February 26, 2004
Focusing on the Future at the 2004 O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference
Sebastopol, CA--Technology is inexorably creeping into every corner of our
existence, from the mundane to the gee-whiz. Tech innovations have begun
to influence presidential campaigns, change how we find dating partners,
allow us to lead an "always on" lifestyle, and turn over household chores
to robots. But which technologies hold the most promise, have working
business models, or fill a true software need? How are technologies
developed for specific goals being repurposed for completely unintended
These and many other important computing questions were debated earlier
this month at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (aka ETech),
held in San Diego, CA. "Two strong themes emerged as we put this
conference together," noted program chair Rael Dornfest, "mobility, or
'untethered,' and social software. But one of the delights of ETech is
that there are so many interesting technologies that are bubbling up that
didn't fit our existing topology. So we also featured sessions on
evolutionary computation, geowanking, hardware hacking, and more."
Post-session discussions spilled out into hallways and lounges--for some,
fellow attendees turned out to be one of the most compelling reasons to
be at ETech.
Now in its third year, ETech provides fertile ground for alpha geeks,
technorati, and hackers to come together with others on the lookout for
the Next Big Computing Thing. Speakers such as Nokia CTO Pertti Korhonen,
iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner, Marc Smith of Microsoft Research, Bill
Janeway of Warburg Pincus, and the Nielsen Norman Group's design guru Don
Norman shared the stage, exhibit hall, and Apple AirPort Extreme Lounge
with nearly 900 other attendees from organizations like Disney, the BBC,
Walmart, Amazon, National Geospacial Intelligence Agency, Qualcomm,
Pfizer, Fujitsu Labs, Stanford Medical School, US Defense Department,
Oracle, Morgan Stanley, Merck, and Princeton University.
A contingent of tech-savvy and politically inclined attendees spent Monday
at the Digital Democracy Teach-In, a timely addition to this year's ETech.
Headlined by former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi, MoveOn's Wes
Boyd, and Scott Heiferman, founder of MeetUp, panelists, journalists, and
political grassroots advocates mulled over how new technology is
connecting us to each other and to our elected representatives, redefining
"politics as usual."
"Your job is to figure out the future," O'Reilly & Associates CEO Tim
O'Reilly told the audience in his keynote address, "to help the other
users to see the potential in the technology we are working with, to take
that technology and kick some butt with it, make interesting things
happen; change the world. That's what you're about and that's what we're
about here at this conference."
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O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.
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