The past few years have gone by so quickly, no? It feels like it’s time to sit-down, synthesize and story-tell about what’s been happening on this side of the fence. I know for many of our readers, this site has been nothing more than a random collection of loosely tied together ideas on a range of technology related topics. We’re ready to kick it all into second gear now.
When a few of us gathered to do this 2 years ago, our aim was to simply enlighten people about emerging trends in the area of information & energy network technologies. As a technology advocate, I feel that technology plays an important role in our lives, but if misused, these same tools can often lead to more clutter than clarity. From the stand point of ie and lifestyle redesign, we set out to identify what matters from what doesn’t.
Before I begin, I want to provide you with a practical example of such a ground breaking technology. Check out this TED video of Harald Haas who talks about how we can start getting data from light bulbs - by the way, there are more than 14 billion bulbs already in use today. If you are wondering where the title of this blog came from, it’s Harald’s finishing remarks. This is probably one of the best examples of what happens when we begin to unlock the technology potential in information and energy networks.
So, allow me to shed some more ‘light’ on the idea of infonetenergy (ie). ‘ie’, sounds cool, so what is it? Ok, here’s the long story. But if you want the short story, scroll down to the last few paragraphs.
Earlier this week, as I was driving from my parent’s home in Houston to Austin for NI-week, like a lightning bolt, I was struck by an idea: “I wish to run for Prime Minister of Canada in 2015.” Where the idea came from, I don’t know exactly, but I’ll try and explain. Before i go into the full explanation, let me first tell you what I did right after I had the idea. First, I called the one close friend (V) who I knew would think I’m crazy but would still support me. Second, I called my Mom, won her support (she always believes in everything I do) – 2 votes in the bag – then asked her to hand the phone to my father, aka, ‘Dad’. Ugghh…this was going to be a bit tougher. With him, before breaking the PM news, I simply warned him that he was going to think I was crazy in a few seconds but assured him that I’m only half joking and half serious – vote 3…pending . Then I called Erlisa, she once told me something during a more confused period of my life that helped me turn everything around. She said “love what you do…until you do what you love”. My favorite quote…still to this day. She said that she’d support me, I already had 3 votes, and some momentum. I said to myself, k, I’ll go public with my intention. And so I tweeted and facebooked it. Within 2 days, there were 20 ‘likes’ on my facebook status. Omg, this is actually turning into something…something real.
Now it’s time to come clean, I’m not really wanting to become the Prime Minister of Canada. I’ve only stated that i will run for PM. My real aim is to get attention about another more important cause, art-factory. I’ll get to what art-factory is in a moment or two. You would not believe it though, just by the mere act of saying that I wanted to the be Prime Minister, I became more famous and drew more interest than ever before. No…seriously, a part of me feels like I’m back in highschool again (guess politics is quite similar to high school in that they are both popularity contests). Oh wait, but I was not very cool in high school, I forgot that minor detail. I wasn’t cool in high school or even anytime before then, unless you count being in the school chess club cool, does that count? The only sort of real life coolness I had ever achieved was after I got to University. Ahem….and that’s only true because I was surrounded by fellow geeks engineers…no offense to y’all, I’m one of you now. I guess coolness is relative. I digress.
So, the one thing I learned from a close friend of mine, many years ago, is that people often over-estimate what they can do in the short run (say 1 year), and underestimate what they can achieve in the long run (Say 3 to 5 years). Hence the target of 2015. The other lesson I’ve recently learned from reading a book about negotiation is….’never ask for what you want, ask for more‘. ‘Huh?’ I hear you gasping. What does that even mean? Well, the way to get what you want is more of an art than science, but there is some science to it. One of the things I’ve learned is that it’s incredibly important to first know what you want, in your own mind, before going out into the world. First crystallize it, in your own mind, then, for the world around you, build a case around why you deserve more, not much more, but just a bit more, like 10% more. So, where am i going with all of this? no clue. let’s continue.
Before I left for my recent 1 month Quanser trip to south-west USA – Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada – our neighbor Joe approached us and told us about a development project that we could possibly get involved with; he said that a guy named Aaron was heading up the project. We arranged a time to meet with Aaron because Joe – who also happens to be Toronto’s most Exclusive Hair Stylist – had promised to cut Aaron’s hair at this site. art-factory was born.
When we get there, Aaron tells us the full story. I’ll be posting the video of Joe cutting Aaron’s hair on our art-factory.ca website very soon, stay tuned. But the general idea is this….Aaron has been put in charge to lead and develop almost 1 acre of land which has about 33,000 square feet of abandoned building space. He has been tasked with the challenges of igniting a grass roots movement to engage a community that will help redesign and rebuild one of downtown Toronto’s most forgotten about neighborhoods. As we walked around the abandoned ‘mansion’, we began to see how much potential was locked in this space. His vision is quite clear and simple, leverage the trans-formative power of art and entrepreneurship to rebuild Toronto, from the inside-out.
Whenever I see Obama on T.V., he’s either happy or sad. When I see him talking about the financial crisis or the debt ceiling, he looks depressed. When he speaks about robots that fix city infrastructure or energy efficient automobiles, he’s positive and confident. So on that hot summer day, driving from Houston to Austin, it hit me, the challenges we face today are not political or financial in nature, they are technical. The solutions to energy crisis, environmental crisis, health crisis and security crisis are technical in nature. Do you not agree? I recently also heard that 50% of politicians in China are engineers. How many of our politicians are engineers? How many of them have a deep understanding of technology’s impact on society? I’d argue, not that many.
In fact, our local politicians, like Rob Ford, are too busy flipping the very people he represents the finger and snubbing off well respected community leaders like Margaret Atwood. Read this article to learn more about what I’m referring to: click here. I hear Rob’s viewpoint on Clean Energy is also not very promising.
So when all is said and done, we aim to make 3 points, loud and clear:
1) We need more engineers who have a systemic approach to problem solving in ‘office’, right now. We need people in government to represent us who understand and appreciate the underlying impact of technology on the future of lifestyle redesign.
2) We wish to empower a talented and inspired team of people from the Academic, Government and Industry technology community to help manifest a vision of abundance through large scale investment in education, research and deployment of critically important information and energy technology centers.
3) Be in a position, by 2015, to Conceive, Design, Implement and Operate a city somewhere in Ontario, which applies all of the benefits of technology towards overcoming The Grand Engineering Challenges of this century. A critical theme for this future technology driven city will be to identify creative ways of integrating entrepreneurship with arts.
For Dr. Apkarian, Paul Gilbert and the Quanser team here in Markham, for more than 22 years, our mission has been singular – perhaps a similar vision can serve our country’s future: Innovate. Educate.