The morning starts with an exploration of "new frontiers" questioned by technological developments. Starting with the human-machine interface: where does the former end and the latter start? Kevin Warvick, the British "cyborg" researcher who had a microchip implanted into the median nerves of his left arm and, through that, linking his nervous system directly to a computer -- and through that to the Internet. The key aim of the experiment was to assess use of the technologies for disabled people, but the possibilities of extending our sensory range seem limitless.
I've already extensively blogged Kevin's work here. Just an update: his current research is about culturing neural tissues (neurons taken from rat brains) and building them into robots, hence creating computers with biological brains.
The next speaker was supposed to be Henri Markram, who leads the Blue Brain project that the EPFL in Lausanne is conducting with IBM to simulate the functioning of all brain cells -- one of the most important scientific experiments in the world today (in the picture right, a "forest of neurons", a minute fraction of the cells and connections within the circuitry of the neocortex). Unfortunately Henri had to cancel.
Holm Friebe and Philipp Albers are co-founders of the Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur, which translated from German means literally "Central Intelligence Agency". They describe it as a socialistic-capitalist firm, and their job is to explore new forms of cooperation and collaborative work in today's society. A lot of people are unhappy with their organizations and the work conditions they find. How do you integrate individuals with a strong sense of self, who aren't comfortable with hierarchical routines? The two speakers suggest an approach called "hedonistic company" and offer "seven (plus) rules of working together professionally and still stay friends":
- The 7 "no": no office, no employees, no fixed costs, no pitches, no exclusivity, no working hours, no bullshit.
- Work-work balance: between internal projects and client projects
- Instant gratification: use money as incentive and distribute profits immediately after job is finished.
- Pluralism of methods: find technical solutions for social problems. Use online tools of collaboration instead of meetings if possible.
- Fixed ideas: live up to your intellectual obsessions and dark desires at work. Don't hesitate to polarize (or offend people) if necessary.
- Responsibilities without hierarchies.
- The power of procrastination: Don't try to be too efficient. Good ideas will adapt and catch on even if you neglect them for a while. There is a darwinism of ideas.
- Bonus rule: Marketing by feuilleton: no advertising, no PR. Do something interesting and press coverage will come to you.
Dutch designer Mieke Gerritzen talks about nature becoming culture -- cyborgs, but also man-made islands, cellphone antenna trees, designer cats and featherless chicken (photos below) and the hybridization of everything. What she calls "next nature".
Finally, in the "open stage" (sessions picked by the audience) Henriette Weber-Andersen talks about "community marketing". Kushtrim Xhakli, young entrepreneur from Kosova, discusses a project to develop a national education and training portal for technology teachers.