PUSH: Day One

Here in the auditorium at the PUSH Conference. Last evening’s kickoff was a nice introduction for people to ease into the essence of what I’m expecting this conference to deliver.

I’ve already met people from major corporations (General Mills, Best Buy), the CTO of Dow Jones, a serial entrepreneur and key local technology leader (Dan Grigsby), a researcher from O’Reilly & Associates, Eric Utne (started the Utne Reader and now Earth Corps), folks from Minnesota Public Radio and many more.

That is what the conference is all about…just like other conferences I attend. The conference itself is useful and is most interesting as the focus of the event, but it’s the hallway and break conversations where the sparks fly. It’s the people. The perspectives. The energy of the people who are seeking to know more about what’s just beyond that membrane of the future.

I’ll be adding to this “Day One” post throughout the day so any of you RSS readers may want to come to this post page itself later today if you’d like to know more about what occurred.

MORNING

Stuart Brown on Play: This was an intriguing presentation on play and how it’s the precursor of neurology health. He brought forth examples that ranged from the animal kingdom to his study of serial killers who, he discovered, had a stunted or grossly minimized history of play in their lives.

The meaning as I saw it: it informs what each of us in the audience do with respect to understanding the efficacy of play, how it engages our brains and that it is an imperative to healthy brain function.

Clyde Prestowitz on a shifting world order: He started off his talk about what we take for granted: the Sun, water, etc. Next he related a story of his son — a geek and software developer — who wanted to buy a snow removal company in Lake Tahoe since, “They can’t outsource snow to India” indicating his feeling of jeopardy over the outsourcing of programming jobs.

The one story he told that hit me was one he related about being in a call center in India at the “AOL Retention” center. This is where the objective is to retain AOL customers who have called an 800# to cancel their account are convinced to stay with AOL as a provider. The young Indian woman he talks to — and listens in on a call from “Bob” in Camden, NJ — demonstrates how she gets Bob to stay. “Trust me Bob”.

She learned these “power words” in her accent neutralization classes. My take? I was struck not by the positive manipulation of a customer interested in defecting from AOL, but rather this question: is a generation of India’s youth — striving for the economic brass ring — being taught that manipulating American’s by eliminating their Indian accents, adopting American-sounding names and using “power words” is what it takes to be successful? Being inauthentic and false is the key to a better life?

Prestowitz discussed numerous aspects of the American strategic (and Imperialistic) direction. We’re the most powerful country the world has ever seen and he described how with comments about our 12 aircraft carrier fleets (no other country has even one), our being the policeman in the world and more.

The meaning as I saw it: I struggled for a bit on what this really meant other than being informational. It did, however, cause us to think about the current state of geopolitics and the milieu that exists. It’s an important perspective to hold as we think about strategies and approaches in a world where political machinations abound.

+ Professor Grzegorz W. Kolodko — outlines his perspective of the facts in world economics:

  • Talked about various countries contributions to global GDP
  • EU vs. US: biggest issue in the contemporary world economy is the co-opetition between the two. “The EU works less so they produce less.” 1800 hours to 1400 hours and Americans are still working 1800 hours.
  • Japan is growing again after 12 years of stagnation. India and Japan are nearly equal in output, trade but India has 10x the population of Japan and that, “India will outpace Japan in our lifetime”
  • Shift in economic power in share of world GDP: China is growing and the rest of Asia while the contribution of Japan, US and EU downtrending.
  • China doesn’t listen to the West’s advice and is going their own way
  • China GDP is 15.1% of global GDP and the US is 19.7%. In 2011, China will overtake the US
  • What does the future hold? Many challenges and there needs to be new institutions setup to handle global challenges.

This short recap didn’t do justice to his talk, but it will give you a flavor it.

The meaning as I saw it: it’s my KoolAid story (stay with me here for a second). You’ve got a KoolAid stand and get everyone who wants a drink to stop at your stand. The next week another kid in the neighborhood opens a KoolAid stand just up the street and some percentage of your potential customers will buy from her stand. Outlining where/how/when the growth in KoolAid stands globally was a solid positioning and overview of where it was coming from and bit of when. It’s up to us to discover the how.

+ Michael Barnett, Harold Stassen Chair, International Relations, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute was a last minute drop-in presenter: Discussing the Israeli/Palestian situation and that, “There is no hope for peace in the Middle East” and he asked us to think about a question during his talk, “What happens when they realize there’s no hope for peace?”

The meaning as I saw it: It was an interesting talk and I’m always keen on deepening my understanding of geopolitical events, but I struggled with how this applies to anything I’m involved in. Since pointing out problems without solutions offered (and focused upon) is anathema to how I’m wired, I appreciated that he brought some realistic and fairly pragmatic views of a solution(s). It’s having both sides realize peace isn’t going to happen and thus refocusing on co-existence is Barnett’s argument. That thinking-through the situation and refocusing on an outcome that might not be optimal was an interesting intellectual exercise but perhaps too narrow for this audience.

Last before lunch we saw a film entitled, “My Teen Files” which was a Leeza Gibbons TV documentary. it was about a Yuba City, CA high school group that started “Challenge Day” that facilitated a whole day of acceptance, understanding ALL of us are connected, and deepened understanding of one another. Great message, emotional segment, and one that is evidence of an increasing consciousness raising of our connection that is a growing global phenomena (that last sentence is my belief and is one that is accelerating due to the global Internet and the connections its fostering).

AFTERNOON

Emerging Leader Presentations: An opportunity to listen to 6 minute presentations by emerging companies that fit within the themes of the conference:

+ David Carnes: Introducing Wonderfile. New way of archiving and storing documents and assets.

+ Joel Hodroff:  Dual Currency Systems. The company provides next generation technologies for financial services, loyalty marketing and Customer Relationship Management.

+ Dale Rosendahl: Approached by a friend who had a briquette production line making ceramic briquettes for the outdoor grille market. With most of these devices being made in China, shipping heavy briquettes from here to China and back within the grille inside it’s packaging, was simply not cost-effective. Pressing byproduct waste from corn ethanol production into briquettes for use as a fuel is the breakthrough and the basis for the company.

+ Thomas Jefferson, in full regalia is on stage speaking to us from the year 2020. Speaking to us about the shift in human connection and the renaissance occurring over the Internet. He’s in-character talking about shifts in communication, communities, and that we’re the next government.

Fun premise….but it isn’t working. I’ve seen presentations about the onrush of methods to connect with smart mobs, meme tracking of conversations, SMS, social networking, the blogoshere and much more that has given an audience an amazingly macro view of what is happening as the Internet platform is causing an exponential increase in human connection.

The Energy Revolution: James Kakalios on “Energy and the World of Tomorrow”. He’s with the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota.

He was really amusing and delightful starting off talking about his Physics of Superheroes and how it put him on the map vs. dry, boring factoid-centric physics publishing. But…he’s here to talk about energy:

+ Three energy considerations:

  1. World oil reserves are predicted to be exhausted in 33 years (mentioned Hubbard and the peak oil theory)
  2. World’s energy needs are projected to increase by over 50% in the next 20 years
  3. Atmospheric CO2 levels are the highest recorded in the past 400,000 years. He noted that the certainty of warming could be debatable, but CH4 and CF4 (bigger greenhouse gases) are also higher than ever

He’s now doing physics demonstrations on how energy works and is talking about many of the methods, processes and products in the energy arena. Three future possibilities, though only #3 is the only one that wouldn’t require breakthroughs to pull off:

  1. Solar Wind with Superconducting Transmission Cables
  2. Hydrogen
  3. Solar Cell Farm on the Moon – Energy beamed to the Earth.

More to come after our break….

+ Doug Cameron, Chief Scientist from Khosla Ventures talking about the energy-centric venture efforts. He started off talking about ethanol which some people denigrate but that ethanol approaches a carbon neutral fuel.

But we need to go far beyond ethanol….

– Microbial production of petroleum-like fuels? Of course, it’s compatible with our existing fuel infrastructure; low water solubility; high energy density; can be based on cellulosic biomass (grasses, for example); potential to make custom biofuels.

How? Metabolic engineering/synthetic biology; fermentation technoology; chemical process engineering.

Overall his presentation filled me with optimism over the possibilities to create new processes to extract energy from biofuels.

+ Linda Cullen Founder, 50 Lanterns: “Fifty Lanterns International is a nonsectarian, nonprofit organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota. We were founded to help improve lives in communities torn by poverty, war or disaster through gifts of solar-powered lanterns and energy systems.

We took our name for our first project – giving 50 solar lanterns to 50 widows on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan. These widows live in unimaginable poverty, with no access to electricity and few opportunities to earn a living. The lanterns they received made a dramatic difference in their lives and in the lives of their children.”

I love this effort and I’ve written for the last two years about this effort in India to replace kerosene lanterns with solar ones; student Patrick Delaney at the University of Minnesota doing the same thing in South America (to whom I donated some money);  and this “buy one, give one” project called BoGo Light all of which are the same relative effort. So while I praise Linda and anyone else that does SOMETHING and shows their love and commitment to the world with action, I also am struck by the incredible frustration I feel when I observe the inefficiency and redundancy of effort with NGO‘s globally.

Good day today…

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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