Techonomy Takeaways: Big Ideas from Innovators

The Techonomy conferencefeatured a range of speakers Thursday night. Here are some of the ideas that generated conversation and buzz:

Bill Gates and Larry Page Talk Green Energy

Bill Gates at the Techonomy Conference.
Bill Gates at the Techonomy Conference.

Bill Gates drew a crowd, arriving at Techonomy ahead of his Friday speech. He chatted with Lisa Randall, Harvard Professor of Theoretical Physics and Darrell Hammond, the CEO of KaBOOM!, a non-profit that builds playgrounds to help battle childhood obesity.

But the crowd really leaned in when he and Google co-founder Larry Page started talking green energy, bantering about environmentally-friendly batteries.

Yale Computer Science Professor David Gelernter on Social Media

"Younger people are privacy damaged," Gelernter says, because they grow up without a normal sense of privacy. He predicts the rise of social networking tools that create smaller, more intimate circles.

But, he says, the momentum is with those that don't care about privacy. "We're returning to an older world instead of a newer one. People are taking the time to document their lives—spending several hours a day on correspondence and diary."

Facebook Co-founder Chris Hughes on Philanthropy

"We need to create a network between individuals and organizations working for public change," says Hughes, who co-founded Facebook and coordinated, the campaign's social networking site.

Now he's running a website called Jumo, that's designed to apply the social graph to the non-profit world. He says his goal is to "give users a reason to connect and make it easy to connect—open opportunities for groups to better collaborate."

ThoughtWorks Founder Roy Singhamon Democratizing Technology

Software development and IT "thought leader" Singham asked: "How do we move from democratizing access to technology, to democratizing creating technology?"

He said it's never been more important to move away from nationalism—nationalism is dangerous as we address economic and nuclear threats.

Ushahidi Founder Ory Okolloh on The American Dream

"Don't underestimate the power of the American dream, " said Okolloh, a Kenyan who attended Harvard Law School, before returning to Kenya to start Ushahidi, which democratizes information through crowdsourcing.

"Penalties for failure are very low here and elsewhere are very, very high." Okolloh says Americans have lost some of their willingness to take risks during the economic downturn; she urges the leaders here to recapture that optimism.

Questions? Comments?