Thursday, April 24, 2014

Nerd Nite Orlando XIII


On March 13th, I went to Stardust Video and Coffee (1842 E. Winter Park Road, Orlando, Fl.) to experience Nerd Nite Orlando XIII.  I arrived early, ordered a Humus plate and a Coke and found a table with a sweeping view of the room. As people arrived, I populated the sketch. Nerd Nite Orlando is an evening of entertaining yet thought-provoking talks across many disciplines – all while the audience drinks along in a casual bar atmosphere. Speakers present for 20-25 minutes each on a fascinating subject of their choice, often in an uncanny and unconventional way. It’s like the Discovery Channel – with beer!

Josh Manning, the founder and “Nerdboss” of Nerd Nite Orlando was the first speaker. His presentation was about “Chindogu: Unuseless Inventions” which translates to “really weird” (chin) “tool” (dōgu). This is the noble Japanese art of eccentric invention. Often causing more problems than they solve, chindogu ultimately serve no real purpose. Neither useful nor useless, they are therefore “unuseless” (similar to how “undead” means not dead and not alive). So what’s the point then? Unbridled creativity, of course! Chindogu are like anarchists that have broken free from the pragmatism of traditional invention. Come discover the wonderful world of unuseless creations that include baby mopsa tissue dispenser cap, and umbrella ties! Josh is always interested in new ways to think differently, he also co-organizes a group of employees at Kennedy Space Center called the “Spaceport Innovators.” In the 2nd grade he even entered an invention contest by submitting his “fishing backpack” creation, which was just his school backpack outfitted with a car air freshener so that he could carry around all the fish he caught minus the stink. He didn’t win any prizes, not even an honorable mention.

The second presentation was “Digital Heroes: How Video Games Can Save The World” by Carlos Donze  A growing body of evidence suggests that video games play (pun totally intended!) a larger role in brain development than previously thought. In this talk, he discussed their role in tackling some of the world’s seemingly insurmountable problems, such as personal happiness, poverty, and helping the terminally ill. Let Carlos show you how playing video games can translate in to real life power-ups!

Emily Empel presented, “Cards Against the Future: Generating Possibilities Instead of Predictions” Talking about the FUTURE is old school. All around us, societal “squares” are sanitizing our conversations about the future. These politicians, business leaders and academics rely on forecast models that reduce uncertainty. Some people like to think things progress along a straight linear path, but progress and change happens in sudden unpredictable surges. Let’s be real: the world is getting weirder. Forecasts that discount mystical, immeasurable,  elements limit our ability to fundamentally explore what’s ahead. In other words, exploring the future is a job for societal misfits, and total nerds. In the spirit of Chindogu, Emily showed a hilarious clip of a robotic ketchup dispenser. Obsessing over the FUTURE(S) is where it’s at.  She explores the present and the future according to a new set of rules. She is a trend spotter, marketing disciple, and corporate futurist. She provides executive management with strategic insights to identify emerging developments. Emily earned a Master of Science degree in Future Studies from the University of Houston. Her research has been featured by organizations such as The World Future Society and AlterNet. A former nomad, she’s slowly realizing, thanks to fellow Orlandoans and a lot of imagination, that Orlando doesn't suck.

Emily wanted to talk after the presentations to brainstorm about a creative project she has brewing. Her pink haired friend Natalie Chandler kept me company as Emily discussed, and sometimes argued the future with people after her talk. Natalie confided that Emily is super busy yet she wants to layer this intricate creative project into her schedule over the next several months. Emily outlined the project that she and others are brain storming. The World Future Society Conference is coming to Orlando this July and she wants to put together a show for that conference. Tentatively titled, "Near Now" the project is aimed at bringing together intellectuals and creatives who are interested in exploring how the future of Orlando can unfold in 2030. I agreed to help bring together creative people that could help bring this vision to light. The seed is planted. So far, progress is slow but if it is meant to bloom, it will. The possibilities are limitless.

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