Friday, March 24, 2006

March - Student Information Session

I'm going to start my reporting on March events by talking about the 1-hour session for students prior to the main dinner event.

Chris Friesen, Kyle Molotkin and Susan Zuk hosted a very small session with 6 RRC students and one U of M student. The talk was originally scheduled to be about resume preperation and job search skills, given by Russ Smith from CNC Global. But something came up and we were treated to an hour with Dr. Tom Keenan, who was also the presenter at the main dinner meeting.

I'll talk more about Dr. Keenan in my post about the main event, but "wow". That guy is 10 times smarter than the collection of students in front of him. He's a ball of energy with a mind racing with possibilities and probabilities. It's a credit to him as a public speaker that he can organize everything in his head into a such an organized, cohesive presentation.

I did get the sense he was "bending" a more-or-less pre-canned presentation into the mould of "Careers of the Future." Dr. Keenan is a prolific speaker and "futurist" is probably the most accurate one-word adjective you can stick on him, so it wasn't too hard for him to produce something to spark some young minds. Especially minds looking for a light at the end of the syntax-learning-tunnel.

Dr. Keenan had 7 "Big Ideas" for the future ( a model that would be echoed in his main presentation for the evening ). He said these ideas would form the nuclei of the most exciting industries and careers of the future. It was one part Jetsons-style futurism, one part practical guide to emerging industries, and one part gleeful "gee-whiz" about the oddities of human nature.

Briefly, the Big Ideas were:

1. The Intersection of Silicon and Carbon
2. Nano Everything
3. Transhumanist Perspective
4. Tapping the Brain
5. Immortality (The Cybernetic Kind)
6. Societal Choices
7. Computers Surpass the Human Brain

Each one of these massive topics requires an encyclopaedia volume on its own, and I won't even elaborate on them here. But the key to all of them is that the inter-relationship of the computer to the human body/mind with become more and more enmeshed, until they dissappear under our skin. And maybe one day, we abandon our skin to disappear into them.

Full of thought-provoking examples which broadened the horizons of possible applications for our learning, Dr. Keenan's presentation was very well recieved by the students. And later in the evening, there were some very interesting parrallels and perpendiculars with his main presentation of "The Dark Side of Technology."

For even though his presentation to the students was generally optimistic, asking "Look what might become of the world!", his main presentation had some decidedly pessimistic themes in it, asking again with different emphasis, "Look what might become of the world." I thought it was an excellent pair of presentations to experience, especially back-to-back. Look for a post which disects the main presentation a little more in the coming days.


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