scientist and the co founder and chief of design and innovation at ArcSense. A tech startup in wearables for aged care. Now, Leila is also an adjunct professor in human computer interaction at UTS and holds a PHD in AI and cognitive psychology.
She was principal consultant at Thoughtworks for two years and principal research scientist at CSIRO, one of the world leading research organizations for 23 years. She co edited three books on human factors in augmented reality and virtual reality environments. Leila was also awarded the 2013 New South Wales State Innovation Award in R and D, and was a finalist for the 2015 Women in Tech Outstanding Achievement Award. Now Leila's clients include Boeing, Rio Tinto, Department of Health and Aging, 3M, various government departments and many more. It is an absolute honor and privilege to be able to share with you the amazing contributions to the world that Leila is working on. So get ready, let's welcome Dr. Leila Alem.
So I'm excited for today's episode. We are joined by Leila Alem and Leila has had a fascinating career and done so many things. One of the things that's most interesting is that in 2013, she won a State Innovation Award. Leila, can you tell us a bit about what the award was worn for and tell us the story around that.
Dr. Leila Alem: Sure. So that award we worn it with my research team. I was then a principal scientist at CSRO, digital productivity and services. And it was an award that we worn for the work we did for Boeing. Boeing is a big manufacturing company with the head quarter in Seattle, and they had visited us and looked at some of the work I was doing then with my team and loved it. And they said, "Oh, can we buy this?" And I said, "No, we're not in the business of selling product. I'm sorry. Then I actually come and find out what you want to use it for." And basically one of the problem that we're having is that aircraft maintenance is a big issue for them. And they have very, very specialized skills in the head office and often they are having those requests from their technician any part of the world that says, can you help me fix this? Any minutes lost in flight not being able to fly is costing a lot to business, hence the need of a response just in time.
It was not about delivering data or information. This is really about delivering know how. Expertise that is in someone's head that is not codified in any technical document. So we built a remote field assistant system using augmented reality and were able to demonstrate the use of it to Boeing and build a business case for each lecture. It cost them $24,000 to fly a specialist to Doha let's say, and for that price they basically delivered that expertise when needed. Other time it's needed for improved productivity, but mostly for the airlines so that they don't have the aircraft sitting on a tarmac.
Carl Taylor: I think I saw a video online where you demonstrated this. So just for the guys listening you know, what you are talking about here is kind of tech support remote assistance of the future. I think there was a quote where you said having access to expert information is great, but having access to an expert is better. And this is kind of like bringing an expert in from anywhere in the world into augmented reality view and being able to essentially show you realtime what to do. Click that or screw that left or pull that piece out.
Dr. Leila Alem: So there's two things here that are of value. The first one is having that specialist basically in your back, seeing what you see and telling you what to do and how to do it, and the other one is also that the information is actually in your line of sight, so as a technician your hands are busy with tools and you're doing things with your hand and having the information in your line of sight, directly in the place where you're working, increase your ability to do things on time, but also reduces errors because you're not getting the information from somewhere and then applying it.
Carl Taylor: Like I'm thinking, like what would the old school way of been doing it? Would it have been having a procedures manual that you would check next to you?
Dr. Leila Alem: Yeah. And then you will be looking at the procedural and then come and make sense of it to see where am I at and what to do. While here you are having the information exactly in your line of sight without having to move your head [inaudible 00:06:07]. Because that's the thing, if you get the information from a space and you do the task in another space, it's switching, it's not just about memorizing, it's actually increases the cognitive load because you are still trying to make sense and map the two spaces together.
With augmented reality, you have that in your line of sight where you need it. And you reduce the cognitive load and reduces errors as well. So that has been sort of scientifically demonstrated and that's why there's value in all of this industrial connected device application to use augmented reality as the user interface for this type of solution. So that you are augmenting the person, you're not adding to their work.
Carl Taylor: So that's really interesting. I mean, this idea of augmented reality, we've actually had a previous guest on the show, who was a pool manufacturer utilizing augmented reality as a sales tool and a designing tool for pools. They were building backyard swimming pools in an augmented reality space. Being able to demonstrate it to the client there and there. And it was fantastic in a commercial sense. But what you're talking about here is now as a business, this really becomes both a training tool and a support tool. Because I can imagine that one of the benefits of having this real time training through augmented reality is yes, you're supporting them, but at the same time they're probably learning far faster. Is that something that you research showed?
Dr. Leila Alem: That's exactly. You're right. So, because time is critical, because you've got to actually get the engine going or whatever part you are fixing going ASAP because anytime lost for the aircraft is actually a cost into business. What happened is initially it's really about getting that expertise and know how just in time, get the job done first. But then after that there is a debrief and that's where learning occurs. Is like, why did I get you to do it this particular way? It's because X, Y and Z. And then there is the explanations and so forth. And because you've just completed the task, and then you have access to that specialist for the debrief, you're actually learning on the job.
And that also has a boost in productivity for business because in the future of work, we would be learning on the job all the time, all the time continuously. So learning on the job is not just about having the right data, the right information, is actually also having that interaction with someone who knows a lot more than you do. Having that interaction at a time that it's needed, when you are learning. Not checking in a classroom to learn and then get back into the work place, but actually just in time learning and training.
Carl Taylor: One of the things that comes to mind as a potential future of education if you like, or even a future service for business is outsourced tech support. Where it's like you've got experts on demand who just connect via augmented reality to assist you on that particular task or job.
Dr. Leila Alem: I totally agree and initially I thought the value prop was really around reducing the time that the equipment is not working, but then I realized that now with this type of technology you can also innovate in business models. If a piece of equipment is critical to a business, it needs to be operational 24 hours. Any minutes or any half a second lost is actually costing a lot to the business, then you can have a service where you are ensured that you're going to have a specialists in the line helping out ASAP anytime of the day.
Whereas if it's a piece of equipment that is not so critical, you can actually, tether for maybe a 10 or 15 minutes delay or even maybe an hour, then you can cost your delivery of that service differently. So you can have a value based business model that is depending on the criticality of the piece of equipment you are delivering the service for. And that's where the innovation is. So it allows new B2B type of the deals.
Carl Taylor: You did that work with Boeing, has that then work extrapolated off into other areas? Like where is that heading now?
Dr. Leila Alem: So, very good question. My big interest is in the health space and I'll talk about some of the work I've done in that space shortly. Yes. A technology like this can definitely be used to promote delivery of health services with the view that it's not an interaction between the specialist and the patient, but it's actually an interaction between a specialist and maybe a nurse that is examining the patient. And therefore the patient gets the benefit of having a specialist, because the specialist is augmenting the nurse. The nurse gets to learn on the job because she actually gets to do all the examination of the patient and gets the advice and recommendations of the specialists in situ while they're doing the examination. And the specialist gets to do it from their office instead of having to fly them. So it's beneficial for the three parties involved.
Carl Taylor: Yeah. Fantastic.
Dr. Leila Alem: I've done some early investigation for applying this model in a developing country, from Morocco, and I've contacted a company called The Medical of Caravan. And what they do is actually have specialist doctor delivering their services voluntary to people in the countryside. And of course the issue is for them to stop their work and maybe over the weekend drive the car for maybe six, seven hours to get to this kind of mobile clinic and deliver the service. And we are having conversation with them now to say, well why don't we send medical students to those villages, but augment them with a specialist. So the specialist is still there, but at a distance remotely and the patient in the village would still get the benefit of having a specialist who is examining them. So having a proxy, but a proxy that is from the medical practice, if you know what I mean.
Carl Taylor: We look at the Internet and think about how that has dramatically opened up and globalized the world and given access to information to remote areas. This is taking it to kind of like another level though because it's no longer just, Oh, you've got access to the information or maybe you Skype them in, this is far more real time access.
Dr. Leila Alem: It's real time access and the beauty now is that there're a lot of villages now that have 4G, [inaudible 00:12:30] with 4G. And also when you're dealing with IT4G, you know, for developing world, you need to account for building capacity, so delivering the service is important, but you also want to augment the people and train them on the job so that they are able to learn on the job and become better doctor [inaudible 00:12:50].
Carl Taylor: Yeah. That is awesome to hear. And I mean, this is not just the only area of healthcare that you have been working on, but before we get to that, one of the things I did want to touch on is [inaudible 00:13:05] had a conversation a little bit earlier about cognitive load and you mentioned it a bit earlier in the episode. You mentioned this concept of cognitive load, and I know that you were working with pilot training around cognitive load and that obviously, I'm sure there's many industries that cognitive load comes into it. So for those listening, can you explain what cognitive load is and maybe tell us a bit more about the pilot training story that you were telling me about before.
Dr. Leila Alem: Okay. So cognitive load is a concept from cognitive psychology and it's basically saying, what is the load that you have on your brain. And whether you're actually working at full capacity or whether you still have some neurons to do other things. So one of the tests that is often done for measuring cognitive load is to get someone to do a task and then while they are performing the task you ask them a question that has nothing to do with what they doing. Some people will hear the question and won't have the attention to respond to it because they're too busy with what they're doing. Some people won't hear it at all and some will hear it and are able to answer it.
And that gives you an indication of whether they still have some free neuron that are still available to actually process new information. And that's the notion of cognitive load.
Carl Taylor: Before we move on from there. I have many memories as a teenager where I would be so busy doing something in my head and parents would be like, hey, they'd ask you to do something and you'd maybe grant it with acknowledgment, but I didn't really hear what they said. Is that an example of cognitive load? In that my brain was focused on something else?
Dr. Leila Alem: Yes.
Carl Taylor: I genuinely didn't hear them. It wasn't that I wasn't paying attention. Well, I suppose I wasn't, but okay that's good-
Dr. Leila Alem: It's when you have so much in your head that you actually can't process anything else around you. So what happen when you are at full capacity and let's say you are driving and you are so in your head because you're worried about work, worried about family, whatever it is, and sometimes you're driving you get home and you don't even remember who has been driving. So, how did I made it here? Because you've been so much in your head that your head has not even been the one driving, and it's actually the automatic system that has been doing most of the driving, which is scary when you think about it. So it does put us in danger when we are working, especially in dynamic and complex environment.
Going back to people that are training pilots, most of the training is really around cognitive load because you need to be able to fly a plane at not full capacity so that you can actually take into account any unforeseen unplanned event. And if you can't take those into account because you're so full in your brain, then you're putting your passengers and yourself at risk. Good pilots are the ones that are able to fly an aircraft at not full capacity. So when we started talking to them and realized that most of the training was really about cognitive load, we said, "Would you see value in representing that load?" What this interaction has lead to is that when we explored ways to measure that load, so using the galvanic skin response. We were able to detect the load of the pilot and be able to visualize it and represent it.
And then the idea was like, where's the value for the pilot or for the instructor? And what we quickly found out is that after the simulation training session, having that visualization in situ with what the pilot has done had really augmented the interaction. They were able to identify errors that the pilot had made, reacted to things instead of being proactive.
Carl Taylor: Are you saying like in the recording of what they'd done, you could see a correlation of when they made mistakes and because you were visualizing their cognitive load, you could see that they correlated to high cognitive load?
Dr. Leila Alem: It helps to explain the behavior of the pilot. There are times where they are really so tunneled vision, they're just reacting, reacting to whatever happens. It seems to correlate to when they are in high cognitive load. And of course you don't want that. You want to be at a lower cognitive load so that you're actually still having a good situational awareness and be proactive instead of reactive. Proactive is less dangerous. You could also identify opportunities where you went up to full capacity and you took it easy instead of proactively stopped to calculating the distance to the other aircraft or something like that, you didn't actually take that opportunity to start doing it, until everything started happening and you start processing it.
So again. Well, when things are calm, here's your opportunity to start preempting again. And that was valuable for the instructors and the pilot because they could better quantify what would be the best area to work in the next simulation training.
Carl Taylor: To measure something like cognitive load, I mean that to me as someone who's obviously not an expert in the field, like it almost seems like, oh, that sounds great. Yeah, we'll just visualize cognitive load, but hold on, that's going on in their brain. How do you actually measure that? Do you have sensors on the body? On the brain? Or is it far simpler than that? Like you said, looking at eye movements. Like how do you measure cognitive load?
Dr. Leila Alem: So there's a number of scientists who have looked at that and we took the measurement of galvanic skin response which is like a little accessory that you put on that checks the pulsimeter on your finger. But you could also measure cognitive load from EEG signal. We decided not to go with the EEG signal because we thought, if you put something on peoples head and they're not wearing it in their work, that will compromise the experiment. We used EEG for fatigue monitoring. So again, that's another thing that, of course you know when you're tired. Your eye start blinking, you start feeling tired, you stop thinking not really sharply and so forth.
But what about if you're a driver or a pilot and have an awareness of your fatigue and the risk you're putting yourself into? So we have done some work in the real time detection of micro sleep. Where you put the EEG sensor, so this is what we've done with a startup company called [inaudible 00:19:36]. It was their IP. They used a sleeper Siri and the signal from your brain to be able to detect micro sleeps. You know the tiny little sleeps that you may experience. We worked with them to actually develop the app to allow the truck driver to monitor the fatigue and level of alertness and basically reduce their risk of accident.
Carl Taylor: I mean, that's fantastic. I have heard of, I can't remember which car manufacturer, but I had heard of a car manufacturer that had like sensors in the rear view mirror or something that was monitoring your eyes to try and detect when you seem to be sleepy and like blast an alarm at you and be like, wake up!
Dr. Leila Alem: When your eyes start blinking it's too late, whereas if you get the signal, sorry, from your brain, then you can actually have a much bigger window and the bigger the window is for reaction, the safer it is for you.
Carl Taylor: I mean, one of the things I remember you saying, we've had a conversation before, was about bringing what's invisible to visible. And so what you're talking about here is getting before the eyes blinking, which are more visible interactions, it's how do we detect it earlier.
Dr. Leila Alem: Exactly, so something that is really passion of mine is to say, what's the role that technology can play to improve people's awareness of what's happening between them? And that awareness of you and how body functions, your brain functions, whether it's fatigue or cognitive load or stress helps you become a better person. Helps you manage this better. And I'll talk about the concept of augmented humanity in the sense of the role that technology can play to make you more aware of things that are inside you, that you become aware of it when it's too late, you know.
Like you can wait until your eyes blink or you can wait until you have a lower back pain, but what if you start becoming aware of that way before that so you can prevent? And prevention is the future of health. You can't wait until things happen and then you manage them. You want to start preventing it. That's kind of the work that I'm currently doing right now with my startup.
Carl Taylor: I'd love to talk about what you doing with ArcSense. So tell us a bit about what you are working on in the area of health.
Dr. Leila Alem: The area of prevention of health, so I've, backwards a little bit, I've done a huge trial at the national level of the people who manage with chronic disease. And their interest with these was to actually see whether remote monitoring of patient with chronic disease from their home, whether we can help reduce the visits to hospital and whether we can actually help them manage their condition better by joint remote monitoring. And this was really about people that already had chronic disease. Because it's the cost to our society is so high, we're trying to explore ways to reduce this by doing the remote monitoring.
And one of the things that I found out in that study that really became obvious, is that there was also value in self monitoring. Yes you had the peace of mind knowing someone was getting your vital signs and look after you and have the doctor in your back basically, but you also learn about your numbers. You learn about your condition because you actually see it on a daily basis. And that is empowering. That gives you a sense of empowerment because you start making better decisions about it.
Carl Taylor: Well, it kind of goes back to that real time. We were talking about everything. It's about bringing everything far more real time rather than looking at it in the past, here's what was happening.
Dr. Leila Alem: Exactly. And it's real time, but it's also, you know, seeing how it fluctuates, you know. If you're looking at, you have a heart condition, you want to know your numbers over the week. And what's normal for you, and what's not, and then you start making the right decision for yourself. Is it time to go out or stay home? So this is where I really realized it was not just the big brother's watching you and monitoring you from a distance which was the realtime assistance we were talking about, but also that self monitoring. How valuable it was in terms of empowering people in better managing their condition.
And I said, "Well, what if we can do the same thing, but instead of waiting for people to be sick, have them prevent being sick to start off with." And be at more preventative aspect. So ArcSense is really looking at helping people monitor their resilience to chronic stress. Because chronic stress is like huge component of chronic diseases, almost 80%. So we tend to say, yeah, soldier on and you deal with it and as you experience more and more stress and when it becomes more chronic, and you lose your vitality and your sleep and all that sort of thing, you tend to, oh yeah, I'll take some vitamins, I'll sleep a bit better, until you actually get sick. Until you have the diagnosis, and that's too late.
So what if we can actually help them be aware of their resilience to stress. Their body's resilience to stress. And we're using a measurement called heart rate variability. Which basically tells you, you can't do anything about stress that comes around you or even stress that you generate with your own brain, but what you can do, is your response to it. So, if you can monitor your response to it and have a sense of whether you're getting better or worse in responding to stress, then you have lever. You have something you can control. You have something you can deal with and you can start hacking. So I'm going to try this then I try to see if I can improve my sleep and whether that's improved my resilience to stress. And if it works, you're going to continue doing it.
Carl Taylor: This is a way of, you know, I'm just trying to wrap my head around this, you're saying this creates away of being able to far more measure the impact of things you might be doing to try and improve your stress? So for example, if you were trialing meditation or breathing techniques, you now can actually have hard data to show whether it's actually helping as opposed to just your cognitive bias of thinking it's working.
Dr. Leila Alem: Yeah. That's exactly right. So there's a huge factors that are evidence based that I really recommend it to reduce stress and manage stress, but you need to find the one that works for you, or you need to try a number of things and to find out what works for you. You can't have just the feeling, oh it sounds good. Or you can have the actual number. It says, oh I've actually improved it by 20%. I'm going to stick with this. I'm going to do more of this. I'm going to do my deep breathing, or I'm going to do my meditation, or I'm going to do my five, four, three, two, one, whatever it is.
There's a host of practices and apps out there that are available to help people with managing stress, but what would be extremely valuable is if people actually have that monitoring as well element. So they can have that feedback across the loop and also have the biofeedback. That is one way of empowering people. Give them a tool that allows them to experiment with themselves.
Carl Taylor: Yeah. So with ArcSense, what is it right now? Is it an app? Is it a framework that other apps plug into like an API? Like what exactly is ArcSense at least and what will it be?
Dr. Leila Alem: So, it's a platform so you can integrate to data from other apps if you're using other apps for monitoring your sleep or your diet and so forth. It has a way to measuring your heart variability and monitor this real time. And has an AI component to actually start getting a sense of learning about you and what seems to be working for you so that you can actually have a companion to get you to stick with your journey and to improving your way of managing stress. And the other thing also is to get people started on a journey is easy, but getting them to stick to a journey of health and well being is the hardest part. So, we're seeing the result is great, but we can't assume that just seeing the result is actually going to solve the whole problem.
Carl Taylor: I'd love to speculate for a moment. We've talked a lot about what's already been happening and what is already here today, but a big part of what I like to explore in future of humanity is, okay, well this is where we're at today, which is so exciting, but this is just the beginning of something far larger. We suggested a couple of things that we might see in the future of healthcare being far more preventative rather than maintenance. We've talked about the future of work and training being far more this augmented reality, real time experts, but what else? I mean based on what you see, what do you think things are headed with the use of augmented reality, Internet of things as well. Like how does that come into this world of sensors and everything being online? Where do you see things headed?
Dr. Leila Alem: In my view is that conversions of the wearable, the sensors, and the AI and the cloud is really changing what it means to be human. And that's the stuff that interests me. It's not just the tech. The tech is an enabler. And I'm interested in really how we as human are evolving in our understanding of ourselves and our connection with others and how we can use technology to improve this, not to reduce it. It's a reflection of what it is to be human. I'm not talking about the cyborgs. I'm not talking about bringing the digital.
The line is quite blurring now between you know, where the digital and the physical gets in. I'm not talking about this type sort of cyborg type of human, I'm just talking about, even with the current technology, how we can use it to augment our perception of what it is to be human and what work we can do for us to become better human.
Carl Taylor: I came very much through a personal development world. From the age of 17, 18, I started going to seminars, reading personal development books and this idea of enlightenment. Are you talking about this more inner knowledge thought process and technology making this more tangible and maybe less woo woo? Or, what exactly are you kind of referring to when you say?
Dr. Leila Alem: Look, everybody has their own journey, and I don't think there is one journey for all. You have to look all the YouTube videos and taught yourself a number things because the knowledge is out there and it's available. I am interested in neuroscience even though I'm a cognitive scientist because I am becoming more and more aware of the tricks that the mind plays on you and how you can learn those things and help yourself make better decisions and less biased because you understand how your brain works. And that's my journey, but it might be different from others.
And then exploring the role that technology can help you stay on track in that exploration and in that discovery, but also in that augmentation of self. That makes sense?
Carl Taylor: Yeah. So, I mean, really we are talking a lot about our ability to make decisions, our self awareness of what's going on in our body, like all of that side of things. Do you agree though with Elon Musk's thought that he believes that for us to keep up with where machines are headed, we're going to have to meld and become connected to the cloud in some way or some way meld our minds with the machine's. Not just necessarily physically our bodies, but our minds are going to be connected. Do you subscribe to Elon Musk thoughts there?
Dr. Leila Alem: No I don't. Actually I have been reading recently about the internet of things manifesto and these are a group of people in Europe really actively trying to think about the ethical values of this world of connected device. And I myself, I've got a family of four and we travel a lot. I always seek places where there is no wifi when we go on holiday. Because I miss it. I could see the effect that wifi has on our life as a family. The disconnect that happens because of that being constantly connected. So I go I [inaudible 00:32:00] in places where there is no wifi so we can re-experience what it used to be a normal family talking to each other without the devices. So, in the opposite, I have sort the view that we are going to try to create a space where we are disconnected.
Carl Taylor: So you think it will be like, when we are at work, there will be art of our world that we are connected, and then we'll purposely make a conscious decision, an effort to disconnect and have these maybe holidays, parks and islands, like, no technology.
Dr. Leila Alem: Yeah. I found work and play and lifestyle that the separation is very blurry. So, even when I'm at work, I remember working at the beach, I couldn't bring my laptop, it was going to get sandy and all.
Carl Taylor: Yeah. The whole idea of having a laptop on the beach, which they like to portray as the laptop lifestyle. It's not very practical [crosstalk 00:33:03].
Dr. Leila Alem: No. It's not practical at all. And the fact that you don't bring it, that means you're not reading your email, you're not having any notification, nothing. If you think about switching off your phone as well and then you have a conversation and the conversation you're having is a lot richer. And you're stepping and you're walking, and we think and we're more creative when we use our body. When we are not sitting at a computer with lots of email to attend. If you want to be creative, you've got to switch off all this. Be in the nature, walk, use your body. Once you use your body and walk around or cycle or whatever it is you do, you think a lot more clearly.
I've taken up recently cycling and I realized that cycling is doing me good. Not just because it's getting me active and cycling, but it's actually also forcing me to move away from being on the screen and I'm scanning the horizon because I have to for my safety and that's good for my brain. And I turn up at work and my brain is ticking.
Carl Taylor: But do you think the trend, I mean I a hundred percent agree with you, but do you think the trend, and especially as we get, I mean, yes we got our phones on us all the time, augmented reality when it gets to the point that we've got contact lenses, potentially in our eyes where there's a heads up display at any point. We could be walking through that forest and it's telling us in our face what that tree is and maybe telling us some sort of historical fact about what happened in this park in 1800s. Do you think that we are consciously going to turn that stuff off? Or will the older generations kind of remember what it was like to be disconnected?
But a previous episode we had an expert on generation Z and how they've grown up with Wifi and they've always been connected. And the question is, will they know that they're overly connected? She was saying that they know that they're so connected and they look at the older generations in all our ability to turn off, and that shows that they don't know how to turn off. Do you think we're heading that way that we will be connected always?
Dr. Leila Alem: I may be an optimist type of a girl, but I think as human we deeply know what are the gains and what are costs and there are always the two sides. Gains and costs. I was in the Redwood area of San Francisco recently. You know those beautiful and humongous acacia. And the last thing you want is to have, when you are in that forest, was to actually have your phone and have some digital augmentation. With a friend we were playing at hugging trees because you feel how old those trees are. You want to connect with those trees in a physical sense and we are absorbing too much information and not doing enough experiences.
Experiences, to be human is also very physical, very tactile, and we need to make sure that we don't lose sight of that. So there's time for everything. You know, there's time for augmentation and that's fine. You know like I'll be lost in a city and yes, I would love to have navigation aids on my smart glasses so that I can find the place that I need to go, but I don't want to be connected all the time. I want to be able to switch off.
Carl Taylor: Definitely. Moving into the future, I think we will have a lot of decisions on an ethical and deciding what we want society to look like. It's not the technology, the technology is coming, it's going to be how we choose to respond to that and how we choose to make out of our life that's going to be the choice that we all have to make.
Dr. Leila Alem: And what I see as a trend while we're talking about the future is that for the last maybe 40 years, all we talked about was productivity, and how you're going to do things faster. It was very, very efficiency and productivity driven. And what I see now is that, yes, productivity is going to be still at play, but wellness is going to become very strong area as well. Where we're going to start looking after ourselves as well as being productive and that's where I see the disconnection comes in. But that's where this kind of, and when you're connected you want to learn more about your well being and look after yourself and be on a journey of growth. Learn about your mindset. And again move to area where you get more growth mindset in order to continue with that journey and all that kind of stuff. And this is where technology can also assist and help.
Carl Taylor: Yes. Definitely. I think that would be a far better future if that comes to pass. I hope that that trend does come to pass and we're focused more on wellness and physical and mental health. I think it's very important for society. Let's kind of bring it back to today. What can people do today if they want to get involved or be aware of what's happening? What would you recommend people do? Whether they are scientists researching in this area or wanting to research in this area? If they're an entrepreneur running their own business or they're just an every day person kind of just interested in this stuff. What would be your recommendations on where to start or what to do?
Dr. Leila Alem: Yeah. My recommendation is find your tribe. If there is a topic that interests you, I would highly recommend going to some of the meetups and see who comes up there and if the people that go there are your tribe because they are interested in the same thing that you are, let's say it's AR, VR wearable tech, IOT, whatever it is. Whether it's the technology or whether it's more on the aspect of leadership or growth. They are some, in Sydney we're very lucky we have this as Sydney hub for the startups and regularly every Friday they have pitch night. So I would recommend going there and saucing up what the startups are doing.
They are the fore fronts, they are the one really ahead of the game trying to create the future. Go and listen to some pitch and reach out to anybody you see they're doing something interesting that is relevant to your area. Entrepreneurs Love to talk about their ideas, but they actually also love working and collaborating with others. They tend to be sort of the people that know that you can only make a difference by working with others. Is not a solo journey.
Carl Taylor: It's only so far you can go alone, right?
Dr. Leila Alem: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Carl Taylor: Let's kind of wrap up. And one of the questions I like to ask every person who comes on the show is, when you think about the future of humanity, you already mentioned that you're optimistic, so do you think we're headed in a positive direction? Could go anywhere? We're headed in a destructive direction? When you think to the future, 10, 20, a 100 years or longer into the future, are you excited? Are you scared? Where are you at?
Dr. Leila Alem: I can see that there are errors that we are making and we can uncover those errors maybe too late. And I can see also some really positive things happening in terms of people understanding that we need to have asked the right questions around most technology and not just consuming them bluntly. So there is hope, but there is also risks of doing the wrong thing. And that's how we evolve as a human. We make mistakes, we hopefully learn from them, or my hope is that we will learn on time basically, but our history shows that we tend to really learn our lesson when things go really badly.
I have in mind, for example, the denture of the magnetic field, you know. We all have wifi in our house, and yet it's actually quite dangerous for us. There's been science evidence to suggest that this exposure to those magnetic field are actually really bad for us and affect even our DNA and here we are consuming it. I've been following some bio hackers recently and the first thing they recommended is, make sure you actually, from those emissions because they are dangerous. So yeah, in one way we were aware of the risk of sugar and too salty food and fatty food and whatever and there and so much has been uncovered in the nutrition aspect, but I think with the digital and wifi and Bluetooth, we are yet to actually really embrace the fact that we are putting ourself in danger in having those devices so close to us constantly.
Carl Taylor: It will be like the next smoking, right? There was a time that everyone thought smoking was healthy and good for you but then now we all look at it and go, that's terrible. And I'm sure future us will look at us-
Dr. Leila Alem: We see someone smoking and you know, we look at them, you know, we give them the bad look. But it's going to be the same probably in 10 or 15 years when it comes to those devices I would say.
Carl Taylor: It's like you had wifi in your house? How could you do that? You used Bluetooth? What were you thinking?
Dr. Leila Alem: Exactly. And it takes 20 years before the science is in place and all that, before the actual community become aware of those dangerous. Even though this things is published, if you go you can find it very easily, it's published, it's been demonstrated clearly that it's dangerous, but we still are not doing anything about it.
Carl Taylor: Wow, that sounds like potentially a future episode to find someone to talk about that.
Dr. Leila Alem: Yeah. Or find an invention that protects us from it so we can still use it without the negative effects, right?
Carl Taylor: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Leila Alem: Because at the moment we're just consuming it. So yeah, my hope is that we would move away from being blind consumers to actually more informed human.
Carl Taylor: Absolutely.
Dr. Leila Alem: And to make the right decision for our self, for our health and joy.
Carl Taylor: Leila, thank you so much for joining us. It's been an absolute pleasure.
Dr. Leila Alem: Thank you for having me.
Carl Taylor: Thanks for listening to The Future of Humanity podcast. To download the latest episode and find the transcript and various resources mentioned in today's episode, visit our website at foh.show. That's F-O-H as in, future of humanity, and show as in S-H-O-W. You can also via our website, contact me with any feedback or suggestions for future episodes. So please do reach out. Now, if you haven't already subscribed, you can find the links to subscribe on all your favorite platforms at foh.show/subscribe. That's foh.show/subscribe. And more importantly, if you'd like to continue the conversation from today's episode and connect with other listeners, then you can join our free community at foh.show/community, foh.show/community. I look forward to seeing you there.

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