PopTech Blog

Not a fan of conferences? Nick Martin thinks PopTech will change your mind

Our 20th anniversary gathering, PopTech: Culture Clash, is less than a month away. In anticipation, we're asking members of the PopTech community to share with us how they first ended up at PopTech and why they return to Camden, Maine every October. First up is Nick Martin, a 2013 PopTech Social Innovation Fellow and PopTech board member. 

When was your first PopTech and how did you end up in Camden?
I first came to PopTech in 2013 when I attended as a Social Innovation Fellow. I came across some PopTech stage talks online sometime in 2008 and discovered some of my now heroes like Ken Banks, Heather Fleming, Erik Hersman, Jacobo Quintanilla, and Matt Berg. It had always been a dream of mine to be a Fellow. In 2010 I started my organization TechChange and set out to build a new model for training and online learning for the social sector. After some encouragement from alumni Fellows, I finally applied to be a Fellow myself. Since then, it’s been an amazing ride and I’m so grateful to have found such a welcoming and wonderful community.

What made PopTech different from other innovation conferences you've attended?
I generally hate conferences – the endless panels, speakers reading their speeches word for word, mind-numbingly bad food and forced networking hours. PopTech is an experience more than a traditional conference. The quality of the people, the charm of Camden, and the truly amazing community dating back 20 years -- it’s unique and not-to-be-missed. 

Favorite PopTech memory to date:
Well, obviously it was really fun to be able to give a stage talk about online learning as part of the Fellows program,  but some of my favorite memories are...

  • An impromptu trip to the Rocky Maine coastline with fellow Fellows Jon Wilker and Nicole Van der Tuin to look at barnacles. In addition to being a PopTech Science Fellow, John is one of the world’s foremost experts on underwater adhesion.
  • A one-on-one sit-down with famed social enterprise blogger and critic Kevin Starr and having him tell me that my business model, was “...not that bad.” :)
  • A hilarious conversation with one of the band members of Arcade Fire (Richard Reed Parry) about my teaching days -- specifically when one of my former students passed off some of the band’s song lyrics as their own for a poetry assignment.
  • Critiquing speaker's Power Point slides with presentation legend Michael Duarte.
  • The entire Fellows program.
  • And so many of the talks including Paola Antonelli, Maira Kalman, Shah Selbe, Fred Swaniker, and Giorgia Lupi. (I now use her Dear Data project as an assignment in the courses I teach.)

Three (or more!) reasons why someone should attend PopTech:

  1. This is the best line-up of speakers we’ve had in years. Hands down. It’s so exciting to see the breadth and caliber of people and ideas represented.
  2. But don’t just come for the speakers. Come for all of the unscripted, hilarious, and deeply moving moments that take place on the ride up to Camden, in the opera house balcony, on the street, in the coffee shop, over lobster rolls, etc. You won’t find so many incredible people in one place at any other point of the year.
  3. My brother, Chris Martin, one of the the world’s leading scientists who teaches chimpanzees and orangutans how to play video games, will be there. I mean come on, how cool is that!

We ask speakers this question so we need to ask you, too. Do you karaoke? If so, go-to song? (Background: On Thursday and Friday nights at the conference, you'll find PopTech participants at the local Camden bar for quality bonding over pool and of course, karaoke.)

  1. "Escape" by Enrique Iglesias (in Spanish
  2. "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler. 
  3. "Genie in a Bottle" by Christina Aguilera. 

David DeSteno on using gratitude and compassion as tools for pursuing success

This year marks our 20th anniversary in bringing together people from all over the world to explore the ideas, people, and projects that are shaping the future. The countdown is officially on, and we can’t wait to welcome these wildly talented speakers into the PopTech community. Until then, we’ll give you a peek inside their eclectic worlds. Join us October 20-22 at PopTech: Culture Clash to meet them in person.

Meet the speaker: David DeSteno is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, where his work centers on examining how emotions shape social and economic decision-making, as well as on how moral emotions like gratitude and compassion can be leveraged at the individual and societal levels to enhance human flourishing. 

Tell us about your forthcoming book, “Emotional Success.”
Everyone agrees that a key ingredient of success is the ability to be future-oriented: to delay gratification, to persevere in the face of difficulty, to be willing to work hard. But it's in how to do that -- how exactly to cultivate a gritty tenaciousness -- that I think we as individuals and as a society have gone astray. If you look at major thought magazines, the bestsellers in your local bookshop, or even what kids are taught on Sesame Street, it's always a version of the same message: perseverance and self-control come from using reason and willpower (or what's termed executive function) to tamp down emotions. But as someone who has spent decades studying emotions and the brain, I'm here to tell you that this view isn't only incorrect, it's damaging -- damaging not only to our ability to reach our goals, but even to our health and psychological wellbeing. In “Emotional Success,” I'm setting out to show not only how relying on reason and willpower to reach your goals can set you up for failure -- as in reality, both these faculties are pretty fragile -- but also how doing so can lead people to pursue success in ways that can shred social relationships. The best way to develop self-control, perseverance, and resilience is to use specific emotions as tools, not as states to be avoided. Emotions like gratitude and compassion automatically make us value the future, and in so doing, make us willing to accept sacrifices in the moment that will lead to greater rewards in the future. But there's an added bonus. Regular cultivation of these states won't only help you work harder, save more, eat better, and the like, but will simultaneously build ties to others -- ties that will protect your mind and body from the ravages of loneliness. Using states like gratitude and compassion to grow self-control and perseverance will help ensure that at the end of our days, our eulogy virtues will be as strong as our resume ones.

What are you working on at the moment?
Besides my new book, I'm working on two types of projects. The first is a series of experiments meant to shed light on how and why the mind feels compassion for others. Figuring the answers to that puzzle will help us design scalable interventions -- something I feel is necessary as societal levels of empathy and compassion keep dropping. The second is a series of workshops meant to help scientists learn how to write for the public (e.g., Op-Ed's, feature articles for thought magazines, etc.).

Describe your immediate reaction to the theme of “Culture Clash”:
Brilliant! We're in the midst of so many clashes right now, some based on ethnicity, others on gender, others on political or religious ideology -- the list goes on. Isolation isn't the answer. Walls won't solve problems. We need safe spaces to openly share views, not safe spaces that encourage us to hear only what we want. In Culture Clash, what I hope we'll find is a sharing of ideas with openness, empathy, and respect. In my view, that's where the best solutions will come from.

What books are on your nightstand?
Notes from my editor! I have to finish this book or I'm in big trouble...

Who are you excited to hear speak at Culture Clash?
That's a tough one. It's an amazing line-up. If I had to pick one, I guess it would be Alan Alda. As I noted above, I'm working with colleagues on developing workshops to help scientists communicate more easily with the public. I know Alan is a leader in this type of endeavor, so I'm looking forward to learning more about his ideas and approach.

My superhero power would be:
Gratitude and compassion -- they make everything else that seems difficult easier. 

What advice would you give your younger self?
Patience. 

As you might remember, we like to karaoke at PopTech. Are you in? Go-to song?
You better hope not. I couldn't carry a tune for all the money in the world.  

Actress Carly Chaikin of Mr. Robot & neuroscientist Moran Cerf to host Culture Clash

We are thrilled to announce the hosts of PopTech’s 20th anniversary, PopTech: Culture Clash! Actress Carly Chaikin, star of the Golden Globe award-winning and Emmy Award-nominated show “Mr. Robot” will take the stage with neuroscientist and business professor, Moran Cerf.

As the first pair of co-hosts in PopTech’s history, together they will navigate an array of topics including politics, culture, sex, communication, science and art.

Actress Carly Chaikin, notable for her role as Darlene, one of the leaders of an underground hacking movement in “Mr. Robot,” has become a role model for young female coders. Carly was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award and Teen Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role, and is an ardent supporter of women in tech. This October, she’ll join forces with real life hacker-turned-neuroscientist, Moran Cerf.

Moran Cerf is a professor of neuroscience and business at the Kellogg School of Management, where he studies decision-making and behavior in economic contexts. His curiosity for understanding the brain and human behavior came from his decade-long career as a hacker, breaking into top financial organizations and governments to test their security.

We’re also excited to add two incredible speakers to the program: April Reign, creator of the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and challenger of the lack of representation of marginalized communities in Hollywood and beyond; and human behavior scientist Jon Levy, who studies influence and adventure, and applies neuroscience and psychology research to economics and biology.

Presented by WIRED, PopTech: Culture Clash is taking place at a moment when an exploration of the global challenges and possibilities that will shape our future has never been more relevant. Join us for a not-to-be-missed convening of community, breakthrough ideas and impact. 

PopTech is only five weeks away—don’t wait—order your tickets

PopTech is 6 weeks away - book your lodging!

With summer in the rearview, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about your plans for the fall. Hopefully, these plans include coming to Camden for PopTech: Culture Clash! Accommodations are filling quickly between the PopTechers and the leaf peepers so the sooner you can make your reservations, the better. To help you streamline the process, we’ve pulled a few options below for various budgets and needs. Many hotels block out dates online as to save them for PopTech participants. With that in mind, we suggest you talk to the hotels directly to book your rooms, but if you need any assistance don’t hesitate to reach out to us at registration@poptech.org. See you soon!

Walking Distance
Camden Windward House (877-492-9656)
3 minute walk to the Camden Opera House
$162 (Breakfast included)

Camden Riverhouse (800-755-7483)
3 minute walk to the Camden Opera house
$199-$249 (Breakfast included)
3 night minimum

The Inns at Blackberry Common (800-388-6000)
6 minute walk to Camden Opera House
$149-$199 (Breakfast included)

Camden Harbour Inn (800-236-4266) 
7 minute walk to the Camden Opera House
$615-$1295 (Breakfast included) 

Driving Distance 
Birchwood Motel (207-236-4204)
6 minute drive to the Camden Opera House
$119-150 (Breakfast included)
10-20% discounts available depending on length of stay

The Claddagh Motel & Suites (800-871-5454)
10 minute drive to the Camden Opera House
$89-$159 (Breakfast included)

Inn at Sunrise Point (207-236-7716)
8 minute drive to the Camden Opera House
$375-459 (Breakfast included)

Ripples - Inn at the Harbor
15 minute drive to the Camden Opera House
$160-250
10% discount for PopTech participants 

House rentals
If you’re traveling with a group, be sure to check out Airbnb and Camden Accommodations for house rentals in Camden and surrounding areas. Call 800-344-6090 or email info@camdenac.com for information.

Photo credit: Roman Boed via Creative Commons license.  

Esther Perel and the relationship questions to which we can all relate

This year marks our 20th anniversary in bringing together people from all over the world to explore the ideas, people, and projects that are shaping the future. The countdown is officially on, and we can’t wait to welcome these wildly talented speakers into the PopTech community. Over the next two months, we’ll give you a peek inside their eclectic worlds. Join us October 20-22 at PopTech: Culture Clash to meet them in person.

Meet the speaker: Psychotherapist Esther Perel is recognized as one of the world’s most original and insightful voices on personal and professional relationships. She is the bestselling author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, translated into 26 languages. Fluent in nine of them, the Belgian native now brings her inclusive, multicultural pulse to The State of Affairs: Cheating in the Age of Transparency (forthcoming, HarperCollins). The New York Times, in a cover story, named Esther the most important game changer on sexuality and relational health since Dr. Ruth.

You’ve given a number of talks and lectures and spoken to countless people over the years. Are there particular questions you’ve received during this time that have stuck with you and/or inspired any of your current or future work?
I receive so many incredible questions every day. The most interesting to me right now are the questions that pertain to:

  • The crisis of male identity and the making of modern masculinity
  • Parenting in the age of perfection / the struggles of millennial parents
  • How digital technology is affecting relationships today and in the future
  • What does relationship accountability mean in an era of swiping left or right
  • What will be the new monogamy?
  • Is there hope for marriage?

What are you working on at the moment?
There are many exciting projects on my plate right now:

  1. Working on my new book: The State of Affairs: Cheating in the Age of Transparency (due out fall 2017 with Harper Collins)
  2. Producing a new original audio series with Audible called Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel (season 1 out early 2017)
  3. Developing a new talk on the Erotics of Branding in Design and Relationships
  4. Just launched two online workshops called Rekindling Desire and Connection & Passion
  5. I am about to lead my first retreat for entrepreneurs on co-founder relationships this November in Colorado.

Describe your immediate reaction to the theme of “Culture Clash”
The tension between convention and innovation.

What books are on your nightstand?
Le Paradoxe Amoureux: Pascal Bruckner
Du Sexe en Amérique: Nicole Bacharan
All He Ever Wanted: Anita Shreve  

Best song, band, album, or podcast you’ve recently heard:
Bombino from Niger.

Who are you excited to hear speak at Culture Clash?
Anyone who will spark my curiosity.

My personal mantra is:
Blend fun, meaning and action.

Where do you reach for inspiration?
Travel, art, music, friends.

What advice would you give your younger self?
You cannot do what you want and at the same time want everyone to love you.

We like to karaoke at PopTech. Are you in? Go-to song?
The Beatles.

Nobel Laureate John Mather on planet-hunting giant telescopes and discovering what nobody has yet imagined

This year marks our 20th anniversary in bringing together people from all over the world to explore the ideas, people, and projects that are shaping the future. The countdown is officially on, and we can’t wait to welcome these wildly talented speakers into the PopTech community. Over the next two months, we’ll give you a peek inside their eclectic worlds. Join us October 20-22 at PopTech: Culture Clash to meet them in person.

Meet the speaker: Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather is the Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The JWST, planned for launch in 2018, will extend the discoveries of the great Hubble Space Telescope, reaching farther back in time, farther out into space, to show us how the expanding universe led to galaxies, stars, planets, and the possibility for life on our tiny Earth. 

What are you working on at the moment?
My main job is to work with the science and engineering teams for the James Webb Space Telescope, to make sure that it functions beautifully in space, and that the scientific world is fully prepared to use it. I also help think about possible new observatories for NASA, ranging from far infrared wavelengths (still almost unexplored) to planet-hunting giant telescopes, to new ways to hunt for gravitational waves.

The James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018, has a number of incredible mission goals, including searching for the first galaxies or luminous objects formed after the Big Bang and investigating the potential for life in planetary systems, including our own Solar System. Are there any missions in particular that you are most looking forward to exploring?
For the JWST mission I think the most exciting possibility is that there’s something out there that nobody has yet imagined. We have been surprised over and over in astronomy, whenever we build new and more powerful equipment. Perhaps there is a kind of galaxy that was formed in the early universe, but no longer exists. Perhaps there are planets a lot like Earth out there, but still bizarre and different.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in regards to human presence in space?
We have to breathe, we have to eat, we need gravity to stay healthy, and we don’t do well when we’re bombarded by cosmic rays. All of those can be managed with good engineering, but so far we’ve only had to manage them close to home, at the Space Station, and on our brief but glorious trips to the Moon. When we take longer trips there are so many more ways for things to go wrong in a big way. But we know we can do it anyway.

What were you doing when you received the call that you had received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006? How did you react?
I was just waking up. I knew immediately that my peaceful life had just changed dramatically, and I would have new responsibilities. But the main thing was that our team would know their work had been recognized, and the whole world would now know what they had done and how important it is. 

Describe your immediate reaction to the theme of “Culture Clash”:
I’ve been hearing for decades about how the arts and sciences don’t mix well, but I really think that can change dramatically and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens at PopTech.

What books are on your nightstand?
I’ve got quite a bunch because I’ve started working on my own book and I’m collecting ideas. Our house is full of stacks of books; as Mark Twain said, “you know how hard it is to borrow bookcases." I’ve got one of my favorite physics books, "A Unified Grand Tour of Theoretical Physics” by Ian Lawrie. I’ve got "The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life” by Nick Lane, he’s fabulous. I’ve just bought "Herding Hemingway's Cats: Understanding how our genes work” by Kat Arney. And I’ve got some books on travel to Mallorca, because I’m planning a trip there shortly.

Best song, band, album, or podcast you’ve recently heard:
I subscribe to about a dozen podcasts, mostly about science: “Hidden Brain,” “The Life Scientific,” “Science Friday,” “Science Magazine,” “Scientific American.” I love “Freakonomics” podcasts because they’re full of surprises. I get the BBC “From Our Own Correspondent,” for a different take on the news. I love “TED Radio Hour/Ted Talks,” both for content and for style, as I think about how do to my own. I like “What It Takes”, a series of interviews with people who have overcome much to accomplish amazing things.

Who are you excited to hear speak at Culture Clash?
I’m especially eager to hear Jenna Wortham, since I’ve seen and heard her work before. I love Alan Alda for his work helping scientists communicate. And for the rest I’m eager to be surprised!

You’re hosting a dinner party. Who are your dream guests and why?
I’d be very interested to get together the Founders who wrote the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, to see what they think of their work, and how they might suggest modifying it. There’s a fabulous book called "Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different.” The author says several of the Founders were pretty surprised by the way their newly created system worked, especially how partisan it became. I’d be especially thrilled to talk directly with Ben Franklin since he was the architect of so many organizations that still exist today, as well as being a brilliant scientist.

My personal mantra is:
You can’t tell how far you can go, so just get started.

Where do you reach for inspiration?
Everywhere!

My superhero power would be:
Imagination to see possibilities.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Ask for help!

We like to karaoke at PopTech. Are you in? Go-to song?
Nope! I can’t sing a bit and I don’t know any songs.

Muhammad Zaman on using his love for politics and science to help the voiceless

This year marks our 20th anniversary in bringing together people from all over the world to explore the ideas, people, and projects that are shaping the future. The countdown is officially on, and we can’t wait to welcome these wildly talented speakers into the PopTech community. Over the next two months, we’ll give you a peek inside their eclectic worlds. Join us October 20-22 at PopTech: Culture Clash to meet them in person.

Meet the speaker: Muhammad Zaman is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor of Biomedical Engineering and International Health at Boston University. His current research is focused on developing robust technologies for high-value healthcare problems in the developing world, particularly in the area of maternal and child health. In addition to his research, Professor Zaman is actively engaged in improving access to quality engineering education, with a multi-disciplinary focus on innovation, in a number of countries in Africa and Asia. 

While most of your work is centered around biomedical research, your New York Times op-ed "Dreams of My Muslim Son" gave a view of your life from a different perspective. Do you see an intersection between your childhood love for American politics and justice with your career in the biomedical and global health industry?
For me, my love for science and love for politics comes down to doing my bit to improve the human condition and working for social justice. I am, indeed, fascinated by new discoveries and new ideas, but I am also eager to use them to help others, especially those who are voiceless, or have been rendered voiceless by our actions, all around the world. For me, it comes down to a single question of doing my bit to help the most vulnerable, regardless of who they are or where they live. For me, America has always stood up for these values of justice, social cohesion and fairness - and has given me a scientific platform to further strengthen this. Every now and then, when a crack may appear in that vision, I feel that I should do my best to mend that. My article in the New York Times was an effort to mend that crack wedged largely by bigotry, racism and vile anger - but it is very much driven by the same values that drive my science.

What are you working on at the moment?
Several projects are taking up my time. First, I am very involved in developing new technologies and solutions to detect substandard and counterfeit drugs in low and middle-income countries. These drugs cause the loss of life, financial damage and long-term drug resistance. It’s a global problem that affects the poor and the most vulnerable, including mothers and children. So this is a major project. I am also working on a book on this topic of poor quality medications around the world and what we can do to change that.

Another project, related to the first one, is identifying what the major barriers are for technologies to make impact in low-income countries. Why do so many technologies fail? Is it culture, capacity, corruption or some other “hidden” factors? How can we change that?

Our projects on understanding cancer are also continuing, where we are now focusing on understanding resistance to drugs and also why some communities such as African American and African communities are more vulnerable to specific cancers.

There are other projects as well that bridge many of these. Finally - a thrust in my work has always been to improve the quality of education, in particular higher education in engineering, in developing countries - for example, what would it take to have the Culture Clash in Malawi and not Maine? How do we get there? What can we do with education to help us get there?

Describe your immediate reaction to the theme of “Culture Clash”:
Growing up in Pakistan a culture clash for me, at a certain stage in life, meant clash of cultures in terms of social values - so the term has a special nostalgia associated with it. But I never experienced any culture shock - instead, I found a diversity of opinions, approaches and values. Finally, the biggest shock was about my own self - of things that I held to be true, of ideas that I had and how they were based on false premises and incorrect assumptions.

For me Culture Clash means something similar - a clash of various cultures, of theory and practice, of approaches focused to solve the problems of 1% and the 99%, of doing things that break these barriers of geography, time and space, and through this clash will emerge solutions that work for everyone.

What books are on your nightstand?
It’s more like a mountain of books. It reflects some of my recent trips. Wherever I go, I buy the local author books to get a sense of the local culture. They can be anything – fiction, classics to contemporary crime fiction, travelogues to history, interviews to autobiography. I was in the Netherlands recently so I bought this book called “The Hidden Force” that is about the Colonial attitudes of the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies, now part of Indonesia. It’s a remarkable book and made a huge impact on the Dutch population at the turn of the 20th century. I was in Pakistan recently so I am reading a travelogue about K2 and the base camp at the base of the second highest, and one of the most treacherous, peaks in the world. Also I am almost done with the book “Dinner with Mugabe” which talks about the life and the various events that shaped the presidency of Mr. Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

I am writing to you today from Australia so I have a bunch of books that I am reading right now, including a popular crime fiction series “Phryne Fisher” by Kerry Greenwood, a remarkable book about Tasmanian culture and history called “In Tasmania” by Nicholas Shakespeare, a historical fiction novel of the origin of Australian Football called “The Call,” and this modern Australian classic called “Cloudstreet” - which is just absolutely amazing.

There are a few more as well that are in the hill, next to the mountain, on my bedside table. 

Best song, band, album, or podcast you’ve recently heard:
There was a podcast called “Carlos Doesn’t Remember” that a colleague of mine from UC Riverside told me about. It’s very, very powerful and profound and talks about race, education and bias. It’s really good.

Who are you excited to hear speak at Culture Clash?
Oh this is a hard one - can I choose all of the above? Please?

You’re hosting a dinner party. Who are your dream guests and why?
The list is VERY VERY long - I will name just five here - three living and two deceased.

1) A very famous Pakistani poet - Faiz Ahmed Faiz, for his eloquence, magic with words and why he cared so much about the downtrodden.
2) President Carter - For his work post-presidency and what inspired him.
3) Niels Bohr - I think he was simply an amazing thinker, not just in science but well beyond it. The more I read about him, and how he helped save so many from the Nazis the more inspired I get about science and the true values of science.
4) Geraldine Brooks - I just love her books and her sense of history in her fiction. I have met her once at a library and I was just so mesmerized by her speech.
5) Malala Yousafzai - For everything that she stands up for.

My personal mantra is:
Work for those who I have never met and maybe will never meet. 

Where do you reach for inspiration?
Nurses and community health workers in distant places who care for the needy and the sick without any recognition or thought of reward. I have met so many that inspire me every day when I look at their work all over the world.

My superhero power would be:
Empathy.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Think harder and read more.

We like to karaoke at PopTech. Are you in? Go-to song?
I am the last person you want anywhere near karaoke. 

Jesse Carmichael of Maroon 5 on environmental responsibility and what inspires him

This year marks our 20th anniversary in bringing together people from all over the world to explore the ideas, people, and projects that are shaping the future. The countdown is officially on, and we can’t wait to welcome these wildly talented speakers into the PopTech community. Over the next two months, we’ll give you a peek inside their eclectic worlds. Join us October 20-22 at PopTech: Culture Clash to meet them in person.

Meet the speaker and performer: Jesse Carmichael, best known as a multi-instrumentalist, background vocalist, and founding member of the Grammy Award-winning group, Maroon 5.

What are you working on at the moment?
Currently I’m setting up my home recording studio and I am in the midst of rehearsals for the next Maroon 5 U.S. tour, which begins September 3rd.

You’ve done a lot of work with Reverb, which works with bands and artists to create programs that reduce the environmental impact of tours. How did you get involved? (Editor’s note: Watch this short video about Reverb’s work.)
We did some touring with Guster early in our career and became friends with their singer and multi-instrumentalist Adam and his wife Lauren, the co-founders of Reverb. We were stoked when they reached out to us to help our tours be more environmentally friendly and to put some people on the tour with us who would set up info booths with local volunteers and help spread the good word about environmental responsibility to our fans. 

One of the areas that Reverb focuses on is ending illegal logging, as many instruments are constructed from illegal timber or from practices that are harmful to the environment. You recently traveled with Reverb, Guster, and the Environmental Investigation Agency to the rainforests in Guatemala to learn about the good and bad of logging practices for instruments. What did you walk away thinking and feeling from that trip?
It was a very eye-opening trip to a beautiful country which has had some troubles with illegal logging and is now providing us with a successful model of community run logging businesses being able to reduce the amount of illegal deforestation and sustainably work with the forests to provide products to the rest of the world.

Tell us about your side project, 1863. Any plans for a second phase?
Yes, 1863 is a lifelong project…and each time I record a set of songs it’ll most likely be with a different group of collaborators and document a different phase of my life.  Stay tuned to 1863.com for updates! 

Describe your immediate reaction to the theme of “Culture Clash”:
I love Culture and I love the band The Clash so I’m all for it. But seriously, I think that wonderful new unexpected things can come from diverse cultures coming together to share their unique perspectives on the world and I like to stay away from perpetuating the energy of conflict because I think that there is always a win-win way to negotiate two different agendas. It does seem like there are a lot of polarized belief systems at play in our world today and I hope we can find the compromises that will transform those clashes into causes for celebration.

What books are on your nightstand?
1) “Neuromancer” by William Gibson
2) “Shamanic Journeying” by Sandra Ingerman
3) “A Wife of Noble Character” by Yvonne Georgina Puig
4) “Waking The Tiger: Healing Trauma” by Peter Levine
5) “The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature” by Matt Ridley

Best song, band, album, or podcast you’ve recently heard:
I Feel Free” by Brittany Howard…the cover of the Cream song produced by Blake Mills for the David O. Russell movie “JOY.”

Who are you excited to hear speak at Culture Clash?
Definitely excited to hear Rahzel and Nicole Prause and Esther Perel...and every speaker seems like they have an interesting subject to speak on. 

You’re hosting a dinner party. Who are your dream guests and why?
This question makes me want to give a shout out to my friend Jon Levy, who introduced me to PopTech, and who puts on fantastic dinner events called The Influencers. 

1) Björk: Because she is the essence of freedom and talent coming together in music.
2) Richard Linklater: Because his movies speak to so many parts of me.
3) Thom Yorke: Because I love him as a musician and a thinker and I love the way he is moved by sound.
4) Madalina Diana Ghenea: Because I just saw her performance in the movie Youth and was smitten by everything about her.
5) Francis Mallmann: Because his episode of Chef’s Table was so full of life and passion and it would be good for us to cook with him. 

My personal mantra is:
It’s not a contest.

Where do you reach for inspiration?
Nature and art.

My superhero power would be:
The ability to play anything I could imagine on any instrument.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t worry.

We like to karaoke at PopTech. Are you in? Go-to song?
I’m in...and will probably start with “Bust A Move” by Young MC.  

New speakers added!

PopTech: Culture Clash is only two months away! We’re thrilled to announce new speakers added to the lineup at our 20th anniversary gathering. 

Joining the diverse mix of perspectives you’ll hear in October include: David Ferrucci, award-winning AI researcher who built and led the IBM Watson team from its inception to its landmark success winning against the best Jeopardy! players of all time; Amy and Ryan Green, husband and wife duo who developed the videogame That Dragon, Cancer to re-tell their son Joel’s four-year fight against cancer through deeply moving, poetic and imaginative gameplay; Asperger’s Are Us, a hilarious comedy troupe consisting of openly autistic people whose precisely worded, dark, observational comedy is balanced with absurd humor; Wayne Kramer of Detroit rock group MC5 and co-founder of Jail Guitar Doors USA, which harnesses the experience of playing music to rehabilitate inmates; behavioral scientist Francesca Gino, whose latest research shows how conformity is costly to our wellbeing and to the organizations we are part of, as it lowers both productivity and innovation; and Revolution Messaging CEO Scott Goodstein, who brought his punk sensibility and online movement making prowess to Obama for America in 2008 and most recently was responsible for the extraordinary online fundraising during Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

This year we’re diving headfirst into the controversial issues infiltrating the news and our daily conversations. You will leave PopTech with a fresh perspective on the current global challenges and be inspired to consider new approaches for change on the ground. We look forward to seeing you in October! 

Nicole Prause on studying orgasms, defying critics, and ideal dinner party guests

This year marks our 20th anniversary in bringing together people from all over the world to explore the ideas, people, and projects that are shaping the future. The countdown is officially on, and we can’t wait to welcome these wildly talented speakers into the PopTech community. Over the next two months, we’ll give you a peek inside their eclectic worlds. Join us October 20-22 at PopTech: Culture Clash to meet them in person.

Meet the speaker: Nicole Prause is a sexual psychophysiologist who uses a combination of neuroscience, custom physiology instruments, and statistical scripting to answer questions about how orgasm forms, the effects of sex films on relationships, whether brain stimulation can alter our sex drive, and how clitoral stimulation from a partner may improve our general health. 

You're one of the few remaining sexual psychophysiologists in the USA due to the challenges of conducting research in this country. What are some examples of the challenges you’ve faced and why do you think they exist?
You are not permitted to have sexual images on computers purchased with federal grant money, so we are not permitted to study sexual images in this country. When I attempted to study orgasm at university, the ethics committee refused to approve the study on the basis that I would not remove the orgasm component without citing any safety or privacy concerns. Whenever I report positive aspects of sexuality, I receive personal threats and hate mail to my colleagues and myself from therapists who depend financially on treating negative aspects of sexuality. There are political, structural, and financial pressures that have forced this research out of the country.

In a similar vein, what drives you to continue to do your work in light of these challenges?
There are two main reasons I continue the work. First, people are being shamed about their sexuality for others' profit. I have a strong visceral response to social justice issues in this area. Second, the best way to get me to do something is to tell me not to do it. That's just personality!

What are you working on at the moment?
We are working on brain stimulation to alter sex drive, physical measurements of orgasm, monitoring the brain response during partnered genital stimulation, debunking myths surrounding sex "addiction", and using sexual response to improve depression symptoms.

Describe your immediate reaction to the theme of “Culture Clash”:
When I saw the theme was culture clash I immediately thought "well, that's why they called!" My job is at the crux of culture clash! 

What books are on your nightstand?
The Rise of Superman, because I am trying to understand how a group I am conducting research on understands "flow."

Best song, band, album, or podcast you’ve recently heard:
I love the weekly Savage Lovecast by Dan Savage, because he tries to integrate science and lead challenging discussions about our assumptions about sexuality in our culture...but I can't pick just one. For song, "My Chick Bad" is my jam before every race I run.

Who are you excited to hear speak at Culture Clash?
Rahzel and Alan Alda. I am totally fascinated by beatboxing and have never had a chance to talk to someone so focused on it about the genre. I also had no idea how involved Mr. Alda was in science advocacy and want to hear his vision for how we retain/regain accurate science communication with the public.

You’re hosting a dinner party. Who are your dream guests and why?
1) Paula Radcliffe: Marathon phenom with tremendous depth of skill, character.

2) Richard McFall: My undergraduate advisor who I still use to judge whether my work is important.

3) Greg Siegle: Close collaborator who brings bizarre, fantastic perspectives to every problem.

4) Eric Garcetti: Mayor of Los Angeles, there is much I do not understand about how to be effective in helping my community.

5) Michael Shermer: Scientist known for his skepticism

My personal mantra is:
Go! I ain't got time for personal mantras!

Where do you reach for inspiration?
The news. I like to keep up with current events and I am inspired by social justice issues around sexuality.

My superhero power would be:
X-ray vision. Do you know how much genital science I could do without worrying about consent?

What advice would you give your younger self?
Masturbate more.

We like to karaoke at PopTech. Are you in? Go-to song?
I will definitely go, I promise to only laugh at others if I sing too.