Ars Electronica Future Innovators Summit

This past week, our founders were invited to Linz, Austria to participate in the Future Innovators Summit (FIS).  The FIS was part of the Ars Electronica 2014, an annual festival for art, technology and society. This year, the theme was "C... what it takes to change." Ars Electronica explains the concept as:

“an inquiry into the prerequisites and framework conditions necessary to enable social innovation and renewal to emerge and make an impact. The focus was on art as catalyst. The in-depth elaborations, lively discussions and bold provocations featured, as usual, artists, scholars and scientists from all over the world—renowned intellectuals confronted by young contrarians, top experts encountering interested laypersons, the pioneers of the Digital Revolution face to face with the shooting stars of today’s media art scene."

There were 27 'future innovators' from all over the world, ranging from artists and scientists to entrepreneurs and academics. During the summit, we got to hear about the work of each individual innovator, meet with great mentors from a variety of industries, and participate in workshops.

Before we arrived, we had no idea what to expect from these workshops. Many of the events we've attended in the past have had formats that encourage us to explore our own concept - Broad Street Maps - and brainstorm ways to improve upon it. The FIS, however, was completely different. We spent two days with 3 other innovators: Yonghun Kim from South Korea, Yasuaki Kakehi from Japan, and Angela Oguntala from the USA/Denmark. In the first workshop, we randomly picked a series of prompts to spark conversation. Our words were: humans, the couple form, alcoholic, gunpowder/treason, bienenstalk (which means beehive), fuck the king. As a group, we used the conversations that emerged from these prompts to come up with a final question: How can we know what singularity will mean to humanity? We defined singularity as the moment at which artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence. We were then tasked with coming up with an answer to this question. We talked about what it means to be human, and how technology can hurt or enhance humanity. In the end, we decided to involve the audience in our exploration of this question, and came up with a series of interactive scenes, in which we presented two objects or actions, and asked volunteers to choose which one they saw as being "more human." We'll post a link of our presentation when it is posted online! 

Our awesome group

Our awesome group

All sound a bit confusing? It definitely was to us at first too! But it was an incredible experience to be surrounded by super creative, inspiring people who are exploring the intersection of art and technology and approaching that intersection from so many different angles. We were grateful for the opportunity to step back from our own ideas and work, and participate in new conversations, embrace our creative sides, and learn about so many new perspectives.

Major takeaways:

1. Singularity is a really terrifying, really exciting concept

2. Seoul and Tokyo are now at the top of our most-wanted travel lists

3. Drones can be amazingly beautiful

4. Cartography can take many forms