October 04, 2011
Idea Festival 2011 Recap: From Robots, Art & Science to Education, Politics & Innovation
The Idea Festival is an annual event held in Louisville Kentucky every year. Founded by Kris Kimel, his vision is centered around the following belief: "with innovative ideas we create the future."
I've been meaning to attend for several years and finally made my way down to Louisville this past September for three days of inspiration and electric energy across the areas of science, politics, healthcare, education, music, design, technology and the arts.
Unfortunately, most of us have little opportunity to get out of our daily worlds (and ways of thinking) to learn about, discuss and explore how to integrate diverse and important ideas and innovations. This event's goal is provide a unique “space” for the convergence of great ideas from leading thinkers across the nation and around the globe.
To give you an idea of the diversity of the event, imagine listening to an Army combat veteran Wes Moore talk about his book about a child with the same name who was convicted for felony murder (my write-up here) and Cesar Millan, the world's foremost canine rehabilitation specialist and then Aubrey de Grey about rejuvenation science and aging (my write-up here), and Maz Jobrani on what its like to be a Middle-Eastern American in the 21st century, all within one morning?
Or, hear physicist and author Leonard Mlodinow explore the extraordinary extent to which randomness, chance and probability influence and shape our work and everyday lives? And while your head is full, energetic violinist Lindsey Stirling comes out on stage and has you tapping your foot and smiling ear-to-ear. (write-up on Linsey here).
Inside the Ideas Festival, there were other sub-events, such as the Kentucky Film Educator's Summit, which was free and open to the public. Kentucky's foremost film educators gathered for a unique symposium to discuss the rise of cinema studies and filmmaking programs across academe, their evolutionary future and what it takes for such programs to take root, thrive and remain relevant.
And if science and film isn't your thing, how about a discussion about the science of kissing, which Sheril Kirshenbaum led on the first morning. Azure Antoinette read poetry, Ruby Lerner from Creative Capital brought in a number of genre-bending artists to show off their latest on stage (and at evening receptions), and leading geo-strategist and author Parag Khanna led a discussion around the rapidly shifting political, energy and economic landscape. (my write-up of his talk here).
Installation artist Shih Chieh Huang wowed attendees with his innovative creativity (my write up here).
Patrick Renvoise taught us how neuromarketing can be used to sell more effectively (write-up in depth can be found here), and the Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata took us on a wild journey of jazz, funk, rock and soul and what The Sound of Music sounds like with a layer of a little of all of it on top of each of its classically renowned songs. (my write-up of the experience can be found here).
Aneesh Chopra even showed up from the White House to talk about Obama's latest agenda (my extensive write-up here) as did the local mayor Greg Fischer. We headed to the Churchill Downs for taste after taste from the top chefs in Louisville. (I wrote about it extensively here). My write up of Suketu Bhavsar's talk here.
Other more extensive write-ups include how Elizabeth Scharpf is transforming women's lives in Africa one banana leaf at a time, John Moore on the engaged patient and the future of medicine, Georgia Tech's Rosa Arriaga on the Power of Human Censors, and Cory Kidd with his dieting & weight-loss robot Autom. Gambling addict Tim Donaghy talked about the power of addiction and learning from his mistakes. (and how this can be applied to other aspects of our lives outside addictions).
During my Louisville journey, I discovered local artist and glass blower Stephen Rolfe Powell, whose work is nothing short of awe-inspiring. While I was there, I also did a handful of food reviews, so be sure to check out the Kentucky and food/wine categories on We Blog the World for local restaurant and cafe write-ups.
Brown Hotel French chef Laurent Geroli brought a group of about ten bloggers/writers into his kitchen and prepared a 4 course meal in front of our eyes talking us through each dish (Kentucky bourbon was on the table too of course) - check out the food/wine categories as there's an extensive write-up of our experience including 3 videos (also on our YouTube channel). Below is a shot of all of us at the end of the meal. (they gave us very cool personalized chef jackets as well). My write-up of the Brown Hotel restaurant experience can be found here.
Also, my write-ups of Mayan Cafe and Harvest Restaurants can be found here. Below is the infamous pork entree at Mayan Cafe. (definitely order if you are going:)
Idea Festival Labs showcased a number of topics including the Cultural Landscape in and around Louisville (including Ohio River corridor and Yew Dell to name a few), Reimaging the University, Perfecting Our Entrepreneurial Imagination, and Changing the Way Louisville Eats (and the impact of the change on overall health, environment and economy).
ARZU founder Connie Duckworth also discussed her journey from Wall Street to the dirt roads of Afghanistan.
Below is a video clip of an interview I did with founder Kris Kimel on the last day. Listen to the inspiration behind Idea Festival in his words. As for me? I couldn't stop thinking, creating and being inspired for four days and the sheer volume of my blog posts is one indicator of the extent of that inspiration. Meet Idea Festival's founder:
October 03, 2011
Wanna Shed a Few Extra Pounds? Meet Autom, the Dieting Robot & Weight-Loss Coach!
I met Cory Kidd in Kentucky recently at the annual Idea Festival, who flew south from New England to show off Autom, a robot designed to help people with their diets. It is up to the user to enter in the details of their diet, such has their fitness level and then Autom uses its databank to interact with the user, engage in conversation and give you feedback.
Along with keeping a record of what you have been eating throughout the day, Autom inspires you to look good and remain in shape. She comes complete with an artificial female voice for commands and has a touchscreen belly for all kinds of input. Describes one site: "it is harmless, and like a human it won't rebuke you for eating one extra dessert but would surely keep account of the same." The selling price being estimated is around $600 or $500.
Think of it as a weight-loss coach, but a robotic one, one who knows how much you've been exercising, and a whole lot about your diet. With a touch of your finger, she knows if you're in a good mood or not as well. Below is a video I shot of Cory explaining how she works:
September 29, 2011
Aneesh Chopra: Blue Buttoning Our Own Data Will Fuel Innovation & Empower Americans
If you haven't heard of the name before, Aneesh Chopra is the United States Chief Technology Officer, where he serves as an Assistant to the President and Associate Director for Technology within the Office of Science & Technology Policy. Whooah Nelly, that's a mouthful of a title.
In other words, he works to advance the President’s technology agenda by fostering new ideas and encouraging government-wide coordination to help the country meet its goals from job creation, to reducing health care costs, to protecting the homeland.
I had a chance to listen to him speak at the Idea Festival recently, where his talk focused on the President's mission and goals, with a central core theme to make it happen: working from the bottom up, not the top down and opening up data so others can create and innovate with it, and we, as a nation, can thrive.
Here's what they're currently focused on within the above framework:
- Putting more people back to work
- Boosting access to capital for high growth companies
- Turning job seekers to job creators
- Unleashing the mobile broadband revolution
- Modernizing 35,000 schools
- Making government services transparent to job creators
- Open Government aka the Start Up America initiative
- Patent reform
- Catalyze breakthroughs
Technology was a big part of his message as he echoes Obama's pitch, "for our families and our businesses, high speed wireless service and mobile is the next train station, it’s the next off-ramp..it’s how we’ll spark innovation, new investment, new jobs." He also referenced Silicon Valley start-ups on more than one occasion, including Instagram and Crowdflower.
Aneesh says that there's an aministration commitment to unleash market opportunities by framing current or proposed policies to inspired entrepreneurs and gaining valuable policy feedback for iteration with an emphasis on healthcare, education and energy.
Where is the puck heading?
"We need breakthroughs," he says. "The only way is to tap into new hubs outside Silicon Valley." Hear hear Aneesh.
He also talked about education dominance, pushing software that adapts to how students learn, inspiration for the proposed ARPA-ED. They want to open up the data to teachers and make it accessible to them and their students, regardless of where they are in the country.
Another challenge they face he throws the audience's way is the clean energy revolution. They're hoping that ARPA-E investments and NIST standards activities will spur creativity.
He cites the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as an example, America's center for weather data. The weather industry is worth about $2 billion he reminds and "they're fueled because of open government data."
Aneesh adds, "we can also encourage market transparency." Healthcare.gov is a comprehensive catalog of insurance options, an effort to create more transparency than ever before. You’ll be able to find pricing data, how often an insurance company charges a premium, and how often were people rejected (denied coverage for whatever reason).
He also mentioned “Blue Button”, a public/private initiative that scales, where veterans can download their personal health information from their My HealtheVet account. My HealtheVet users who receive VA health care services can also refill their prescriptions and view their appointments, allergies, and laboratory results online.
Why not transfer that kind of tool to other areas and industries he says, such as education. "Imagine if every student could get a downloadable document of his/her assessment, a personalized platform that translates from student performance to market reality. We need personalized platforms for each of our children that can translate into something meaningful. This is the kind of thing that can fuel products and services. Find where the data sits and find out a way to liberate that data.”
He adds, "We're liberating government data & if people can become billionaires because of it, God Bless." The audience laughs.
He continued to push the open government throughout his talk including in the Q&A at the end, which was incredibly well received. (note: while the audience had visitors from the west coast, DC, the north, NYC and other places, there was a large number of locals - aka the midwest meets the south...in other words, family values and education are high priorities).
Certainly blue buttoning our own data is going to fuel innovation and empower individuals. Isn't it where we have to go? If we don't, we become victims rather than creators of our own lives and destinies in more ways than one.
September 29, 2011 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Europe, On Being Green, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On Mobile & Wireless, On Politics, On Technology, On the Future, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
September 23, 2011
Parag Khanna on How to Run the World by Turning it on its Head (From the Bottom Up)
In his Idea Festival talk, Parag Khanna addressed the shifts we're seeing around the world. He thinks what is happening in the Arab world is the beginning of what we're going to see elsewhere.
Almost all Arab countries are post colonial countries. He says, "most of the 200 countries in the world look a lot like the Arab countries falling apart in the last six months."
And, asserts Khanna, “we’re in for a decade of this at least and watch this unfold for a very long time. At least 80 or 90 countries are experiencing the same kind of decay that a lot of the Arab countries are today. Expect to see a lot more falling regimes.”
We have to not just focus on economic and political issues in a silo. Things are complex so rather than look at how the UN is defining global progress, look at how private enterprise can assist as well. For example, what happens at the Clinton Global Initiative is very different than what happens in the UN, since it is much more representative and accurate of who has the real power.
It includes CEOs, entrepreneurs as well as politicians. This translates into offers from companies who can help facilitate change at a global level. For example, a mining company pledged to support a workforce in a South American country. We should be looking at ways to improve the ways we can measure real change in people’s lives.
The power has shifted when you have cities and mayors who are key in climate change decisions, the fact that that the Gates Foundation commits as much money as most governments do and that Walmart has more gas emissions coming out of their buildings than the country of Ireland.
Diplomacy is the glue at which we urn the world – it’s the relationships, the alliances, the solutions. It's the most important thing that we do and don't even realize it. Khanna notes that we live in a world today where there’s more diplomacy than ever before and yet it’s less organized.
How do we sort out the moss pit of what exists with political leaders today? He recommends the following principles:
- Diplomacy needs to be inclusive. Anyone who wants to be part of a resolution to a problem should be involved.
- Decentralization – solving problems at the source. People in developing countries with real problems don’t need policy papers or money that is stored in centralized funds somewhere in Paris. It’s much better to give money to people directly if you can through micro-finance through organizations like Kiva.
- Become our own diplomats: each of us needs to think of ourselves as diplomats. Within ten years, everyone on the planet will have a mobile phone or a phone within their immediate family. Everyone will be able to reach everyone else. A lot of these phones will be smart phones and will have telebanking and mobile banking baked in….the latter is growing incredibly fast in Africa.
He ends his talk by saying “the best global governance is local governance," and working from the bottom up, not the top down.
Is the Universe Everything There Is? On 20th Century Science in Many Worlds
The Idea Festival, based in Louisville, Kentucky kicked off officially on Wednesday, September 21 at the Kentucky Performing Arts Center, located on a main drag of Louisville which is littered with art galleries, hotels and a restaurants.
Speaker Suketu Bhavsar decided to take the audience to the fourth dimension and show us simplistically (if that's possible with a topic like this), what the impact of an infinite universe really is.
Albeit a scientist, Bhavsar has a unique right brain charisma on stage and often threw in humor as a way to lighten his somewhat heavy talk. "If the universe is everything there is, what is there to talk about?" he asks the audience. "Time, but time is relative," reminds Bhavsar. "And, space is relative."He shows us a few examples demonstrating how space has geometry that depends upon the density of the universe.
The whole universe is full of galaxies mostly with empty space in between and every one of these galaxies is moving away from us. The space in between those galaxies is actually what’s expanding. Space is stretching out between galaxies all the time.
The geometry of our universe is flat and this means that our universe is endless and it’s infinite. An infinite universe leads to the first and simplest kind of multiverse, he suggests. If we go far enough, then there could and would be another you elsewhere. In other words, everything is possible in an infinite universe.
He asks, “how far until there is a copy of the visible universe?” and refers to Brian Greene’s name for it: Quilted Multiverse.
In the early universe, the quantum field of the rapidly expanding space drops to a lower value in random regions. These regions are bubble universes.
Regarding these bubbles and how they relate to each other:
- Each of these bubbles will continue to expand and have an infinite spatial galaxy.
- Each bubble universe has the potential to create daughter universes that inflate and become independent universes creating even more universes.
Another possibility is that not all the dimensions are curled up. In the Braneworld scenario, ours and many other 3-brane universes could be residing alongside each other and we wouldn’t know about it.
This moves us into Quantum mechanics, which is not deterministic like Newtonian mechanics he says. Quantum mechanics means that there are many arrays of things that could happen, allowing for many outcomes. AND, many things happening in multiple universes all at the same time.
Bhavsar challenges us to also read another book by Brian Greene: The Elegant Universe, and to contemplate the following questions:
Is this science? What is consciousness? What is time? Can we ever truly understand time? What is reality?
September 08, 2011
SOcial, LOcal, MObile, the Power Behind LeWeb's 2011 Start-Up Competition
SOcial, LOcal, MObile is the new black for startups this fall say the Guidewire Group who are powering this year's LeWeb'11 Startup Competition, centered on the SoLoMo theme (that's social, local, mobile, for the non-geeks who haven't memorized yet another acronym).
The annual showcase of emerging companies will honor the Top 3 startups creating state-of-the-art apps for the SoLoMo consumer or business markets. They are looking for the most exciting and innovative ideas that exploit the power of social engagement and location awareness of tablet and mobile phone devices. To be eligible, startups need to have less than €1M of investment.
Applicants will use Guidewire Group's forthcoming G/SCORE Analytics platform to profile and take a G/SCORE assessments. Those assessments, along with Guidewire Group analyst and community input, will be select 16 finalists to pitch for a spot among the Top 3 at the december conference in Paris.
To learn more about the competition, visit LeWeb's start-up competition page.
September 8, 2011 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Europe, Events, On Geo-Location, On Innovation, On Mobile & Wireless, On Search, On Social CRM, On Technology, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
September 07, 2011
SOCAP 2011 Co-Founder Kevin Jones Zooms in on Razer Scooter
Co-Founder of SOCAP, Kevin Jones who tries out a Razor (mine!) for the first time, kicks off the annual event.
Nominations Open For Tech4Africa Innovation Award Till Sept 12
Tech4Africa is calling for entries to their inaugural Tech4Africa Innovation Award. Designed to recognize homegrown innovation and further inspire the industry to develop global solutions to uniquely African challenges, the award is open to both individuals and companies.
The process has been broken down to its bare bones in a bid to make applying as simple and cost-effective as possible. Individuals or companies need to send a single-page synopsis of their product or service, what the innovation is and the level of success or traction that it has attained.
The only qualifying criteria are that the innovation must have been in the market for at least one and a half years and have been created by Africans to solve uniquely African challenges. Participants are welcome to nominate themselves or suggest a deserving recipient.
Entries for the Tech4Africa Innovation Award close on September 12, 2011, following which a list of 10 finalists will be drawn up. The winner will be announced at an award ceremony to be held the night of October 26, 2011, as a curtain raiser for the two-day conference that starts the following day.
Some of the industry’s leading minds gathered for two days to participate in presentations by and discussions with international speakers on the state of web and emerging technology on the continent.
The 2011 edition of Tech4Africa will be hosted at The Forum in Bryanston, Johannesburg from October 27 to 28, 2011. Registration for the conference is open, with full details on the website.
* Photo by whiteafrican (Creative Commons)
Idea Festival: New Ideas Create the Future
We're planning to go to Idea Festival this year as a media partner which is exciting on multiple levels. The whole premise of the event is that "new ideas create the future."
Much of the mesmerizing innovation that we are witnessing in the 21st century emerges at and from the intersections of many disciplines – science, the arts, business, design, technology, education, medicine and more. The IdeaFestival provides the opportunity for people across all of these disciplines to group together in a unique “space” for the convergence of ideas.
Now in its eleventh year, the IdeaFestival will be held in Louisville Kentucky from September 21-24, 2011. The event is a unique non-linear event designed to stretch people's horizon's and promote breakthrough thinking... utilizing multiple venues to showcase, discuss and "connect" important ideas in science, the arts, design, business, film, technology, education, etc.
More from the ground, but to give you a taste of the line-up and speakers so far, take a look at their schedule.
September 7, 2011 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Events, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
June 30, 2011
Xerox's Ursula Burns and Forrester's George Colony on Innovation & Leadership
For those who are unfamiliar with the name Ursula Burns, she's a woman with a fascinating story. She started as a mechanical engineering intern in 1980 with Xerox Corporation and nearly 30 years later after leading several business teams, and acting as senior VP and President, is now Xerox's Chairman and CEO.
Sure, she is the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company and also the first woman to succeed another woman as head of a Fortune 500 company (another remarkable story), but "who" she is and her very direct personality, candor and warmth as a CEO is what makes her so special, not this historical fact alone.
In many ways, she is not the "traditional CEO stereotype" or personality if there is such a thing. What comes through in watching her on-stage, from afar, from her profiles in the media and from meeting her in person, is her authenticity, her passion, her human way of approaching complex problems and her acute insights into what to do when things go south.
In a fireside chat with Forrester's CEO George Colony at the Churchill Club in Palo Alto this week, she was spot on when she spoke of leadership and what it takes to be successful. "When you screw up, fix problems and fix them fast," she said. "You have to be fearless, make decisions and understand the difference between urgent and important." And, oh yeah, she adds, "you have to be nice."
When George responded with, "what about Ellison and Jobs?" two renowned leaders in the world of technology who are not known as "playing by the nice" rules (the very two examples I was thinking when she made the statement), she said "I don't care." Go Ursula! Among other examples, she brought up her attitude about honor and respect and how her kids would only address George as Mr. Colony not George.
Ursula says that she spends about 50% of her time making sure people are "tuned" correctly. A consistent message from the best leaders is hiring well and inspiring those hires to execute strategically and consistently. Having a motivated and aligned team around you is key.
That brings us to innovation, where you can't avoid but bringing up Apple. Says George of Jobs, "Jobs is once every 100 years. He's an Edison. It's not just about the fact that Apple knows how to innovate, but more importantly, how to streamline and simplify - taking the obvious and making it simple."
George spoke of Forrester's innovation network. In the value chain, there are different roles...you could look at Forrester as a broker, Apple as a transformer. Both are instrumental and key in the process. If the transformer happens to be outside the organization, then so be it and P&G has demonstrated that through in their own products and design efforts. The Innovation Network says we must 'expand the network.'
Ursula agrees with the outsourcing model and that to try and be and do everything internally is very limiting. She says, "there's more value on going outside the network for things you don't do really well. The value chain of research has fundamentally changed. Partner or parish is the reality in the research world today."
Access is what it's about and you can get better ideas and people by partnering. She has a lot of respect for failing she noted, but added that she meant for her research team, not her engineers.
George shared his thoughts on cloud computing: "If you think it's all about the cloud, you're wrong citing the App-Internet is where things are heading. He has teams dedicated to this area, where they're looking at the future of how powerful devices will work more seamlessly with powerful apps and what this will mean for productivity and innovation across multiple industries.
On future predictions, Ursula adds, "the big transformation in the future is not access. We have access to whatever we want and a lot of it." Her fear is that we have so much access yet may not necessarily understand or know what we're looking for. The real miracle will be in how we interface with all that data, a problem many of Silicon Valley's developers are trying to solve in some way or another.
I see an emphasis on interface & manipulation of data again and again with the kinds of things that start-ups who pitch me on a regular basis are working on. Sadly, I also see a lot of start-ups working on services that focus more on access and data rather than solving the curation problem. (see Steven Rosenbaum's new book Curation Nation).
Below is a four part video that covers George and Ursula's Churchill fireside chat, one which felt remarkably like an informal living room discussion. The authenticity and insights to probe deeper into real world problems, not just business ones, also came out as they discussed education and the energy crisis.