The Austin Forum on Technology & Society monthly online book discussions have become one of my favorite activities over the past two years. We have wonderful conversations among intelligent, curious people about books by thought leaders on the societal implications of diverse technologies. We limit these events to about 20-25 participants, and people can contribute to the conversation if they wish, or just sit back and enjoy it like a radio show or podcast conversation on an interesting topic. Everyone participates from the comfort of their own home, after work/dinner, often with a drink in hand (and occasionally a pet on hand!). The conversations are always thoughtful, respectful, and enjoyable.
As we enter December and the weather gets colder, we have some great books coming up—so stay warm and join us for any of these upcoming book conversations. As always, we encourage reading the book, though it is not required—but you will get even more from the conversations if you read the book, or at least a book summary. (All times are 7:15pm-8:30pm, Central time.)
Tuesday, December 12: Discussion of “AI 2041: 10 Visions of Our Future” by Kai-Fu Lee, moderated by Nancy Giordano.
Thursday, January 18: Discussion of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” by Shoshana Zuboff, moderated by J. Craig Wheeler
Thursday, February 15: Discussion of “Introduction to Generative AI: An ethical, societal, and legal overview” by Numa Dhamani and Maggie Engler, moderated by author Numa Dhamani.
I am excited to read and discuss all of these books and look forward to seeing you online and hearing your thoughts about these topics!
Jay Boisseau, Ph.D.
Summer is about to begin officially, though it’s already a hot one for our friends in Austin, around Texas, and across the southern US. It can seem like stepping out of your home is like stepping into an oven, but the Austin Forum has you covered with great events–both in person events (in air-conditioned spaces, we promise!), and online events you can from the comfort of your own homes anywhere in the world (and remember, like SXSW and Austin City Limits, the Austin Forum is for everyone, not just Austinites!). Most importantly, we are covering the most important technologies of our time this summer: AI, misinformation/disinformation, synthetic biology, energy transitions, digital privacy, and even quantum computing! So, join us for one or more of these events to learn more about the technologies shaping society, and if you are able to attend in person we hope you will stay afterward for networking and cool beverages!
(All events are free; all times are in CDT; all online events are streamed on Zoom)
So, please join us to learn, discuss, connect, and be inspired to collaborate and innovate–and to sound even smart at summer picnics :-)
Jay Boisseau, Ph.D.
Friends, we were thrilled with the response to our multiple "AI April" events. We had five events--ok, one was rescheduled into early May--and three AI-related podcasts. And yet, it wasn't enough! Interest in AI is exploding right now due to generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Bard, Stable Diffusion, MidJourney, and more, but we covered AI more comprehensively in our April programming. So, we're going to focus on generative AI specifically in June, with three events you won't want to miss!
So, we hope to see you for more practical information, usage instruction, and discussion of potential and pitfalls of GenAI in June!
Our annual partner (and original inspiration) SXSW just completed the Interactive (tech) portion of the SXSW 2023 festival, with an incredible number of speakers and presentations spanning AI, metaverse, digital identity and trust, cybersecurity, Web3, climate tech, energy, gaming, quantum computing, and much, much more. We understand not everyone could attend, and even attendees could only participate in small fraction of the content—so how can you learn more about the tech highlights of SXSW Interactive? If you’re in Austin, one way is to join our in-person meetup event on March 23 at which Hugh Forrest, Co-President and Chief Programming Officer of SXSW, and a large number of SXSW (and Austin Forum!) attendees will come and share their top highlights. After these quick highlights, we’ll have a meetup-format event to discuss what they've heard--and what they want the Austin Forum to cover in the year ahead! So, whether you attended SXSW or not, you’ll enjoy this event! And for the non-local folks and the ones who cannot attend in person, we have an Austin Forum Upload podcast reviewing SXSW Interactive with Paul O'Brien, CEO and founder of MediaTech Ventures and a longtime attendee of SXSW, discussing his and our observations, highlights, importance, and resulting recommendations for companies, professional, and everyone for attending SXSW Interactive.
Jay Boisseau, Ph.D.
I am pleased to share that one of Austin’s most notable, successful AI startups, KUNGFU.AI, has become a partner of the Austin Forum on Technology & Society. Dr. Steve Kramer, Chief Scientist, and Stephen Straus, Managing Director, will represent KUNGFU.AI on the advisory board. They will both help ensure that the Austin Forum programming reflects the growing importance and capabilities of AI in business, government, entertainment, and daily life and that we provide societal context and discussion around AI ethics. Our incredible, talented, and supportive partners provide the expertise to help craft comprehensive programming about diverse technologies and their impact. They make it possible for us to deliver great content to help you advance your knowledge and careers, augment your companies and organizations, and understand the importance, impact, and interplay of key emerging and pervasive technologies.
Jay Boisseau, Ph.D.
The Austin Forum on Technology & Society covers the influence and impact of both pervasive and emerging technologies in our lives, companies, organizations, education, entertainment, health, climate, transportation, energy— in society. In our first article of the rebooted Austin Forum Update blog, we present an interview of ChatGPT itself that shows the power and capabilities of this amazing tool — and shows a couple of limitations, too.
Read the article here!
The Austin Forum Update is being updated. Well, rebooted really, because we’re removing all older posts and in 2023 we’re going to have new weekly blog posts (in addition to our weekly Austin Forum Upload podcasts). These will be carefully solicited, curated, and prepared posts on the wide range of emerging and pervasive technologies that we cover in our monthly presentation & networking events, online discussions, in-person meetup discussions, and in the podcasts. Each medium — presentation, discussion, podcast, and article — has its own advantages. For complex technologies with numerous applications and potential influences on society, it makes sense to cover different aspects of these topics in whatever way is most effective, leveraging the strength of each medium for different purposes. Graphical/visual material is often better presented in presentations and articles, whereas conversation and debate are better in discussion events (active for participants) and podcasts (passive for listeners). Of course, the most important factor is how you, as an Austin Forum fan, prefer to consume content that advances your understanding and contributes to your technology endeavors — and to society.
In the new Austin Forum Update, articles will be of multiple formats as well as having diverse topics and authors. Some of these formats will include
So, please enjoy the new Austin Forum Update. Our first new article (well, after this one) will be an interview — with ChatGPT itself! We covered ChatGPT in a recent Austin Forum Upload podcast, but in this article we can show real examples of the generative output capabilities of ChatGPT. We interviewed ChatGPT itself, and we even asked it to write a poem and commercial for the Austin Forum on Technology & Society (and they were good!).
Enjoy the new Austin Forum Update! More coming soon, and often!
Jay Boisseau, Executive Director
Welcome to a brand new year and an exciting new chapter for the Austin Forum on Technology and Society!
As we begin this new year, we are filled with hope and anticipation for all that is to come. The Austin Forum has always been a place where passionate individuals can come together to discuss and explore the many ways technology shapes our world.
In the coming year, we have an incredible lineup of events, speakers, and discussions planned that we can't wait to share with you. From discussions on the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, to conversations about the role of technology in social justice and equality, there is something for everyone at the Austin Forum.
But it's not just about the events and speakers - it's about the community. At the Austin Forum, individuals from all walks of life and all levels of expertise come together to learn, share, and grow. By fostering a sense of community and collaboration, we can make a real difference in shaping the future of technology.
So join us, won't you? Whether you're a seasoned tech expert or simply someone curious about technology's role in our world, we welcome you with open arms. Let's make this an exciting and meaningful year for the Austin Forum on Technology and Society.
The above was generated by ChatGPT as an experiment--because we, like you, are curious about technologies and want to understand how (well) they work so we can think about new uses and features. We asked it to "write a blog post to welcome people to an exciting new year for the Austin Forum on Technology and Society," and as you can see, it captures the flavor of the Austin Forum on Technology & Society very well. This is possible because the text required for understanding the Austin Forum is on the web and because it knows how to write in many styles and formats: news and articles, blog posts, poems, scripts, song lyrics, etc. ChatGPT is such an exciting technology that we restarted our Austin Forum Upload podcast for 2023 with an episode dedicated to ChatGPT (but discussed entirely by real humans :-)), coming out soon. Of course, the ChatGPT text above is not perfect: we're starting a new year but not a new chapter, and it doesn't (and can't) know about future topics that are in planning but are not yet posted. Still, it's pretty spot-on!
We are working on presentations, discussions, and meetups for a wide variety of topics in 2023, including AI, misinformation, multiverse/AR/VR, cybersecurity, EVs/AVs, climate tech, health tech, 3D printing and robotic manufacturing, IoT, consumer tech and gaming, tech for defense/national security, tech for money/finance, and much more. We will also increase our use of technologies in our events and content in 2023. We even hope to instrument the physical venue for the IoT presentation with a variety of sensors and to use a multiverse venue for that presentation event. And most importantly, we look forward to connecting with tech professionals, tech leaders, and retch enthusiasts throughout the year, which helps us all develop new collaborations, friendships, and opportunities.
We hope to see you online or in person often in 2023, including at the popular Tech Trends for 2023 (and Beyond) event on January 10. And now, we close this article with ChatGPT's words as well, this time as a haiku:
Tech talks fill the air
Austin Forum thrives
The Austin Forum on Technology & Society's final event of 2022 was an online discussion of the best books community members had read this year with information, context, and/or perspectives on technology and society. The list includes both non-fiction and fiction books published over a range of 70 years though most are very recent.
Many thanks to Julie Tomlin for running a great discussion and suggesting several books I am eager to read. We'd also like to thank all the participants who suggested books: Ian Ang, Bonny Kelly, Erik Summa, Mike Ignatowski, Luz Gonzales, Yasir Iqbal, Hani Elshahawi, and Jay Boisseau.
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made, by Jason Schreier
Chip War: The Fight for the World's Most Critical Technology, by Chris Miller
Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World, by Clive Thompson
Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World, by Joseph Menn
Lifespan, by David Sinclair
How Music and Mathematics Relate, by David Kung
How Music Got Free, by Stephen Witt
Life 3.0, by Max Tegmark
Stand Out of Our Light, by James Williams
Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention--and How to Think Deeply Again, by Johann Hari
Tetris: The Games People Play, by Box Brown
The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), by Katie Mack
The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity, by Byron Reese
The Future is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler
The Fuzzy & the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the World, by Scott Hartley
The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology, by Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel
The New Map - Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations, by Daniel Yergin
The Patient Will See You Now, by Eric Topol
The Pleasures of Philosophy, by Will Durant
Weapons of Math Destruction, by Cathy O'Neill
What we Owe the Future, by William MacAskill
AI 2041, by Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Qiufan
Blueshift, by Joshua Dalzelle,
Klara & the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Level 7, by Mordecai Roshwald
Off to Be the Wizard, by Scott Meyer
Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
Station 11, by Emily St John Mandel
Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St John Mandel
The In Between, by Michael Landweber
The Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin
We Are Legion (We Are Bob), by Dennis Taylor
I am proud to say that, despite the many stresses and challenges we’ve all faced in 2022, the Austin Forum on Technology & Society is growing! We are overjoyed to see our in-person audiences come back, and we continue to evaluate how to maximize the experience for our online friends as well. We have added new monthly events: in addition to the monthly presentation + networking events (16 years and running!), we now also have a monthly online book discussion and a monthly in-person topical meetup. And, we finally have plans to resume the podcast and reboot the blog! (Apologies for the delays, but it was a challenging year for us, too!) Our programming growth accelerated in the second half of 2022, and this positions us for a wonderful 2023!
The Austin Forum has many roles: to introduce people to emerging and pervasive technologies; to help professionals with expertise in one technology area understand how other technologies can augment their jobs and companies/organizations; to connect creators and leaders to other professionals for potential collaborations; and more. We pride ourselves on covering diverse technologies, like our inspiration SXSW Interactive and like TEDx, to increase people’s understanding of these technologies and the potential synergies between them. We accelerate peoples’ awareness, understanding, connections, and collaborations. In short, we are built for speed—the speed to help people catch up and keep up with the exponential growth in human knowledge and technology capabilities. We accelerate peoples’ ability to adopt, create, and collaborate in new technology applications that benefit society.
We’re not quite done for 2022 though! Please join us for a great (and easy) online event on Wednesday, December 14, to hear people share their thoughts on the best books about technology & society of the year—and share your own thoughts, ask questions, etc. You may get some great ideas for holiday reading—or, even better, for what new technologies and applications you or your company/organization should evaluate, adopt, or create in 2023! And then please register to join us for the always-popular January event on technology trends for the year ahead!
Jay Boisseau, Ph.D.
Director, Austin Forum on Technology & Society
We hope all of our awesome Austin Forum community is having a wonderful summer, both here in Austin--which is finally cooling down (a bit)--and beyond in our growing online community. We have had some great summer events, but we reduced the number and paused the podcast to provide our team with time to rest and recharge a bit via vacations and trips, spending time with family and friends. Now, we are revved up and ramping for a big September. We have three great events this month, starting with our main presentation + networking event on space--rockets, satellites, and telescopes--at which three leaders in rocketry, space and astronomy will share the latest news, achievements, and discoveries--and yes, there will be rocket launch video and James Webb Space Telescope images! Register now for this awesome event on September 13, and if you can attend in person then please join us afterwards for networking at Trifecta for a special surprise. On September 22, we will have or monthly online book discussion of the just-released "Stories, Dice, and Rocks That Think," also with a surprise: Byron Reese, the author (and entrepreneur, futurist, and a past Austin Forum speaker), will lead the discussion! Please join whether you have had a chance to read the book or not, as Byron is one of the great thinkers and explainers of topics in technology and humanity in our time! Finally, for our in-person small group event of the month, join us on September 28 for another edition of the popular "AI & Whiskey Chat" to learn, share AI stories and experiences, and sample some great whiskeys.
Have a great remainder of the summer, and we look forward to seeing you in-person and/or online soon! Register now for or great September events, and also check out our great October events. Please share these opportunities with others who care about increasing understanding and engagement in topics at the intersection of technology and society! The more we all learn about the positive impacts and potential benefits of diverse technologies, the more we can improve our careers, companies and organizations, and awareness and advocacy among our friends and colleagues.
We are pleased to welcome three new annual partners to the Austin Forum on Technology & Society, all of whom share our passion to increasing understanding and collaboration in the technologies that are shaping all aspects of society and humanity. Optiver has developed an industry-leading trading platform that makes financial markets more efficient, transparent, and stable for all, and is represented on the Austin Forum advisory board by Luke Wilson and Scott Richardson. Data Vortex Technologies is a unique, innovative communications technology for maximizing performance in computing systems, and is represented on the advisory board by Carolyn Coke, Reed Devany, and Kim Bates. UT Austin's Good Systems is an initiative to promote the usage of AI for the benefit of society, and our long-time at-large advisory board member Sherri Greenberg of UT Austin now serves as Good Systems' advisory board member. We are excited to begin working with these great people and organizations to program future events and podcasts, and to expand our reach online to to have this content reach new people in Austin and beyond.Please learn more about these and all of the great organizations that are annual sponsors of the Austin Forum on our partners page, and about the talented people who will help guide the future programming of the Austin Forum on our advisory board page.
The Austin Forum on Technology & Society is excited to (finally) transition our podcast, the Austin Forum Upload, to weekly episodes! We have received wonderful feedback from many of you about previous episodes, and we realize our ‘series’ format left long gaps between series and hurt continuity. So, we promised a transition to weekly… and promised… and promised… and now we are fulfilling that promise! We have new episode recordings scheduled and are building out the programming to ensure our team can bring great new content every week! We hope you will check out our first weekly episode–technically, our 42nd overall episode –on the power of storytelling for helping people understand AI–on Spotify or the Apple or Google podcast stores, or right here on our website. Stay tuned for a new episode shortly on the power of design in technology, then other topics soon including another look at social media and misinformation, a conversation about the metaverse, and more!
Jay Boisseau, Executive Director
SXSW 2022 returns this year with both online and in person components and in true SXSW fashion, program options can be truly overwhelming. What recommendations can the Austin Forum offer to you for this year? First and foremost- plan, plan, plan. There is simply no way to see and do all of the things so strategic planning is essential. And then? Be ready to change those plans at a moment's notice and embrace the spontaneous magic that comes from never quite knowing who you will meet at SXSW or what you will learn.
To that end, below we offer a curated list of events from our Austin Forum Board Members and team. Some events require badges, others require an RSVP, while yet others don't require anything at all. Be sure to share with us some of your favorite events as well!
Featured Session: Amy Webb Launches 2022 Emerging Tech Trend Report
Mar 13, 202211:30am –12:30pm CT in Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D
Envisioning a More Ethical Big Tech
Mar 14, 202211:30am –12:30pm CT in Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon J
Is it Too Late? Climate Change as a Health Crisis
Mar 14, 2022 2:30pm –3:30 pm in Salon G
Featured Session: 10 Non-Obvious Megatrends Shaping 2022 and Beyond
Mar 14, 2022 11:30am –12:30pm CT in Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D
EU House at Native
No badge required, but you must register. Check for livestream options as well.
Topics include Quantum Computing and more
Featured Session: Less Talk More Tools For An Inclusive WorkForce
Mar 14, 2022 10:00am –11:00am CT in Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon H
Networking Social: Future of Women At Work
Mar 15, 2022 2:00pm – 4:00pm CT in JW Marriott Room 206
Remote Work: Moving Innovation to the Heartland
Match 11, 2022, 11:30am-12:30pm @ Courtyard Marriott, Rio Grande Ballroom
Re-inventing Live Events for a Post-Covid World
March 14, 2022, 4-5pm Courtyard Marriott, Rio Grande Ballroom
Moving with Purpose: Co-creating a City People Want to Move & Live In
March 13, 2022 2:00-3:30pm
Location: Wax Myrtle’s Club | IBE House
Putting Open Data to Work - at Scale
March 14, 2022 2:30-4:30pm JW Marriott Room 201-202
Heather Bishop, Managing Director
While the Austin Forum on Technology & Society team intended to start 2022 with our annual "Tech Trends" event both online and in person, the Omicron variant had other ideas.
Our team is deeply grateful to all of you--attendees, speakers/presenters, advisory board members, sponsors, and promoters--for joining us online for both January and February events as we all again navigated a change in pandemic life. We are thrilled that we could finally bring our March presentation to you, Cybersecurity in 2022: Growing Threats, And What You Can Do, in true hybrid form.
Looking ahead to the new year, we look forward to bringing you new programming and events such as our new SciFi Book Club, workshops like the upcoming Accelerated Introduction to AI/Machine Learning, our podcast series the Austin Forum Upload, and the rebooted Austin Forum Update blog.
By providing a wide range of programming we ensure that there is something for everyone at the Austin Forum and we are glad that you are here!
Heather Bishop, Managing Director
During the pandemic, the Austin Forum on Technology & Society has embraced online presentation events to continue sharing expertise from leaders safely while sustaining the strong community we've built and expanding it to include some regulars from around the world. We've also hosted a small number of smaller, more informal online discussion events to enable everyone in our community to speak, share, contribute, and connect.
We are excited to announce that these online discussion events will become regular monthly events, too! The monthly online discussion events will complement our presentation events (which will resume in-person as well as online, soon) as consistent content you can count on--and a regular opportunity for you to share your thoughts and to meet and hear from many others!
Please join us in these monthly online discussion events, starting on Tuesday, January 25 at 6:30pm CST for a discussion on "How Can Tech Companies Support Social Good?" led by Chelsea Collier and Jessica Sager. And come back on February 17 when Hugh Forrest talks about SXSW 2022 and answers all your questions, then on March 24 when Julie Tomlin kicks off the Austin Forum 'sci fi book club' with a discussion on technology and society inspired by Neal Stephenson's classic "Snow Crash" (and more like this, every three months). We will have an AI & ethics discussion event in April (date TBD) and will announce more monthly discussions soon!
Jay Boisseau, Executive Director
Heather Bishop, Managing Director
The Austin Forum on Technology & Society team is deeply grateful to all of you--attendees, speakers/presenters, advisory board members, sponsors, and promoters--for contributing to our community and supporting our success! The Covid-19 pandemic has been stressful to all and destructive to many. However, we have also found ways to remain productive, sustain relationships, learn new things, share ideas and experiences online and (with masks and distancing) in person. We are proud that the Austin Forum has been a source of community and of comfort, in addition to ideas and insights, for many during these times. We have survived and thrived--and we owe that to you. We have actually increased our programming as well as the reach of our content, and now we are positioned for an amazing 2022 with some hybrid events and some new online-only programming.
So, on behalf of the whole AF team, I want to thank you and wish you a happy--and safe--holiday season! We are excited to see you again at 6pm CST on Tuesday, January 4, either online or in-person, for our annual "Tech Trends" event to start the year. With technology playing an increasingly large role in our lives--accelerated further by the pandemic--it is more important than ever to know which technologies can best augment your lives, your families, your companies and organizations, and your schools and communities. We will help you know what to plan for and what to keep an eye on, and we will improve the hybrid experience every month. (We want to be the best at hybrid events!) We will also resume the Austin Forum Upload podcast, reboot the Austin Forum Update blog, and have some new online interactive discussion-format events. Again, 2022 is going to be a great year--the best ever for the Austin Forum--and we will share more about 'Austin Forum 5.0' on January 4 and afterward.
Jay Boisseau, Ph.D.
Executive Director & Founder of the Austin Forum on Technology & Society
The Austin Forum on Technology & Society is growing, and so is the team that brings it to you! I'm pleased to welcome two new members to our team: Heather Bishop and Jim Stroud.
Heather joins the team as the Managing Director, taking over for Jessica Sager, who is moving to the new role of Communications Coordinator. Heather brings a diverse set of experiences to our team and is excited to get to know our community. She will be committed to ensuring that we execute our events, podcasts, rebooted blog, and new conversations effectively.
Jim also brings fantastic experience to the team, having been one of the early thought leaders in streaming media and a technology analyst. Jim will turn the Austin Forum Update into a premier blog for technology + society topics with interviews, explanatory articles, analyses, and opinions from thought leaders.
These additions will allow Jessica to build the new Austin Forum Conversations series for technology + society topics best addressed with discourse and debate.
Along with John Lockman as the Technology Director and Delanie Majors as the Communications Coordinator, we have the biggest and best Austin Forum team ever.
Together, with your inputs and feedback, we will make sure the Austin Forum programming and experience continue to deliver even higher value and impact--for you, our community, colleagues, and future collaborators.
~Jay Boisseau, Founder & Executive Director
We are excited to announce the return of in-person events for the Austin Forum on Technology & Society on June 1! The event will have strict capacity limits and more spacing (and other safety protocols), but it will enable many of us to see each other in person for the first time in over a year! I predict handshakes and hugs aplenty.
However, June 1 is not just a return to the past way of having Austin Forum events, but the beginning of a new era. The pandemic forced us to move our Austin Forum events online, and that was remarkably successful. While people everywhere complained about 'Zoom fatigue,' they showed up for our events in huge numbers--and not just Austinites, but now people from across the US, from Europe, from Latin America, and even from the Pacific region. We went national and global thanks to Zoom, and we brought new friends into our community--and we will never go back to only in-person events.
So, the new era for the Austin Forum will be an exemplar for the hoped-for "New Normal" for society: fully and equitably including both in-person and online participants in meetings, events, and other experiences. In the New Normal, we should truly embrace both modes of participation; we should leverage both the richness of in-person interactions and the reach and features of online technologies so that all participants feel part of the same event, not two separate events. Everyone should experience equal access to ideas and content, and equal opportunities to contribute. This does not mean the experiences will be identical in the New Normal, at least not yet. However, we should strive to make them equivalent, and in time to blend the physical and digital experience more and more. As immersive technologies advance, this will become easier and more effective. We're going to start now, though, and learn from experience, from your feedback, and from technology and event experts. We're going to not only embrace the New Normal but strive to be leaders in it over the coming months because, no matter how you experience the Austin Forum, you are important to us and this community and we are committed to enriching your experience.
As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day, and the ultimate, blended physical+digital experience of the Austin Forum be not be crafted on June 1. However, we will take steps every month to gradually improve both experiences and the integration of them. We will test new ideas like satellite in-person locations with streaming content, common tools for in-event chat and Q&A among on-person and online participants, and even immersive environment technologies. Give us time, give us feedback, and give us a chance--we'll get there, together, and maybe provide the exemplars your company, organization, team, etc. can adopt in other ways as we collectively create and advance the New Normal.
In the meantime, we hope to see you--in person or online--on June 1 for a highly relevant topic for the New Normal: how to connect everyone, and everything, everywhere!
Jay Boisseau, Ph.D.
Executive Director and Founder
Thank You for Your Support in 2020!
I want to start this end-of-year letter by thanking everyone who supported the Austin Forum on Technology & Society in any way in 2020: our advisory board and annual partners, our speakers and moderators, our bloggers and interviewees, our amazing team, and of course our awesome attendees and advocates, our fantastic followers and friends! If you’re reading this, then you fall into at one least one of these groups and thus you sustained and supported our success this year. 2020 brought tragedy, strife, and stress for many, but the Austin Forum found ways to transform itself, to execute our mission and sustain relationships and a sense of community, and even to be a source of education and support on the challenging topics of the year. For that, I want to thank each and every one of you. I am forever grateful for the support we received in a year in which everyone had so many other things on their minds and agendas.
The Austin Forum aims to increase awareness, understanding, advocacy, and active participation in the creation, adoption, and usage of technologies that have positive impacts in society. Our tagline is connect, collaborate, contribute—those are the desired outcomes of our programming, activities, and efforts. For 14 years we had achieved this by bringing people together, in-person, to build the relationships after experts and thought leaders shared information on diverse topics. Under that in-person model we thrived: we became the largest monthly tech event series in Austin and a pillar in the Austin tech community! We added podcasts and blog articles, too, but our in-person events were our foundation—until March 2020. With the onset of the pandemic, we had a decision to make: do we pause the Austin Forum until it is safe to meet again in person since ‘in-person’ had been an implicit foundation for achieving our outcomes, or do we go online and attempt to continue achieving our objectives and sustaining the learning and sharing, the opportunities to engage, and the calls to action? After much discussion and analysis, we leaned into the new ways of interacting online, embracing Zoom and Slack and learning how to use these tools more effectively for our purposes. We even increased our number of events and addressed the issues of the pandemic and of racial injustice and inequities with extra events. We extended our reach beyond Austin, attracting participants from around the country and world (without a massive PR campaign). Most importantly, we remained an open, inclusive, welcoming community, modifying our format and our usage of Zoom to be more than just another webinar or meeting. It was a challenging year and transition, but in the end, we sustained a large community, dealt with tough issues, made new friends and fans, and had a record year in terms of number of events. I have never been prouder of the Austin Forum. And we learned how to be better: stay tuned for information about how we’ll have even great impact (and fun) in 2021—more types of events, better networking online, and more—when we share our program of activities at our January 5 event to kick off the year!
So, as we close what has been a challenging year for everyone, I want to close this post as I opened it: by thanking you for your support on behalf of our team, board, and partners. We are more excited about 2021 than we have ever been about a new year. We look forward to sharing our new program with you as we learn and share together, meet new potential collaborators and bring new people into our community, and inspire and accelerate collaborations and creative solutions that advance society and protect people. It’s going to be amazing—all the more so because of all of you.
Jay Boisseau, Ph.D.
Executive Director & Founder of the Austin Forum on Technology & Society
p.s. I hope you’ll stay connected in the Austin Forum Slack workspace over the break! I look forward to hearing what cool tech things Santa brings you!
Times have been tough in so many ways and community is more important than ever. At the Austin Forum, we have been feeling the loss from the lack of our wonderful in-person events, which often drew 200-300 people to the beautiful Austin Library. We are thankful that Zoom has enabled us to continue connecting and sustaining our community, and even allowed us to reach new people outside of Austin.
In the midst of all the change and chaos, we want to say that we are so thankful for people staying a part of the Austin Forum. We are grateful for our advisory board and sponsors for helping us be able to spread the word and extend our reach beyond Austin. Despite the challenge of the transition from in-person to online, we have embraced this opportunity to host virtual events. As we begin to close 2020 (finally!), and moving forward in 2021, we will continue to optimize our events for an increasingly large and distributed audience. We look forward to exploring new kinds of events, like virtual movie watching and "fireside chats" with technology experts, and more.
We hope you can join, support, and attend our last amazing 3 events of the year. They represent everything that the Austin Forum is about- super nerdy (Quantum computing on November 10th), super feel good (Tech & Social Impact on December 1st), and super fun (The Future of Gaming Technologies and Applications on December 15th).
We look forward to seeing you there.
Jay Boisseau, Executive Director
Jessica Sager, Managing Director
Dear Austin Forum on Technology & Society Community,
At the Austin Forum on Technology & Society, we stand as an organization and community against racism.
The killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 was tragic--as were the recent deaths of Mike Ramos, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other Black Americans who have been wrongfully killed in actions demonstrating racial injustice. Systemic and institutionalized racism remains a serious problem in our society--some people die because of it, and many are abused, held back, and otherwise discriminated against.
As horrifying as these events are, there appears to finally be a wide awareness and acceptance that systemic racism exists and that we must do more to eliminate it. The work has begun. Civic protests around the nation and world are demanding reform and demonstrating support for equality and justice. New policies are being enacted to prevent brutal use of force by police. Companies are reducing or eliminating development of technologies like facial recognition that have been used for discrimination. Symbols of institutional racism including Confederate flags and statues are being banned/removed. People of all races are showing their support. Black Lives Matter.
However, there is much more work to be done. Systemic racism, racial inequality, injustice, and violence remain in the U.S. and are sustained in some of our institutions. While the U.S. has made achievements that have saved and advanced many lives and it has often provided a beacon and support for the rest of the world, we have not yet fulfilled the ideals of our own country: that all people are equal, and that everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities free from discrimination and abuse.
The Austin Forum on Technology & Society has always been technology for society--and by that, we mean for all people. We believe that everyone should have opportunities to learn about technology, access to technology that improves their lives, and opportunities to get involved in technology development. This is why our monthly events are always free--with enormous thanks to our annual partners, companies large and small, tech-focused and otherwise, who share these beliefs--and is why we have December events that focus very directly on tech for social good/impact. This is why we provide more free content via blog posts and podcasts, available to anyone with Internet access, and is why we support the Austin Pathways effort to collect and repurpose devices for families that lack the means for sufficient connections to the Internet. Are we a leader in societal policy change? No, that is not our mission. However, we are a leader in building a community in Austin that shares beliefs in the importance of technology benefiting society--all of society, everyone. We have not done enough in addressing this issue of racism, so we are now developing plans that will leverage our platform and community to address racial injustice and inequality through our programming, participation, and more. You will see new information in our media channels and new advisory board members in June, more content about the importance of diversity and equality in tech in July, and a diversity-focused event in August. It will not stop there; we will be a part of the solution.
We encourage you to share your suggestions as to how we can improve our efforts going forward. The staff and the advisory board of the Austin Forum are listening--and working. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can participate in our Slack workspace in our new channel, #diversity. Together we will work to improve the impact of the Austin Forum on racial equality and opportunity.
Leadership of the Austin Forum on Technology & Society:
Michael Ward, Jr.
It seems like forever since we shared our plans to change the April 7 event from in-person to online, yet it was only 17 days ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has grown substantially worse, and it’s up to all of us to try to minimize the spread, the impact, and the loss of lives. It’s also important to continue to be effective in these ‘shelter-in-place’ times if we can—to run our businesses, to learn and teach, and to keep in contact with our family, friends, and colleagues while keeping our distance from others.
With that in mind, we have changed our programming content (as well as delivery) for the next two months to address the issues that really matter right now. On April 7, we will now cover how to work, learn, and just ‘live’ online more effectively. We all have experience doing many things online, but now we must get on with work, learning, and life almost entirely online. What was occasional or optional is now required and nearly constant. Our speakers will share how to choose and use technologies to be more effective, which can help our businesses, our personal development, and our relationships survive and thrive. Of course, this event (and the next two) will be entirely online—please RSVP to receive the Zoom link, and please do not show up at the Austin Central Library! (We will move the previously scheduled topic—startups and innovation—to September 2020.)
We will hold a special ‘extra’ online event on April 21. Whereas April 7 will focus on how to be effective in your online life with others (working, learning/teaching, and ‘living’), April 21 will be all about how to use technologies to take care of you. Our speakers will share how technologies can help you sustain and even improve mental wellbeing and physical health during these shelter-in-place days. We are all about community, but community is about people—and we want you each of you to take care of you as well as others. We will have more to share about this special event in the coming days.
Finally, we have also changed the May programming to cover COVID-19 more directly. On May 5th, our presenters will discuss how technologies are used to identify outbreaks and predict epidemics, to understand viruses, and to design and deliver drugs and vaccines. COVID-19 is not the first epidemic and won’t be the last, but science and technology are advancing persistently and rapidly. Several technologies will be key instruments in enabling healthcare professionals, government leaders and policy makers, and all of us to defeat the current pandemic and be better prepared for the next one.
We plan to return to our regular programming on June 2, and the topic will be 100% fun: gaming! From simple smartphone games to massively multi-player online games, from video screens to VR experiences, Patrick Curry returns to share the current state-of-the-art in gaming and what may come next. The demos will be great, too—and if we are back to meeting in person at Austin Central Library, we may have some other surprises for you…
Stay healthy, stay home… and see you online a few times in the months ahead. Also, don’t forget to join our Slack workspace to keep in touch between events!
Jay Boisseau, Founder and Executive Director
The Austin Forum on Technology & Society has always educated people about how emerging & pervasive technologies are shaping society, but it is fundamentally about community: about connecting people that might not normally have met, and creating relationships that lead to collaborations and innovations that contribution to society. We are proud to be Austin’s largest monthly tech information and networking meeting series, but now, in an expanding COVID-19 epidemic, it is a time for social distancing—not for large in-person meetings.
However, we must all also continue to work, learn, and communicate with each other in the meantime. We must adapt to the new normal in order to keep companies and organizations productive, and to continue providing for ourselves and our families. Fortunately, we live in a time of widespread access to computing and communications technologies, and some companies have deep experience to share about encouraging and enabling effective remote working, learning and more with technologies. The Austin Forum on Technology & Society remains committed to sustaining community and to executing our mission, so we will not skip a beat—but we will change how we meet.
We are changing the April 7 event to an online presentation and Q&A session, and details will be provided via the web site and EventBrite soon. We want to keep our community safe, so we will use this format for as long as social distancing is required to limit and eventually halt the spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) virus. We have offered Facebook livestreams of some past events for those who could not attend in person, but we will now shift all effort towards executing a great event for an entirely online audience. We will also change the topic to address the COVID-19 situation: how to use technologies effectively to work and collaborate, educate and learn, and communicate and share, and how to help others do so as well.
Please just us for our first-ever online event on April 7. Even savvy techies are likely to learn something from our panel about how to use digital technologies most effectively, and everyone will learn some challenges we must help everyone overcome. We will have a great panel and Q&A session with no loss of content quality; we will only lose the handshakes and hugs, and the post-event beer and pizza at Trifecta on 3rd. Be assured that we are thinking about ways to address networking and relationship-building online should the social distancing remain necessary for much longer.
Also because of the COVID-19 epidemic, we will ramp the usage of the Austin Forum Slack workspace more aggressively now as a means of connecting people in our community from different tech areas and backgrounds. We announced the relaunch of the Austin Forum Slack workspace two months ago to increase our ability to connect and build our community; it has become even more necessary and potentially valuable, and we believe will remain so even after the COVID-19 emergency is behind us. We also have several blog posts in the queue to ramp the Austin Forum Update, our Medium-hosted blog so that we can provide more great content while working entirely with authors online, for readers online. We’ve also started posting more content relevant to COVID-19 on our social media, carefully selected for being factual and informative, not opinions and conjecture. In short, we are transforming the Austin Forum for everyone’s safety, but we are ramping up, not down!
Please keep yourselves and your families, friends, and colleagues safe. This epidemic is serious, and in the absence of treatments and vaccines it is our individual and collective behaviors that will determine the rate of exposure. We can and will defeat this, but slower growth in exposure absolutely equals saved lost in the meantime. The Austin Forum on Technology & Society is going to do whatever we can to share useful information while also sustaining our community connections and continuing to encourage collaboration and innovation. We hope you will join us for the special event focused on this topic on April 7, and we look forward to seeing you online on April 7, or on Slack any time.
Jay Boisseau, Executive Director and Founder
Jessica Sager, Managing Director
The March 5th Austin Forum on Technology + Art is ON, and we want out supporters and friends to know that we are aware about the impact of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) worldwide, and we have been monitoring the situation hourly to ensure we can make effective decisions for your safety.
Fortunately, the impact in Austin has so far been zero--and all of our attendees are generally from Austin. Furthermore, the medical and epidemiological experts are saying that basic precautionary measures such as washing hands regularly (and well!), avoiding people who are coughing (and quarantining yourself if you have symptoms), and others practices can limit the chance of contagion.
Everyone should optimize their nutrients, rest, and others measures to maintain a strong immunity system, and elderly persons with know health conditions should avoid locations of possible contagion- but again, Austin is not one.
The Austin Public Health Department has deemed that the risk in Austin right now is very low, and the Austin Library has ensured that there is plenty of hand sanitizer while ramping up its efforts to keep surfaces clean and disinfected. Our staff will also bring extra hand sanitizer. Thus, our event tonight on March 5 is deemed safe--and we prioritize your safety.
We will share more data, information and precautionary measures at the start of tonight's event, and we will continue to monitor the situation to determine if next month's event should proceed as scheduled. For tonight, we're ON, and we look forward to showcasing some amazing artists and their art created with data, algorithms, and software!
Jay Boisseau, Founder and Executive Director
Jessica Sager, Managing Director