This afternoon TechForum2012 passed into history as a wonderfully successful new type of luncheon speaker series focusing on the accelerating technologies that will affect all of us in how we work, play, learn, live long, and prosper. The event was sponsored by the Sierra Economics and Science Foundation to support its ongoing and expanding merit scholarship program built around its flagship annual TechTest, now in its sixth year.
It was heartening to see the community join in to support this fundraiser to encourage Nevada County’s young people to choose careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). America’s decline in STEM qualified workers has put our country at risk, and we believe that grass roots programs such as these developed and funded by SESF are a hopeful start on America’s road back. The fundamental objective of the TechTest programs is to serve as a template and resource to other counties and regions across the country, inviting them to stand on our shoulders and start their own merit scholarship support efforts to invite qualified young people to choose STEM careers.
Today’s SRO event had an attendance of over 160 community leaders from the media, government, education, and business. Our guest speaker was Mr Rick Hutley, VP of Global Innovations for Cisco. Rick Hutley is a world class business executive and motivational speaker on the leading edge technologies that are shaping all of our tomorrows. Russ Steele, SESF’s Executive Director, and I had the pleasure of starting the day with Rick with a congenial breakfast at Toffanelli’s.
The entire event was planned and managed by SESF volunteers Ms Laura van den Berg (Event Manager), Mr George Foster, and Mr Russ Steele representing the SESF board. Laura did an outstanding job in pulling together the furball that these projects all start out as, and served as the event’s mistress of ceremonies. Truth be told, she did marshall husband Luuk to help here and there.
Special thanks go to the distinguished array of TechForum2012 sponsors that include NCTV, The Union, KVMR, KNCO, AJA Video Systems, NCCA, Christine Foster Realtor, Olympia Mortgage and Investment, Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, ERC, the County of Nevada, and, of course Cisco Systems Inc. Their prompt and visible support made this launch a merited and meaningful standard for future TechForum events.
On a personal note, I was heartened to see the extreme interest in the reaction and participation of the attendees. Rick is disposed to an open give-and-take format of a presentation wherein questions can be asked at any time, and they were. This gave rise to a number of interesting and illuminating detours that added to the prepared remarks.
Rick’s talk touched on the implications and impact of the approaching Singularity (q.v.). He outlined the progression of Turing test (q.v.) mitigations as machines become more intelligent. All this progressing to the point of dismissing the utility of that classic test of machines achieving peer intelligence with humans. His conclusion was to substitute the test of whether humans consider machines as useful peers and partners in managing our resources and affairs, that would stand in for Turing and the Singularity. I suggested that perhaps a better test would be the event when machines weigh in and assess the utility of humans as their peers in managing this planet’s affairs. Rick Hutley mused that this indeed might be a better sign of fin de siècle, and graciously named it the Rebane Test. In any event Rick is not a strong proponent of the near-term advent of Singularity, even though on one of his summary slides he did note that machines would replace all human workers by 2035.
As you see, dear reader, this was a lively and informative presentation with the attendees sitting at the edge of their seats. The presentation and its Q&A went well beyond its scheduled time with the room filled to capacity. Afterward, the podium was crowded with people seeking to continue the discussion with Mr Hutley and other attendees.
Rick Hutley set the bar high for our next TechForum, and I want to assure all that SESF and its team of volunteers will do everything possible to meet these standards when we again assemble for TechForum. In the interval, we have the last seminar for TechTest2012 tomorrow at NUHS, and the exam itself will be given on 14 April 2012. Please visit sesfoundation.org for more information.