When 15 year-old Jack Andraka stepped on the TED stage to share his discovery of a pancreatic cancer detector, little did he know that he was becoming the voice of a new generation. To those who know him, Jack is an ordinary high school student whose extraordinary curiosity was ignited when a family friend past away of pancreatic cancer – he was 13 years old, but never stopped asking ‘why?‘ So, as most 13 year-olds would do, he turned to a teenager’s two best friends – Google and Wikipedia. What he discovered was a six decade old technique that was costly, highly inaccurate and in 85% of the situations, the cancer it detected was in the later stages when the patient has less than a 2% of survival.
Today, Jack is hailed as modern prodigy; not only did he isolate the protein that’s most prevalent with pancreatic and ovarian cancer, he discovered a paper censor that costs about three cents, takes five minutes to run and is 400x more sensitive to detecting pancreatic cancer in the very early stages. Ask him how he did it and he’ll tell you it was through the internet, “because through the internet, anything is possible. Theories can be shared and you don’t have to be a professor with multiple degrees to be valued. It’s a neutral space where what you look like doesn’t matter; it’s your ideas that count.” Distinguished Wired journalist Clive Thompson wasn’t always bullish on the internet; but in his latest book, Smarter Than You Think, he convinces us that technology will not degrade our human abilities; quite the opposite. It will advance us to new levels of human excellence – here’s how!