Graphic designer Nicholas Felton is obsessed with data. He knows how many songs he’s listened to and how much it costs him per mile to fly. Felton visualizes these numerous details in personal “Annual Reports.” At PopTech 2009, Felton examines what a weeklong-snapshot of New York Times’ front pages reveals about America.
Author Jonah Lehrer explores the power of outsider intelligence. At PopTech 2009, the best-selling author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist, notes that, paradoxically, lacking expertise on a subject can be an asset. “It’s what allows us to see the connections, to see the problems that no one else can see.”
Designer Kacie Kinzer explores what technology can reveal about empathy and cooperation. So she built a Tweenbot, a cardboard robot equipped only with “cuteness and a flag that says ‘help me’” to elicit help from passersby. With the help of 29 strangers, the tiny robot crossed NYC’s Washington Square Park in just 42 minutes.
Geneticist George Church believes that genome sequencing can bring us closer to personalized medicine. Several years ago, Church launched the Personal Genome Project, a public database that connects genes to diseases as well as physical and biological characteristics. 100,000 volunteers are expected to contribute by 2010.
Esther Duflo, MIT economist and co-founder of the Poverty Action Lab, asks why the world’s poorest people tend to stay poor. Duflo’s pioneering research applies randomized trials, used extensively in drug discovery research, to development economics. What she discovers are strategies for transforming current approaches to development policy.