By Richard Campbell
Founded in 2014 by Harvard, MIT, MGH, and The Boston Globe, the annual Hub Week now sporting many new sponsors, materialized on City Hall Plaza Monday October the 8th this past week. The showcase runs through the 14th and is comprised of over 200 events. This year’s theme is “We the Future”, which seems as much about cultural innovations as future crisis points mitigated by technologies. Hub Week brings smart people from around the world to showcase innovations in technology, medicine, education, humanities and the arts. While there are really only three full days of forums-Wednesday through Friday- the week includes satellite experiences all around Boston. Home base on City Hall Plaza is where select environments, staged experiences and amenities create a small village. With attendees from 46 states, 59 countries, and 38 industries charted around the city, you will find planning critical. Trust me: this is not your grandfather’s science fair.
Big Money Or Freebie Option…
For the hefty ticket price of $700.00 there is the Concierge Pass with all the perks, though the Insider Pass for $200.00 seems like something for those in the more middle-income range. Don’t sweat it if that price is too rich for your blood, as there are plenty of things to see for FREE if you obtain a GA General Admission pass. Students and Startups qualify for 50% off passes, and there were early bird discounts. But let’s not kid ourselves, unless the boss is paying for it, Hub Week is well beyond most purse strings of people wishing to be merely entertained. If you are planning on launching a complex start-up, it is worth every penny.
Of course, when one is talking about reserve front row seats to a lecture by Walter Isaacson the author of the best-selling biographies on Steve Jobs, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Benjamin Franklin; or Penny Heaton CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Research Institute, you sort of expect to shell out some cash. Local luminaries from the MIT Media Lab, such as Rosalind Picard, and Neri Oxman give the forums that extra technical gravitas. Perhaps young people’s preference will be to hear David Hogg, from March for Our Lives, or Chana Sacks from Mass General’s Gun Violence Prevention Program. There are attempts to envision a more peaceful, harmonious world that bridges the inequality between poor and wealthy nations. A recurring theme is how individuals can reach out to the larger world and find purpose in life.
Big sponsor events like MIT’s Hackathon will draw the computer geeks but I had to attend the Aerial Drones workshop at District Hall in the Seaport hosted by Swissnex. Called “Aerial Futures: The Drone Frontier”, this was a combination drone demonstration and forum that included about 25 organizations primarily from Switzerland and the US, focused upon the 20 billion-dollar drone industry. In what seemed like an unlimited clash of ideas from aerial pollination, to virtual piloting technologies, data collection, energy harvesting, aerial mapping, machine learning, and wind tunnel technology-one afternoon at this Hub Station is a mind-boggling Geek Heaven.
The Broad Institute never fails to shock you with the next revelation in genetics, and dutifully presented “CRISPR: From Lab to Clinic” on Tuesday Night. But don’t worry, they haven’t gotten to the stage of walk in appointments for gene editing. Many commercial sponsors gave generously in creative ways. Blue Cross / Blue Shield has a booth entirely dedicated to prosthetics and body technology to overcome disabilities; Toyota has their Mirai Experience and Liberty Mutual presented the Information Zone. The Crystal Cave and other arts exhibits round out the learning experience with some fun, as well as nightly parties on City Hall Plaza lit up like an airport hangar. Besides music and art performances there are featured movies and podcasts. Warning. Your brain may rapidly expand during Hub Week, but one night of TV sports or network news can bring it back down to reality.