Here are my notes from Day 1 of the World Technology Summit & Awards in New York City. My colleague at Iowa State, Dr. John Nash, and I have been having eating from Halal stands, learning about Twitter and the Iran election, and enjoying the enhanced police presence for President Obama’s speech tomorrow celebrating the 100th anniversary of the NAACP.

Jim Clark, How to save the future (and how to think about it)
  • Encouraging serendipity
    • the right ‘raw materials’
    • the right ‘catalysts’
    • the right questions
    • the right amount of focus and flexibility
    • the right attitude
  • Thinking about the future
    • Passive v. active players in history
    • The necessity of a ‘historical sense’ / awareness of trends
    • Worldviews (which influence what we emphasize)
      • God(s)
      • Great men
      • Rational thinking/progress
      • Natural/rightful rulers
      • Human nature
      • Class struggle
      • Geography/natural resources
      • Cultural traits
      • Technology
  • Some questions raised by the concept of ‘saving the future’
    • How much influence do we have on our collective future?
    • Whose future are we saving (and how do we strike the correct balance between saving our individual and collective futures)?
    • How do we know what to pay attention to?
  • What are ‘triggers?’
    • Triggers are those forces or events that set into motion other larger events or trends
  • What types of triggers have historically had the greatest ripple effects?
    • Fall of a superpower and/or rise of new competing powers
    • Major, long wars
    • Major global viral pandemic
    • and more?
    • Major advances in technology
  • How do we save the future?
    • Create it!
Scott McLeod, Did You Know?
David Post, Next Island
  • World market for virtual worlds is projected at 186 million total in 2009
  • 2015 market projected to be 638 million
  • virtual worlds are ‘the next Internet’
  • Virtual worlds range from World of Warcraft to Second Life
  • Virtual worlds are interactive – everybody plays – everyone has a different experience
  • Can travel back in time, can master different professions
  • Players play for real money, not virtual currency
  • Players purchase game cards to expand their functionality – this is how they’ll generate revenue?
Jeremiah Jackson, Removing arsenic from drinking water (
  • Current water arsenic removal solutions cost $53 to $300 per 1,000 gallons
  • System uses the common cattail weed, a plastic-lined ditch, and a plastic hand pump
  • Cost is less than $0.21 / 1000 gallons
  • Larger ditch only takes 4% of surface area but can remove arsenic from well water used for irrigation before it reaches the rice crop
Erica vanderLinde Feidner, Piano Matchmaker
  • She matches people with pianos
  • Also has a patented method for teaching piano
  • Invented a video game that teaches how to play the piano – most other piano games are simply rhythmic games
  • She showed how it works (John Nash: it’s Guitar Hero for the piano)
Usman Haque, Pachube
  • Real-time data brokerage for sensors attached to physical objects (the Internet of things)
  • Remote monitoring systems, networked buildings, energy meters
  • Interoperable with construction industry standards and Web protocols
  • The trend in Web and machine-to-machine communications is toward many-to-many, not just one-to-one
  • The metadata about context, location, user tags, history, etc. is also important besides the data itself – this makes us stop thinking about sensors and starts us thinking about environments
Adam Somlai-Fischer, Prezi
  • PowerPoint is linear – a holdover from slide projectors
  • Prezi is spatial and relational
  • After eating at New York’s finest Halal stand, John and I dialogued with Adam, Usman, and Michael Hansen, CEO of Issuu
Changing the world: NGOs, international development, and the Internet
  • Translating complex science for the general public has turned scientific research into a commodity
  • Many of the futuristic visions that we had in the early 20th century are here in some form (e.g., a version of X-Ray specs is at the airport; universal translators) or we’ve actively rejected them (e.g., food pills)
  • Do we really want a jetpack or just the idea of a jetpack (i.e., a vision of a future)?
  • Technology has not made us all happy, as was promised in the past
Zhengrong Shi, The future needs solar (Suntech)
  • The developing countries are catching up to the industrialized countries – share of world energy consumption soon will be even
  • Installation subsidies and feed-in tariffs foster growth in solar energy use
  • China is aiming for 10% of energy from renewables by 2010, 20% by 2020
  • China is largest solar panel manufacturing country in world
  • Suntech is now at 1 Gigawatt (GW) per year production level
  • 10 cents / kilowatt hour is the magic threshold
Innovation: Is this the best or worst of times?
  • Presentation panel
  • Wireless cell phone industry is extremely competitive
  • The Chinese auto industry is now bigger than the US auto industry?
  • Great companies embrace recessions – they create an opportunity to break away from the pack of competitors
  • My question: What kind of American workforce needs are you seeing? How well are K-12 schools / community colleges / universities doing at meeting those needs?
    • Corning
      • Corning is facing some visa / immigration issues… [translation: they are getting their employees from overseas]
      • Corning is trying to invest locally to support schools and prepare workers (and doing less jawboning about national workforce deficits)
    • Verizon
      • In the past 10 years, EVERYTHING has stepped up
      • Doing intern programs with universities
      • Verizon Foundation / Thinkfinity curriculum is designed to help schools see what Verizon would like them to teach / is offered for free
Social networks and societal revolution: What happened / is happening in Iran?
  • Presentation panel
  • Sayah: none of the coverage you saw on CNN would have been possible without Twitter, Facebook, and some Iranian cab drivers
  • Drapeau: everything is now happening locally/globally
  • Drapeau: cyberspace is the new battle space for PR / propaganda = information warfare
  • Sayah: TV news is a business that makes money by getting as many viewers as possible – should TV news cater to advertisers, viewers, the citizenry? – channels will do anything to get viewers, including burying important stories for unimportant ones (e.g., Michael Jackson)


Photo credits