I had the good fortune to attend The World Technology Summit and Awards 2012. This year's event was held at the Time - Life Building in NYC on October 22nd and 23rd. The conference started with a welcoming remark from Damian Slattery, Executive Director of Integrated Marketing at Time Magazine. Slattery pointed out that “TIME is not a magazine, it is a dashboard." He was highlighting how companies and organizations are changing and morphing into complex platforms with new digital extensions. These extensions include web, social, smartphone apps and new technologies that are multilayered.
James P. Clark, the Chairman/Founder of the World Technology Network who also recently launched Accelerosity, gave a “magical” introduction to this year's summit. The theme this year was “NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME AGAIN” and Clark discussed some of the greatest issues our world will face in the near future including what he called a “phase-change.”
These phase change ideas include post-Homo Sapiens, immortality, and digital uploading of consciousness, just to name a few. Issues that most of the general public (nor the 2012 presidential candidates) are ready or willing to address. However, my futurist ears started to burn when I heard Clark ask, “Will people choose to remain in their meat bodies or will they choose to live in a matrix or simulated world?” First, who doesn't get a giggle out of the phrase "meat bodies" and second, he touched on one of my favorite subjects ...The Simulated Universe theory. Moreover, Clark also brought up an interesting idea. He suggests that we are becoming our own myths. Could we actually rework our DNA and live underwater like mermaids or mermen?
Granted, ideas like these may sound like science fiction to anyone not deeply immersed in the latest developments in science or technology. However, for the attendees and speakers at The World Technology Summit, these ideas may have seemed quite normal, like some new utilitarian futurist conversation (could you pass me the DNA manipulator).
Throughout the conference, I found myself having these kinds of futuristic conversations without the need to lay out the obligatory "I'm not making this up, it is really happening now" line I am so often forced to use with the general public.
This question of why the public is unaware or uninterested in science was a sentiment shared by several speakers and attendees, including a round table conversation titled : "WHY ARE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY INVISIBLE IN THE POLITICAL DEBATE?" The roundtable included AL TEICH, Research Professor of Science, Technology and International Affairs, Center for International Science & Technology Policy, George Washington University ; FRED GUTERL, Executive Editor, Scientific American; MATTHEW CHAPMAN, Writer-Director; and CLAUDIA DREIFUS, Journalist, Educator and Lecturer, producer of the weekly feature “Conversation with...” of the Science Section of the New York Times.
The most amazing live technology demonstrations included KMel Robotics , the Nano Quadrotor that can scan interiors and build things using multiple swarms of Nano Quads; and a fantastic demo by Ekso Bionics that allowed a paralyzed man to walk across the stage assisted by a robotic exoskeleton.
After all the talk of technology, advancement and innovation and our hopes for a possible utopian future assisted by advanced technology, we had to face a real fact. Climate change is real, and we may be too late to stop it even with future technology. We screened the upcoming movie CHASING ICE by Director Jeff Orlowski. This beautiful and heartbreaking documentary follows acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog around the world as he desperately tries to capture images of melting icecaps, and glaciers. Balog literally risks his life to show the world the undeniable proof that so many scoff at, including presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
Why are Americans, in particular, so uneducated about new advancements in science and technology? And why are our "leaders" unwilling or unable to talk about this obvious tsunami of "phase-change" that we are experiencing?
Complete list of Winners for each category:
- Arts: Mark Coniglio – Composer/Media Artist, Co-founder Troika Ranch
- Biotechnology (Individual): Donald Ingber – Director, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University; Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology, Harvard Medical School & Vascular Biology Program, Boston Children's Hospital; Professor of Bioengineering, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
- Biotechnology (Corporate): Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University
- Comm. Technology (Individual): Jun Murai – Professor, Faculty of Environmental Information, Keio University (Japan)
- Comm. Technology (Corporate) : Pinterest
- Design: Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby – Founders, Barber Osgerby
- Education: Cathy N. Davidson & David Theo Goldberg – Founders, HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition
- Energy (Individual): Laurence Kemball-Cook – Director, Pavegen Systems
- Energy (Corporate): Agilyx
- Entertainment: Olivier Bau & Ivan Poupyrev – REVEL technology developers and Researchers, Disney Research, Pittsburgh
- Environment (Individual): Derek Lam – DEHTLET & World Marketing Development Centre Ltd
- Environment (Corporate): Bug Agentes Biologicos
- Ethics: Anthony F. Beavers – Professor of Philosophy, University of Evansville
- Finance (Individual): Ben Horowitz – Co-founder, Andreessen Horowitz Co-founder & CEO, Opsware
- Finance (Corporate): New Enterprise Associates
- Health & Medicine (Individual): Aydogan Ozcan – Professor, UCLA School of Engineering
- Health & Medicine (Corporate): Ekso Bionics
- IT Hardware (Individual): Vijay Kumar – Professor of Engineering, University of Pennsylvania
- IT Hardware (Corporate): MakerBot
- IT Software (Individual): Sean Gourley – Chief Technology Officer, Quid
- IT Software (Corporate): Leap Motion
- Law: Tim Wu – Professor, Columbia Law School
- Marketing Communications: Joan Casas Cervero – Founder & CEO,uWhisp
- Materials (Individual): Amit Goyal – Chair, UT-Battelle-ORNL Corporate Fellow Council
- Materials (Corporate): Thinfilm Electronics
- Media & Journalism: David Weinberger – Author, Too Big to Know & Co-Director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab
- Policy: Vivek Wadhwa – Vice President of Academics and Innovation, Singularity University
- Social Entrepreneurship: Greg Van Kirk – Co-founder, Community Enterprise Solutions
- Space (Individual): Adam Steltzner – NASA Engineer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Space (Corporate): SpaceX
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Edward Cornish has served as the World Future Society’s lead visionary, founder, first President (1966-2004), and Editor of THE FUTURIST magazine (1967-2010). Since stepping away from daily editorial management, he has remained on the WFS Board and has been our Futurist in Residence, contributing book reviews and essays on “Futurists and Their Ideas.” And he’s come to the office faithfully every day.