A few months ago I was invited to volunteer on the Tech Crew for PopTech 2010. To say I was thrilled would be a gross understatement. This would be for me, I knew, an opportunity that could not be passed up.
PopTech is a unique innovation network – a global community of cutting-edge leaders, thinkers, and doers from many different disciplines, who come together to explore the social impact of new technologies, the forces of change shaping our future, and new approaches to solving the world’s most significant challenges.
Sounds cool, eh? My job at PopTech 2010 was to help the extraordinary people who would be speaking to prepare their slide presentations and get them up to either Adam backstage or to one of the laptops on the stage podium. I was honored to be able to meet many brilliant scientists, innovators, leaders, creatives and academics. It was, in a word, bliss.
One of my favorite people at PopTech 2010 was Alan Rabinowitz. Alan is the president and CEO of Panthera and a leading big cat expert. He and I discussed what he is doing to protect his beloved cats. We also had an interesting conversation about iPads and the future of books. He loves his iPad as much as I love mine. Alan is gracious and kind and passionate and I very much enjoyed our time together in the green room.
Another speaker I had the pleasure of talking to at PopTech is Marcia McNutt, Director of the United States Geological Survey. Marcia and I talked about how she runs such a large scientific organization, the failures and consequences of the Gulf oil spill and our beloved iPads. She is more beautiful, approachable and gracious than I would have expected from someone in her position. We were alone in the green room for a long while and had a wonderful conversation.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman spoke on the final day of PopTech. His speech about being confident in what we know, and what we do not, was simply amazing. One thing he said, in particular, had me scratching my head. He said that we do not know enough to be able to commit to atheism. This, I felt, was a bit too conciliatory. Atheism is a rejection of theism–the belief in a god who answers prayers and performs miracles. It is not adeism. Atheists do not dismiss wholly the possibility that there could be a god, and are generally open to any evidence that might support the god hypothesis.
After David’s question and answer session he returned to the green room. He was the last presenter of the conference. April Smith and the Great Picture Show was setting up for their performance. The green room was empty except for David and me. I congratulated him on his amazing presentation and asked him about his statement about atheism. The issue I had is entirely semantic (yet very important). David agreed that the trend toward secularism is good and necessary, and reiterated his position that we should all be open to new evidence, new ideas and new ways of thinking. He coined the term “possibilian.” I like that. He also said, quite obviously, that the three most important words in science are “I don’t know.” I agree. That is a stark contrast to the arrogance of religious dogmatism and faith.
Stephanie Coontz, an author Kirsten has blogged about, spoke at PopTech 2010. I was occupied with other presenters while she was speaking and didn’t get to watch. However, we did exchange emails several times before her presentation and I created her slides. She loathes PowerPoint. 🙂
There were so many wonderful and impressive speakers at PopTech 2010. I was fortunate to meet and speak to nearly all of them. The Technical Director of PopTech said I did a wonderful job and am now a part of the PopTech team.
All of the PopTech presentations were recorded will be available on the website. Check them out to be inspired, enlightened and stimulated.
For now, watch Reggie Watts. Reggie is incredibly talented and quite funny.