Monday, August 13, 2012

Markets In Everything: Eyesight for the Blind

Bloomberg -- "Blind mice had their vision restored with a device that helped diseased retinas send signals to the brain, according to a study that may lead to new prosthetic technology for millions of sight-impaired people.  The technology moves prosthetics beyond bright light and high-contrast recognition and may be adopted for human use within a year or two, said Sheila Nirenberg, a neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and the study’s lead author. 

“What this shows is that we have the essential ingredients to make a very effective prosthetic,” Nirenberg said. Researchers haven’t yet tested the approach on humans, though have assembled the code for monkeys. 

Nirenberg and co-author Chethan Pandarinath first monitored healthy eyes to determine the set of equations that translate light received by the retina into something the brain can understand. Then, they used special glasses to create a similar code and deliver it to the eye, which they had injected with a virus containing light-sensitive cells. The cells received the code and fired electric impulses, which the brain could interpret as images. 

Nirenberg’s research “is basically giving vision back to a system that doesn’t work,” said Aude Oliva, a principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, who wasn’t involved in the research. “I’ve never seen, and other people have never seen, this quality.”

No foreseeable barriers should stop the movement into humans now that the technology has been created, Oliva said. Nirenberg said that if researchers can come up with adequate cash to fund clinical trials, she hopes to soon adapt the technology." 

MP: In the midst of all of the gloom and doom we hear about daily, the pending fiscal cliff, talk of a double-dip recession, The Great Stagnation, etc. we still hear inspiring stories like this on a regular basis, a confirmation that technology, innovation and ingenuity march on, and deliver advances that make the future ever-brighter all the time.  It's a demonstration that our "ultimate resource" - America's human resources,  human capital and entrepreneurial talent - are still strong, and the vitality and dynamism of the U.S. economy will prevail.  The U.S. economy has experienced 33 recessions since around the time of the Civil War, and has successfully emerged after each one into a new cycle of growth and expansion, and there's no reason that this last recession and the current expansion will be any different.

As one example, when we look back on the period of U.S. history from 1870-1900, nobody describes that period as one of seven severe economic recessions, or a period when the U.S. economy was in recession 179 months out of 336 months, or more than half of that time period.  Instead, when we reflect on that period today, we think of the many amazing, game-changing inventions that emerged during that era despite the tough economic conditions, including the typewriter, air brakes, tungsten steel, barbed wire, telephone, internal combustion engine, phonograph, moving pictures, a longer-lasting light bulb, player piano, machine gun, gas-engine motorcycle, radar, gramaphone, contact lenses, escalator, zipper, bicycle frame, vacuum cleaner, zeppelin and the radio.  Likewise, a hundred years from now people will look back on this period of history more for its innovations (3D printing, iPhone, iPad, robotics, nanotechnology, advanced drilling technologies for oil and gas, and prosthetic technology for millions of sight-impaired people, etc.) than for the fact that we went through the Great Recession, which in comparison was relatively mild compared to the severe, recessionary conditions of the 1870-1900 period that included a five-year and a three-year recession.   

HT: John Sturges

14 Comments:

At 8/13/2012 10:12 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

“The most important benefit of population size and growth is the increase it brings to the stock of useful knowledge. Minds matter economically as much as, or more than, hands or mouths.”

-- Julian Simon --

 
At 8/14/2012 12:03 AM, Blogger randian said...

Just think of the medical device excise tax Obamacare will charge to the manufacturer of this invention.

 
At 8/14/2012 2:33 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

randian

"Just think of the medical device excise tax Obamacare will charge to the manufacturer of this invention."

SLAP!!

Ouch! That hurts. Thanks for the reality check though...:)

 
At 8/14/2012 6:12 AM, OpenID moneyjihad said...

I'm picturing a tiny Geordi LaForge visor on a little blind mouse.

 
At 8/14/2012 7:41 AM, Blogger Junkyard_hawg1985 said...

One of the things that brought the depression in the 1890's to an end was the Yukon gold rush. Likewise, today we are getting a similar economic boost from fracking.

 
At 8/14/2012 8:21 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2012/08/13/1101721/shale-oil-everywhere-for-a-while/

 
At 8/14/2012 11:39 AM, Blogger Paul said...

"Just think of the medical device excise tax Obamacare will charge to the manufacturer of this invention."

My wife works for a med device manufacturer. On the one end, they are looking over their shoulders at the Obamacare med device tax scheduled to pummel them in 2013. On the other end, they are courting, yes courting, Bain Capital to invest in their company.

Could there be a better illustration of the choice we face in November?

 
At 8/14/2012 12:41 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Instead, when we reflect on that period today, we think of the many amazing, game-changing inventions that emerged during that era despite the tough economic conditions, including the typewriter, air brakes, tungsten steel...

This is why, Dr. Perry, I am overtly optimistic about the US economy going forward. Beyond 2014 (which is shaping up to be a mild recessionary period), I bet we will see amazing economic growth.

Just look at some of the technology that's appears in just the past few years: 3D printers, eyesight for the blind, advances in mining, smartphones, tablet computers, etc etc etc. The best part is how (relatively) cheap everything is.

The United States has a history of coming through crises stronger than ever. As long as we can remain a relatively free society,then this trend shall persist. The only thing standing between us and further greatness...is us. And I am optimistic.

 
At 8/14/2012 12:57 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Thanks for the comment Jon. I think we sometimes lose sight of the amazing possibilities and the infinite abilities of the human mind and spirit.

It would be interesting to go back and read the news reports during the 5.5 year recession from October 1873 and March 1879, I suppose there was lots of the same gloom and doom, end of the world, sky is falling whining going on back then that we hear today. Of course maybe they didn't even know the economy was in recession, or just accepted the reality that the economy then was in recession MORE than it was in expansion between 1870 and 1900?

 
At 8/14/2012 1:06 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Dr Perry-

Have you read Matt Ridley's book The Rational Optimist? It's really a fantastic book that you may enjoy. He discusses, along these same lines, why all the problems the world is facing can and will be overcome and we, as a species, will emerge stronger than ever.

 
At 8/14/2012 1:22 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"The only thing standing between us and further greatness...is us. And I am optimistic"...

Optimistic jm?

Really jm?!?!

 
At 8/14/2012 1:45 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Really jm?!?!

We survived (and came out stronger) from 4 terms of FDR plus a world war.

 
At 8/14/2012 2:03 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Jon,

"We survived (and came out stronger) from 4 terms of FDR plus a world war."

And yet the liberal project of government dependency only marched forward. Government at all levels has relentlessly grown as a % of GDP throughout the past century overall. The national debt should hit 16 trillion some time this week, according to usdebtclock.org.

Let's see a roll back and I'll be more inclined to agree. One thing is for sure, it will not happen if Obama wins in November.

 
At 8/20/2012 12:24 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>>>> "The only thing standing between us and further greatness... is us. "

Well, that and the "99%".

Are they actually 49% or 51%? We'll know by second week of November.

>>>> "And I am optimistic"...

Me too, unless the answer to the above question is "51%", in which case, we're doomed.

The FFs more than amply recognized that the downfall of any Warm Body Democracy is when 51% of the voters realize they can vote themselves bread and circuses from the other 49%, and choose to do so. At that point, it's only a question of when the eloi turn everyone else into the morlocks.

 

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