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We want Brainstorm Tech to rock!

Fortune's conference for the thinking person takes a new form at Half Moon Bay in July. Our topic: Tech's future, and the world's.

By David Kirkpatrick, senior editor
June 27, 2008: 12:57 PM EDT

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- In just three short weeks, we launch the next phase in Fortune's Brainstorm conference series, Brainstorm Tech. The original Brainstorm ran in Aspen from 2001 until 2006, and this one will retain the unique spirit of multidisciplinary inquiry that won it so many plaudits and fans, while digging even deeper into tech. Brainstorm Tech remains a wide-ranging convergence of people and ideas, with a deep cognizance of the impact of technology on what is happening in the world. I serve as program director and conference host. (The conference runs July 21-23 in Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco. For full details go here.)

We'll put on the podium tech's leading thinkers and thinking leaders - Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt, Sheryl Sandberg and Chris DeWolfe, Arianna Huffington and Gary Hamel, Marc Benioff and Jeff Weiner, Robert Scoble and Kevin Kelly, Larry Lessig and Danah Boyd, to name a few. Then we'll create opportunities for the entire group to discuss and debate what they've heard, in small settings, question and answer sessions, and what we're calling "lunch labs." A Brainstorm conference is a collective conversation. We aim to reduce the distinction between speaker and attendee, since everyone we invite to attend Brainstorm is accomplished enough to speak. Ideas flow in all directions.

To list all the eminences would require this entire column, but in the big-time CEO category, besides Bezos, Schmidt and Benioff, we have Viacom's Philippe Dauman, Verizon's Ivan Seidenberg, Activision's Bobby Kotick, Sybase's John Chen, Applied Materials' Mike Splinter and Sun's Jonathan Schwartz. And don't forget Peter Chernin, who runs most of the non-newspaper portion of News Corp. In the amazing thinker category we welcome robotics pioneer Rodney Brooks, virtual worlds pioneer Philip Rosedale, and investing pioneer Danny Rimer. We may even have a super-amazing special guest from outside the industry who we aren't yet able to announce. (Joining us at the original Brainstorms were Bill Clinton, Shimon Peres, Jordan's King Abdullah, and John McCain.) This visitor could make things really rock.

For a panel on advertising moderated by my colleague Jessi Hempel, we bring together Tom Bedecarre of cutting-edge digital agency AKQA, Lynda Clarizio of AOL's Platform-A, and Brian McAndrews of Microsoft (ex-CEO of aQuantive). To understand both where media is headed as well as how tech's mindset is evolving, Time's Josh Quittner will corral a panel of bloggers -- Om Malik, Robert Scoble and Kara Swisher. (Yes, we embrace the competition.) In separate interviews we'll talk to Chernin, Kotick and DeWolfe, among others, to get the big-company perspective on media's evolution.

I'm particularly proud of the lunch labs, which each tackle a specific social problem or challenge. We include a domain expert to outline the issues and a tech guru to help guide the conversation. The aim is to do some serious brainstorming and come up with new ideas about the opportunities presented by tech and the Internet in the face of social challenges.

Lunch lab topics:

-Shelter, with Cameron Sinclair of Architects for Humanity

-Peace, with former Pentagon CIO Linton Wells and Eric Rasmussen of InSTEDD

-Energy, with GE Global Research Senior Vice President Mark Little as well as Google Chief Evangelist Vint Cerf

-Governance, with Daniel Kaufman of the World Bank Institute, and Ross Mayfield of Socialtext

-Talent with author John Hagel and Vineet Nayar of India's HCL, who I said practices "the world's most modern management"

-Transparency with Internet guru Esther Dyson and author/pundit Kevin Kelly

-Healthcare with Zoe Baird of the Markle Foundation and Google's Marissa Mayer.

Fortune's Adam Lashinsky moderates a panel on "Tech Investing in a World Without Exits." I'll interview Nicholas Negroponte of One Laptop Per Child about how well we're all doing getting computers into the hands of students in the developing-world.

Some promising sessions will be moderated by special guests. McKinsey's James Manyika chairs a CEO panel on "How Green is Your Valley?" Venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson conceived a session on "Synthetic Life and the Bio-Energy Revolution." CBS's Quincy Smith moderates "2018: Life on the Net." Andreas Weigend, who served as chief scientist at Amazon, came up with "Digital Exhibitionism: The Future of Relationships." Finally, Roy Singham of Thoughtworks, who I profiled not long ago, hosts a conversation on "The Future of Code." It will look at how programming itself is evolving, and includes David Heinemeier Hanson of 37signals (and Ruby on Rails), legendary programmer Grady Booch of IBM, and Charles Simonyi, CEO of Intentional Software, who ran much of Microsoft's software development in its glory days.

We hope that by taking a couple days out of our crazy schedules to cohabitate with this group of heavies we will all get smarter about our work and savvier about where tech and the world are headed. At the least, it's going to be fun. To top of page

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