Promise of the 'Social Petri Dish'

Brent Schlender, Journalist, Co-Founder of Techonomy |Special to CNBC

In this fast-paced world, it is more important than ever for people in business (or those working in other institutions) to broaden their peripheral vision and be more aware of technological advances in adjoining disciplines and industries.

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That's the inspiration for Techonomy 2010, a new business conference that explores the economics of innovation, convenes August 4-6 at the Ritz-Carlton Highlands Resort near Truckee, Calif.

The brainchild of three former FORTUNE editors, the event will bring together an eclectic crowd of people of accomplishment from all areas of human endeavor: business, finance, academia, research laboratories, government, and philanthropy.

It will feature an impressive array of speakers that includes Eric Schmidt, Neelie Kroes, Stewart Brand, Dean Kamen, David Gelernter, and Bill Gates among others.

The conference will employ a range of interactive formats to demonstrate how new innovations are as much a product of the recombination of existing technologies as they are wholly new inventions.

Techonomy could be thought of as a "social Petri dish," in which the organizers are bringing together people of great expertise in all aspects of human activity to see what new kinds of techonomic “life-forms” will emerge. The program will cover topics as far-ranging as climate engineering, agribusiness, social networks and media, bio-engineering, information science, human health and longevity, and the future of financial markets.

David Kirkpatrick, Peter Petre, and I—all former FORTUNE editors—developed the editorial concept for Techonomy, which we intend to expand into a series of global conferences, as well as an online community and site for thoughtful and analytical discussions about the dynamics of innovation, and of the power of technologies of all kinds to solve pressing problems and unlock new resources.

Throughout history, technological innovation has been the primary source of new economic value and the means for the human population to grow by leaps and bounds. It is the primary tool that enables the survival of the species and the advancement of civilization. But it must be managed.

The event is sold out. CNBC's Maria Bartiromo and Julia Boorstinwill be reporting from the event, both on-air and online.