Today we'll pick up from Part 1 of this article. Here's a roundup of additional sessions I was able to attend in San Jose at Techmanity 2014:
- Dr. Andrew Aldrin of Moon Express. Space travel has always been a subject of interest, as it allows us to think in the extreme long-term about the future of humanity. Will we colonize the moon, other planets, other galaxies? So, it makes sense to have a session like this one at Techmanity. It's likely no surprise that someone with the last name of Aldrin (yes, he's Buzz Aldrin's son!) would be involved. Moon Express is planning a series of missions to the moon for various scientific and business purposes. I didn't catch this entire presentation, unfortunately. But, I did catch some of their animated renderings of moon landings (rendered with actual moon topography data). These guys are very forward-looking, and very serious about this stuff, even if it seems highly futuristic. To learn more about Moon Express, visit the web site at moonexpress.com.
- Rose Broome of HandUp. HandUp is a crowdfunding web site for homeless people. It runs as a platform that outside organizations can use. These outside organizations sign up individual homeless or low-income people, and then the HandUp site allows anyone to donate directly to those individuals (with 100% of the donation going to the recipient). It can be a one-time gift or an ongoing pledge. If you're wondering, like I was, how they cover their own operations, the web site says that when someone donates, they are given the option to opt-in to a HandUp support fee along with the donation. Rose's presentation included some video profiles of success stories. I didn't see that video on their site to share, but you can visit their site to browse profiles of those in need. It's a much-needed platform, and a great model for all. To learn more about HandUp, visit their web site at www.handup.us/.
- Arthur Chu, blogger. Arthur was an 11-time Jeopardy! champion, which brought him into the limelight, so to speak. He spoke mainly about Internet trolls -- how and why they're able to stir up as much trouble as they do. Chu's theory is that the Internet is a "force multiplier" whereby good people are able to do much more good, and bad people are able to accomplish more harm. As you may expect from a Jeopardy! champ, this wasn't just a bunch of ideas; he had plenty of, at times very troubling, data to back up his thoughts. Of particular concern were some studies he cited about the treatment of women vs. men in online forums. (I don't have the citation to share here, unfortunately. But, Chu seems fairly accessible if you're after that info!) To learn more about Arthur, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/arthur_affect.
- Tim Draper of Draper Fisher Jurvetson. I haven't spent a lot of time listening to venture capitalists, so I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy a session like this one. But, it was "hella interesting" as the kids today say. Draper is basically the money guy behind about 50 different household tech brand names like Skype, Tesla, and Hotmail. What surprised me most after hearing this guy speak and understanding who he is was this: Why wasn't Techmanity *packed* with startup entrepreneurs? Let me tell you: If you had a solid business idea and wanted to have a fairly good shot at being able to talk to a venture capitalist with serious resources (and, frankly, who would probably welcome such pitches), this was your weekend to accomplish that. Draper spoke at length about tech startups, but the item I liked most that he mentioned was in reference to his "Draper University of Heroes" (their school for young entrepreneurs). He said something like, "We don't teach history at our university. Instead, we teach the future." Powerful stuff! He also apparently wants to split California into 6 states, which seems ambitious. Somewhat ironically (to me), his motivation seemed in part informed by an almost anarchistic desire to do away with much of the red tape holding him back in the current iteration of that state. However, I didn't get a chance to ask him about that. To learn more about Draper Fisher Jurvetson, visit their web site at djf.com.
- Marina Gorbis of Institute of the Future. I caught the tail end of this fascinating session, in which Marina Gorbis described the work of the Institute of the Future. From what I gathered, IFTF is more or less a think-tank of various scientists who gather data from far and wide in search of emergent trends with the purpose of forecasting the future. I'm not sure how IFTF is funded, or how they generate revenue. But, aside from their business model, their work is particularly intriguing. Gorbis shared profiling information on all sorts of various groups, perhaps most memorably for me about the Millennial generation as well as traits of the following generation. If memory serves, she seemed to be describing these groups as more idealistic in nature and less concerned with superficiality, traditional societal roles, material possessions, and so forth. While I hope that's true, my question for Marina would be: If we posit that today's youth, among other things, are simply more accessible in terms of our ability to research them, are they in fact (demonstrably) significantly more idealistic than previous generations were in their own youth? While I suspect the answer is indeed "yes", I must also admit a certain lingering cynicism that figures that the change desired by the idealistic may face opposition from within their own ranks as quite a few of those kids ultimately conform (or should I write "succumb"?) to "the old ways" of our largely unfettered capitalistic society. To learn more about Institute for the Future, visit their web site at www.iftf.org.
- Vivienne Harr of Make a Stand. This session perhaps best represented what Techmanity was / is all about -- the convergence of people embracing technology and humanity together. Vivienne is a 10 year old girl with a continually growing resume of unbelievable accomplishments. It all started when she decided to open a lemonade stand in her local park, with the goal of ending child slavery. Fast-forward a year or so, and it snowballed into a company that makes bottled lemonade and donates profits to charity. Vivienne was joined on stage by Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter, because the viral aspect of this whole thing all started on that social network. Vivienne had tweeted what she was doing to a celebrity, who then retweeted it. From there, it took on a life of its own, so much that, when it came time for Twitter's IPO, Biz contacted Vivienne to offer her a truly grand gesture -- they wanted her to ring the bell at their IPO. (Video of that is here.) Much to Twitter's credit, they really embraced not only that the content of social web sites comes from the users, but also that these platforms can be used very effectively for the betterment of everyone. To learn more about Make a Stand, visit the web site at makeastand.com.
- Susi Mai and Bill Tai of MaiTaiGlobal.org. As it turns out, a lot of presumably younger C-level entrepreneurs are really into extreme sports. Over time, a lot of these people came to know each other and began to organize their little vacation-expeditions more and more. I'm sure there are many such groups in the world, but this one wound up taking the form of an organized nonprofit organization called Mai Tai Global. As far as I can tell, they're a group of CEOs and venture capitalists who like to hang out and do sporting-type vacations together. Along the way, someone in the group added the element of philanthropy into the mix by having the group support various organizations local to their destinations. I sense it's a very high-level, invite-only kind of exclusive networking club, which is pretty easy for a lot of people to criticize, I suppose. But, then again, they do make the effort to support these organizations, which is significantly more than similar groups make the effort do. And, in fairness, they're also very new and don't yet have a lot of their philanthropic vision solidified to date. So, it should be an interesting group to watch develop. To learn more about MaiTai Global, visit their web site at maitaiglobal.org.
- Walter O'Brien, Robert Patrick, and others from the TV Show "Scorpion". In one of the final sessions, Techmanity brought out cast and crew members from the new CBS television show called </Scorpion>. (The name of the show is written like that to call to mind an HTML tag, apparently.) The show, based on actual events from Walter O'Brien's life, features a team of 150+ I.Q. problem solvers engaged by Homeland Security to come up with solutions to particularly difficult problems. Scorpion also sheds light on other issues such as I.Q. vs. E.Q., recognizing and interacting with genius kids, and so forth. Veteran actor Robert Patrick seemed stoked to be there, and shared some great stories about their process. Apparently, for example, when a new script is in development, the writers come up with an "AW" list, which means "ask Walter." Walter (and his team of real-life genius problem solvers) then come up with suggested solutions. Seems like a win-win to me. (Although, in fairness, when you're a computer geek like me, you sometimes watch shows like these and shout at the screen crazy things like, "What?! That's not a shell... what the hell is that guy typing?" But, that's just me. Fortunately, I can also suspend disbelief, even for tech shows.) To learn more about the Scorpion TV show, visit its page at CBS at cbs.com/shows/scorpion.
Well, that's it for my brief coverage of Techmanity. T'was an informative couple of days in the Silicon Valley, and the conference also included some evening entertainment -- Theivery Corporation, Weezer, Kongos, and a couple other bands performed. All in all, it was a great time, and I hope to return. Heck, we even spent time at a restaurant in San Jose in which the tablecloths were large rolls of notepaper, no doubt meant for tech entrepreneurs to sketch out the next great idea right there. (And we actually DID sketch out one such idea right there, so who knows... maybe that will lead to something!) (Be sure to read Part 1 of this article if you missed that.)