PopTech Blog

This week in PopTech: Mythologies of the not yet, building with biology and why things bounce back

There's always something brewing in the PopTech community. From the world-changing people, projects and ideas in our network, a handful of this week's highlights follows.

If you'd like to receive a stream of these updates (and more) throughout the week in real time, follow us on TwitterTumblrFacebook, sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the PopTech blog.

Image: Ignacio Diez

Watch now: Kári Stefánsson on decoding genetics

Dr. Kári Stefánsson is recognized as a leading figure in human genetics who studies the fuzzy relationship between genetic mutations and environmental factors. “Where is the line of distinction between nature and nurture? Where is the line of distinction between genes and environment? It really doesn’t exist.”

Watch now: Steve Lansing on Bali’s efficient water temples

Steve Lansing, a senior fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, discusses the Byzantine system for the distribution of water from a volcanic lake in Bali to over two hundred farming villages. It’s worked since the 12th century, it’s egalitarian and it’s still sustainable. “It’s one of the few functioning, ancient democratic institutions that we know about. It’s kind of beautiful.”

Watch now: Margrét Pála on educating children differently

Margrét Pála is a preschool management specialist in Iceland who advocates sex-segregated classes, natural play material instead of conventional toys, and a long-forgotten belief in discipline to develop optimism, courage and resiliency in young children. “Feel the cold! I even take them into the snow -- and then the lava. Scream a little bit! But continue! And enjoy it!”

New speakers added to PopTech Camden lineup!

PopTech is thrilled to announce a new round of speakers added to this year’s convening in Camden, Maine. New presenters include a civil rights leader and public health advocate, an epidemiologist who studies how traumatic events alter population health, and a former bank-thief-turned-neuroscientist who has shown how to project patients' thoughts onto a screen in front of their eyes by implanting electrodes deep inside their brains.

Our focus this year is on resilience: How do we become more resilient as individuals? How do we become a more resilient nation? What makes one institution capable of handling disruption while others collapse in the face of crisis? Other speakers include a distinguished Harvard professor who was told she'd never read or write, an expert on the innate human ability to survive trauma who has turned her attention to education reform, and an ecologist who combines biomechanics and paleontology to bolster coral reef survival. Each of our speakers bring unique expertise and fresh perspective to this important conversation.  

You'll enjoy three days of riveting presentations as well as quality interactions with your fellow participants. From workshops to randomly assigned lunches, wine and cheese gatherings to structured meetups, you'll engage with a wide array of fascinating people. Nobel Laureates, social innovators, designers, business leaders, scientists, and researchers are just a few of the types of individuals you’ll meet.

This year’s convening will be held October 17-20 in Camden, Maine, recently voted by Down East magazine readers as Maine’s prettiest village. Watch this video for a glimpse of what to expect. Join us for a special experience at PopTech during a beautiful time of year when the leaves change from green to gold.  

Meet the latest presenters to join the PopTech Camden speaker lineup:

  • Ken Banks, founder of kiwanja.net, leverages mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in the developing world. His most recent project, Means of Exchange, uses everyday technology to promote the use of local resources. 
  • Moran Cerf is a neuroscientist who has shown how to project patients' thoughts onto a screen in front of their eyes by implanting electrodes deep inside their brains and reading the activity of cells. Oh, and he used to rob banks.
  • Jason Hackenwerth creates stunning, large-scale, vibrant installations made with latex balloons that sometimes look like a cross between a rainbow-colored space amoeba, a floating internal organ, and a psychedelic dream. 
  • Peter Kareiva is the chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Kareiva is often noted for his emphasis on nature’s resiliency rather than its impending doom.
  • Steve Lansing is a senior fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. He is working to help preserve the Byzantine system for distributing water from a volcanic lake in Bali to over two hundred farming villages. 
  • Jennifer Leaning is a doctor who conducts research on human rights and international humanitarian law in crisis settings. 
  • Ann Masten studies resilience in human development and how to promote success in young people exposed to poverty, homelessness, migration, disaster and war. 
  • Aaron Shirley is a doctor and civil rights leader who in 1965 became the first African-American to take a pediatrics residency at the University of Mississippi. 
  • Jay Silver invents cool stuff. He invented Makey Makey, a kit that allows users to turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet, like creating a working piano out of bananas. Time magazine named one of his inventions “Top 15 Toys for Young Geniuses.”
  • Jer Thorp is a data artist in residence at the New York Times who explores the boundaries between science, data, art, and culture. His work making sense of the deluge of information we are inundated with has appeared in the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.
  • Julia Watson is an Australian landscape architect who researches sacred ecology, biological mimicry and ecosystem adaptations of traditional and indigenous peoples. Along with PopTech presenter Steve Lansing, Watson is involved in an effort to preserve an ancient water distribution system in Bali.

Watch now: John Thackara on the end of endless growth

Social critic John Thackara argues that the current human paradigm of endless growth is obviously unsustainable, so we should consider the brilliance of the Brazilian Jequitiba tree, which soaks up four tons of water a day. “I am a proper tree hugger, as well as a lichen hugger.”

This week in PopTech: Synth hacks, life design and personal analytics reports

There's always something brewing in the PopTech community. From the world-changing people, projects and ideas in our network, a handful of this week's highlights follows.

If you'd like to receive a stream of these updates (and more) throughout the week in real time, follow us on TwitterTumblrFacebook, sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the PopTech blog.

Image: Wolfram Alpha

Watch now: Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin on empowerment through resilience

Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, explores how resiliency can empower even the most destitute and vulnerable communities. “When the World Bank was planning to invest $100 million dollars in upgrading the slums in Nairobi, these slum-dweller leaders were represented at the table.”

Watch now: Eben Upton makes Raspberry Pi

Eben Upton, founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, shows how he is hooking a new generation of kids on computer programming. “I remember sitting down with my wife for dinner...and we had this sudden, appalling realization that we had promised 600,000 people that we would build them a $25 dollar computer.”

This week in PopTech: The battle for water and light in L.A.

There's always something brewing in the PopTech community. From the world-changing people, projects and ideas in our network, a handful of this week's highlights follows.

If you'd like to receive a stream of these updates (and more) throughout the week in real time, follow us on TwitterTumblrFacebook, sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the PopTech blog.

Image: NASA