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The new world order of technology

Maggie Shiels | 16:08 UK time, Thursday, 5 August 2010

Here amid the lush mountains of Lake Tahoe in Northern California, technologists have been discussing what has been billed as "a new philosophy of progress" at the first ever Techonomy Conference.

Cabins and trees in front of mountainsThe organisers are hoping the name will soon become common parlance but for the moment they are quite happy to explain their thinking behind the event as one that discusses the role that technology has in solving some of the world's thorniest problems from climate change to education to innovation.

"Society's problems are so grave that we have to really work to solve them more wilfully and consciously using technology in all of its guises," said conference co-founder David Kirkpatrick.

Fellow cohort Brent Schlender told attendees that because of our "constant connection to people and our inventions 24/7" the desire is there to turn this "notion of a cumulative IQ into a collective intelligence".

Mr Schlender admitted that "we are on the verge of something here though I am not quite sure what."

That is what the conference will try to define over the coming days with a little bit of help from some heavy hitters like Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, T Segway inventor Dean Kamen and Sun co-founder and so-called "Edison of the internet" Bill Joy.

Bill Gates is due at the end of the week to wrap things up.

At the heart of everything here is the role of technology and its ability to solve problems.

While Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired Magazine, said that "technology is the most powerful force in the world", Google's Mr Schmidt countered this with the comment that "I spend most of my time assuming the world is not ready for the technology revolution that is happening."

Mr Kirkpatrick said those that don't get on board the technology train risk being left behind and losing out to the rest of society.

Over dinner, under a sky of glittering stars, Mr Bezos said that thanks to technology the "balance of power is shifting away from companies to the consumer."

In a discussion about building an internet treasure he said that "the key ingredient is extraordinary luck. Planetary alignment - that's the big one," explained Mr Bezos.

He also added that hiring top-notch operators was crucial and that "teams win".

Cable carsMr Schmidt agreed and said for him it was about hiring "young people who are willing to challenge things."

But he also noted that more needs to be done to attract young talent which should be regarded as "a national treasure".

John Doerr of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers which has invested in all the big Silicon Valley names including Amazon and Google said that "there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur" and that President Obama's "agenda should be an innovation agenda".

Dean Kamen pointed to energy as the next big thing for entrepreneurs to get involved in and noted that banning all passenger cars would result in 2% of energy savings.

Suggestions for this high-flying crowd to take to public transport raised a few laughs.

Here in Lake Tahoe, the gondola is proving a popular mode of transport.


  • 1. At 5:25pm on 05 Aug 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    Interesting article.
    It seems the world is getting ready to replace Jung's "collective unconscious" with technologists' "collective intelligence".
    I think there is a lot of merit to this idea:
    "Society's problems are so grave that we have to really work to solve them...using technology in all of its guises." (Co-Founder, David Kirkpatrick.)
    I liked Mr. Schlender's comment that "we are on the verge of something here though I am not quite sure what." This means we need to proceed slowly, carefully. We absolutely must have rules and regulations because the collective mind is a dangerous thing.
    But on the other hand, there is coordination to be gained, elimination of duplication, and perhaps radical new and amazing solutions to old problems.
    Everything depends on the ability to ask the right questions, input the right information; otherwise, it's the old adage: GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT.
    Is the world ready? God knows the world has enough problems, but I really don't think we have the people who can zero in on the right questions, and that is the talent that we need. We need people who can analyse problems right down to the key elements and then design questions therefrom in a manner that can pose questions to the collective intelligence.

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  • 2. At 1:25pm on 06 Aug 2010, adam wrote:

    There really is only one question that needs addressing and these multi billionaires are the ones who can answer it, how do you re distribute the worlds wealth? 80% held by 2% until the obsession with profit is addressed and the shared accumulated wealth is re distributed absolutely nothing will change ever. Mr Gates has made a very interesting start with his foundation but it doesn't go far enough, you have to convince everybody rich enough to matter that personal wealth is pointless in a world falling apart at the seems. Inequality will eventually cause these peoples blood to be spilled if they do not act very soon.
    Technology is pointless to a man dying of hunger or thirst, here have an ipad. The most valuable commodities on the planet are still the basics I am afraid, food water shelter work. technology actually works against these things not for them. Micro loans to buy goats etc are a massive success where a new ipod is utterly useless. If they want to make a real difference I suggest setting up the worlds largest micro bank specifically targeting basic eco property construction, self supporting water production and food production everything else is utterly pointless. Start by designing and producing a really durable sustainable affordable eco pod type dwelling not for profit. Then set up a bank to loan micro mortgages to buy one again not for profit. shut down all the multi national farms and all fast food outlets world wide, make food production a local and micro managed industry again, if most people can produce sufficient healthy food for their families 60-70% of health care takes care of its self, clean water, proper drainage take care of most of the rest. education for reading maths give dignity and opportunity. Then try and sell them your pointless techno rubbish.
    Dreaming I know, but its food water and shelter the world really needs, nothing else honestly matters.

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