O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference is my favorite geek confab of the year. The presenters aren't usually celebrity types but just supersmart nrrrds making fascinating tech and thinking about the impact of innovation on our lives. I'm really excited to be on the program committee again this year. The Call for Participation is now open and we're looking for big ideas across a huge spectrum of tech/culture, from materials science and synthetic biology to nomadism and sustainable life. From the ETech 2009 site:
Living, Reinvented: The Technology of Abundance and Constraints
We live in two worlds: one filled with abundance and the other with constraints. Each has its own favorite–or essential to survival–inventions and directions. Each has been deeply affected by technology.
The abundant world has access to the Internet and other educational tools, to the latest advances in medicine, to culinary choices from around the globe, and up until recently, access to "plenty of" energy. This abundance can lead to waste since most everyday objects are easier and cheaper to replace than fix. But sometimes this excess can lead to creation–a reinvention of waste–as we see in the pages of Make magazine.
The constrained world has to make do with what's available. Why scrimp and sacrifice for a computer when most people have mobile phones with an SMS server that can do the job just fine? With limited food, water, fuel, medicine, it's the people and their ideas that are often the cheapest part of the equation. Their technology looks to collaboration and connection with fewer resources–almost the opposite of the industrialized world which seeks to make each individual as effective as possible.
What technologies cross the divide? How do the two interact and cross-pollinate? On the surface, they wouldn't seem to overlap, but on deeper examination, inhabitants of both worlds learn from each other constantly.
Here are some areas at the intersection of abundance and constraint we'll be exploring at the 2009 edition of ETech, the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference:
* City Tech
* Materials & Mechanics
* Personalized Healthcare
* Mobile & The Web
* Geek Family
* Synthetic Biology
* Nomadism & Shedworking
* Sustainable Life
* Life Hacking & Information Overload
I asked Amy Parness, the co-founder of Sparkle Labs, maker of fantastic educational electronics kits, to write a Medium post about gender and the business of being a maker business person. Her terrific essay calls out the problems with “pink girly engineering kits.” From Medium:
Zero UI is the new term for “invisible interfaces”—what happens in the future when all the clicking and tapping and typing is history: “If you look at the history of computing, starting with the jacquard loom in 1801, humans have always had to interact with machines in a really abstract, complex way.” [Fast Company]
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