Gnomedex 10 day 1, the afternoon

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The coupon code "Gnomedex" works at Throwboy, ThinkGeek, and Hover for discounts, contest entries, etc.

  • 1:45 p.m. - Tom Nugent (LaserMotive): An invisible extension cord... TO SPACE! People were excited about space in the '60s and '70s: what could you do with lots of people in space? But we need cheap, fast launch capability. Right now it's $5,000-$10,000 per kg into orbit. Does the launch capability or the market for it come first? A chicken-and-egg problem. What about a space elevator? Might happen eventually, but not for some time. The two main problems are (a) strong and flexible materials, and (b) power transmission for propulsion (onboard fuel is extremely inefficient). Microwaves were an early idea, but lasers are more effective, and are becoming more advanced in part because of laser hair removal (no really). First attempt in 2007 for a NASA-sponsored robot cable-climber contest failed—but so did everyone else's attempt. Time for testing and iterating designs is very, very important. In 2009, tried again, naming the climber "Otis" in honour of its elevator heritage. A strange combination of components from off-the-self consumer electronics parts, military supplies, space-grade solar panels, eBay, industrial auction sites, etc. Simulated climbs in the lab using a "cable treadmill," and even cooked hot dogs in the laser beam (which still took 4 minutes, so it's no death ray). And, when the competition came, the climber made it 1000 m and 3.8 m/s: success! Tried again by removing everything they could to reduce weight, but other technical problems and sleep-deprived mistakes prevented it from reaching the second-level prize of 5 m/s. Next round should be in 2011. But there are ways to use power beaming on Earth, and those can even make money: drone aircraft; disaster relief; rocket launches without explosive onboard fuel (inert gases instead) and small redundant systems instead of single massive motors. Eventually, those sci-fi orbital power stations may be feasible.
  • 2:15 p.m. - Todd Welch (The Trust Tour): Thinking about Integrity and Trust: "IT." Integrity is within you, trust between you and someone else. Maybe we should treat the "trust space" between each other as an ecosystem, which needs to be nurtured and maintained, avoiding corruption and pollution. Trust relies on integrity, which means "to be whole." Perhaps lack of trust is the #1 problem of our time—and maybe of all time. So, Todd's 1000-day Trust Tour around the world. Examining trust in business, in medicine, in athletics, in entertainment, in nuclear energy, in the military, in mental health. You don't have to agree with someone to trust them: you just need to know where they stand, and respect each other. Really notice the lies (even the little ones), the corruption, the pollution, and resolve not to be a part of it. Be a filter in that ecosystem, instead of contributing to the mess. Strive to have integrity, to be honest, to be trustworthy. We need to do better.
  • 3:00 p.m. - Willow Brugh (@willowbl00): Transhumanism: the grey area between human and posthuman, the conscious evolution of humanity via technology. I'm very careful about my capitalization because I read a lot of weird poetry as a kid. Not life extension, youth extension. We use all sorts of technologies, from eyeglasses and laser eye surgery to cochlear implants. But what about artificial oxygenation of blood, modafinil to stay awake longer, prosthetics (some DIY) that work better than our natural parts, memory- and productivity-enhancing drugs, magnetic-sensing implants, interactive tattoos, implant hacking? Biology vs. machinery? What can our genomes and brains handle? Will people with more money be more transhuman than others? How does this reflect the way humans have always used tools to change our relationship with our environment? (We die in car crashes because we're not evolved to go that fast and then stop suddenly.) If you're upset that you can't run three miles, then isn't the best approach to go try, not to wish you had robot legs?
  • 3:30 p.m. - Johnny Diggz (@johnnydiggz): Tropo and Geeks Without Borders. (UPDATE: See Pat Luther's comment on this post for how the Geeks Without Borders name has actually been in use by an unrelated organization since 2002. Whoops!) Went through a whole bunch of different communications startups and projects since the early '90s. Geeks Without Borders started with the idea that "Doctors [Without Borders] need to look shit up too." Intended to help people whose survival is threatened by lack of access to technology and communications. Need to create a communications hub that can work with all different methods of transmitting information (landline, mobile, SMS, IM, Skype, Twitter, social media, voicemail, smoke signals...). Also backpack networks: mini hubs in a backpack via satellite or other IP uplink. Applications that work with the hub based on simple development tools to local people can build what they need to on top of it (e.g. "Is there water in the well today so I don't have to walk five miles unnecessarily?"). Launching in some formal way on October 10, 2010 at 10:10 a.m. (10/10/10 at 10:10). Having a "Tinkerstorm" (hackathon) at the Edgewater Hotel next door over 24 hours from 5 p.m. Saturday (tomorrow) till 5 p.m. Sunday.
  • 4:10 p.m. - Darren Barefoot (darrenbarefoot.com): Open-source activism. Worked with the tcktcktck initiative trying to get a "fair, ambitious, and binding" climate change agreement in Copenhagen last year. A radically open approach to campaigning (anyone from an individual to Greenpeace could participate, with a simple universal message), quite a contrast to the traditional NGO structure.  350.org took the idea and ran with it. Alas, the desired result didn't come about, but the structure turned out to be useful. Roll out the resources and assets and then let them go so the world can create your movement.
  • 4:20 p.m. - Kyle: How social media are affecting the volatility of decision making. After the Challenger shuttle disaster in 1986, Morton Thiokol stock stopped trading after falling within minutes (and years of investigating showed that Thiokol was indeed to blame). After the 2010 Apple iPad launch, reactions are all over the map, with stock prices fluctuating by the second during Steve Jobs's speech. Our decisions have become much more volatile and instantaneous. The VIX "fear index," invented in 1993, has become something people care about in the past five or six years.
  • 4:30 p.m. - Frank: Why is my digital privacy (i.e. my personal information) a marketable commodity? Coca-Cola basically invented marketing in the 20th century. We've always been willing to give up our personal information for free shit. We're always evaluating that tradeoff. There's no way to get free stuff without consequences. Anyone who thought Facebook would be free forever with no personal downside is deluding themselves, for instance. We have cognitive dissonance about that: we want openness, but we want privacy too. Your privacy is a currency. Make sure you're getting your money's worth.
  • 4:35 p.m. - John Donnelly: Geeks have been cool for quite a while, and non-geeks need help to get a clue. I can't read well (dyslexia), I have no website, I'm not good at explaining myself. ("My daughter's calling, hang on. Ig-nore.") For me, Twitter makes people like the collective intelligence of an anthill. Why would geeks want someone with so few geek skills to be part of the anthill? They have skills outside that geek domain. How do we bring them in?
  • 4:45 p.m. - Rob Knop (Seattle Repertory Theatre): "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," April-May 2011. A play about the rise and fall and rise of Steve, with background information from Foxconn, with the agony of our relationship with globalization.
  • 4:50 p.m. - Omni Tech News Crew (OmniTechNews.net): Why kids should be in social media. Kids aren't participating in social media as much as you might expect, but they'll be part of the future of the online world. Kids have fewer of the limitations an inhibitions in their ideas than adults, so they're where some of the best new ideas are going to come from.

And hey, I just won a free night at the Hotel Max! Yay! Looks like Air and I will be coming down to Seattle again sometime soon...

2 Comments

Geeks Without Borders has existed since October 2002.

While we approve of other groups helping provide technology to those that need it – there is more work to do than any one organization can fully provide.

However, we wish to clarify that Mr. Johnny Diggz is not affiliated in any way with Geeks Without Borders, http://geekswithoutborders.org (We lost gwob.org to a domain squatter about a year ago due to a bookkeeping error.)

He came up with some great ideas for his Gnomedex presentation, and we wish him the best of luck in making them reality, but he should have done a google search before coming up with a name.

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