COVID-19: What are people speaking about during the global crisis? Speakers for COVID-19


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Kevin Slavin

  • Principal Investigator, MIT Media Lab
  • Chief Science and Technology Officer, The Shed
  • Lead, Pandemic Task Force and VP, Marketing and Comms, Crossover Health
  • Advisor, Phylagen

Kevin Slavin's deep experience as an entrepreneur, executive and academic cut across conventional silos of technology, biology and culture.

His pioneering work in location based games led to the acquisition of his company in 2011, his prescient worldview on algorithms became one of the most popular TED talks of its time, and his work at MIT with metagenomics has led to exhibitions including the context of the 2016 Venice Biennale, and his plans to genetically engineer the mascot for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (the subject of a recent feature article in The Atlantic.)

As we face down the pandemic, Slavin connects the dots between the history of computational approaches to pattern detection and next-generation approaches to environmental sensing, and how this leads to testing environments for pathogens, as opposed to testing every person inside them. Across all his talks, Slavin reveals what's ahead in five minutes and five years, as algorithmic engagement and computational genomics continue to evolve in real time.

Currently, Kevin serves on the advisory board for Phylagen where he is helping to define and deploy new capabilities for environmental testing of pathogens. As former lead for the Pandemic Task Force at Crossover Health, he established some of the earliest frameworks for remote diagnostics and surface testing to mitigate epidemiological risks.

A frequent invite to stages at TED, Poptech and Aspen, Slavin is widely noted for his ability to engage broad audiences with his thoughtful, yet easy-to-understand presentations. He effortlessly combines deft storytelling with clever commentary, synthesizing complex ideas into engaging communication that resonates at scale and in intimate moments.

He has also previously served as the founding Chief Science and Technology officer of The Shed, New York City's first multi-arts center for artistic invention, a $500 million capital project that commissions, produces, and presents performing and visual arts as well as popular culture. Kevin has built and managed many companies, and is a founding editor of the MIT Press Journal of Design and Science, as well as an advisor to startups, MoMA's design department, and HBO's Westworld. He serves on the board of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, where he was Vice-Chair.

At the MIT Media Lab, Kevin was founder and faculty of the Playful Systems research group and remains at MIT in the role of Research Affiliate. Translating the complex systems of today's technology into games, stories and narratives, he worked with the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values, chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley, MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, the Mori Building Corporation and the Japanese Olympic Committee. His work at the Media Lab has been featured in Wired, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, and Discovery, and in the context of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, leading to interest from both Biennale audiences and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). His exhibition at the Storefront for Art and Architecture Microbial Metrics and the Multi-Species City received attention and awards including the Architectural Association of America.

Prior to MIT, Kevin spearheaded private sector innovation as Co-Founder and Managing Director of Area/Code Entertainment, (acquired by Zynga in 2011) which pioneered location-based games over a decade before their mass commercialization in Pokemon Go. Area/Code was also one of the earliest game developers to design for second-screen formats, social games, and mobile. Their clients and partners ranged from Nike, MTV and Disney to the Knight Foundation and the Museum of Modern Art. Gaining large-scale engagement and notable acclaim, their work has been written about in the New York Times, BusinessWeek, and the Wall Street Journal. His work also appears in several collections including the Design Museum of London and MoMA.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, collaboration, design, innovation, biotechnology, technology, culture and technology, games, algorithms

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