medDigital at CogX 2021 – Our personal highlights

16th July 2021 by Anna Gyarmati

The medDigital team had the pleasure of attending the CogX Festival 2021 in London’s King’s Cross Knowledge Quarter, after a long period of virtual-only events.

CogX Festival gathers the brightest minds in business, government and technology to celebrate innovation, discuss global topics and share the latest trends shaping the defining decade ahead. This year’s festival explored the question: "How do we get the next 10 years right?” One of the best ways of summarising the experience that CogX is comes from Stefan Simanowitz in our opinion, who very cleverly put it as: “It's like Glastonbury for tech geeks, data scientists & anyone curious what the future might look like”.

With the ambitious mission to bring clarity in a fast-moving digital age and inspire positive change, the Festival welcomed a global community to join the conversation so that together we can create a better, more inclusive future for all of humanity – and medDigital are very delighted to have been able to be a part of this discussion.

This year’s event was the world's largest hybrid event and included three incredible days of learning. But which ones were our personal highlights? Continue reading to find out!

Our personal highlights included – for probably obvious reasons - several sessions at the Heath & Wellbeing stage but also various other talks on emerging technology, AI, ethics & society, sustainability, cybersecurity and the future of research just to name a few.

Highlights from Day 1

On Day 1 we were lucky enough to witness a fascinating speech on revolutionising healthcare, led by Alan Karthikesalingam (Research Lead at Google Health UK) and moderated by Dr Jack Kreindler (Founder & Medical Director, Centre for Health and Human Performance).

‘What happens if it turns out I’m not as good as a machine?’, Dr Jack asked — prompting a chuckle from a few attendees who clearly had the same question in mind. Alan nodded before carefully delivering his answer. We’ve seen both over-reliance as well as scepticism when it comes to artificial intelligence and deep learning’, he explains. ‘The interesting component is learning to understand the “complementarity” between the medical professionals and the technology assisting them”.

Another highlight on the same day included a discussion on the use of psychedelics in treating mental health conditions and the various promising clinical trial data in the field – a very important and intriguing topic, especially in this day and age as with the unpredictability of Covid and the loneliness of lockdowns, we’ve seen a 30% spike in mental health issues. Experts in this session included David Erritzoe (Clinical Senior Lecturer and Consultant Psychiatrist at Imperial College London) a well as Lars Wilde (Co-Founder and President of COMPASS Pathways). And even though knowing that we were attending a truly innovative and hybrid festival, it has still somehow felt futuristic to listen to some speakers live and another one rolled in on a screen, having a conversation just as naturally as if they were all in the same room.

Highlights from Day 2

After a strong day 1, we were excited to return to the King’s Cross Knowledge Quarter for more learning and inspiration.

The first session that really captivated us focused on how exponential technologies touch everything from computing and manipulating biology, to working with matter and supplying energy. With AI as a catalyst for countless other technologies, there’s a latent risk that human social systems won’t be able to adapt fast enough. Azeem Azhar (Founder at Exponential View), explained the fascinating intersection of breakthrough technologies and the economies and societies we live in, in conversation with Greg Williams (Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Global Editorial Director at WIRED).

“The source of “exponentiality” is learning. And AI, for all its limitations, at its heart has a learning loop built in. It’s about looking at the data, learning from it and improving your processes. We can now do that in an automated way, which is AI’s paramount contribution to the field.”

The ending session of Day 2 at the Global Leadership Stage has also blown us away – and not just for being slightly starstruck by listening to Robert Downey Jr (Actor and Investor) and Tony Fadell (Future Shape Principal, iPod inventor, iPhone co-inventor, Nest founder, Future Shape) alongside Emma Sinclair (MBE and Co-Founder of EnterpriseAlumni).

The discussion has focused on innovation and science being the only way out of the climate crisis and what role science, start-ups, abandoning templates and “making intuitive and informative decisions on what technologies we can scale, what they need and for how long.”

Highlights from Day 3

On our way to the final day of the festival, we did not expect the experience and the amount of intense inspiration we had to be topped… and how wrong we were!

One of our personal highlights (and a topic very close to our heart) was the session explaining how the world has managed the fastest development of a vaccine in our history as well as discussed how can we drive even more ground-breaking innovations within the health industry. Experts of the session have included Dr. Jaine Raine (CEO of MHRA) and Nicola Blackwood (Chair of Genomics England).

The final session of the day included a panel on the future of UK Scientific Research, moderated by the fantastic Dr. Hannah Fry (Author of Hello World: How to Be Human in the Age of the Machine) and included Amanda Solloway MP (Minister for Science, Research and Innovation) and Matt Warman MP (Minister for Digital Infrastructure, DCMS). Chatting about accelerating innovation, research and ethics, a few points that really did stick with us are the importance of putting ethics and innovators together as well as working on being as diverse as possible and engaging young people.

Though it has been a bittersweet final day, realising that the three enriching days of learning and experiences, with countless magical connections made along the way are coming to an end, we are still grateful to have been part of this conversation and event. And, we are looking forward to CogX Festival 2022 that is murmured to be even bigger and better.