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Oct 19

“Green Shift” at the POPTech 2006 Conference

by Chad, Conferences, Comments Off on “Green Shift” at the POPTech 2006 Conference

Oct 19

October 19, 2006

Thomas Friedman, Stewart Brand, Lester Brown, and Robert Freling are stunning the POPTech audience with a discussion about the dramatic shifts happening in the world from our consumption on non-renewable fuels, population growth, and geopolitical impacts from the relentless consumption of oil and rising prices.

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The storytelling aspects of these powerful speakers is captivating. Two of them simply sat in a chair and talked without any fancy graphics and slides. The room is silent and the discourse is powerful and captivating.

Brand’s and Freling’s audiovisuals are remarkable. There is far too much content in from this quartet to capture for this blog in real-time. Suffice to say that their message about the current and (near) future implications of our global growing consumption of fuel (China, India, and the former USSR are consuming resources at exponential rates) is already creating an upheaval of life on this planet with inevitable impact on a dramatic scale.

Freling’s talk evokes memories of last year’s inspirational POPTech presentation by Bunker Roy on the work of the Barefoot College in India, which has trained two generations of villagers without any formal paper qualifications to become health-care workers, solar engineers, hand-pump mechanics and teachers in their communities. He is hopeful as he describes the role of technology in solving so many of the world’s problems, using solar power examples in rural Third World villages. He is working with the Partners in Health initiative at the Clinton Foundation.

One thing I found surprising from Stewart Brand was the forecast on polulation growth to 8-9 billion, followed by a dramatic decline back down to 3 billion. For more on this, go to some of Brand’s research where he references forecasts based upon U.N. population studies.

Posted by Mike at 9:01 PM | Comments (0)

“Rodrigo and Gabriela” at the POPTech 2006 Conference

Oh My God – I have just experienced the most unbelievable pair of guitar players that I have ever seen in my life. I kid you freakin’ not. Here, live on the stage at POPTech. You must find out more about “Rodrigo y Gabriela” at The house was rocked!

Here’s what some other folks around the world have said:

‘This [the album] is assured, inventive stuff. The joy of Mex’ – The Sun
‘It it’s rip-roaring, flamenco-flecked jazz-tinged rock’n’roll you’re after, then you’ve come to the right place’ – The Irish Times
This is a World Music album that swings’ – Guardian
‘Electrifying…they had us entranced and kept us in that state for the next 90 minutes’ – The Independent
‘This is brilliant’ – Total Music Magazine
Album of the Month, ‘Inspirational’ – Guitar Techniques
‘Infectious’ – Indie London
‘Fierce Emotion..raw excitment’ – Guitarist Magazine
‘Stunning’ – Total Guitar
‘Spellbinding..It should leave you breathless.’ – IndieLondon
‘Hotter than a bag of Mexican chilli peppers, a phenomenal live CD’, – 10/10 DVD Fever
‘Rodrigo y Gabriela leap musical boundaries like Grand National champions’ – Songlines
‘They trade off one another with staggering effect.’ – Get Ready to Rock

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Posted by Mike at 7:44 PM | Comments (0)

“Technology’s Embrace” at the POPTech 2006 Conference

Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine is speaking about technology and its consequences. He describes that the processing power, the interconnections (synapses/links), the actions/clicks, and the memory of the collective (global) web, resembles the profile of the human brain.

I am reminded of the parallels and the way they’re described in Gaia Theory and the concept of the Global Brain. (Some of my favorite ideas on this subject are wonderfully expressed by the futurist Peter Russell.)

Kelly is also talking about technology by asking us the question, “What is it that technology itself wants?” He describes that it wants to copy, to replicate, and to increase its power density and efficiency. That it wants to be copied without restraint, and that it does not want to be prohibited.

I can hear echoes of “meme theory” which was presented last year at POPTech by Dr. Susan Blackmore in her book, “The Meme Machine.” It was a talk that I don’t think many folks fully realized in its implications. For more on memes, look into the book, “The Selfish Gene”, where Richard Dawkins proposed the concept of the meme as a unit of culture, spread by imitation.

In the context posed by Kelly, technology has a mind of its own. I imagine the ego-centric human-centric view of consciousness would take this to be a rather scary concept. Who didn’t shiver when the HAL 2000 came to life in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” or when you recall the swarms of sentient machines trying to wipe out Zion, the last human city. But Kelly doesn’t pain a good/evil agenda of technology; that there are no “bad” technologies – they are simply what they are. And that technology is marching on, to the point that by 2020 to 2040, the processing power of the collective earth/Web will exceed the computing power of all the humans on planet.

I wonder what it will think?

P.S. Some interesting factoids from Kelly. At present, there are:

1 billion PC chips on the internet
1 million emails per second
1 million IM messages per second
8 terabytes per second of traffic
65 billion phone calls per year
20 exabytes of magnetic storage
1 million voice queries per hour
2 billion location nodes activated
600 billion RFID tags in use

Posted by Mike at 4:58 PM | Comments (0)

“Emergence” at the POPTech 2006 Conference

Brian Eno, the artist and musician took the POPTech stage to discuss the concept of “Emergence.” He’s referencing Daniel Dennett’s book, “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,” which posits that complex systems emerge from simple building blocks, a bottom-up view of emergence as contrasted with the idea that systems come into being from the top-down.

I didn’t realize that Dennett is the director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, which also happens to be my alma mater.

What struck me was the elegance with which Eno described looking at systems from this view and how the concepts posed by Darwin (and Dennett’s interpretation) suggests that humankind consider itself with a sense of humility instead of ego. As a speaker, Eno is thought provoking and soft-spoken. It’s a nice way to begin a very reflective 3 days at this incredible event. He is encouraging us to consider the idea of emergence by thinking and feeling about things in a different way. I am conscious of the theme of this year’s conference being about “Dangerous Ideas.” It’s fascinating that looking at our universe in different ways is and has been considered “dangerous.”

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Eno is followed by Will Wright, who is the creative force behind the award-winning game franchise, “The Sims.” Wright is presenting a rather non-Darwinian demonstration of constructing 3-dimensional and interactive game entities in a virtual world on the POPTech big screen. Ironically, Wright’s demonstration evokes images of a great creator-god, building a universe in (less than) 7 days. Wow…

Speaker Bio: Brian Eno has become an iconic figure within international contemporary culture. As an artist, musician, ideologue and systems-maker, he has established a philosophy of cultural production which links the enquiring spirit of conceptual art to the broadest applications of popular culture and sociology.

Best known in the field of music, Eno’s discography as a musician, producer and artistic collaborator includes some of the most acclaimed recordings in the history of modern music. Artists as seminal yet varied as John Cale, David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Bono, Peter Gabriel and most recently Paul Simon have chosen to work with Eno, and he is one of the most sought after figures working across the spectrum of contemporary music, from guitar driven rock to film scores and electronica.

And yet music is only one strand of Eno’s creative project. As a lecturer, visual artist, writer, political activist and futurologist, his opinions and ideas have been requested by institutions and think tanks on subjects as disparate as concepts of time, urban futures, perfume making and the history of art.

Posted by Mike at 2:53 PM | Comments (0)

POPTech Conference 2006 – “Dangerous Ideas”

Last night I arrived at the splendid Hawthorn Inn overlooking Camden Harbor here in Maine. After a 6 hour drive through the beautiful New England countryside, I finally arrived in this bucolic and quintessestial coastal town. I slept like a baby and woke early. Blogging at 5:30 am, the inn is quiet and peaceful. It’s a reunion in many ways, being greeted last night by old friends, meeting new ones, and taking in the hospitality of Maryanne Shanahan who is the inkeeper at this lovely bed and breakfast.

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This year, POPTech 2006’s theme is, “Dangerous Ideas.” The conference website describes it as follows:

What is a “dangerous” idea? It’s one that upends conventions, challenges assumptions and breaks taboos, reordering our sense of the world and our place within it. It’s an idea, as Victor Hugo said, whose time has come.Pop!Tech 2006, our 10th anniversary gathering, will again bring 500 extraordinary people together with more than 30 speakers, performers, iconoclasts and visionaries to think about the social impact of new technologies and the future of ideas. Here’s just some of what we’ll be discussing:

* The nature of risk in the connected age
* Bright green possibilities
* Globalization’s great surprises
* The role of faith and fundamentalism
* Pandemics and their prevention
* New approaches to education
* The creative imperative
* New frontiers of exploration
* What technology wants from us
* Our constructed selves
* Conflict, resolution and the possibility of peace

Check out the roster of speakers, which includes New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Friedman, game design god Will Wright, ambient music pioneer Brian Eno, global health visionary (and newly minted MacArthur Fellow) Victoria Hale, legendary geneticist Richard Dawkins, renowned environmentalist Lester Brown, Tibetan education pioneer Losang Ragbey, chef and gastronomic invetor Homaro Cantu, and dozens more – and that doesn’t even touch on the many incredible performers and unannounced special guests.

Like every Pop!Tech, the 2006 event will feature a rich mix of presentations, performances and one-of-a-kind surprises. Be prepared to be wowed.

All of these seem to be incredible topics that you don’t hear discussed at just any conference quite like the way subjects are presented here. I always imagined that two of my passions, technology and the nature of conflict, were an unusual combination. It’s really exciting to see that both of these subjects are on the headlines here. It’s my 7th year at POPTech and it feels really good to be back at one of my “intellectual homes.” Stay tuned.

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