PopTech Blog

Know your rebels: Meet Adam Steltzner

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you’ll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: Adam Steltzner, Engineering Fellow at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and leading the development of the Sampling System for the Mars2020 project.

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I really like building trucks and camping in the Mojave and Death Valley back country. Building stuff with my hands forces me into intimate contact with my limits and takes me out of the theoretical and shoves me squarely into the practical. Building stuff by hand is hard and slow and so agonizingly real. It is great therapy for me.

What does being a rebel mean to you?
Following your vision regardless of how it is viewed by others.

What are you reading?
My overwhelmingly voluminous emails…

What are you listening to?
Sylvan Esso, my latest crush, St. Vincent who I had the good fortune of hanging out with at last years Smithsonian Ingenuity Awards, M83, some old school Phoenix and I am sort of stuck on Bon Iver.

What are you working on at the moment?
Landing on Europa, softening the suspension on my 1998 3/4 ton Cummins Diesel Ram 4x4 and raising a very willful 2 year old.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
My brilliant friend, Joe Palca.

Word association: Maine… 
Granite.

My rebellion soundtrack would be: 
Wide open desert vista and old school Air.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Enrico Fermi.

Best piece of advice you've ever received:
When one looks back on life, one remembers the great highs and the great lows, but the stuff in the middle fades away. Don’t shrink from striving for the great highs for fear of the great lows.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
No. 

Know your rebels: Meet Jessica Lawrence

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you’ll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: Jessica Lawrence, executive director of NY Tech Meetup (NYTM) 

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I inherited both a sweet tooth and a love of baking from my dad, who got his sweet tooth from his father and his baking gene from his mother. I like to bake everything from soft pretzels to butterscotch pie to blackberry lavender scones. When I travel I love exploring whatever baked goods are the local specialty. And I often look at the dessert menu before ordering dinner so I know how much room to save.   

What does being a rebel mean to you?
I think being a rebel means some of the traditional things we associate with the word: being willing to speak truth to power, questioning the status quo. It means choosing to do the thing that you believe in even when it’s not the socially acceptable choice. But I think it goes beyond simply rebelling against the external world – I think it can mean rebelling against your inner world as well. It means questioning the definitions you’ve created for yourself – the limits that you’ve placed on yourself through your own internal dialogue. Sometimes we keep living stories about who we are that we first wrote for ourselves in middle school or high school. Some story about how we are socially awkward or not good at math. That story doesn’t have to stay with you or define you for your entire life.

What are you reading?
I’m reading “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, “Wellbeing” by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, and I always keep something like a collection of Robert Frost poems or a classic Seth Godin book handy when I need an old friend. 

What are you listening to?
I’ve been listening to Beck’s new album Morning Phase and have been revisiting Paul Simon’s Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints albums – albums I remember dancing around the kitchen to with my parents when I was growing up. And my favorite non-music listening right now includes “This American Life,” “On Being,” “Good Life Project,” “99U,” and “The School of Life.”

What are you working on at the moment?
My day-to-day work centers around leading NY Tech Meetup, thinking about how we can best support a community that has grown rapidly over the past few years. I’m also looking at the bigger picture of the impact that technology companies have in the world: how do we harness technology for the most good, to benefit all of society, not just a select few? How do we innovate without creating collateral damage that counteracts the good? How do we build businesses that challenge us to be more human, that bring us to a high point of wellbeing, and enable us to tap into our full potential?

And as I little side project, I’ve also picked up pens, pencils, and markers and have started drawing and learning hand lettering. 

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech
I’m a big fan of “On Being,” so I’m especially looking forward to hearing Krista Tippett’s conversation with Courtney Martin and Parker Palmer

Word association: Maine... 
This might be a little unfair, but here’s my natural way to complete that sentence: “…is next to New Hampshire.” Maine has all the wonderful things typically associated with it but for me, whenever I hear “Maine,” I can’t help but think about my experience growing up in the great state next door. 

My rebellion soundtrack would be: 
A mix of The Clash, Girl Talk, Beastie Boys, Lauryn Hill, Queen, and Pharrell Williams might be just about right. 

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Martha Graham – I would love to know more about how she saw the world.  

Best piece of advice you've ever received:
My grandmother used to sit next to me at every family holiday meal. I was a picky eater, and usually had white turkey, white rice, and mashed potatoes on my plate at Thanksgiving and that was it. In her gentle and jovial way, she always pushed me to “try just a little bit” of the other foods on the table. I didn’t listen to her very well at the time, but that advice to just try something, to just take one little step forward, is advice that resonates with me now.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
Karaoke is not a typical activity for me, but that doesn’t rule it out.

Got FOMO? PopTech schedule is now live!

Today we’re excited to reveal the PopTech: Rebellion schedule! Coordinate your travel plans accordingly so you don’t miss your favorite speaker, the opening cocktail party, the Friday night bash and the Saturday finale.
 
There are only a handful of tickets left, so be sure to secure your spot ASAP at the Rebellion this Oct 23-25. See you in Camden. Show me the schedule!

Know your rebels: Meet Alec Ross

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you'll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: Alec Ross, leading expert on innovation; former senior innovation advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
Worked as a midnight janitor and on a beer truck in West Virginia.

What does being a rebel mean to you?
Taking incoming fire because you are bombing the right targets.

What are you reading?
The Director” by David Ignatius and “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline.

What are you listening to?
I'm using YouTube to re-live the music of the 1980s. It's cheesy and it makes me happy happy happy.

What are you working on at the moment?
A book about the industries of the future.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
Helen Fisher.

Word association: Maine…
October.

My rebellion soundtrack would be: 
Smashing Pumpkins' Gish.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Thomas Jefferson.

Best piece of advice you've ever received:
Live abroad.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
You don't want me near a karaoke machine.

John Maeda talks to "Innovation Hub" about design, tech, & PopTech

We're big fans of "Innovation Hub," a national radio program that features some of today's most creative thinkers. It's why we're excited to partner with them around PopTech: Rebellion! They will be joining and reporting from the Rebellion next month in Camden. Over the coming months, you'll see some of their amazing content cross-posted on the PopTech blog. To kick things off, they recently sat down with conference host John Maeda to talk all things design, tech, and of course —PopTech. 

John Maeda Designs the Future 
Read the original post on "Innovation Hub" here.  

Big, beige, boxy. 

The gadgets of the past probably weren't the most visually interesting — but what mattered was inside, the technology that no one had ever seen before. 

“Technology used to be the only reason you’d buy a high tech gadget. You wanted to know what was in it,” says John Maeda, a design partner at Kleiner Perkins, a venture capital firm that’s backed companies like Amazon and Google.

Maeda, who's an award-winning designer, has a foot in both the artistic and technological worlds. He’s the former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, but he also studied electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and worked in the MIT Media Lab (now run by Joi Ito).

It's a combination that makes him particularly well suited to today's tech landscape — and that's drawn him a huge following in Silicon Valley (and on Twitter, of course). 

“It used to be only a few people could make these things [gadgets], but now, everyone can make these things. So design’s become a differentiator."

But distinguishing between types of design is crucial, Maeda notes. There’s surface design - the sleek silver or candy-colored cases - and there’s deeper design.

“Real great design,” says Maeda,” isn’t about the wow effect, it’s about the after wow effect. You buy it, you bring it home, and after a month you’re like, wow.”

Tech companies themselves used to think of design as an afterthought, but up-and-coming businesses are starting to fully integrate programmers and artistic types.

Snapchat - which Kleiner Perkins recently invested in - is an example of a company that placed design at the core of a product. Its founders realized that people want an app that deletes messages soon after they're opened, reducing tech clutter in much the same way you might reduce clutter in your closet.

“In the past, you’d have technologists make a product and add design. Snapchat was done by hybrid people, people who design and code, so the concept is embedded in the technology.”

In late October, John Maeda (and we at Innovation Hub) will head to Camden, Maine for the annual PopTech conference. There, he hopes to think creatively about the future - what trends are shaping our world, where technology is headed, and how it's changing us as people.

Postcard from PopTech 18

PopTech is just around the corner and it's been exciting to bring together some old and new friends to the old (definitely not new, but still beautiful :-) opera house in Camden, Maine. There's a mood in the world around connecting design, technology, and people -- and there's no better place on earth than October 23 to 25 in one of the prettiest towns in the US with some incredible speakers mixed-in with a fantastic audience spanning the US and the world. I just spoke with WGBH's Innovation Hub Radio Host Kara Miller about why we want design more than ever in the digital era, and why being at PopTech 18 is an especially good idea right now.

Speakers at this 18th year of PopTech include: 

and the full list is right over here.

As of September 6 there are just a few seats left [registration link] -- hope to see you there, and if you aren't able to get a pass this year then definitely at PopTech 19! -JM


Know your rebels: Meet David D. Burstein

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you'll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: David D. Burstein, CEO and co-founder of Run for America 

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
Five years ago I began an effort to watch all of the greatest films ever made (numbering several thousand), and I have a little over 1,000 left to go.

What does being a rebel mean to you?
Questioning absolutely everything.

What are you reading?
Summer Meditations” by Vaclav Havel, “The Circle” by Dave Eggers, and “So Damn Much Money” by Robert Kaiser.

What are you listening to?
It’s summer, so the entire Van Morrison discography is on loop.

What are you working on at the moment?
Running Run for America, we’re trying to break gridlock in Washington and restore imagination and innovation into government by electing a new generation of hyper-talented leaders to office.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
Sarah Lewis, I think she’s brilliant, I heard her talk a few months ago and she blew me away. Ditto on Courtney Martin, am a big fan of hers, we have the same publisher and we’ve been trying to get together for a while and I think it’s finally going to happen at PopTech.

Word association: Maine...
Peaceful.

My rebellion soundtrack would be:
“Like a Rolling Stone” (Bob Dylan), “Jump” (Van Halen), “Satisfaction” (Rolling Stones), “You Can Get It If You Really Want” (Jimmy Cliff), “Stage Fright” (The Band), and “Rebel Rebel” (Bowie)…I had to.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Benjamin Franklin, he was the original American innovator and rebel.

Know your rebels: Meet Courtney Martin

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you’ll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: Courtney Martin, author and Solutions Journalism Network co-founder

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I'm really that interested in other people's stories; it's not bullshit.

What does being a rebel mean to you?
Staying awake.

What are you reading?
Astra Taylor's new book, “The People's Platform.

What are you listening to?
Krista Tippet's “On Being,” obviously. Also “99% Invisible,” Slate's “Culture GabFest, “Call Your Girlfriend,” a relatively new podcast by my homies Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, and the new Center for Investigative Reporting podcast, “REVEAL.

What are you working on at the moment?
Raising a human being, writing a book and a column, trying to convince journalists that it's our duty and privilege to write more about solutions, not just problems, finding the next TED Prize winner, living in a co-housing community, learning to say no earlier and with more grace, making applesauce etc.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
I'm psyched for everyone and ridiculously honored that I get to be in conversation with two of my mentors and heroes, Parker Palmer and Krista Tippett.

Word association: Maine...
My friend J. Courtney Sullivan's bestselling novel by that title.

My rebellion soundtrack would be:
"None of Your Business" by Salt-N-Pepa.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
James Baldwin.

Best piece of advice you've ever received:
I don't give advice; I ask questions so you can hear your own wisdom better.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
"Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson.

Introducing the 2014 Class of Bellagio/PopTech Fellows

This post is co-authored by PopTech president Leetha Filderman, and Ken Banks, founder of kiwanja.net and FrontlineSMS. Together they are co-facilitators of the 2014 Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program. 

We are pleased to announce the 2014 class of Bellagio/PopTech Fellows, a diverse group of designers, social innovators, technologists and writers with expertise in technology, global health, poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and informal sector economics. 


Sean Blagsvedt, Alexice Tô-Camier, Dominic Muren, Robtel Neajai Pailey, Solomon Prakash

This year's program is focused on rethinking livelihoods. Now more than ever, the world’s population is contending with a multitude of challenges: demographic shifts, environmental stressors, unrestrained financial capital flow, shifting political landscapes, emerging technologies, and changing economic growth patterns and labor markets – all of which are shaping the notion of what livelihoods look like today and may look like in the future. 

For two weeks this August the Bellagio/PopTech Fellows will convene at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy. We will collaboratively work to define the notion of livelihood in the 21st century, while simultaneously exploring the challenges, opportunities and complex interdependencies that will impact sustainable livelihood achievement in the coming decades.

Our goal is to initiate a conversation designed to inform and inspire global, national and local efforts to improve livelihoods. Conversations will be complemented and challenged by an incredible group of catalysts, which bring a diverse and unique set of insights to the table.

Areas of exploration will include an examination of the central tenets of livelihoods strategy, the interplay between livelihood productivity at national and individual level, and the opportunities offered by the often-opposing formal and informal sectors. We’ll look at the positive and negative impacts of technology on livelihoods, and how both global security (and insecurity) and the geopolitical landscape impact sustainable development goals. It would be impossible to have this kind of discussion without recognition of the environmental challenges facing the planet, so we’ll be looking at how climate change and other threats could impact livelihoods development now and into the future.


Members of the 2013 class of Bellagio/PopTech Fellows presenting at PopTech 2013

Following their immersion at the Bellagio Center, the Bellagio/PopTech Fellows will reunite in Camden, Maine at PopTech 2014: Rebellion, where they will present their work and explore opportunities for collaboration with the global PopTech network.

About the Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program:
In 2012, PopTech and the Rockefeller Foundation created a joint Fellows program that brings together small, interdisciplinary groups for a two-week immersion program at the Foundation's renowned Bellagio Center in Lake Como, Italy. Learn more about the inaugural class. 

The Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program is designed to be a unique incubator of unconventional collaboration around critical topics relevant to the lives of poor and vulnerable populations, and also serves as a laboratory to study the nature of collaboration itself as a profound tool for creative problem solving and solution development.

President Obama awards Krista Tippett National Humanities Medal

At PopTech: Rebellion this October, Krista Tippett of "On Being" will produce her national radio show live from the PopTech stage. She’ll lead a conversation with culture critic Courtney Martin and Quaker author and educator Parker Palmer around “spiritual technologies” – disciplines to ground outer life that matters. It’s inspired by the notion that rebels across the ages have changed the world but depleted their souls.

In addition to "On Being" previously winning a Peabody Award and Webby, Krista Tippett was awarded one of ten 2013 National Humanities Medals this week by President Barack Obama. The National Humanities Medals are awarded for outstanding achievements in history, cultural studies, cultural commentary, filmmaking, and historic preservation. The announcement states:

The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.

Previous winners include writer Joan Didion, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg

Congrats to Krista Tippett and the "On Being" team! Join us in October to meet her at PopTech: Rebellion

Image: On Being