24 [Mind-Blown] Hours at #Fireside

For you busy folks, here’s the structure of this blog:

  • “Wow ideas” from the speakers: go to “Friday, 4 PM” section
  • Refugee Camps and how we can get involved: “Friday, 8 PM” section
  • Meditation with 2 bright minds on a picnic table: “Friday, 10:30 PM” section
  • Why I’m obsessed with Blockchain: “Saturday, 1 AM” section

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Currently 4:39 PM. Sitting on my couch. Gorgeous day. Beaming smile. Racing mind.

Been hearing about friends raving about the #Fireside conference.

>>>Off-the-grid weekend with 400 established wild entrepreneurs.

>>>Tier-1 industry thought leaders flying in across the world.

>>>Bon fires. All-night dance parties. Cabin nights with bunk beds. Water skis. 7 AM Jujutsu class. Star-gazing meditation.

Seems this camp is ruled by imagination. There’s only 1 rule: Disconnect. To connect.

Friday, 4 PM:

Everyone gathered around the “Den”. An amphitheatre next to the docks with a breathtaking lake view. Admittedly a bit of a misnomer.

First speaker was Andrew Warner, Mixergy podcast host.

He spoke of Facebook Messenger Chatbots.

Having trouble engaging your audience? Forget about Emails, 0.5% open rate is sad. Start building a chatbot. Start capitalizing on this platform to boost your traffic.

On a personal note, if you haven’t played around with a Chatbot yet, go to your Facebook Messenger right now. Also, it’s easy to build one! I’ve built a legal incorporation chatbot using chatfuel.com.

Andrew is hilariously energetic. When I asked for a photo together, he dragged me to the kitchen and started serving soups. #Mixergy #FireSideStyle

Then came Jeff Pulver, Father of VoIP.

He’s the reason Skype and WhatsApp are free. He’s the reason the Federal Communications Commission ruled voice-over-IP is not a telecommunication service.

He talked about AI, and how machines can save so much of the mundane human work.

What he called this “Google Love” concept got my imagination firing.

Google knows us so much better than arguably our best friends, spouse and our parents. It tracks everything you buy, you open, you search, you look at. With all these mega-data, Google knows what type of girl you like. Imagine that. You ask Google where you should go for coffee. And Google points you to the coffee shop where the girl you might like just paid for her coffee. Voila. Fate awaits on your next coffee trip.

Third was Prof. Roel Vertegaal, a Queen’s Professor known as the “breaker” in the Human Media Lab.

He would break every assignment his students submit. Talk about breaking fast to learn fast.

First part to this technology is a bendable screen. It’s the size of an iPhone, but the texture of a rubber band. He pulls out of his jacket, casually drops to the ground, casually picks it up, and passes it around the crowd. The crowd was going nuts.

Roel’s focus is on Augmented Reality (AR)/ Virtual Reality (VR), without wearing the goggles. What does that even mean?

He talks about a future of having AR/VR technology built on contact lenses. So humans can interact without the bulky eye pieces between them.

What blew my mind was what he said next, something called BitDrones.

Imagine having drones the size of your fist, that projects hologram waves. If you set up a couple drones in the air and overlap the hologram waves, you can have a 3-Dimensional experience of having videos literally coming alive in front of your eyes.

(When I finally had internet, first thing I did was googling these BitDrones.)

As the chilly night drew closer, we started to gather around the bon fire, listening to the last speaker, Robert _____ (still attempting to find his last name). A tech evangelist that has apparently met all the famous people, with Trump possibly being his next date.

Imagine living in a story, without being there. Something current videos (even AR/VR) just won’t cut it. Imagine technologies that can detect heart rate or body heat from 1 meter out. Technologies that can capture the feel of texture and transmits that through finger touch devices, so the next time you’re touching your jacket, the audience can feel the fibre.

Friday, 8 PM:

Dinner was Oktoberfest-styled.

I rushed in with the other 400 cold and hungry folks, and poured myself some warm vegetable soup from the square table.

Highlight of the dinner is discussion over Global Citizens and Refugee Camps, and how we can get involved.

Kevin, a co-founder from Communitech, was telling us about the Hult Prize. It’s an annual Hackathon for students to solve a United Nation problem. This year the theme is Refugee Camps.

His brother actually volunteered at refugee camps for 2 months in South Africa, and watched how former-lawyers, doctors and teachers became refugee, with no passport, no country, no identity.

Almost overnight, as war zone expands to their home. These highly educated individuals are now no longer desired and very difficult to relocate elsewhere to find a job.

They’re doing manual labour work, earning $0.50 US a day, and trying to save the money so they can buy a data plan and go on Coursera to learn a new skill. It’s incredible how little remains to them, and yet, their unwavering drive.

I applaud this prize, and applaud the students that spends almost half a year working on these. Even if the projects don’t win the prize, many of them got carried out.

Kevin said his brother is working with local organizations to build a off-the-cloud internet to help these refugees, so the Coursera content that would normally cost their entire new saving, would now be free.

Another group is working on setting up a program so these highly educated individuals can start teaching each other skills. One hour of cooking for one hour of math for example. These are the type of things that we, first-world citizens, should at least be mindful of.

Friday, 10:30 PM:

Now that we are fed, it’s game time.

The crowd went to the “Volleyball Field”. I was standing in the “blockchain crowd”, with Alias from ColliderX, Ethan from Tendermint, Anthony from Decentral.

In the bright lights, each person was handed a piece of paper with a question. The game is simple, you walk up to a stranger, ask them the question, get asked by their question, and exchange your piece of paper to go on to the next stranger.

Then I got a question, “When’s the last time you had a new lease on life?”.

Best answer I received: “Yesterday”.

When asked why, he explained, “a friend of mine was sitting in a restaurant eating dinner, when a drunk person drove into the restaurant and killed him. All these around me, taught me one thing. To be appreciative of life.”

I remember telling him then and there, that’s exactly my take on life. It’s so short, and beautiful. You never know when is your last day, and that uncertainty makes it all the more interesting. Life really is like a game.

And before I know it, I was meditating with 2 of the brightest minds on that field. Three of us sitting cross-legged on a picnic table in the woods, with our back against the crowd, still close enough to hear the loud raving music and the yelling.

Breath in, say “I”. Breath out, say “am”. And think of what you feel right now. Are you grateful? Tired? Peaceful?

The air was chilly. The wind was blowing softly against the tree leafs. Loud catchy tunes from behind attempts to take over my attention. I focused on my breath. Breath in, “I”. Breath out, “am”. “Grateful and at peace”.

And then a voice: Listen to yourself more. The answer is in your head the whole time. You know exactly what to do.

Forget about the raving dance party with omni-colored flashing lights across the trees. Forget about the open bar. I was ready to hit the bed.

Saturday, 1 AM:

Except I didn’t really sleep all night. It was a night-long battle against the 0 degree cold air. And these voices in my head.

Why am I obsessed with Blockchain?

Because it gives people trust.

Because of conversations I’ve had here with folks about government taking people’s money and being so inefficient about it.

About how blockchain enables people to own their money and be their own bank, not having to worry their money will depreciate because of inflation.

About how humans are good-hearted overall, so even without government in place, the rich will donate enough to support the poor, without the government intermediary.

That’s the part I disagree. Government is super-inefficient, agreed. But that’s the best we got so far. Without a tax system in place, how do you support all the free education, the health care, the welfare for the elders and disabled and homeless (let’s call this the “Support System”)? I do believe humans are good-natured, but I also believe they’re ruled by greed. They will donate when they want to feel good about themselves. And that’s unpredictable. You can’t force someone to donate at certain times every month. So the cash flow is unpredictable. And that breaks the Support System.

In my head, this conversation continued on, and on, and on.

Saturday, 8 AM:

The camp radio was on at 8.

Went to the docks, anticipating a stand-up paddle-boating session.

No one was there. So I just sat on the docks and did some more meditation. Crisp morning air. Open lake view with forest on the other shore. Twinkling waves under the morning sun. What a magnificent way to start a morning.