I’m spending all week at O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference, and it’s been great so far. When comparing it to my previous experiences at the Web99/2000/2001 conferences, and the SXSW conferences, this one is quite a bit different. While the South by Southwest conference frequently looks at the past and dips its toe in the future, web conferences like the Web99/00/01 series were firmly planted in the here and now (“Here’s what we do about web browsers today, and how we build web servers and services for today’s needs.”).
The Emerging Tech conference is a breath of fresh air because for the most part the speakers are all looking fairly far off into the future. I probably heard the word “terabyte” spoken more times today than I have in my entire life. Storage and processing power is getting very cheap these days, and in the far off future, archiving every email you’ve ever received, every web page you’ve ever looked at, and every application you’ve ever used will be trivial. So will instantly searching any word in any of that content, given the power of desktop computers. Applications and operating systems that create connections between data and learn from your behavior will also be the norm.
Even though the current funding climate is still pretty bad, there is a good sense of optimism among those gathered. There are still many interesting computer science problems worth attacking and things will get better tomorrow, as we grow closer to solving them. You can sense and feel the optimism that the future will be better, and brighter. The bulk of presentations I saw today were about solving problems years down the road, for situations that haven’t quite happened yet. The crowd is an interesting mix between visionaries you read about, and open source hackers that can see beyond the end of their noses. Overall, a great gathering of the minds and a fun conference to be at.
Oh, I’ll be announcing some big news on Thursday.