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Lift09: Where Did The Future Go?

So, I'm back from Geneva now - on one hand it's good to be home and with the SeaMonkey and Mozilla work again, on the other hand it was a really delightful experience to look outside our usual boxes of thinking, hear about, create and share new ideas and spend some time with really great minds from a lot of different areas.

I think it was a really great idea of Mozilla to be a partner of the Lift09 conference which was titled "Where Did The Future Go?" as somehow the pictures of the post-2000 future that were painted quite differently in the 20th century than they look today. We're living in some kind of science fiction world today with things like mobile phones, microwave ovens and the Internet, but common future visions like the flying cars and space ships are not common. Actually, there probably were more flying cars out there in the 1960s (yes, they had those things, even if they were rare and expensive) than today. Still, today's looks at the frontiers of the present and nowaday's visions of the future are quite interesting and worth to see them.

And Lift09's program had quite a few of those:
In Wednesday's workshops, I could explore and discuss the future of society and voting, the semantic web, and new ideas for our economy - and those were just my three of the 25 choices that were available.
The big stage conference talks on Thursday and Friday showed how visions of the future have (not) become reality and why, ambient devices for displaying information from the Internet, and why the experimental organization structures of the 20th century were wrong and the traditional participatorial culture like nowadays the social web and open source projects were always right and more stable. We learned how technology improves life in Africa and India, how cities are evolving and what modern urban design is bringing up and interesting information can be visualized, how the people in the dance club can generate the power for the club while having fun there or how to survive a 14,000 km hike through Australia. We could follow talks on how fake products could be dealt with in a different way, on the history of the world wide web, on designs for the future, including machines that consume flies and mice and generate the power to run from them. We were informed what's important about knives, that privacy is just an illusion and doesn't exist in reality, that cameroonian women are heavily using Internet cafes to get to know their future Swiss husbands, and that metromance (romance in the metro) is the way to our future. And finally, we could indulge in ways to firewall, fake and hack RFID tags, technology changing skin and food, as well as the great Vint Cerf and HIStory on the future of the Internet - or should I say the InterPlaNet?

The whole conference was a great experience of thinking outside the box, letting ideas flow, designing the future and using technology in new ways. And if you want to get some impressions, you can actually view and listen to all videos of all the talks right now - a Swiss TV station made them available within probably about half an hour after the talk was held, which is also pretty cool, I think. ;-)

After this experience, I'm pretty sure I'd like to go to such a conference again, maybe even Lift10 next year?

Entry written by KaiRo and posted on February 28th, 2009 22:20 | Tags: future, lift09, Mozilla, travel | 2 comments | TrackBack




from Spain

Somehow, I don't know
3 great days at Geneva, I'll try to translate my article about the talks. I've used mozlift09 tag for the photos I've been uploading at Lift:

2009-03-01 00:48

Tony Mechelynck

from Brussels, Belgium

Well, we do have space ships, only they're so expensive that only a few governments can afford them, and for only a handful of people at a time. At least (and contrary to what SF often pictured), they're used only for science, not for war and conquest. Some of them do have their commercial aspects, as when they are used to post telecom satellites, but those are usually unmanned (automatic) IIUC.

We haven't got flying cars, but that means we also haven't got flying car crashes. OTOH everyone, including lower high school pupils hardly (or not yet) out of puberty seems to be talking into a soap bar held against his or her jaw while walking, and, more preoccupying: some parents seem unable to leave their kids in kindergarten without being able to reach them instantly any second, and some prisons are so overfull that more and more prisoners are let into the outside world with ankle bracelets to check that they stay at home or don't move farther out than the judge ordered. "Big Brother is Watching You" indeed.

And then, which SF author could have imagined that instantaneous worldwide mail and chat would mean omnipresent undesired bulk and commercial instant-mail, usually advertising get-rich-quick swindles, porn tools, quack-pharmacy remedies, and the like?

Omnipresent robots haven't got the shape or the intelligence described in SF novels, but they're there too, mostly in the shape of household tools as yet. And just compare the computers sitting on our laps and desks with the mainframes of 40 years ago! In 1969 I started working on a mainframe bigger than my present apartment, with 128k 6-bit characters of memory and a speed of 667 kHz. Only universities could afford significantly bigger and faster ones at the time, at least in my country. Nowadays the 2 gigabyte 1.2 GHz single-core job under my desk is slow, outdated, sitting in too big a box (as measured in centimetres or inches) for its limited capabilities... And I had to staunchly counter the efforts of the phone company who wanted to have me get Internet TV as well. They couldn't understand that TV doesn't interest me, I have an AM/FM radio next to my computer screen, I'm subscribed to a daily newspaper (yes, written on paper, that kind of thing still exists) and I won't take anything more. Call me old-fashioned if you like.

We are indeed living in what used to be the future, and its emergence was so gradual that most people don't even notice it.
2009-03-01 01:36

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