Pop!Tech 2007: Continuous Partial Conversations: No Ordinary Moments … Or People
Altered States, Alienated Majesty, the Vigor of Wild Virtue and the Magnetic Attraction of Awakened People

Pop!Tech 2007: An Expanded Vocabulary (and Perspective)

Poptechlogo_94px_3 OK, in my last entry on Pop!Tech, I wrote that I would only be posting one more “highlights” entry … but I just had to include one more … in part because I am afraid that however much I might condense my 47 pages of notes (in a Word document), no one will ever have the stamina to read my “detailed” posts – I’m not even sure I’ll have the stamina to compost* them [*compost = compose & post] – especially given the amazing wealth of information and insights offered in the stream of blog posts Ethan Zuckerman wrote during the conference itself (how does he do that?!)  … and also, in part, because I bought a spare battery for my MacBook – a device used by what I estimate to be 75% of the Pop!Tech population – before the trip, so I have some more laptop time on this flight, and I’m so pumped – activated, perhaps – after the conference, I just can’t bring myself to relax and watch the Harry Potter movie.

So, anyway, I’m going to expend a little more battery power and spend one more post with just a quick list of some of the new terms and concepts that jumped out at me throughout the event (modeled loosely on Amazon.com's Statistically Improbable Phrase feature). Note that these are not intended as a summary of the talks, just some semi-random sparks of surprise intermingled with some terms and concepts that stick out for me.

[Update: in case I never get around to fully composting my own notes, I've decided to add a few more notes to some of the items below - making for quite the rambling rumination - and simply link to Ethan Zuckerman's posts about each of the presenters.]

  • Consumerism at scale (Chris Jordan, artist)
  • Cities as consensual hallucinations (Christian Nold, University College London)
  • The powerful motivating force of a full body experience in seeing an inspiring presentation (which she, perhaps unwittingly, was passing on to me, and perhaps others); "Who am I? A middle-class white girl from Pittsburgh. What can I do?" (Jessica Flannery, co-founder of Kiva.org)
  • Affordability is not an economic problem, it’s an engineering and design problem; three key features of the design revolution: affordability, divisibility, expandability; with business as usual, the UN Millennium Goals on hunger and poverty will never be reached, e.g., progress on reducing the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa living on less than $1/day over ten years: 44.6% → 44%
    (Paul Polak, International Development Enterprises & D-rev)
  • Making manufacturing like agriculture (Adrian Bowyer, RepRap)
  • When relationships are ambiguous, divergent understanding can be costly; hence indirect speech acts, e.g., “If you could pass the guacamole, that would be awesome”; any maitre 'd can be bribed (Steven Pinker, author of The Stuff of Thought)
  • The double tsunami of estrogen & progesterone each month creates 25% fluctuations in brain symapses in teen girl brains; depression is twice as likely in girls as boys after after onset of puberty; the brain area associated with sexual pursuit is 2 - 2.5 times larger in human males then females, even at 8 weeks in the womb (Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain)
  • Right brain aspects are a more fundamental part of what makes us human; democratization of self-realization; three key aspects of modern economies are abundance, Asia and automation; a good speech always has 3 key elements: brevity, levity and repetition; a picture is worth a thousand words, but a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures (Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind)
  • Any life form – human or robotic – must feel and convey emotions, become aware of itself and its environment, and learn and develop over time (Caleb Chung, creator of Pleo)
  • Harvesting power from ambient radio frequency signals (John Shearer, “creative instigator” behind Powercast)
  • What can we do right now with what we already have? create a portable light source that is simple, reliable, durable, lightweight, adaptable, self-sufficient, self-contained and shippable; Challenge: can a project like portable light allow us to look at the cellphone in an entirely new way (Sheila Kennedy, Portable Light)
  • Four features of a potential threat required for our brain to detect them: Personal, Abrupt, Immoral & Now (PAIN); global warming is a threat because it fails to raise the brain’s alarms (Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness)
  • I’m on speaking terms with my inner tortoise; speed yoga, drive-thru funeral; 1-minute bedtime stories (Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slowness)
  • Contextual storytelling platforms; most audacious (& participatory) experiment at Pop!Tech: show photos and captions, evoke stories from audience (Jonathan Harris, artist & designer)
  • A young girl in South Africa is more likely to be raped than she is likely to learn to read; “There is no evidence HIV is the cause of AIDS” President Thabo Mbeki (2000); literacy & training guidelines don’t connect to reality; prevention messages have no cultural relevance; well-intentioned donors often provide solutions no one wants; 40% of HIV+ patients stop taking antiretroviral (ARV) drugs within 2 years (Zinhle Thabethe & Krista Dong, iTEACH Program) [side note: I find it ironic that Zinhle's talk at last year's Pop!Tech was entitled "We are not the same", given that the dissimilarities in perspectives and approaches expressed in Zinhle and Krista's presentation and those expressed in the following presentation in the session, by Jeff and Paul, were striking]
    [Wow! Katrin Verclas has posted a video interview - taken with a Nokia N95 - on Mobileactive.org, wherein Zinhle and Krista describe the challenges they face ... and how mobile phones might offer innovative and effective solutions. I'll include a syndicated copy at the bottom. Thanks, Katrin!]
  • How can we understand why people are behaving in ways that will lead to their death? Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills Model of Health Behavior; [side note: Louann Brezidine asked a question about why power was not a part of the equation]; using interactive technology to promote HIV treatment adherence (Jeff Fisher & Paul Shuber, University of Connecticut Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention)
  • There are 120,000 kinds of rice, but only 400 breeds of dog; climate change and food security:
    2-3 C degree increase is predicted for 2070-2100 vs. 1900-2000 (Cary Fowler, Global Crop Diversity Trust)
  • One out of 5 Africans is Nigerian; Nigerian satellites will provide tele-everything, e.g., tele-medicine, tele-education, etc. (Robert Boroffice, Nigerian Space Agency)
  • 45% of global oil has already been consumed; 90% of oil is consumed for transportation; how long can mobility = freedom? China’s one-child policy will leave 40M men with no potential wives by 2050 (Chris Luebkeman, Drivers Of Change)
  • Oceans comprise 99% of the earth, from a 3D perspective; "we've declared war on the fish, and we've won"; sharks have declined 95% in 10 years in Northeast Atlantic and will become extinct in our lifetime; bottom trawling removes 98% of the coral on the ocean floor; "Fatality is the sum of our dismissals" (Claire Nouvian, BLOOM Association)
  • The sea has an inverted food pyramid compared to land animals (Eric Sala, UCSD)
  • There are no more groundfish – or ground fishermen – between Camden and Canada (Ted Ames, Local Fisheries Knowledge project)
  • The skin is a human sensory homunculus; nurturing (touch and warmth) is more important than nourishment (milk) to baby monkeys; humans are self-decorating apes who have been highlighting features, especially those that are sexually attractive, for over 5000 years; stripped of our skin, we really are all alike (Nina Jablonski, author of Skin: A Natural History)
  • Anyone can fly - it all depends on how you define the temporality; being lost is really where it’s at; anthropology of the stunt; de-familiarization; trying to bring the turbulence of the world inside (Elizabeth Streb, Extreme Action Activist)
  • Living a skater ethos with a representational disability, representation of projected narrative, disability-based utilitarianism, counter-transference, peripheral fluctuation, inverse peripheral fluctuation; underlying sociology of public space (Bill Shannon, extreme laid-back skater, choreographer and dancer)
  • Founded first not-for-profit pharmaceutical company in the US; developing drugs for invisible, voiceless people; created a drug to treat Kala-azur, which kills 1M invisible, voiceless people a year, that costs $10 vs. $300; a proof of concept that we can use the world’s most advanced technologies to benefit humanity; how you work is just as important as what you do; the how will determine the magnitude of your impact; we can only break silos by putting yourself in places you’re so uncomfortable you can barely stand it; If you know more can be done, how can you not do it? You have to begin with very human actions, if you want to end with a very human impact (Victoria Hale, Institute for OneWorld Health)
  • Synthetic biology, open-source biology, radical affordability, radical social change; 1-3M people die every year of Malaria; 90% are children; 300-500M are currently infected; malaria reduces GDP of afflicted countries by up 50% (Jay Keasling, Keasling Laboratory / Amyris Biotechnologies)
  • If you want to find and follow your passions, you have to take some risks at some point (John Legend, musician, Show Me Campaign)
  • Islam hasn’t changed; what has changed is that it has become visible in the west (John Esposito, Georgetown University) [side note: Ethan posted a single entry about the moderator and the following three speakers in this session]
  • In the Arab world, you can say anything you want about the Arab world, just not about your own country; Google Earth is banned in Bahrain, after it showed that 60-70% of the land in Bahrain is controlled by the King; it is also banned in Tunisia, after it revealed the locations of secret prisons  (Daoud Kuttab, Arab Media Internet Network)
  • I’ve spent half my life as a non-Muslim, half my life as a Muslim: I’m part of the “we” for both halves; things done in the name of democracy – not in my name; things done in the name of Islam – not in my name (Sarah Joseph, Emel magazine)
  • On July 11, 1995, 80,000 Muslims were killed in one day; we understand better than anyone in the world what it means to be under attack by terrorists; you have a surplus in technology products, we have a surplus in spiritual products, so we should do an exchange; biggest problem is Max Weber’s concept of charisma - "a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities"; let us fight for the Holy Peace, not the Holy War (Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of Bosnia)
  • The key to confronting terrorism is to prevent failed states, by increasing health care, reducing poverty and instituting the rule of law (Charles Swift, former USN Lt. Cmdr who sued his commander-in-chief and won the acquittal of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver)
  • Women are bellwethers for the health of society; war has two sides, the front line, dominated by men, guns, tanks, etc., and the backline, the purview of women trying to keep life going in the midst of war; the Iraq war is like waking someone up after a coma after 35 years, and asking them what kind of democracy do you want to have (vs. what do you want to eat)? in 1994, 500,000 women were raped in 100 days in Rwanda, which now has a legislature with 49% women (Zainab Salbi, Women for Women International)
  • Green jobs, not jails; green-collared jobs; fight poverty and pollution at the same time; Is this new green wave going to lift all boats, or are we going to have eco-apartheid? Is there a way to connect the work that most needs doing with the people who most need work? (Van Jones, Green For All)
  • What sets Americans apart from the rest of the world is their frequent use of “sorry” and “thank you” (Mustafa Ceric, over lunch)
  • Thank you. I’m sorry for what we’re doing in Iraq (what I wish I’d said, over lunch)

Throughout the conference, I was repeatedly reminded of two books I’ve read – and blogged about – Blessed Unrest and Stumbling on Happiness. Many aspects of Paul Hawken’s insights into the problems of environmental, social, economic and political justice – and the mostly small, local solutions to them – were broadened and/or deepened by several of the speakers. Many of the insights offered by Dan Gilbert - who was at the conference - into how and why we remember the past and project it into the future help illuminate the challenges we face – individually and collectively – in achieving positive human impact. Both of these books, along with The End of Poverty, by Jeffrey Sachs, would provide very helpful background material for anyone wanting to better understand issues raised throughout the conference.


I'm going to [re-]close this post with a Rumi poem shared by Zainab Salbi:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense.

One more thing: here's the syndicated copy of Katrin Verclas' video interview of Zinhle Thabethe and Krista Dong (from blip.tv) I mentioned above:

comments powered by Disqus