Last week I had the honor and pleasure of presenting at the imagine09 conference of the American Astronautical Society. Breaking from tradition, the AAS followed the lead of TED this year and invited many speakers from across the US and across industries to present topics about which they are passionate. Some of these topics were space related but many were not and the goal was to foster dialog among the AAS membership about how these topics could be used within the context of the space industry. Cool!
One of the organizers is a member of the Rice Engineering Alumni group, of which I used to be president. Over coffee a few months ago, he somehow got the impression that I was passionate about using information technology to address the global energy challenge. I’m not sure how he got that impression . . . 😉 He invited me to join the slate of speakers and I agreed almost before he finished asking!
The guidelines I was given as a speaker were the TED commandments:
Accordingly, I put together a 20-minute talk about information-adaptive human behavior–using technology to “nudge” human behavior by providing the right information at the right time in the right way to the right people. After all, this is exactly what we’re doing at Enistic to “nudge” office employees to better energy use behaviors. Instead of putting together a dry lecture about the behavioral science theory, I presented the material as part of the story of my own entrepreneurial journey; the presentation can be found at my slideshare page.
The conference itself took place over two days last week at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. As someone who has always been fascinated with and inspired by the space industry, I was thrilled to participate. Given some of the other speakers (Bob Rogers, Richard Garriott, Wayne Hale, T. Boone Pickens III, for example), I was also honored to participate.
The talks were very engaging. For example, Wayne Hale presented a history lesson about China’s world-leading shipping and exploration 600 years ago. Abruptly they shifted from exploration to isolationism and stagnated for centuries. This fostered a great deal of dialog about what we could learn from such lessons and how they might be applied to our own exploration policy.
In fact, all of the talks fostered dialog. After a speaker presented, he/she was whisked off to a breakout room. Audience members then had the option to go engage with that speaker for more detailed discussion or stick around in the main auditorium for the next presentation. Tough decisions! When it came time for me to present, I myself was torn as I really wanted to follow the previous speaker (executive director of the X PRIZE Foundation) for dialog!
I’m glad I stuck around and gave my presentation, though. It was well received and many people (including some of the other speakers) joined me in the breakout room to discuss energy savings, human behavior, technology, and how to apply all of these to the space industry. I don’t think we solved any great problems during the breakout session but I do hope that the discussion seeded thoughts, ideas, and follow-up discussions that will continue to bear fruit for some time to come.
At the end of the conference I was exhausted from all of the energy, ideas, and discussion with new contacts. Great job, AAS, and I expect great things from the space industry! I’ll post a link to the video of my presentation once it’s available online.