Seattle 2035: Innovators Kelman, Etzioni, Hood, & More Tackle Big Questions

What’s your vision for Seattle 20 years from now? What will it take to continue the region’s tradition of innovation, and to develop and tap everyone’s talent? What are the big technology changes and investment opportunities? How do we remake Seattle as not just a smart city, but one that’s wise and resilient?

These are some of the big questions we’re tackling at Seattle 2035, the next event in Xconomy’s Xponential Cities series. We’re gathering an outstanding group of business and technology leaders, researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs for this Oct. 30 event. Together, we’ll explore key new industries and technologies taking root today with the potential to become economic pillars in the years to come, as well as broader issues that form the foundation of an inclusive innovation economy.

We’ve built an event that will deliver a broad sampling of Seattle’s potential futures in a concise format that respects your time (the program runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with networking before and after). If you want the best price on tickets, get on it—a $100 discount offer ends Thursday at midnight. Register here.

Here are highlights of our packed agenda. It all goes down at Northeastern University’s Seattle campus in South Lake Union:

—Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman will open Seattle 2035, offering context on the city’s long-term livability through the lens of housing, affordability, density, and diversity—all of which will influence who and what will be here 20 years from now.

—We’ll discuss our region’s core competencies in software and information technology, and how this positions the Seattle area to invent the future—because whatever it may be, you know software is going to be at its core. Eric Horvitz, distinguished scientist and director of Microsoft Research in Redmond, and Ed Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at University of Washington, will lead this interactive discussion.

Oren Etzioni, one of the world’s foremost thinkers on artificial intelligence, leads the team at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, where researchers, working with AI experts from the UW, have built software capable of solving geometry problems as well as the average high school junior. Etzioni will tell us where AI is heading, and why Seattle will be a major player in this transformative technology.

—While true AI may still be well over the horizon, Seattle companies are already applying machine learning to things like text analysis and airplane maintenance, as Textio co-founder and CEO Kieran Snyder and Boeing Technical Fellow Dragos Margineantu will discuss, with moderator Ian Gorton, director of computer science at Northeastern University in Seattle.

—Gene sequencing pioneer Leroy Hood has set his sights on individual wellness with a startup called Arivale. He will be joined by Clayton Lewis, his Arivale co-founder and CEO (most recently a venture capitalist at Maveron), for a discussion of how technology-aided wellness can optimize human potential, deal with an ageing population, accelerate the digitization of medicine, and create a new industry.

—The buzz around space exploration and entrepreneurship, and Seattle’s role in it, has never been greater. Jason Andrews, CEO of Spaceflight Industries, and Nathan Kundtz, a metamaterials expert, who leads satellite antenna maker Kymeta, will talk about why Seattle’s combination of aerospace heritage and software expertise make this an ideal place to build companies for the new era of space.

(Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a brilliant vision of our future in space, check out “The Martian.” I was treated to a preview on Monday. Like many “Martian” viewers and readers, I wondered how far into the future the story was set. The answer is actually a complicated Easter egg embedded in the movement of the planets depicted in the film, but the fact that I’m mentioning it here should give you a hint.)

—I donned 3D glasses for “The Martian,” enjoying the state of the art in immersive movie-watching. But it won’t be for long. With virtual reality headsets on their way to the market, this is a technology area poised to explode—and not just for gaming and entertainment. Startups in the Seattle area are developing applications in business, architecture, software development, and many other fields. We’ll hear about it from Envelop VR co-founder and CEO Bob Berry, as well as executives from VRstudios and PlutoVR. It’s an area that has caught the attention of prolific angel investor Geoff Entress, who will moderate this discussion.

(For an even deeper dive into the growing Seattle VR cluster, check out SEA-VR 2015 on Oct. 28 in Bellevue. Early bird pricing for that conference is available through Sept. 30. Check it out here.)

—Technology leaders in Washington have been sounding the alarm about a problem that many communities would love to have: lots of high-paying technology jobs, but not enough people with the computer science expertise to fill them. Meanwhile, there aren’t enough open doors for women and people of color to enter the field. That’s starting to change. We’ll look at successful programs for developing more of Washington’s talent with Trish Millines Dziko, co-founder and executive director of the Technology Access Foundation, and Cynthia Tee, executive director of the Ada Developers Academy, and ask what else needs to be done.

—Seattle is special, we can all agree. But like urban centers around the globe, it is not without its challenges. We will explore visions of the future of cities and infrastructure with Z. Gary Yang, whose company, UniEnergy Technologies, is building large batteries to enable smart grids and renewable energy integration; Thaisa Way, executive director of Urban@UW, a new effort working on “inclusive data driven innovation for the future of cities”; and Nitin Baliga, senior vice president at the Institute for Systems Biology, focused on sustainable urban agriculture.

—Lastly, if you’re trying to forecast where you’re going, it helps to know where you’ve been. Seattle 2035 will close with a chat between two long-tenured leaders who have been investing in and supporting Northwest innovation for 20 years. Tom Alberg, co-founder and managing director of Madrona Venture Group, was among the earliest investors in Amazon.com. That worked out pretty well. Susannah Malarkey, the founding executive director of the Technology Alliance, is stepping down after two decades leading the organization’s work on education, entrepreneurship, and research. I can’t wait to hear these two trade stories and look ahead to the next 20 years.

We’ll be adding more speakers and publishing the full Seattle 2035 agenda in the coming weeks. Please join us for what promises to be a stimulating, important discussion about our shared future.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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