Tech Industry, Not Politics, Shows Pathway to Bright Future

The 2016 edition of the Bloomberg Technology Conference was, as expected, a wonderfully inspiring event. It was an opportunity to see the people and hear the ideas that are shaping our global future.


It is almost impossible to convey the can-do attitude and sense of optimism that permeated the event and drives the tech industry today.

Monday night, the first person I saw had developed a simple and inexpensive paper water filter to dramatically improve the health of the world’s poorest citizens. He’s created a book out of that paper explaining the importance of filtering and how to do it. The reader can immediately put their newfound knowledge to work by ripping the pages out and using them as a filter. The book has been widely translated and is already saving lives in 40 countries.

On Tuesday, the topics were varied but all promised a brighter future. Personalized robots may be coming sooner than you think and could make life easier for senior citizens and those with disabilities. We also heard about how tapping into ocean currents may provide 9 percent of the U.S. energy needs. On another front, technology and tech entrepreneurs are advancing the search for a cure to cancer.

As a child of the space age, I was fascinated by the fact that Planet Lab already has 133 imaging satellites in orbit providing services for more than 100 clients. Technology advances have dramatically reduced the cost and increased the potential value of space exploration. My ears especially perked up at the mention of how the cost of space flight could someday be about the same as air flight. Hope that happens while I’m young enough to enjoy it!

The experience was far more than the sum of its parts. At some point, Planet Lab’s Will Marshall dissed Elon Musk’s plan for regular passenger service to Mars and back. It wasn’t the idea of an off-earth colony that bothered Marshall, it was the location. He believes going regularly to the Moon is 10,000 times easier. Either Musk will figure that out, Marshall opined, or someone else will beat him to it.

It was hard to believe that I was listening to a serious discussion of whether to colonize Mars or the Moon first! Marc Andreessen, a legendary figure in the tech world, provided a great perspective by noting, “The difference between a hallucination and a vision is that other people can see the vision.”

The tech industry is moving the nation forward because its innovators are casting a great vision of a better world. Just as important, they are doing so in a way that lets others capture the vision.

The conference was a refreshing and much needed break from the depressing nature of our nation’s political dialogue. At a time when the nation’s political leaders keep looking to the past, it was encouraging to see forward thinking adults making progress for the world.

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