Finding hope in the changing world of technology

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak shared both humor and inspiration with the crowd at the Good Tech Summit in Washington, D.C.

Entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie revolutionized the idea of the modern library, donating over a thousand public libraries over the course of his life. One in specific, the Carnegie Library in Washington D.C., brings antiquity, dignity and prominence to Mt. Vernon Square. Historic in its very existence, the Carnegie Library still breaks headlines over a century later, as Apple CEO Tim Cook recently announced their plans to turn it into an Apple Store. At the crossroads of entrepreneurship, history and progress, the Carnegie Library was the perfect location for this year’s Good Tech Summit — a conference hosted by Phone2Action for professionals in the world of digital media, technology and data analytics to come together to learn from and with their peers.

The event began with a panel on the future of social good, and featured leaders in the ecosystem of technology, advocacy and innovation. Opening the summit, Gary Shapiro — the CEO of the Consumer Technology Association — spoke on both the positives and negatives involved with technology, but focused on the overarching point that it will always be relevant and necessary. Following, Ken Lowe — co-founder of Vizio — offered his advice on which products will be successful to consumers. His best advice was that there is only success when there is demand for a product: “technology can’t be used until the user is ready.” Despite how innovative a product, it must be both desired and available to those that will purchase it.

Touching deeper on the topic of the intersection of technology and social good, Sarah Springer of Ryot spoke on her experience as a storyteller who integrates virtual and augmented reality into her method. This new form of storytelling is revolutionary as it puts the experience in the hands of the user to control, such as the “Examining racism through Virtual Reality” experience wherein users are physically put in the place of another individual facing discrimination. Such distortions of reality revolutionize storytelling in a meaningful way.

The rest of the morning was filled with different breakaway panels regarding community building in the digital age, making governments work for individuals, designing products to fuel inclusivity and fueling what actually matters in a digital-first world. The session before lunch was a “fireside chat” with MSNBC’s Greta van Susteren and Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX). The two of them disussed the growing role of social media in policymaking, as it is actively changing the relationship between constituents and their representatives. Instead of writing a letter and hoping your Congressperson opens it, you can now contact them through various social media platforms.

After a quick lunch to unwind from the morning, the keynote speaker — co-founder of Apple Steve Wozniak — took the stage for a conversation reflecting on his long career and role within Apple. Candid, funny and warm, Wozniak made clear his position in the company as the brains behind the entire operation. His focus was, and still is, completely on the technology and innovation, never the money. In fact, he donates millions of dollars to organizations each year. His captivating personality reflected his unimpeachable dedication to the company — always returning to the importance of keeping every situation light and fun, regardless of the obvious stress involved with building one of the world’s largest businesses.

Following the keynote, attendees chose from various afternoon panels and interactive activities such as companies fostering cultures of change, case studies of successful tech campaigns, the future of news and empowering individuals to take action.

As the event came to a close with final words and a celebration, the positivity filling the air of the old library could not be ignored. Amid relentless negativity regarding cybersecurity, media and technology, hundreds of professionals filling these very spaces were able to relax, reflect and dance with their peers. While there are obvious negatives involved with new technologies, the positive human element behind such progress negates potential dangers.

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