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Brainstorm survey: What tech leaders want

We asked attendees at our upcoming conference three questions. The answers show tech industry leaders are deeply engaged with big social problems, and optimistic that tech can help.

By David Kirkpatrick, senior editor
Last Updated: July 11, 2008: 3:01 PM EDT

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- As the iPhone 3G emerges, Apple's mobile device has captivated the leaders of the tech industry. That's the most certain conclusion Fortune reached after surveying 325 industry leaders who will be attending our Brainstorm Tech conference July 21-23.

The three questions: 1) What is the most exciting technology innovation you've seen in the past 12 months? 2) What is your biggest hope or fear for the future, and how does tech relate to it? and 3) What should the top priority be for the next U.S. president?

An astonishing number - about half - said the iPhone was the most exciting thing they'd seen. Otherwise, answers were kaleidoscopic. Here are some of them.

Most exciting innovation

"Use of algae to create oil." - Reed Hundt, senior advisor, McKinsey

"Solar photovoltaics. The dollar-per-watt cost is well on its way to being competitive with other sources of energy." - Daniel Wallach, executive director, Greensburg Green Town

"Cloud computing and Web services are bringing a 10-100X reduction in basic IT costs." - Rodrigo Sepulveda Schulz, CEO, vpod.tv

"Advances in electronic paper, of which Kindle is an example. Eventually every surface in the world will be a display of some sort." - Nicholas Negroponte, chairman, One Laptop Per Child

"One Laptop Per Child." - Mike Volpi, CEO, Joost

"Internet and mobile technologies...are getting critical mass in many parts of the world for the first time, thus their use has just begun to get interesting." -Rebecca MacKinnon, co-founder, Global Voices

"We are rapidly learning to decode and reprogram the digital information systems of biology." - Steve Jurvetson, managing director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson

"Focusing on the latest innovation...encourages us to respect only the latest shiny thing at the expense of that which can endure and flourish. I reject the very question as profoundly stupid." - Grady Booch, IBM fellow, IBM (IBM, Fortune 500)

Biggest fear

"High tech = supersonic speed. Business models = Porsche speed. Organizations = bike speed. Policymaking = snail speed." - David Bosshart, CEO, Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

"Living in an ad-driven economy." - Danah Boyd, fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Law School

"The world split into two camps - have and have-not." - Howard Morgan, director, Idealab

"The use of WMD, probably nuclear, in a major Western city." - Joe Schoendorf, partner, Accel Partners

"The rapidly-expanding carbon footprint of developing nations and the trend line that will make efforts of the developed world futile." - Paul Thelen, chairman, Big Fish Games

"For pandemics, we need to think globally, not only in wealthy countries." - Seth Berkley, CEO, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative

"Unbridled capitalism and advances in information and communication technologies are ushering in an era of worldwide anomie." - G.B. Prabhat, CEO, Anatara Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

Biggest hope

"That enhanced communication can strengthen trust at a global level." - John Chen, CEO, Sybase (SY)

"That a reduction in the likelihood of catastrophic conflict might be made more likely by increased transparency and empowerment of people." - Linton Wells, Distinguished Research Professor, National Defense University

"That people start taking transparency for granted, and that they have the courage to act on what they find out." - Esther Dyson, investor and writer

"That the U.S. regains its focus on preparing and training young people so they can compete in the global economy." - Dina Kaplan, COO, blip.tv

"That we will develop technologies that help users extract relevant and meaningful information from noise." - Andrej Nabergoj, CEO, Noovo

"I'd like to see technology give everyone on earth clean water, electricity and a cell phone." - Philip Rosedale, chairman, Linden Lab

Priority for next U.S. president

"Preserving our role in innovation but, at the same time, to not swing the pendulum too much towards protectionism." - Vyomesh Joshi, EVP, Imaging and Printer Group, Hewlett-Packard

"Re-establish the moral legitimacy of our democracy." - Brad Wechsler, co-CEO, IMAX Corp.

"Launch an alternate energy initiative to reduce dependence on fossil fuels...like the "put a man on the moon" effort." - Padmasree Warrior, CTO, Cisco (CSCO, Fortune 500) Systems

"Institute the equivalent of a Marshall Plan for the American educational system." - Shoshanna Zuboff, author, "The Support Economy: Why Corporations are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism"

"Bring access to health care in the U.S. up to the global standard." - Paul Jones, creator, ibiblio.org

"Rebuild the U.S. infrastructure and move it from its current deteriorating late-19th-century orientation to a 21st-century one." - Kevin Kahn, Intel senior fellow, Intel (INTC, Fortune 500)

"A cabinet-level appointment for broadband, communications, and the digital economy." - Lev Gonick, CIO, Case Western Reserve University

"Move the U.S. transport system - public and private - to be principally electricity-based inside ten years." - Sean Maloney, chief sales and marketing officer, Intel

"Regaining the trust of the world." - David Siminoff, General Partner, Venrock

"International empathy." - Seth Goldstein, CEO, socialmedia.com To top of page

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