Kevin Werbach is an independent technology analyst, consultant, and writer, as well as CEO of the Supernova Group . Werbach is a contributing editor of Release 1.0: Esther Dyson’s Monthly Report, and co-organizer of PC Forum. Previously, he served as Counsel for New Technology Policy at the Federal Communications Commission, where he helped develop the United States Government’s e-commerce policy. What follows is a partial transcript of his opening remarks at Supernova:
The real secret is that the only reason I do this conference is so I can meet people I only know from their reputation. There are a lot of interesting people here. All of this great technology allows us to enhance physical community, but it’s never a substitute for face-to-face interaction. You can’t only do it online. There’s a tremendous resource in this room. Everyone here brings something interesting to the conference. We can all learn something from each other.
What is this Supernova thing? I started with the idea of decentralization, a big long cumbersome word. Thinking about the most interesting trends in technology, there’s a constant theme: decentralization. That’s both a threat and an opportunity. It’s a threat to existing industries; it’s a challenge. But it also creates new opportunities. In astronomy, a supernova is what happens when a star blows up. It’s an ending, but it’s also a beginning. Supernovas are responsible for some of the processes that create new stars.
When astronomers probe some of the deepest mysteries of the universe, they need a reference point. A supernova is the standard candle and lens for answering some of these deep questions. That’s how Supernova works. We aren’t going to solve problems of the universe, but we are going to explore the intersection of business, technology, and culture.
In the beginning, there were people. People wanted to interact and get access to things and resources. Along comes the computer, a device, an intermediary. Computers are a way to interact with what we want to interact with. But there’s a problem. There are other people out there and other resources, and not everything is on a computer. Then there was the Net. That allows everyone, in theory, to get access to everything.
The Internet is not the end. It’s a starting point. What we really want is not a new kind of intermediate point. What we really want is everything to connect to everything else. Devices want to talk to other devices. People want to work with other people. We want to get the network everywhere so everyone can leverage the value of the network.
So in a way, we need to go back to the beginning. We need to get back so people are in the center. The challenge of technology is to get to this end point, where people feel like they’re in the center but they are always connected. Specifically, layers might be a model. They explain the deep structure of the content of this conference. At the bottom, you’ve got the communications infrastructure. Then there’s a logical layer of directories and identity. Above that is software. Then an interface layer, the APIs and semantics. And then there’s the content itself: Media and information. All of these layers are facing decentralization.
Thats our starting point. This will be a conversation of conversations, a network of networks, and a community of communities.