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Can Geeks Save The World?

Posted on April 9, 2013 and read 2,569 times

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Olivier Vigneaux Can Geeks Save The World? Olivier Vigneaux
Managing Director
BETC Digital


sebastien Can Geeks Save The World? Sébastien Houdusse
Strategic Planner
BETC Digital

This year we were lucky enough to go to Austin, the Mecca of geeks and digital hipsters from around the world. SXSW is the place where people like us go wild over the next big thing. After all, it’s where Foursquare and Twitter really exploded, and where everyone present is desperately seeking the app of the day and the next super-service that can instantly change our lives.

But this model seems to have run dry. Do you remember Highlight, last year’s craze that was supposed to connect you with everyone else around the globe thanks to the power of geolocation? You don’t? Of course not, because this year, Highlight is so last season they stood there handing out free ice creams to pull in a crowd.

It is 2013 and something has changed. It’s almost as if people understand that the next big thing won’t be another mobile app or new gadget. Instead, more universal and important perspectives for the future of our planet, the future of mankind, are lying in the more esoteric opportunities digital represents.

This is what Elon Musk, founder of PayPal reflected on – and his talk was one of the most tweeted about this year. Whereas his former associate at PayPal, Peter Thiel, thinks that Silicon Valley has lost its way, that “we wanted flying cars and instead we got 140 characters”, Elon Musk tells us that the geeks can still make big things; we can still change the world, and maybe even “reinvent Humanity”.

Of course, this is pretty challenging, but here are a few thoughts on we think this perspective is probably not that overrated.

Firstly, because SXSW 2013 was all about the revenge of the physical world.

Digital is not only about ‘digital’ – it can make the real world smarter and better. Take 3D printing. Bre Pettis, CEO of Makerbot , was in Austin to present the Digitizer, a new version of its 3D printer that can literally copy any small object. You scan any object (a fork, a little plastic dwarf, and maybe a gun?) and Digitizer transforms it into a 3D virtual object – and prints it. This is a brand new approach to products because it enables anybody to make their own stuff. In a world where anybody can imagine his own objects and produce them at home, we can forecast a future where the traditional industrial processes will stay way behind us. Think about it. If I can produce whatever I want, maybe I will just stick to what I really need and avoid the superfluous. Brands in this new universe will have to fight even harder to survive and sell.

Digitizer1 Can Geeks Save The World?

This new world is one where interfaces tend to disappear in objects; where the best interface is no interface at all. See Leap Motion, for instance, a small object that can turn your computer into a Minority Report kind of device. Imagine the future, surrounded by a wealth of different objects you can interact with thanks to the smart device you have in your hand.

Secondly, this reinvention of humanity is not only about changing the real world, it is also about augmenting we humans who live here.

What if we were turned into omniscient beings, thanks to the research of Stephen Wolfram and its engine that can practically understand our natural language and answer all our questions? This is a dramatic change in our definition of what knowledge is. Imagine a world where anybody can answer any question thanks to the help of a Star-Trek-like computer. Science fiction is within reach. This change is also brought to us by Google Now, which gives us answers before we have even thought about the question.

Wolfram Alha Can Geeks Save The World?

In other words, we can now imagine ourselves as superheroes. Thanks to Google Glasses for instance, which can transform us into an X-Men wannabe within seconds.

Or have a look at Project Revel, one of the most thrilling projects from the Disney Research Lab in Pittsburgh revealed by Olivier Bau.

Project Revel enables we humans to change our touch perception and perceive additional layers of information through tactile feedback. How does it work? A small wearable object applies a weak electrical signal to your body, creating an electrical field around your skin. When touching an object, screen or even someone’s skin, you will feel a distinct tactile texture: imagine if you could touch an image of a wall and feel the texture of the stone. Or touch someone’s skin and feel something entirely different. The future applications are yet to be explored but they feel fantastic.

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Elon Musk shares his Martian dream with SXSW audience

It’s not over yet – geeks can go even further, because geeks want to take humans to another planet. This is the dream of the Space Hackers movement who have joined forces with NASA to help find better solutions more efficiently. And it’s also Elon Musk’s dream: he wants us to live on Mars – and he’s serious. He has created a new company called Space X to build reusable rockets. After all, planes are reusable; trains are reusable, so why not rockets? This could open a whole new era where travelling to space – and Mars – becomes accessible. At least, this is Musk’s dream: “I would like to die on Mars, not just on impact”.

Come on geeks! We can save the world.





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