Spending time listening to entrepreneurs and inventors talk about their efforts to harness technology to solve big problems in the world was very refreshing, particularly since so much news and casual conversation these days is focused on subjects like the financial crisis, the Madoff scandal, the growing stability issues in a number of countries around the world, and the bleak projection for ad spend over the next two years. It was also refreshing just to spend a lot of time talking with others about some of the cool Web innovations that were released this week.
First, I heard some presentations for start-up biotechnology companies. It's not an area that I'm really familiar with, but I think it's incredible how scientists are using emerging technologies to solve significant and heretofore untreatable health problems. I must admit that listening to these entrepreneurs talk about curing cancer or childhood diseases, or improving the eyesight of millions, made me feel a bit inadequate for spending my time trying to solve media marketing problems. Even so, it was very satisfying to realize that so much technology-driven progress is being made in areas that so directly impact the human condition.
Second, at the Montgomery conference, I saw Dave Jones, the creator of "Grand Theft Auto," "Lemmings," and "Crackdown," debut what I think could be the gaming -- and maybe interface -- platform of the future. Called MyWorld, it's basically a mashup of Google Earth, Second World and a really robust 3D image tool set all designed to be a "sandbox" for multi-user online gaming. While the gaming part was very powerful, I, along with many others, couldn't help but think that he was demonstrating what could be a new operating system for not just virtuality, but for communication and commerce.
Finally, you know it's a big week when Google releases not just one, but two major innovations. Yesterday, the company released its long-expected network behavioral targeting platform, which came with a twist. The system allows users to actually view and modify the preferences that Google uses for targeting ads, not unlike what Blue Kai has been doing. Today was the debut of Google Voice, which gives users the ability to consolidate all phone, text and voice messaging communication in one place, and have it follow them around. While this will certainly disrupt a lot of companies, particularly the phone companies, it basically means that telephone services just got better and cheaper.
Dozens of other great products like these are launching every day. The pace of current technology-driven innovation is really extraordinary -- so much faster than it was only five years ago. I'm glad that I was able to step back a bit and soak some of it in, giving me renewed hope for the future and what we are all going to accomplish.