The second SingularityU South Africa Summit 2018 is taking place in Johannesburg on 15th and 16th October, and as we get closer to the event’s kick-off, some of the speakers and topics on the subject of the human condition have been highlighted.

Like several of the talks that the SingularityU Summit will play host to, the role of innovation will be key, not only in terms of improving society on a functional and technological level, but a physical one.

“The new opportunities we will experience by extending our lifespan to live for centuries is thrilling, especially when you consider human-machine convergence and the latest discoveries about human potential and peak performance,” says Mic Mann, director of Mann Made and co-organiser of SingularityU South Africa Summit 2018.

Mic Mann, speaking at the SingularityU South Africa Summit 2018 announcement.

With that in mind, here are some of the noteworthy speakers that the Summit is bringing in, and the topics they’ll be unpacking.

How we’ll feed the world in 2050

As the planet’s population continues to grow, the task of feeding it becomes all the more important. As is the amount of resources we plunge into the agricultural industry.

To create a Quarter Pounder from McDonald’s for example, it takes an estimated three kilograms of feed, 189 litres of water and seven square metres of land.

How will we be able to feed all 10 billion people who will inhabit Earth by 2050? This is what Professor of tissue engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology, Mark Post, will be exploring.

“We will need to come up with other solutions, such as using a cow’s muscle stem-cells to produce beef. By doing that you could reduce the total headcount of cows across the world and you would not have methane emission and resource issues,” says Post.

Performing at your peak

Why are some people more productive than others? Director of programmes for the Flow Genome Project, Jamie Wheal, says it has something to do with an idea of being in-Flow.

According to a 10-year-long Kinsey study, executives in Flow were found to be five times more productive than those that were out of it.

Wheal will be focusing his talk at the SingularityU Summit on Flow, and how one can more easily tap into it. If an organisation’s employees were 20 percent more productive for example, workplace productivity would double.

Now which executive does not want their company operating at double the capability.

Coding our digital biology

Just like a computer or operating system, the code that lies within our DNA can be changed. This according to Dr. Tiffany Vora, principal faculty in medicine and digital biology at Singularity University.

“If we want to create code from scratch, that’s synthetic biology, if I want to move chunks of code around, that’s genetic engineering, something we’ve known how to do since the 1970s. One of the most exciting advances now, is our ability to debug DNA code,” enthuses Vora.

DNA sequencing and gene editing technologies brimming with potential, Vora will be unpacking some of the potential solutions and problems digital biology can solve.

Living for a century

Living to 100 years old is a rare case these days, but what about living until you’re 1 000?

Dr. Aubrey de Grey, biomedical gerontologist, says it’s a possibility thanks to Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), which aims to put ageing into seven major classes of damage and identifies detailed approaches to addressing each one.

“Imagine we could stop our bodies causing damage, or if we could repair the damage that was created every so often, so that the overall amount does not continue to increase. While the first is impossible because it’s just against the laws of physics – our bodies do age – the second option of repairing it, is entirely doable,” says de Grey.

Interested?

These are a handful of the speakers and topics that will be at SingularityU South Africa Summit 2018, which has given itself the lofty task of helping to futureproof Africa through innovation.

To find out more about the Summit and purchase tickets, head here. Be advised that they are pricey, so only those serious about engaging with others obsessed with innovation should consider it.