Regina Saphier: TEDMED or Your Gut Feeling and Big Data

Regina Saphier: TEDMED or Your Gut Feeling and Big Data

It is time I posted something about TEDMED, even if (unfortunately) I have no access to live TEDMED events. I however still watch those post production videos on TEDMED and I sometimes post them on my facebook wall with my comments. So, here are two of those posts, their slightly edited and extended blog versions, with added articles for deeper knowledge of the topic at the end of my blog post.

As a young doctor Peter Attia blamed an obese woman with diabetes for her terrible condition (while giving her the best possible medical care he was able to provide). Later he who is knowledgeable, fit and eats right, learned that he too was insulin resistant. In fact there are millions of lean people who are insulin resistant, while also millions who are obese but have no trace of insulin resistance. Peter says that he is very sorry that he let his patient down as a human being and one can see that he is truly ashamed of his mistake. Right now Peter is exploring the possibility that obesity is perhaps not the cause of insulin resistance but rather the result of an underlying, yet undiscovered mechanism that is behind the complex metabolic syndrome that is related to diabetes, insulin resistance and obesity.

I am glad someone finally noticed that. A healthy body does not get fat. A healthy person does not want to sit on the couch all day. If you feel like sitting all the time, and if your diet is healthy and you are still packing it on, something happened to you that should be fixed. The same is true if you are thin, have a slow thyroid, still, no matter how much you eat, you can not put on weight. I suspect one direction to explore is how our microbiome is related to these issues. I am sure that people with metabolic syndrome have a similarly screwed up gut flora, or some other consistent disharmony in their microbiome. Peter could work well with Larry Smarr‘s big data approach.

My kind of hero: Larry Smarr used big data (he compared his medical data to many other people’s medical information, like their lab results and the composition of their gut flora), a supercomputer, genetics, and science to precisely diagnose the dramatic changes in his microbiome that are making him ill. He now knows that his CRP (a marker for inflammation) is high because of a slowly developing intestinal illness (not yet visible with a colonoscopy!), due to a mass extinction of good bacteria and an overgrowth of harmful components. Quantified self at its best, but medicine is not there yet. His out of balance microbiome composition is consistent with one particular illness that shows the same imbalance in other similarly ill people. So, now he knows what is wrong, he also knows that this is a key to the future of medicine, but the knowledge and the methods to treat his illness based on his scientific and extremely precise diagnosis are not in place yet… But I am telling you to watch this field! And watch this video to look into the future of medicine. Below I am also providing relevant articles and citations for further reading.

Update (December 21, 2013):

A very important talk by Jessica Richman of uBiome @ TEDMED 2013  (Thank you Jessica for sending me the link during our AngelList discussion!)

Could a citizen scientist win a Nobel Prize?

“Scott McCollum asks:

What are your thoughts on the gut microbiome and obesity? Where’s the current research at and where is it headed?

Attia responds:

The current body of evidence certainly suggests that the gut biome plays a role not only in obesity, but more importantly insulin resistance and metabolic dysregulation. Perhaps one of the most amazing clinical observations is the amelioration of diabetes in patients undergoing gastric bypass prior to losing any weight post surgery. This at least suggests that the weight loss per se is not the issue in type two diabetes. Rather, something in the gastric bypass may be altering flora in the gut, which may in fact be altering the underlying insulin resistance. The most interesting question form my vantage point is this: Can the benefit of gastric bypass on the insulin resistant patient be achieved through a dietary intervention that also interrupts the gut biome? Stay tuned.”

“We’ve known for a few years that obese mice transplanted with the intestinal community of lean mice lose weight and vice versa. (We don’t know why.) A similar experiment was performed recently on humans by researchers in the Netherlands: when the contents of a lean donor’s microbiota were transferred to the guts of male patients with metabolic syndrome, the researchers found striking improvements in the recipients’ sensitivity to insulin, an important marker for metabolic health. Somehow, the gut microbes were influencing the patients’ metabolisms.” (By MICHAEL POLLAN, Published: May 15, 2013)

The Smithsonian National Design “Lifetime Achievement” Award goes to Richard Saul Wurman

Yesterday I got a few notes from Richard Saul Wurman. He made sure I know he got an award that made him really pleased.

Here is my edited letter to him (edited for the public eye):

Congratulations Richard upon your well deserved award! 🙂 “Lifetime Achievement” goes to Richard Saul Wurman. “Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt‘s National Design Awards“… Brilliant! Here is why You deserve it in my opinion:


I am sure you see that when You, Mr. Q Senior, started TED, you started many many possibilities for thousands of people on a global scale, unrelated to their immediate circumstances. You basically redesigned the invisible space between you, me, and people in other nations and on other continents. This is why you deserve every relevant award out there. It is all possible because you had a curious mind, an amazing breadth of view, and a special motivation for redesigning everything that you touch, in a way that it “becomes round” and “starts rolling” (e. g.: ready to roll when posted on the web). Thank you for existing and remaining curious! 🙂 Your embraced ignorance is a universal blessing, and we positively experience the function of your ego the size of The Large Hadron Collider. 🙂 We are happy particles spinning in it, and the energy is shaking up The World. Congratulations! Your “intelligent human design”, your hummingbird mind and your enormous network is the dynamic canvas of a global knowledge revolution.

Thank you for reinforcing your invitation to see your circles in person.

Ms. Q

Regina Saphier: The Wurman Project

When I wrote my last blog post discussing Mr. Wurman’s latest plans for a new kind of conference I did actually think in the back of my mind that he might just read it. So, it was not surprising that he in fact sent me a note via facebook very soon after I published my previous blog note. I was rather surprised by my intuition (even after so many intuitive events, you just never get used to knowing what might happen in your extended reality).

Meanwhile, I also thanked “my” government for having the stupid idea of possibly registering Hungarian bloggers. I never used a pseudonym on any of my blogs, I like to stand up for my opinion, but the idea that I would have to register my blog (that I started on a Hungarian server years ago) made me angry and I quickly moved my blog to wordpress in 2011 (I also changed my topic, instead of criticizing Hungary’s so called elite and writing critical essays, I started to focus on TED, mainly the major TED conferences). While all “freebloggers” in Hungary look like they do not exist in the world, when you have a WordPress blog, your global visibility changes (plus there is Facebook, if you have no blog but have an opinion). So, this is why I think that our government kind of scored an own goal, because the migration of Hungarian intellectuals from local servers to global ones made them really visible and that lead to even stronger international criticism. I like that. I think moving my blog abroad (to the US), changing the topic (to TED) and the language (to English) was the best idea (earlier I wrote in Hungarian and in English and about many different topics). I now have a global readership in English (earlier I had an international readership, mostly Hungarians knowing me due to my civic advocacy and media appearances).

But back to the Wurman Project.  I must tell you this: Richard Saul Wurman congratulated me and wrote that my blog is accurate. 🙂 After RSW expressed that he wishes to talk about my blog we got in touch via skype/phone. When the chat was over, I wrote this on my facebook wall: “I had a long phone chat with Richard Saul Wurman, father of TED, and I am happy. 🙂 Will be writing about the conversation on myTEDblog as soon as my blog note is completed. Do you know the feeling when a brilliant person e-mails you that he likes your blog (about the very phenomenon that his mind created) and wants to update you regarding some nuances? I have that feeling. :-)”

I am not the kind of person who idolizes people, but I am very enthusiastic about people who work with good ideas and are pleasantly crazy (I know it looks better from a distance, having that kind of crazy in my genes). He passed my crazy test, so to say. While we talk, I realize that I have an easy situation because he is in many ways like my talented father, so I feel like I have read the “manual”, but Richard is much more cooperative. I have no problem imagining his circumstances and the area he is living in, because I have been to Rhode Island (RI) and Newport, several times…

First, when I was 9, my father took my mother and me to visit his sister, who lived right next door to the Nayatt Point Lighthouse, in Barrington, Rhode Island. I had my first fresh oyster in Newport at age 9 (I did not know at that point that the second huge portion of memorable oysters is waiting for me in Paris, when the twenty something version of me gets invited by a Japanese friend… whom I met a few months earlier in Villefranche-sur-Mer… delicious lunch with a marvelous host in a wonderful Parisian restaurant… fond memories). 1981 was a major year in my life … my first time in the US (and my first time outside of Hungary)… two months on the East Coast, plus Canada… The second time in RI: when I studied at Columbia. The third time in RI: when I visited my childhood friend. I lived in New York for a while as a student, therefore I understand the Wurman couple’s decision that they moved to Rhode Island, and I also see why they would still feel isolated. There is a reason why their home turned into a “time and space gate” in the middle of boring and posh Newport. Just look at the garden… as if space aliens have landed several times on those circles that Richard appears to leave everywhere… like the red carpet on the TED stage… even if the carpet is not his design idea (it could be), it somehow reminds me of The Creator.

Richard has no problem with criticism, he goes ahead and criticizes himself, if you don’t. But if you do, he says that you are right, and explains how right you are. He welcomes opinion and he has his own too. He likes to say that he is rich enough, while he failed at many many things, and yes he is elitist, but it is all about the quality of ideas, and yes he is arrogant as many people keep saying, he says, but he is not taking himself too seriously. He apologizes for not being fluent as a skype user at 77. I keep expressing that humanity will probably forgive a talented man at 77 for not being a daily skype user. He is a completely approachable human by the way… so, I immediately start to run my diagnostic mental scan, and I see my inner list: AD(H)D, mild Asperger’s with high verbal aptitude, and some learning differences. But don’t take my diagnosis too seriously, because I think those terms will very soon be outdated when fMRIs and similar devices will become commonplace. Paper and pencil tests and psychologists magically giving you eclectic cocktails of DSM numbers will be a joke to look back on.

We speak about the TED story, that Chris Anderson banned Richard from the TED conferences after RSW announced that “TED is the greatest twentieth century conference”. Richard speaks highly of Chris’s achievements, but says that he feels it was really unnecessary and disrespectful to lock him out. Finally, we agree that as he put it, this is “a cock-fight”, and he is really tired of such things at his age.

In this video, Chris Anderson promises many things in 2002, as he takes over TED, the for profit creation of Richard Saul Wurman. Chris says, he is going to be “the custodian” of the conference. He refers to the Sapling Foundation, because the TED conference was turned into a non profit project under Chris’s leadership. Chris also mentions the global power the TEDsters in the room have… but little did Chris know about the possible global power of TED as an online phenomenon in the future we today live in. Now, that Chris banned Richard for his remark that TED is the greatest conference of the twentieth century, I have to say, I would not have banned Richard for his remarks, because he is probably talking about his own era. Truth is, for us, who witness the latest TED, even as the TED team is struggling with their own humanness and content, style and structure issues, for us who view these talks live online, it is a twenty first century conference in the making. But I noticed one major thing… when you look at the videos before the takeover, there is this sense of intimacy that I no longer feel in the new era… I think it would be a good idea to try to bring back that kind of intimate atmosphere in at least some of the TED conference sessions.

Richard told me, that he is “no do-gooder”… but man, you have no idea how much good you did with your “hummingbird mind” when you created the TED conference and when you decided to let go of it at the right time. In my humble opinion, the father of TED and the custodian of TED should: get a mediator, work out your differences, and revisit the topic of TED as a global human connector, educator and entertainer online, combined with the latest technologies, tools and possibilities. If Richard is able to admit that he was wrong about the TEDx events and in fact those events turned out to be wonderful, who knows perhaps Chris is able to admit that he was wrong about uninviting Richard from TED (and stop telling people not to fund his new conference).

But, if that is not an option, lets see what RSW is planning behind the scenes of The WWW Conference. TED was about short talks, WWW is about indulging in conversation (about one word titles that start with W) as long as Richard is able to pay attention. Nothing egocentric about that… Right? But the thing is, small egos never created anything singlehandedly in human history. Richard is not about pleasing the audience, he celebrates spontaneity and he feels blessed doing whatever he wants to do “since his mother gave him permission to cross the street by himself at the age of 11”. The sessions will be streamed to several locations (just like TEDMED), translated into 10-12 major languages and there will be B&W subtitles, plus an app with extra content. There is nothing yet that the TED conference could not do for you, because you know that Chris could interview people at any time… but here is a major difference: Flipboard and the synergy of information about the WWW guests and topics. There won’t be any press for the first conference but what about people who might live blog like me? I learn that there is no paid WWW conference team, that Richard is alone (as he was alone initially with TED and look what happened). So, if you wish to join Richard (who says that ignorance is his expertise, because he is aware of his ignorance) and help him build the new kind of synergistic mind meeting, just say so! The WWW Conference is still in the making!

Where the circles live, close to the Ocean:

The Wurman Home on Google Maps

The Wurman Home on Google Maps:

After I congratulated upon his weight loss, I learn that his health is good. He also told me that his wife is not Hungarian, but rather she used to be married to a Hungarian man, and that Gloria and Richard have been to Hungary in 1990, right before our first free election. At the end of our conversation Richard offers me his books via mail and promises to give me a free web stream of The WWW Conference as (and if) it happens. I am able to see that he is promising facts and fiction, but lets hope the fiction becomes reality too.

I don’t know about you, but I like Richard Saul Wurman.

A relevant article in Hungarian from my old and eclectic blog:

RSW 77

Happy 77 to Richard Saul Wurman! 🙂