A while back I announced the theme of this year’s Web 2 Summit: “The Opportunity of Limits: Sustaining, Applying and Expanding the Web’s Lessons.”
Since announcing that initial theme and lineup, an amazing group of folks have agreed to come and participate, and if you peruse the list, you’ll note that it’s not just the regular coterie of Internet leaders. Sure, we’ve got those folks coming, and yes, we’ll be focusing just as intently on the opportunities in our industry. But we’re also going further afield. As we wrote in the overview:
In the first four years of the Web 2.0 Summit, we’ve focused on our industry’s challenges and opportunities, highlighting in particular the business models and leaders driving the Internet economy. But as we pondered the theme for this year, one clear signal has emerged: our conversation is no longer just about the Web. Now is the time to ask how the Web—its technologies, its values, and its culture—might be tapped to address the world’s most pressing limits. Or put another way—and in the true spirit of the Internet entrepreneur—its most pressing opportunities.
As we convene the fifth annual Web 2.0 Summit, our world is fraught with problems that engineers might charitably classify as NP hard—from roiling financial markets to global warming, failing healthcare systems to intractable religious wars. In short, it seems as if many of our most complex systems are reaching their limits.
It strikes us that the Web might teach us new ways to address these limits. From harnessing collective intelligence to a bias toward open systems, the Web’s greatest inventions are, at their core, social movements. To that end, we’re expanding our program this year to include leaders in the fields of healthcare, genetics, finance, global business, and yes, even politics.
Last week (while I was on vacation, so I missed posting on it) we announced the focus of our annual Launch Pad program, where we focus on promising startups. This year, we’ve aligned Launch Pad with our theme, and I am very excited by the result. From our description:
For Launch Pad 2008, the focus will be on startups in the fields of alternative energies, social entreprenuerialism, microfinance, developing economies, political action, renewable technologies, and the like. We’ll be particularly interested in where these companies display significant cross over with the web, of course, but this will not be required.
Tim wrote a great post summarizing the idea:
This might seem like quite a departure for the Web 2.0 Summit, the conference that made its name by celebrating the revolution in the consumer internet caused by the move to the internet as platform, service based business models, and social media. Or is it? After all, I’ve argued all along that the real heart of Web 2.0 is the ability of networked applications to harness collective intelligence. Yes, you can harness collective intelligence to build amazing internet businesses, as the past five years have shown us.
But what good is collective intelligence if it doesn’t make us smarter?
In an era of looming scarcities, economic disruption, and the possibility of catastrophic ecological change, it’s time for us all to wake up, to take our new “superpowers” seriously, and to use them to solve problems that really matter.
Submissions are now open. I hope you can help us spread the word!