What if ... the human body itself becomes the edge of an increasingly complex network?
Keynote Address of Tan Ai Lin to the First Joint Standards Meeting of the IEEE, IETF and World Health Organisation, Geneva, 2025
Some of you know my story, but here it is anyway. I’m Malaysian. I come from money. I am known for speaking bluntly.
With my background, I could have done anything. But my medical problems stopped that. Unstable epilepsy. Tachycardia. Exhaustion and mental fog. No fun! Basically, my wiring was wrong.
So, I thought it was time to be rewired. I put together the best team in the world. Instead of a pacemaker and drugs and never being 100% A-OK, I invented the Mesh. OK, joke. The people I hired did it. I gave the ideas, the money and the human body to work on. They got the Nobel. So, we’re good.
The human body hosts trillions of microorganisms: three times as many non-human cells as human cells. You could say I have a bit more. Somewhere on the order of 3-4 trillion Nanodes. All talking to one another and all working to keep me ticking. It’s like a wired up pleuritic membrane – the doctors here know what that is – that goes through my whole body. Genetically, let’s just say I’m part electric eel. When I short circuit – twenty times an hour – the Mesh fixes it. I don’t even feel it. Well, maybe I get a bit spacey. But it’s OK.
I use a lot of bandwidth. I stream my data in real time, so any researcher can use it. Terabytes. I pull down A LOT of data to keep me working properly. It’s like oxygen to me. Some people plan their vacations round the beach. I plan travel around low latency, high bandwidth. Lots of countries I’ll never see. I can literally tell you how bad a crummy network feels. I’m a network edge all to myself.
A lot of my stuff is proprietary. Sorry about that. Openness is great. Speed is better. I wouldn’t have chosen this way, but there was no alternative. I had to stay alive. But I’m here today because you guys have got to work together, right now. If you don’t, we can’t get this kind of technology out to everyone. And that would be too bad.
This story shows us how the Internet might evolve. But the path we take is up to us.