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Wired 2012

What hackers curing malaria, Lady Gaga and eyetests have in common

It’s not your normal conference that would present you with details on how computer hackers are ridding the world of malaria. I was lucky enough to join the other delegates at the inaugural two-day Wired UK Conference last year and this year’s conference (in a much better location) was equally (if not more) impressive. Not just because it has myriad smart people attending but also because they speak in such a personal way.

Paul Armstrong
Paul Armstrong runs HERE/FORTH an advisory that helps business leaders decide how to best use rapidly changing and emerging technologies. More

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The amount of smarts and passion in the room is palpable and it often takes a few days for it all to sink in (read: get out of jail free card for slack blog post!). Some speakers receive rapturous applause during their presentations for their contribution (MIT’s Ramesh Raskar for developing the smartphone eye test) and others receive gasps when people realise what they have just seen and the impact it will have on the world.

The delegates include people from the advertising, media and technology world as you’d expect but also people from the music industry, creative agencies, manufacturers and public services. What quickly becomes apparent is the networking that goes on — it’s far from the usual same old, same old card swapping, the conversations are in-depth and real collaborations have been born I heard from conference go-ers.

The biggest section for me was the “data” section. Not only did it inspire, shock and amaze me but it also made me think about how I use data and how we’ll use it in the future if, as recent research suggests, we’ll be using information outside of the open (yet closed) networks we pump our information into. Look out for the video of the talk by Stephen Cohen, his description of the software that enabled authorities to close a drug ring was fascinating (and much tweeted!).

Two amazing sections/speakers you can’t afford to miss are below — although the choices likely biased because of my job title — both Troy Carter and Mona Ethalway paint very different pictures of social media, its future and its power.

Troy Carter (Lady Gaga’s Manager) explaining why micro-networks are so important to the future of the internet:

Troy Carter: Full talk from Wired 2012 from Wired.co.uk on Vimeo.

Mona Eltahawy, in comparison, discusses how mass networks mean nothing if, when the time comes (as was the case in Egypt), they do not leave Twitter and meet in the real-world:

Mona Eltahawy: Full talk from Wired 2012 from Wired.co.uk on Vimeo.