Tan Le is on a mission to use digital technology to unlock the potential of the human mind while assisting some two billion people worldwide who are afflicted with brain illnesses.\nLe \u2013 a former refugee who arrived by boat to Australia with her family from South Vietnam in 1982 \u2013 is captivated by the human brain and its possibilities and challenges, describing it as '3 pounds of human potential.'\nShe is co-founder and CEO of EMOTIV, a US-headquartered bioinformatics company that has created electroencephalographic (EEG) headsets and software that record brainwave data, assesses cognitive performance, and control devices using brain activity.\nShe told the CIO Forum in Sydney that her organisation stands at the frontlines of the battle to make the \u20184th industrial revolution\u2019 a reality. CIO Forum was organised by CIO Australia in association with EMC.\nEMOTIV has developed algorithms that enable brain waves to be decoded by sensors placed on the surface of the scalp. The headsets allow users to control devices and vehicles such as cars \u2013 by translating their thoughts into actions. Its more recent second-generation product democratises research into the health and fitness of the brain.\n\u201cWe are aiming to make this technology available to everyone including those who might not have access due to prohibitive costs. These may be people in parts of Asia or Africa or students or \u2018tinkerers\u2019 anywhere in the world who want to gain a better understanding of the brain,\u201d Le said.\nDuring her address, Le identified three key ingredients that have been central to EMOTIV\u2019s success since its inception in 2003: clarity of vision; adaptation and persistence over a long period of time; and courage and conviction in the face of uncertainty.\nA clear vision\nLe told the audience that when the company began it had a clear view of what it wanted to achieve: to seek a better understanding of the human brain.\n\u201cOur perceptions and experience of the world are all filtered through the brain. We don\u2019t directly experience what is out there around us. Instead we experience the model of what our brain builds that is out there. And even though our models will all have things in common, they will also be unique and personal,\u201d Le said.\n\u201cA colour blind person will experience colours differently \u2013 a trained musician will hear music differently and memories of events will differ greatly between any two eyewitnesses. Not only does the brain define our experience of the world, it also defines who we are.\u201d\nAdaptation and persistence\nLe said the biological brain is not built to last 100 years, and new technologies must be developed to improve its health and capabilities. Conventional EEG systems were previously cumbersome and expensive, cost tens of thousands of dollars and required specialist technicians to fit them each time they were used, Le said.\nBrain control interfaces (BCIs) \u2013 which enabled the company to focus on control \u2013 were an attractive starting point for EMOTIV, said Le.\n\u201cWe had paved the way for portable and affordable brain scanners that made it possible for us to gather data on a massive scale. We could now aggregate data that could one day be the key to predicting and preventing brain-related illnesses that afflict two billion or one in every three people around the world.\u201d\nImprovements to EMOTIV\u2019s bioinformatics systems are not iterative, said Le. The company strives for \u2018revolution rather than evolution\u2019 at each stage of its development, aiming to move the sector forward in leaps and bounds rather than simply tweaking what has gone before, Le said.\nThis sort of disruptive innovation relies on predicting rather than anticipating the future, she said.\n\u201cAnd where developments cannot be predicted, we need to ensure that we remain flexible enough to adjust and change course to take advantage of new approaches that can be integrated into our road map.\u201d\nCourage and conviction\nAfter four years of planning, Le\u2019s mother and her children escaped communist-ruled Vietnam in 1982 on a converted US tugboat disguised as a fishing vessel.\nThey slipped out of a harbour with 158 other voyagers while Le\u2019s father remained behind in case they were captured and imprisoned.\n\u201cMy 21-year-old mother was willing to chance the dangers of a slow death adrift at sea or a speedy but no less unpleasant capture at the hands of pirates who infested those waters, with no more defence that a bottle of poison to lessen our suffering if it came to the worst,\u201d Le said.\n\u201cShe didn\u2019t know how the journey would end but she took that risk, sailed out into those uncertain seas because she believed in her vision of what could be possible if we reached Australia.\u201d\nAfter their arrival, Le\u2019s mother was confronted with the challenge of building a new life in a new land, putting food on the table for her family, and somehow finding the mental and financial resources to help Le and her siblings succeed.\nLe said the same type of resilience and spirit is necessary to build a company and develop technologies in a world where the future is uncertain.\n\u201cWhen your goal is to change paradigms, you will often be confronted by experts who will tell you it can\u2019t be done. But if you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and if you have the courage to pursue it in the face of doubt, then \u2018it can\u2019t be done\u2019 becomes an irresistible challenge rather than an insurmountable obstacle."