Guide to this year’s Techweek in Chicago, as a non-dev/programmer/entrepreneur

This is a guide for people who are more interested in the cultural and societal implications of technology from a non-technical background. (I’d recommend attending all the “future of TV/media”  talks as a  beginners guide to video distribution and social media use.)

Thursday, June 27th:

The US  First Robotics Challenge, from 12pm – 4pm.

“US First’s mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”

KIM DOTCOM WILL BE SPEAKING at “The Downloaded Era: Battle for Internet Rights“, 4pm – 4:30pm,

“The debate around how we should view the concept of intellectual property and copyright in the digital age has continued since the launch of Napster in the ’90’s until today. Why is file-sharing still so limited and how has it affected the world at large?”

Friday, June 28th: 

Funny or Die‘s “When Humor is Serious Business,” from 11:00am – 11:30am, featuring Funny or Die CEO Dick Glover. (I have an inkling what Glover will discuss, but being as I have never heard him speak, he might surprise me.)

“Funny or Die is now synonymous with Internet humor…What makes their business model so successful? How do they acquire high quality content with a low budget? What does the future of Funny or Die—and Internet entertainment in general—look like?”

Digital Art; From Easels to Pixels, 12:00pm – 12:30pm

“Art infilitrates everyday life, and every surface, object, or open space is fair game for medium. See how artists are incorporating technology into their work, whether as a means to an end or as the finished product itself. These people are innovating on what it means to be a traditional artist and the burgeoning interest in creating art meant to be consumed in digital form.”

The very ambitiously titled “How the Second City Can Become the First in Fashion,” 5:00pm – 6:00pm

“Take the tech from the West and the high-end fashion from the East and meet somewhere in the middle. Where do you end up? Chicago, of course. Combining the best of both coasts, a slew of Chicago startups are leading the pack in terms of the merging of high-tech and high-fashion.”

Saturday, June 29

In the wake of Hasting’s mysterious death and the conspiracy theories suggesting his car was hacked I feel compelled to attend “Driverless Cars: Speeding to the Future,” 12:30pm – 1:00pm

“While flying cars are still just a figment of our collective imagination, self-driving vehicles—such as the Google Car—are on the imminent horizon. Not only does this technology have the potential to prevent millions of injuries and save countless lives, it also has the power to disrupt the flow of trillions of dollars in industry revenue. Nearly everyone will be affected: suppliers, automakers, service-and-repair shops, insurers, energy companies, hospitals, and car rental companies, to name a few. Undoubtedly, there will be huge implications for all transportation and logistics—the backbone of every company’s supply and distribution chains.”

Entrepreneurship in Eastern Europe, 1:30pm – 2:00pm

“Eastern Europe’s tech scene is small but growing. Find out what Google is doing to facilitate the growth of the tech sector in Poland and beyond, what ideas are brewing in that corner of the world, and how they plan to impact the future.”

 “Is the Internet Destroying the Middle Class?,”  2:00pm – 2:30pm


Hungarian Rhapsody: my family's escape from Communism

A Communist statue still standing in Budapest, extremely ironically called the "Statue of Liberty"

A Communist statue still standing in Budapest, extremely ironically called the "Statue of Liberty"

Today is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a historic occasion the West marks as the collapse of communism. Months before the wall came down, Hungary had opened its own “Iron Curtain” of guard towers, mines, and electric fences that lined the border between Austria and Hungary. A family friend Lajos used to have the job of patrolling this border, and told me the story of how one day he threw off his body armor and gun, and told his fellow patrol guard and good friend that he couldn’t do it anymore. He ran for the border, and told his friend he could shoot him if he wanted. Needless to say, Lajos wasn’t shot, but he never saw his friend again.

Communism was never a natural fit for Hungary.  The country’s aristocratic past, as part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, never dimmed from memory.  After the 1956 uprising, Goulash Communism was instated to appease the populace.  It was because of this little bit of capitalism that my mother was able to open a flower shop in Budapest.  Still, the relationship with Hungary’s Communist leaders remained strained.

When the border between Austria and Hungary was opened in May 1989 (some say the Sopron Picnic in August was the official opening),  many Eastern Germans used this route through Hungary to get to Austria and back to West Germany.

I thought I would throw other Eastern-European nations into the media mix today by sharing the story of my Hungarian -American exodus.

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