Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Day 2 at ETech 2008

Saul Griffith's talk on Energy Literacy was well done but pretty depressing. I can't dredge up much optimism that a) people will massively reduce their energy use, and b) we'll shut down much of our fossil fuel energy production and replace it via a massive construction of new green energy sources. I can't see it happening. People won't take such drastic action until there's a crisis. So it was further depressing to hear that the time lag on carbon reduction affects can be hundreds of years. i.e. By the time there's a crisis it'll be way too late to do anything. Of course, it's a contentious subject. Someone at my lunch table argued that technology would save us. Hmmm ... maybe it'll save us humans (we're good at that) but what about the rest of our ecosystem? We don't have near as good a track record there.

The presentation by MegaPhone on Collaborative Gaming in Public Spaces was entertaining. The two presenters were the founders and looked to be still in their teens! They develop ways for people to interact with public video displays, primarily by cell phone. They ended up in the debugger on the big screen a few times, but it seemed to work in the end. I'm not sure how they got to be keynote speakers but it was refreshingly "innocent".

The session on the Future of Mind Hacks was pretty interesting. You always wonder if you've picked the right session, but when Timothy Ferriss is a couple of rows ahead and Tim O'Reilly is a couple of rows behind I figure I've picked a good one.

Two Microsoft employees were sitting beside me, one had a MacBook, the other an iPhone (and worked in the mobile division). Hmmm ... is that getting to know the competition?

After the keynotes I went to Tap is the New Click on gestural interfaces (e.g. the iPhone). It was ok, but not great, mostly just a dry overview.

At lunch I counted 10 tables with a single person at them (one of them was mine). Good to know I'm not the only anti-social geek. But most geeks must be more social electronically than me. One of the big topics is social applications. Frankly, I don't have enough friends to need an application to keep track of them. Then again, I don't even have a cell phone so I'm obviously abnormal.

After lunch I went to Green Nano by an HP researcher. I've been excited by nanotech since Eric Drexler's Engines of Creation so it was nice to hear about progress. But the talk seemed a little dry.

For some variety I next went to a talk on Digital Activism by Ethan Zuckerman. It turned out to be pretty interesting. It's good to hear about some "positive" uses of technology.

Then DIY Drones by Chris Anderson (of Long Tail fame) - fun.

And finally, Personal Productivity by Gina Trapani of LifeHacker, another good talk. (Of course, Timothy Ferriss was at this one as well.)

All in all, a pretty good day.

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