kottke.org posts about PopTech

Poptech presentations

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2004

If you're not here in Maine, you can catch the Poptech presentations on ITConversations. Malcolm Gladwell, the patron saint of kottke.org, is speaking right now.

Pop!Tech Roundup

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2003

Some random notes from my three days at the Pop!Tech conference in Camden, Maine:

- The substrate of complexity is irrelevant, whether it's carbon or silicon. That is, a computer is a computer is a computer, be it a Powerbook or a human being. The level of complexity is the important part.

- Patent clerks spend an average of 4-6 hours per patent on a prior art search. Yikes.

- Lessig imagines an 18th century DMCA: the (D)aguerre (M)achine (C)ontrol (A)ct. I've seen Larry speak three times now; it's interesting to see how he's refined his argument.

- URLs cribbed from Golan's presentation: Danny Rozin's Wooden Mirror and Kelly Heaton's Furby wall.

- Audience member on the Jewish perspective on stem cell research: "A fetus is a fetus is a fetus until it becomes a lawyer."

- Cloning + embryonic stem cells is a powerful combination. Cloning takes "old cells" back in time, creating identical young cells. Embryonic stem cells can then be harvested from the cloned embryo and used to create new cells and organs for the original organism. Wild stuff.

- The Methuselah Mouse Prize is encouraging work on anti-aging, giving out prizes for the longest-lived lab mouse.

- Q from the audience about humans possessing indefinite life spans: "But doesn't this mean there won't be any children?" Answer from Aubrey de Grey in a most straight-forward tone: "Yes, it would mean a world without children." At that point, a chill went up my spine.

- A population pyramid for the US from the US Census Bureau's IDB Population Pyramid page.

- The shortest summary of the past 100 years I've ever heard: "the 20th century had its ups and downs." - Clay Shirky

- James Kunstler: "We are creating places we don't care about [living in]"

- Overheard about Virginia Postrel's talk on the Age of Aesthetics: "for someone who thinks aesthetics is so important, you'd think she would have used something better for her slides than Comic Sans on light purple." That and her increasing shrillness toward the end of her talk turned much of the audience off her argument I think.

- David Martin raised a question I've been preoccupied with for a couple of years now: "How much of the global economy is just an hallucination?"

- Geoffrey Ballard on the future: 12% of the population is currently ruining the planet. What happens when the other 88% get involved?

- Here are the goals that the 191 United Nations Member States have committed to meet in the next 12 years.

- An audience member asked space architect Constance Adams about sex is space (within the context of designing habitats for procreation), and she indicated that erections in space are difficult to achieve because in zero gravity, blood tends to collect in the head and feet.

- Robert Wright, author of the excellent Nonzero, is tall, handsome, witty, so very smart, and possesses impeccable timing. I think I am in love.

The nTag sleep attack

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2003

The badges at Pop!Tech were wee interactive computers called nTags. When engaged in conversation with someone, you could choose to send your contact information to that person, see what that person is interested in (based on your interests), get recommendations on people that they have met that you should meet, and generally augment (or hamper) networking.

Many attendees liked them and used them happily, but others revolted. Some people started trading their badges with others. Early on during the conference, Whit Diffie hacked his nTag badge to send a sleep command to any nTag badge in range, effectively deactivating them. As word spread of the hack, people sought him out to sleep their hated badges. Others were pissed that he was turning off their badges without permission; someone asked at the end of the conference if sending a sleep command constituted an attack (When Sleep Attacks!). Following Diffie's lead, a woman hacked her badge to send the sleep command and a disgrunted Pop!Tech goer tried to rip her badge from around her neck (When Liberal Nerds Attack!).

I didn't particularly like my nTag badge (it was too heavy for one), but I can't argue that it didn't result in some interesting social behavior, though perhaps not the behavior that the nTag folks promised in facilitating networking.

Nanotech snoozery

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 17, 2003

This is the second time I've listened to a talk about nanotech from someone representing the Foresight Institute (the first was Robert Drexler), and both times the talks were full of politics and not that interesting at all. They seem to have so much baggage attached their efforts that it's impossible for them to take a fresh look at it. Disappointing.

At Pop!Tech

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 17, 2003

I'm at the Pop!Tech conference for the weekend in Camden, Maine. Maine is the 47th US state I've visited...hopefully I'll get to see a bit of it while I'm here. More to come if I feel like posting.