O’Reilly Media founder – Igniting a passion for science


18 Sep 2009

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Irish-American Tim O’Reilly has a lot to answer for. He created a technology publishing empire, is a strong supporter of the open source community and coined the phrase “Web 2.0”. Oh, and he wants geeks around the world to share their knowledge through O’Reilly Media’s global Ignite events.

The Alphageek

Don’t be offended by the term "geek". O’Reilly uses the term affectionately and refers to the "alphageeks"; the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of this world that see the value in scientific and technological principles before the mainstream academic community ever catch on.

In conversation with O’Reilly a couple of year ago he said to me: "I use this phrase: ‘Watching the alphageeks.’ I look at people who are ahead of the curve. I like to use this wonderful William Gibson quote: ‘The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.’ So typically, if you find the people who are most adept at a technology they are going to be ahead of their time. They can do something today that one day everybody will do."

Dublin ignites

Here in Ireland, we have a chance to watch the alphageeks because the first-ever Ignite event is happening next week on Thursday, 24 September.

It will be taking place in Trinity College’s Science Gallery and is being organised by TCD lecturer in mathematics and mathematical neuroscience, Conor Houghton.

"The idea is to give a talk whereby you can communicate ideas or research you are working on without the need for specialist details," explains Houghton.

"Anyone can take part and they are given five minutes to take with 15 seconds per slide you present.

"Whether it is a scientific concept or even a business idea or art, the idea is to make the expert or specialist as interesting and accessible as possible," he adds.

Mental evolution

One such alphageek is Dr David Delany, neuroscientist and CEO of Neurosynergy Games. His talk, entitled Evolution 2.0: Next Generation Brain Training Games, might just make Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training series of games for the Nintendo DS seem like MB Games’ Operation in comparison to open-heart surgery.

Delany’s research doesn’t simply train the brain like Kawashima’s games do; it charts new territory of "self-directed mental evolution" as he puts it.

"I’ll be describing an innovative new brain-training software design with the potential to dramatically outperform existing pharmaceutical and psychotherapeutic treatments for mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and autism," explains Delany.

"More generally, I’ll be exploring the idea that recent discoveries in neuroscience offer us historically unprecedented possibilities for comprehensively remodelling our own intellectual and emotional capacities: evolution 2.0: self-directed mental evolution."

By Marie Boran, via Gadgetrepublic.com

Photo: Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media, the company behind Ignite.