I volunteered at the Push 2008 business conference earlier this week. Overall I give it a mixed review. Some things went well, others were less impressive.
Some of the good things.
Good speakers and performers. There were few flameouts, everyone knew their stuff and presented well. I really appreciated the musicians and performers that were on the program; it helped to liven up the days. The venue. The Walker Art Center rules.
Here’s a list of interesting items that crossed my radar in the last week. I don’t have much to add to what’s said below, this is more a manner of keeping track of my interests at this point in time.
The future of humanity
Bruce Sterling dialoging at the WELL Joe Bageant laying into American complacency. More from an anti-consumerist point of view. James Howard Kuntsler laying into American energy complacency Some thoughts on interesting technology
One of the enduring joys of attending a large research university or living in close proximity to one is the chance to attend public lectures and presentations by faculty or experts on topics that pique your interest but don’t necessarily fall inside your chosen specialty. The Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences hosted an inaugural symposium yesterday and today. I skipped yesterday’s event but decided to get out of bed early today to see Eric Rabkin talk about science fiction, science, and perceptions of technology.
At the beginning of “An Inconvenient Truth” Al Gore shows the audience two iconic Apollo images, Earthrise and Blue Marble. I remember seeing those pictures as a teenager and feeling the shock of scale. There we all were, every last one of us. Human beings living on a fragile blue globe suspended in the middle of nowhere. And all of history has happened on that tiny rock.
As an aside, the link to Earthrise above has some interesting history of the image.
MaryAnn Johnson, a Generation Xer, who blogs at FlickPhilosopher and GeekPhilosophy recently saw An Inconvenient Truth and came out of the theater galvanized.
I’ve been letting the experience of seeing the film and seeing Gore in person sink in, and I find myself feeling optimistic, maybe, for the first time in a long time, optimistic about the direction our society may be going in. And I’m itching to do something about pushing us in that direction.
Looking to the Future via Reality Television
Dave Pollard at How to Save the World posts a very intriguing set of theories about the sucess of reality television in the last few years. Is it conservative propaganda, schadenfreude, the hero myth, attention deficit, or self-preservation? Dave thinks its the latter.
The theory that answers this question, and does make some sense to me, is the Self-Preservation Theory, and it holds that we are intuitively so pessimistic about our future that we need to insulate and inure ourselves against the sadness and suffering that we are likely to face.
Trekked to the Har Mare Barnes and Noble this afternoon to see Bruce Sterling in personal performance. He’s on tour promoting his new book The Zenith Angle. I decided to go because he’s one of my favorite science fiction authors, part of the cyberpunk wave that broke in the 1980s and presaged a lot of the craziness that is the internet and computer technology.
Bruce (notice how the weblog medium makes it almost impossible to refer to people by anything other than their first name, Mr.
Salon had a number of interesting articles from recent weeks on the intersections between technology, biology, and education.
Alan H. Goldstein starts with Invasion of the high-tech body snatchers. A description of the coming changes in bioengineering. If we can soon replace much of the human body with artificial parts, we will, and then who knows what we will become. He says that bioethics has been too focused on cloning and ignoring the potential threat and promise of what he calls bioengineering.