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Autumn in Camden, Maine

I’m up here in Camden, Maine for the 2.5-day PopTech conference. It’s one of the best annual gatherings on the cultural and personal impact of technology. This year, it seems more science-oriented than in past years. Just heard from Peter Ward of the University of Washington about the various ways the world could meet its end: runaway nanobots, nuclear war, asteroid impact. Makes my own worries seem somewhat small.

I’m up here in Camden, Maine for the 2.5-day PopTech conference. It’s one of the best annual gatherings on the cultural and personal impact of technology.

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This year, it seems more science-oriented than in past years. Just heard from Peter Ward of the University of Washington about the various ways the world could meet its end: runaway nanobots, nuclear war, asteroid impact. Makes my own worries seem somewhat small.

Eventually, Ward said, if we humans last long enough, the sun will turn into a red giant and envelop the earth. But until then, “we can bio-engineer our way out of” catastrophic climate change. Ward seemed to support the Kyoto Treaty, took a few shots at President Bush for ignoring it, and said that we dont know much about how our planet’s thermostat works — even though our survival depends on keeping earth’s temperature within a pretty narrow range.

I don’t want to attempt a Heath Row-style verbatim transcript of the event. But I will post another report later in the weekend.

One thing I have noticed at the last two technology events I’ve been to — neck-mounted digital devices. I was at a wireless event at Dartmouth last week, and some of the organizers were wearing Vocera IP phones on a lanyard around their necks. The phones tapped into Dartmouth’s near-omnipresent WiFi network. (Until their batteries died.)

Here, every attendee was issued a digital nametag made by nTAG. Once loaded with some of your personal information, they communicate via infrared with other attendees when you get close to them, letting you know that the two of you went to the same college, or have a shared hobby. Neat, but the tags are a bit too large and heavy. And at both events, the big impact that these neck-mounted devices had was to facilitate bonding among attendees, who spent a lot of time complaining about them.

Also: Cluetrain Manifesto co-author David Weinberger is here doing a much better job of blogging from the conference than I am.

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