“Star Trek” to become real, speaker tells Economic Forum | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

“Star Trek” to become real, speaker tells Economic Forum


MILWAUKEE — Technology is changing everything – and quickly.

That was the message of futurist Vivek Wadhwa, keynote speaker for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Economic Forum 2016 held on Thursday, Oct. 29 at The Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave.

Wadhwa writes and speaks on technology trends, globalization and U.S. competitiveness. He’s a distinguished fellow with the college of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, teaching about the impact of technology at that school and elsewhere.

“The Milwaukee Jewish Federation organizes the Economic Forum to hold a community conversation about the economy,” said Hannah Rosenthal, CEO and president of the Federation. “Having renowned futurist Vivek Wadhwa deliver the keynote speech is an excellent opportunity for this conversation. And our local panel of business leaders brings it all home.”

Introducing him, she cautioned a sell-out crowd of about 650 people to “hold onto your hats,” warning that Wadhwa “is going to knock your socks off.” His presentation, in fact, was dizzying.

“The next 5, 10, 15, 20 years are going to be the most amazing in human history,” Wadhwa said, before skipping through lists of advances that he expects to arrive shortly.

The iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 will have the same computing power as the human mind; your mobile phone already gives you more information than your doctor has and soon it will do more thanks to artificial intelligence; forget the “Six Million Dollar Man,” try new eyes thanks to $6,000.

“Many of you are wearing eyeglasses. Imagine if you get new eyes,” he said. “This is happening. It’s not science fiction.”

He noted how advanced robots have become in recent years, more agile and no longer a joke.

“Star Trek” will become real as 3D printers become sophisticated like replicators from the TV show.

He indicated the pace of change will quicken as technologies converge. He offered examples of how rapidly advancements have already arrived. The smart phone technology in our pockets, he said, would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars just decades ago.

Following his keynote speech, he joined a panel discussion with Tina Chang, CEO of SysLogic, Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in Law and Public Policy at Marquette University Law School, and David Lubar, president of Lubar and Company. Panelists expressed interest in how Milwaukee could take part in the technological revolution and how things can be improved here at home.

Wadhwa suggested that Milwaukee could be part of this dazzling future. Entrepreneurs can be brought into the area to harness the resources already here.

“You’ve got everything you need here,” he said. “Why can’t you build a self-driving car here?”

He took the audience through a “thought experiment,” asking rhetorical questions about gene editing. Would you edit out a disease? Would you add 10 IQ points to your child?

“We’re headed there,” he said. “This is an unstoppable force.”

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