Pop!Tech 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. We are known for our thriving community of thought-leaders, breakthrough innovation programs, visionary annual conferences and deep media and storytelling capabilities.
I attended the conference in 2004 when I worked for Ruckus. I vividly remember the trip north from Washington D.C. – arriving in Portland, Maine on a JetBlue flight – driving up the coast to Camden, Maine where Pop!Tech takes place – the classic coastal views of water crashing against the rocky shore – beautiful leaves full of red, orange and yellow – the Talking Heads blasting on my car radio. By the time I arrived in cozy Camden, I was on an emotional high like none other I’d experienced before and had no idea how transforming the next few days would be.
The conference astonished me. I couldn’t believe how many ideas, things and experiences there were beyond those I held personally. I tried to capture as much of the conference as possible by furiously taking notes and recording the conference on my iPod. (I didn’t know that it would later be available online and they had yet to start showing it live or post videos – now they do both.)
I quickly realized that there was no way that I could process all of the information being presented, and didn’t, and still haven’t! I’ve still got the notes and look at them from time to time. I’ve kept up online since, but the experience isn’t the same as when you’re sitting in the Camden Opera House elbow to elbow with a bunch of geeks, entrepreneurs, artists, and thinkers. There is an atmosphere to it – an atmosphere that I’ve found present few other places – Sundance to a degree, the Traverse City Film Festival, and a handful of undergrad and law school lectures.
For all of the schooling I’ve been through at the University of Michigan and the Franklin Pierce Law Center, I look back and must say that I am underwhelmed by both of the experiences. There are a scant few professors, classes, and individual lectures that moved me the way Pop!Tech did/does. There is a difference – conferences have exciting presenters and powerful streamlined flashy ideas. I don’t care. At the end, higher education should be as powerful as a good conference presentation. Students should leave each semester with an excitement and hunger for more information.
If I were to travel back, knowing what I now know, I would do only two things differently. First, I would major in English instead of Economics. I thought I would make more money majoring in Economics. Whether that was true or not, I now view it a foolish. I should have followed my heart and my talents, which both fell firmly in the English Department. Second, I would worry more about the courses that captivated me than those that fulfilled some predetermined study path – e.g., concentrating on financial economics, etc. I closed a lot of doors before I looked through them.
As I walk through life meeting new people, moving to new places, and attempting new challenges, I am slowly coming to the realization that doing is living – that if I don’t open my mouth or take the first step or make a decision then the world will continue and I will stay. I think back to Pop!Tech 2004 when I say that because although I took in a lot of information at that conference and it exposed me to many new things, I didn’t stick out my hand and introduce myself, I didn’t realize how much I had to give, and I still feel as though I’m hoarding my experience and knowledge. It bring me to tears, as I write this, to think about what I could do and what I have done and I feel as though I’ve let the world down. I realize that’s a very narcissistic thing to say, but the feeling of great personal potential is something I’ve come to believe is integral to being human. What are we if not potential? There is a bigger message here than me feeling a responsibility to make this world better – it is that we should all be doing our part everyday to make this world a better place to live in now and in the future.
With all of that said, I’ve been watching a good deal of the 2009 Pop!Tech conference via their live stream. I like the theme this year – America Reimagined. It places the focus on home, while showing what we can do to make a better world. I am personally setting goals for the coming year that will change the feeling of lost potential and make the world a better place for all of us.