Saturday, March 14, 2009

SXSW Interactive: Bar Camp

Today was the official second day of South By South West Interactive, and I had the great fortune of attending some of the free workshops surrounding the highly expensive event at Bar Camp. As a luddite, I found this quite an edifying experience.

A lot of the information today was on social media and social networking. I did not take notes on the Facebook class, tho I probably should have, but frankly, I find Facebook and Twitter to be a necessary bore. I suppose I have what is called in the industry “social media fatigue”. The good news is that if you have more money than sense you can sign up for portals like OneSpot (for 150 clams a month after the initial trial period) as a highly personalized feed aggregating system, or TarPipe, to act as a distribution tool to get the word out to many of your sites at once. And, Augmented Reality is totally cool, but completely beyond my personal scope of techdom.

I met four guys, The Innovators Road Trip, who traveled the country to different corporations including Zappos, Maker’s Mark, and Ford Motor Company (to name a few) researching industry innovations. These guys are sweet and cool, and you really ought to check their stuff out. They work a lot using the iPhone and all that jazz to get the word out stat.

Denver Open Media presented on the use of Drupal to create an Open Media Project System. These great folks, whom I had the pleasure of working with during the DNC, are helping to open six new Open Media Stations throughout the US this year! Support ‘em if you can!

Prolly the coolest presentation that I saw was by this British dude that started RewiredState. These kids realized that the worst web sites out there are frequently run by the government. They decided ply geeks with beer to hack the websites and put up something better. They bought the British equivalent of $250 of beer and recruited about 100 geeks (geeks don’t drink much?) and hacked 30 government websites in 24 hours. A lot of stats, I know, but these kids really rocked the Kasbah, and you can too!

Now here comes the weird part. We were waiting to hear a presentation on live broadcasting, and were in the wrong place or it was canceled, I’m not sure. But what I saw and heard blew my freakin’ mind. These cats at Harvard are doing electron microscopic computer imaging of neuron patterns with the intent of creating the framework for greater capacity Artificial Intelligence. The crux of the so called biscuit is the resolution vs. the volume of data that can be obtained and thereby analyzed. The latest development is Ken Hayworth’s brain slicer, which works a lot like an apple peeler, and can slice cerebral cortex into a ribbon 1 millimeter in width by 20 nanometers thick, enabling the computer to roughly trace every neural connection in the brain. By breaking the brain into a neural map, it becomes a matter of engineering to create Artificial Intelligence that surpasses today’s exponentially. The only inhibitors to the creation of a super Artificial Intelligence are money and time. I wanted to ask the guy how much of his funding comes from the Military Industrial Complex, but as a pacifist, I chickened out.

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