Jul 13, 2009
Nice campout at Google--with tyranosaurs
I spent the weekend with 200 other ubergeeks at the Googleplex, inventing then executing the agenda for the Sci Foo Camp 2009 un-conference. My own talk was on "The Rewilding: An Alternative to the Technological Singularity," and it was pretty well rececived by the tough crowd of intellectual heavyweights I pitched it to.
Other people who were there that weekend included Maureen McHugh (who has written some of my favourite SF and whom I finally go to mee!), and intellectuals/power brokers from diverse fields, such as George Dyson, Esther Dyson, Louise Leakey, Peter Diamandis, Elon Musk, Lee Smolin, George Smoot, Lawrence Lessig, etc. There was an early rumour that Bjork was supposed to attend, but she never materialized, at least not in any recognizable form.
Sessions included one on new data supporting an iminent mass extinction from global warming; spaceflight speculations by Musk and Diamandis; new findings in neurobiology and cognitive science, radical animal design, etc. Way too much for me to be able to attend them all, of course; but I'm familiar with that problem from our SciBarCamp experiments in Toronto. The Google campus was a good setting for the event, and they had built us a "holodeck" that ran Google Earth (and Mars) on a set of wraparound big-screen HD tvs. The food at the campus is excellent, by the way--and yes, they do have a tyranosaur on their lawn.
I met tonnes of people, and I'll catch up with you all individually rather than in this space. ...I guess, in trying to summarize how weird and wonderful the weekend was, I'll just give one example: there was a guy who'd brought a hand-held mirror that shows you your reflection unreversed. (No, it's not a device, it's just a mirror.)
Jul 06, 2009
I'll be attending Science Foo Camp 2009 this weekend. Should be fun
It's all set. I'll be flying out to San Francisco on Thursday to attend the latest in Google and O'Reilly's annual un-conferences. Science Foo Camp is an invitation-only event held for three years in a row now, in which participants evolve the theme and content of the conference on the spot. Spontaneous talks are given, side-discussions calve off from the main conference, and it's generally just a big 'ole idea free-for-all.
I have more ideas than I can possibly use for talks and symposia, but I'm sure I'll happily get sucked into other people's worlds. Very much looking forward to it.
Yes, this is an activity remarkably similar to the last two SciBarCamps I've helped organize and have attended here in Toronto; that's because SciBarCamp was deliberately modeled on Science Foo Camp. So I'll be going into the event with some notion of the flavour and results; but it's also going to be on an entirely different scale, and I'm ready to be surprised.
May 05, 2009
It came up real fast and with short notice, but it'll be great
SciBarCamp is a gathering of scientists, artists, and technologists for a day of talks and discussions. The second SciBarCamp event will take place at Hart House at the University of Toronto on May 9th, 2009, with an opening reception on the evening of May 8th. The goal is to create connections between science, entrepreneurs and local businesses, and arts and culture.
One of the topics we will be exploring this year is "Open Science", but we welcome any suggestions from participants. After all, in the tradition of BarCamps (see BarCamp.org for more information), the program is decided by the participants at the beginning of the meeting, in the opening reception on May 8th. SciBarCamp will require active participation; while not everybody will present or lead a discussion, everybody will be expected to contribute substantially - this will help make it a really creative event.
Attendance is free, but there is only space for around 100 people, so please register by sending an email to Eva Amsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your name and contact details. Please include a link to your blog or your organization's webpage that we can display with your name on the participants list.
Mar 23, 2008
Many photos taken--getting them off the camera is proving difficult
So I finally got to meet Sean Williams; he and I were on a couple of panels yesterday and today with Ken MacLeod, Robin Pen and Jonathon Strahan, talking about space opera (go figure!). Sean and I went for lunch together today (which is tomorrow for you reading this in North America) at a very nice Indian restaurant on the corner, and talked shop happily until my panel at 2:00 when I did a very interesting panel on "Painting the Future Green" with Zara Baxter, Margaret Dunlop, and Tiki, whose last name I didn't catch, a media analyst from the east coast.
I'd be uploading loads of photos to add to this post, except that my laptop has decided not to recognize SD cards, so I have to find a workaround to get them off my camera.
While we're waiting on that little technical glitch, here's a couple of previously uploaded shots: the entrance to King's Park, in downtown Perth, and a glorious sunrise taken in the countryside northeast of Geraldton.
Meanwhile, back in Canada, there's been heavy blogging activity around SciBarCamp. The buzz is building that we might do another, and people who were mildly interested before are now keenly curious. This was exactly the outcome we were hoping for.
Mar 16, 2008
A fantastic ending to a highly successful first camp. We plan more
The entire weekend went off with very few hitches--the worst being a bit of schedule crunch on Saturday, but nothing that actually stopped people from presenting. I took a few more photos, but at this point there's a lot of other people who had much better cameras than my phone, and who were much better photographers; so I'll just point you to the Flickr page where many of the pix have been collected.
If you'd like more detail about what we discussed, you can drop by the SciBarCamp website and look at the program schedules. We've encouraged people to blog about the event and to tag their entries with SciBarCamp, so you can track down a lot more about it at sites like technorati.
I'd like to thank everybody who had faith in us and came. I'd also especially like to thank the other organizers, Jen Dodd, Michael Nielsen, Eva Amsen, Lee Smolin, and Jamie McQuay. Jen and Michael were the instigators and they, Eva and Jamie did most of the work; I was just along for the ride, really. Jen and Jamie in particular spent their own money to make it all happen, and deserve special mention for it.
We've talked about whether we're doing another SciBarCamp; there's no reason why not, it's a scheduling issue more than anything. I hope the meme spreads, and that it becomes a regular in Toronto and beyond.
Just a blur. Here's some stuff that happened
I'll hopefully have a more detailed report about the conference later; suffice it to say that the first day was a roaring success. Here's some moments:
The morning sessions, held in Hart House's music room.
Proposals for talks, panels and discussions were posted upon these boards.
This was a surprise--we all poured outside to check out BlueSky's high-speed two-seater solar car.
Meanwhile, the robots were roving with little or no supervision...
While Melanie Swan and Darren Harnett (pictured), and Mark Tovey and I give an introduction to foresight studies and futurist techniques.
But there was much more, including participatory musical performances, discussions about the ethics of synthetic biology, the philosophy of the Chinese Room, brain imaging, consciousness studies, open source drug development, and a panel discussion with myself, Lee Smolin, and Robert J. Sawyer on the nature of time.
And that was just Day 1!
Mar 15, 2008
100+ self-starters crammed in one room. Order ensues
Well, the SciBarCamp's gotten off to a smashing start. Last night over 100 people showed up at the Debates room in Hart House and we kicked off the event with drinks, shmoozing, and the ad hoc creation of our program.
Above's a picture of the introductions period, with everybody saying who they are and what their interests are.
The scrum. Nobody was shy; it was a complete mix-up of enthusiastic and wildly diverse people.
I'll try to post the Saturday schedule later. My favourite proposed event so far is the "Interactive Salt Lick Sculpture." That should be interesting.