Susan Hockfield, a neuroscientist and the first female president of MIT, spoke about her new novel, “The Age of Living Machines,” during the annual James E. O’Neill Jr. Memorial Lecture.
The lecture, which took place Thursday, Oct. 17, explored the emerging conversion of technology and biology to create a revolution in industrial production.
Hockfield briefly discussed her background, saying neuroscience was her first career love before she found her second love, education.
“One of the great joys of being in an academic setting is it is remarkably fun, but you’re also helping others,” she said.
Hockfield said she was raised by parents who always encouraged her to grow.
“I was raised by parents who never told me there was something I couldn’t do,” she said. “There were no boundaries, only
Hockfield addressed the problems plaguing society in the 21st century.
“The future looks bleak,” Hockfield said. “Healthcare access, accuracy and cost, as well as sustainable energy, water availability, food production and security are all problems the current population faces.”
Hockfield said the world population is projected to grow in large numbers.
“By 2050, there are estimated to be 9.7 billion people living on Earth,” she said. “The rate of population growth is much faster than the rate of growth in agricultural production.”
Hockfield said new technology must emerge to fix these problems.
“This is not the first time we have faced a rising population and lack of food,” Hockfield said. “Technology comes from the curiosity to experiment, which then leads to industry.”
Hockfield continued, saying policy drives investment in technological development, which then leads to solutions for problems.
“Government policy drives technological development and economic growth,” she said, “Federal investments in basic research results in raw material for innovations. Fifty percent of economic growth is due to technology.”
Anil Sah, an electrical engineering junior, attended the lecture because he was interested in the use of DNA and technology.
“I came because I was interested in understanding how scientists are extracting DNA and cloning it,” Sah said. “I feel confident in going forward as an engineer because I now see how many fields I can understand and work with.”
Ending her speech, Hockfield suggested the audience stay tuned for upcoming scientific developments.
“Biology with engineering convergence 2.0 is happening all around, and I would simply say stay tuned.”
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