As I wrote last month in What Good is Collective Intelligence if it Doesn’t Make Us Smarter?, at this year’s Web 2.0 Summit, we’re focusing on how what we’ve learned from the web over the past decade can be applied to solve the world’s hard problems. That’s why I’m really excited to see that John Battelle has persuaded Al Gore to join us.
One of those hard problems that requires all the intelligence we can throw at is global warming. And there’s no one who deserves as much credit as Al Gore for getting it on our collective radar. Through persistence, vision, and hard work, and a real mastery of the new tools of global media, he made all of us pay attention. His work has been a textbook demonstration of the power of media to change the way people think.
When I first saw Gore talk about climate change at the TED conference in early 2006, everyone wanted to know what we could do about it. People are still struggling to answer that question, but it’s clear that technology can play a large role: helping us to monitor and measure the rate of change in crucial environmental variables, creating feedback loops that change behavior at both macro-levels (like carbon markets) and personal levels (like home energy monitoring); creating green data centers and low-power devices; creating new forms of renewable energy generation or storage, new materials that require less energy to create; alternative fuels and vehicles. The list goes on and on. (Reminder: we’re looking for innovative “web meets world”startups for the Web 2.0 Summit Launchpad.)
Of course, global warming is far from the only “web meets world” theme that we’re exploring. The conference will cover everything from the latest trends on the web (the rediscovery of e-commerce as a business model, cloud computing, social networking, mobile applications, and the inevitable platform wars) to politics, global disease detection, personal genomics, private space industry, and even military infotech. Speakers I’m particularly excited to see, in addition to Vice President Gore, include Tony Hsieh (@zappos, for those of you who see him continually on twitter), Elon Musk (who’s got to have the coolest portfolio of investments since retiring from PayPal, with SpaceX, SolarCity, Tesla Motors all under his wing), and Michael Pollan, who’s completely changed the way many of us think about food. Check out the confirmed speaker list, but keep in mind that there are more yet to come as John and I firm up the program.