I was an H+ 'virgin', both as a speaker and an attendee. It was a smaller, more science and tech-heavy version of a TED conference—60 speakers from diverse backgrounds and occupations were given 10 minutes to share one big idea- one dose of their respective insights in a format designed for maximum impact. What you ended up with was a heavy sprinkling of a multitude of ideas, all geared towards the evolution of humanity through technology, research, or creative application of the two. My happy brain was so full by the end of the weekend, I needed a few days to fully process all of the newly acquired information.
When I attended TED 2010 in February, I was impressed at the level of technology availability and usage by the attendees, but in retrospect, that was nothing compared to the H+ crowd. Just walking into registration, one couldn't help but be reminded this was a tech conference—the hum of keys striking on the dozens of laptops, the labyrinth of power cords carpeting the floor, conversations via Skype, Summit email accounts being set up on the spot, the all-important question being asked, "What's our hash-tag?" as people immediately began tweeting H+ tidbits to the rest of the web-o-sphere.
The Transhumanists as a group have definitely embraced technology, and fully put it to use in order to advance their ideas, a hallmark trait of this crowd. At TED, everyone exchanged business cards, and every so often someone would pull out their iPhone to add you as a contact, or take down your Twitter name. At H+, I exchanged only two business cards. However, immediately following my presentation, I went to my laptop (yes, I brought my laptop with me, of course) and I had dozens of friend requests on Facebook and new followers on Twitter, with messages like, "I am watching your presentation right now...".
While networking with people in-between the talks and at the social events, at the moment in which one would typically hand over a business card, we instead pulled out our smart phones and exchanged Twitter addresses and Facebook friend requests, pulling up each others profiles, scanning the info to lend assistance with understanding the exact area of science each other was in, all without missing a beat in the conversation. Academic paper recommendations and references were accessed immediately upon their revelation, names Googled, books and YouTube videos pulled up—all in real-time. Two days following the Summit, I have added more than 60 new contacts on Facebook alone—which, just in case you have been living under a rock and hadn't heard, is the new standard professional networking medium.
This rather blew my mind at first, the lightning fast progression of ideas and exchange of information. But then I looked out at the crowd, and saw that as much as the H+ group claims to promote science, technology, and advancement of ideas, they actually practice it in earnest. They are savvy at using technology to its fullest capacity to spread their message and network within the group, as well as reaching out to others to join the group, enticing them with the scientific wonders bestowed upon them in real-time. Attendees were watching the talks and reacting to them as they were happening via Twitter, discussing points with other attendees, as well as those watching via the livestream. By the time the talks ended, there was already robust discussion and critique well under way, which led to even more illuminating later discussions about how to improve the message, the delivery, or ways in which the technology could be better utilized. It was as if the research was continuing throughout the Summit, which gave the entire experience a very energizing, transdiciplinary, collaborative feel. You were not only witnessing a conference of ideas, but participating in the formation of them—not just talking about the future of humanity, but creating the future—right then and there.
In this way, by utilizing technology for maximum networking, rapid sharing of ideas, the formulation of new ones, and even putting those ideas into practice—drawing diagrams, taking notes, all done in the here and now—I feel that we have entered a new era of conferences, illustrated both by TED and especially by the H+ Summit. This is now Conference 2.0—not just sharing ideas, research, and networking, but creating new ideas, elaborating on research, and expanding networks, all in real-time. The future is moving fast, and it is an exciting time to get on-board, take part, and enjoy the ride.