Thinking digital: curious minds & movie monsters

Ever wondered how many people in the world are left handed, how virtual reality can prevent car sickness or how data helps build the marvel universe?

More than a week later I’m still processing so many things after the Thinking Digital conference, which has become a legendary tech and innovation event in the North East although shamefully this was my first visit.

The event is variously described as a holiday for your brain and a festival of innovation that will take you out of your usual bubble.

As a communications professional conferences tends to fall into three categories: where you come away with reams of actions you can do tomorrow, where you breath a sign of relief because you’re doing everything suggested and then things like this which challenge you to think far more deeply about the future.

There was an excellent range of speakers covering everything from creativity, AI, virtual reality, sociology, robotics and big data with some of the presentations genuinely mind blowing.

Here are a few takes from the day:

Post digital

One area of discussion was thinking about the current era when everyone is online how do you differentiate your own organisation. One answer is people. As we tire of the ‘always on’ culture there’s an idea that we’re drawn back to the most human.

Progressive tech

New transformative tech like AI, extended reality and quantum computing has all sorts of implications for healthcare on things like donor matching or complex treatment management.

One speaker told how extended reality was being developed to help with car sickness, while artificial intelligence in the USA is already being used to support older people with daily living and process huge volumes of data that advises doctors.

Dangers of social

A session just on YouTube explained that while it’s rapidly replacing TV it’s slowly becoming more like the media it is trying to replace.

With 1.9bn active users there are more creators than ever competing for eyeballs and becoming a YouTuber is now the most desired career for kids. If you watched all new content on YouTube in the last 3 months without sleeping it would take until 8069.

Despite this, it’s mired in scandal and has huge implications for politics, modern life and healthcare. Things like ‘Red pilling’ where people believe all kinds of conspiracy theories no matter how outlandish, can pose a real challenge for healthcare and public health.

The power of YouTube is growing and it’s becoming our new society and it isn’t currently regulated.

“Too much prose and not enough poetry”

A creativity expert told us how we spend too much time on the prosaic and mundane and not enough on the creative and exhilarating.

One reason for this is because creativity is really really hard. It’s largely about innovation and new thinking, and as humans we are uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. The most creative things often come from dissatisfaction and discomfort.

He was keen to bust some corporate creative myths – primarily that creativity is a team exercise. In fact that waters down creativity because the more people who are on a project the less productive each person is.

“Creativity is an individual pursuit ~ hamlet was not written by committee.”

The final point was a really poignant one: To solve a problem what you need is one good idea and not 100 mediocre ones.

Virtual world, real problems

The lead for VR space on Facebook explained how they were trying to combat some very familiar problems. In creating virtual spaces where people can go female users have experienced sexual harassment and abuse.

Lights, camera……visual effects

The final session was a rundown of all your favourite films from Star Wars and Jurassic park to terminator, Indiana Jones and the latest Avengers blockbuster.

A VFX expert talked about how he uses a huge raft of data and new technology to create, recreate or manipulate camera shots for CG environments.

He used footage from the Netflix film Birdbox which has more than 800 shots of visual effects to show us some of the tricks of the trade. The complex way they simulate water flow for a scene for the movie was particularly mind blowing.

Thinking Digital is an ideal place for curious minds and to answer the original question around 85% of the world is right handed and this is always largely the same.

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