Extreme Futurist Festival Recap

XFF-2012-v4

What a weekend. On top of the EFF I also had one of my partner’s in town and we went down to visit some of my family down in San Diego. There might be more on that later but before everything slips my brain I want to recap the EFF.

It was an amazing experience. I had a wonderful time and it was incredibly inspirational and thought-provoking for the most part. It also had a slight twinge of crazy and some stuff that I didn’t understand. I guess there are some forms of art that I just don’t get.

So, the good… it was an incredible two days and a very positive time. The vast majority of things were good. There was a diverse group of speakers on a ton of topics but I had my favorites. Aubrey de Grey was the keynote and  his talk on medical advancements and potential for extending life was phenomenal. Alex Peak‘s discussion of gaming and how games can be used to educate the world (and the need for fluency in code) was something that will stick with me for a while and has piqued my interest in code-writing. Kevin Fischer’s talk on cognitive enhancement was probably the most practically informative of the day for me but Anastasia Krylov‘s was my favorite. Anastasia talked about social norms as they apply to relationships and sex in a way that was not confrontational and incredibly enlightening. She is also a gifted speaker who kept things fun the whole time. There were many other speakers that I enjoyed and a full list can be found here.

vortexdome

Vortex Immersion Dome

Another awesome thing about the conference was where the speakers held their talks. It was in something called the Vortex Immersion Dome, a semi-large dome that had projectors on the side to completely surround you with visual and auditory stimulation. The speakers stood in the center which took some getting used to but it worked really well for the conference, particularly Dixon’s Violin performance which was one of the single most amazing things I have ever experienced (seriously, check it out).

It was also really nice to see Brian Doherty speak and Reason Magazine sponsor the event. Many of the discussions had libertarian leanings even if the participants didn’t fully realize it and I think it is important for libertarians to be more socially active outside of the beltway. Futurist, technology, and entertainment conferences are an important audience to reach because they are the future. The future is going to be an information and entertainment economy made possible by technological advancement and libertarians need to be on the front lines showing the best way to advance human development is free from government restrictions.

Now, the bad… I want this blog post to be honest and not everything about the conference was great in my opinion. Most of my criticisms on this point may be biased and oversensitive because I have spent the last few years participating in and running conferences. To be frank, the logistics were a bit sloppy. There were little things like no real process for checking in other than getting a sharpie mark on your hand like a night club, the speaker printout didn’t have any subjects included, and information about a VIP pre-party wasn’t announced until the day before.

There was also a few logistical things that I think are more serious. Mainly, the speaker times and order were changed both days without any real announcement. It was impossible to know when someone was actually going to speak. The speaker time slots were also only 30 minutes which is not enough time for a real discussion of most topics, and there were not any breaks between speakers for food or just to run to the bathroom. The conference organizers also gave the speakers very little notice of when their time was up, during one speaker someone walked in and told the presenter that he had 1 minute without any prior notice causing the speaker to hurry through much of the presentation. There also seemed to be some favoritism played where Aubrey de Grey was basically rushed off the stage during a Q&A session so that a performer who was a friend of the conference organizer could present.

Lastly for the bad, the benefits of being a VIP were not communicated very well. I got a VIP ticket and I still don’t know what exactly I got for that. I was able to see the robot show (which was awesome) but there were not seats, a marked VIP area, or really any way of knowing where we were supposed to be or what the perks were.

It was still an amazing event, I just think logistically there is room for improvement (which is to be expected for a relatively new event).

And, the ugly… these are things that I didn’t understand or enjoy. It is very subjective and really no value should be attributed to it. Primarily, I didn’t understand Lydia Lunch’s performance at all, it may just not be my thing but to me it sounded like a angry verbal presentation of some of the most poorly written blogs from the internet. Many people seemed to get it and love it though, which is fine. There is plenty of room in the future for all types, my type of futurist focus will be more on science and technology instead of art. I originally felt that Lunch was at the conference to perform due to her close relationship with the conference organizers but seeing how many people loved her performance I think it was more than that. She is an artist, I respect her for that even if I don’t get it.

The presentation by Josh Harris also left me baffled and confused. I still don’t know what he was talking about or the point of his talk, and when he said that the “singularities” spoke to him and he presented a homemade video from the late 90’s as proof I was totally lost. He also talked about being on the FBI’s list because of 9/11 and how his life was an art piece and government photos were part of it or something… I really don’t know. I was lost and this was the first presentation I saw so it really scared me that I had convinced some dear friends to purchase tickets to an event that wasn’t what it seemed.

I guess that’s really it. It was a great weekend and I will definitely be there next year.

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