Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wired NextFest

I headed downtown via the train to catch Wired NextFest and it didn't disappoint. It was everything that I had hoped it would be- fun, informative, entertaining and inspirational. The creativity that was harnessed in the outdoor exhibition tent was palpable. From the interactive CG Dwayne Wade who commented on your shooting ability to the other end of the hall with the next generation People Movers, ingenuity was not in short supply. Curt and I played Pong with our fingers (he won), brain ball with...our brains (I won :-) and interacted with robots and computers all day long.

But the highlight of our time was the time spent with...humans. Yes, good old-fashioned communication with people as there were several of the inventors on hand to answer questions. And one person in particular was gracious with his time and inspirational with his words. He is Charles Greenwood, the inventor of the Human Car.

Charles has spent the last 4o years (since the year I was born) designing a car that could generate electricity simply by human power. And his dream is soon to become a reality with the Human Car, a car that can go up to 60mph powered by humans in a sort of "rowing" motion. Each passenger also can join in the fun, or just sit back and switch to all-electric power, your choice. Charles has been featured on CNN as well as Discovery Channel and Wired magazine to name a few.

But Charle's is much more than an entrepenuer out to make a buck. And it isn't about saving money from high gas prices. "When I started this project, gas was 32 cents. This wasn't about gas." He says that what fuels his passion is the human condition and what he calls "a broken infrastructure." He spoke with us at length about his desire to do something that lifts the human potential. This desire at first was from a purely humanistic view, but he later came to a crisis of faith knowing that there had to be something bigger fueling this passion. This led him to became an ordained minister. While our theology wouldn't match, our love for people and creativity was a perfect fit. Here are some of his thoughts...

On Ideas (after I mentioned the term "Big Idea":

"What we need are a lot of little ideas chaneled in one direction. For example, with the future of cars, we need all different types sharing information, brainstorming about lane sizes, regulations, technology etc."

On American Creativity:

"Some of the internationals who have come to visit my shop have asked themselves in my presence why their country is not as creative. I'm of Swiss decent and back in my home country there is a term that is common over there that means 'fit-in', or 'keep your head down and don't make waves.' I think in America there are number of factors that fuel our creativity. One of the best is humor, especially self-depracting humor. We laugh at ourselves and do not take ourselves too seriously. This allows us to take risks. And "different" is OK in America if it is connected to ingenuity."

He left us with quite a bit to think about. And if that was the goal of NextFest, then mission accomplished. Our heads were full of thoughtful, creative inspiration to fuel our next Big, I mean little idea that might just move us forward.