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Future Salon
Friday, April 15, 2005
Tomorrow (Friday) evening I'm heading down to SAP Labs in Palo Alto to attend Future Salon. If anyone needs a ride from/to Berkeley, contact me. The program sounds great. MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld will be presenting his research and his new book FAB:The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop--From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication.

Ten years ago, Nicholas Negroponte wrote Being Digital, one of the first insightful books about the net. Reading it was the first homework assignment at the corporate university I led. (Amazon's algorithms were so crude that for years they recommended similar books, thinking that anyone who buys a hundred copies must really be into digitial stuff.)

Negroponte's mantra was "Bits, not Atoms." Virtualization was a fresh idea back then. So it's ironic that only a decade later, yet another MIT professor is presenting a breakthrough idea by going back to "Atoms, not Bits."

A history lesson for anthropologists and newbies: Negroponte's columns for Wired magazine.

Tooling around the MIT Media Lab's website, I came upon this bio of tomorrow evening's speaker:
Neil Gershenfeld is the director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms and heads the Media Lab's Physics & Media research group. His unique laboratory investigates the relationship between the content of information and its physical representation, from molecular quantum computers to virtuosic musical instruments. Technology from his lab has been seen and used in settings including New York's Museum of Modern Art, rural Indian villages, the White House/Smithsonian Millennium celebration, automobile safety systems, the World Economic Forum, inner-city community centers, Las Vegas shows, and Sami reindeer herds.

P9220044Here's Neil, addressing the Future Salon. Neil's a friendly guy in person but his presentation had some geeky edges to it. And what he described is a long way from crossing the chasm. An echo in the SAP Labs cafeteria made it difficult to hear, and I have to admit that I spaced part of what Neil was talking about. I enjoyed his rescue of the "Illiberal Arts," what one called shop class in ancient times.

P9220046O'Reilly's Dale Dougherty was on hand to announce Make magazine, a new quarterly. "Martha Stewart for geeks." Maybe your father had a shop in the basement with a lathe and a table saw. He read Popular Mechanics. This is what your kid is going to have: his or her own personal fab plant that can turn an Autocad drawing into a solid model. Dale hopes that kid reads Make.

P9220047 Mark Finnert, the fellow who runs the Bay Area Future Salon.


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