Curiosity Camp: Bringing Together the Curious Minds that Build Our Future
High up in the Santa Cruz mountains near Big Basin Redwoods State Park sits a hilly, idyllic campsite, complete with its own private lake.
For three days and two nights, a gaggle of geeks — 100 or more — descend upon the grounds of Curiosity Camp, a highly-curated gathering of inventive people from around the world, including physicists, roboticists, computational biologists, and rocket scientists. They’re entrepreneurs, technologists, and creatives and they’re here to meet other deep thinkers and talk about some of the world’s most challenging topics, ranging from the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs to the colonization of Mars.
We first started hosting Curiosity Camp in 2012 out of frustration. Each day we crossed paths with some of the world’s most interesting people but the demands of daily life prevented us from really getting to know one another in a meaningful way. It was hard to move past the what-do-you-do small talk, remove all distractions, and connect deeply.
We set out on a mission to design an entire weekend to do just that. We scoured every campground in the greater Bay Area and discovered the perfect spot — an active scout camp, no less — completely off-grid, at the end of a long and winding dirt road, surrounded by majestic redwoods.
Beyond immersing ourselves in nature, we set out to create an environment where people could share their expertise in a completely new context, and in a way they feel comfortable stepping outside their comfort zone, taking risks, and engaging with each other unfiltered. We want campers to not only be open to learning, but also to teaching driven by a shared curiosity to ‘imagine if…’
Curiosity Camp is not your run of the mill conference — there are no keynotes, no panels, and no agenda. Instead, “unconference” rules apply: Campers write the topics they want to lead on a white board when they arrive at Camp and later opt-in to the talks they most want to join. Multiple sessions run concurrently — each group gathers around a campfire, under a tent, or in a corner of the woods and a moderator guides the conversation. Participants are often a mish-mosh of disciplines and backgrounds, not necessarily tied to a field related to the topic, which allows for more creative, unexpected questions and conversational directions. Chatham House Rules apply — participants talk about what happened in the session but not who said it which allows everyone to embrace vulnerability and be real.
Outside of sessions, campers can go for a hike, join open-air yoga, take a dip in the pool or row a canoe with new friends. There is art, live music, survival skills training, even aura readings — campers are encouraged to choose-their-own-adventure. At night, campers can stargaze around a campfire, or join in on Werewolf, a game of strategy, cunning, and deception. Each activity is carefully chosen to create an opportunity for shared experience and thoughtful connection.
Activities aside, the true heart and soul of Curiosity Camp is the people. As each year of Camp has proven, when you bring together the world’s most interesting people looking to change the world, with no connectivity, true magic happens.
This year, as always, we came away from camp feeling reinvigorated and inspired. Here is a glimpse of the Unconference sessions we can’t stop thinking about, which range from the practical to the practically out of this world:
Each year, we look for new people to bring into the Curiosity Camp collective. If this post has made you more curious about camp, and you’d like to nominate yourself or others to attend, we’d love to hear from you.
Because curiosity is the precursor to innovation!