One wag tweeted that the conference was “Basel meets brains.” An astute observation of the juxtaposition of Art Basel and the first SIME MIA, both going on in Miami Beach last week. SIME MIA, which began one day before the art show, was a two-day gathering of some of the world’s top technologists and futurists to discuss the rapid-fire growth of artificial intelligence, digital media, digital music and big data.
Hosted by Ola Ahlvarsson, a Swede who runs SIME conferences in Stockholm and other European cities, the conference brought visitors from all over the world, some with an eye to relocating their enterprises to South Florida. Mr. Ahlvarsson, a part-time Miami Beach resident, has impeccable timing. In scheduling SIME on the cuff of Art Basel, he assured that the eclectic group of 600 attendees — “intrapreneurs,” investors, less exotic entrepreneurs, inventors and, yes, hackers — would have plenty to see and do in their down time.
This is hardly your typical gathering of engineers. The conference featured multi-sensory events along with many expert speakers. There were also musical performances, entertaining videos and even a little salsa dancing. Founders and board members of Flickr, Spotify and other newbie techs were among the speakers.
A major theme of the conference was the exponential speed of innovation today, covering such things as 3D printers that will one day render outsourcing of manufacturing to other countries with cheap labor obsolete, the promise of safe driverless cars in less than a decade and advancements in facial technology that will make it much harder to lie about who you are.
One major speaker behind these predictions was Salim Ismael from Singularity University in Silicon Valley. Ever-improving technology will “be the driving force” behind huge changes, many of them stemming from entrepreneurs, he said. A fact worth noting from Mr. Ismael: the Kauffman Foundation found that since 1980, 100 percent of net new U.S. jobs have been created by start-ups.
All this naturally inspired talk about expanding the tech community in South Florida — still polishing its claim to be the gateway to Latin America, a place ripe for technology growth and entrepreneurship. This conference fits perfectly into the two South Florida regional planning councils’ forward-thinking seven/50 project — designing a blueprint for how the region’s seven contiguous counties can smartly grow and prosper over the next 50 years. Creating a technology hub in the region is one of the blueprint’s goals.
The second day of the conference moved on to Wynwood, also home to Art Basel events. Digital art, more videos and interactive games were all part of the discussion, as well as being on display. Another SIME MIA founder, Demian Bellumio, COO of Senzari, an international online radio provider based in Miami, announced the launch of MusicGraph, a knowledge engine for music. Other local entrepreneurs at the conference agreed that South Florida can be a major destination and eventual home for global technology.
Messrs. Ahlvarsson and Bellumio said this won’t be the last SIME MIA, hinting that it will be bigger and better next year. That’s great news, with one caveat: If South Florida is to be a big player in this marvelous technological future, our leaders must pay close attention to the state of our public schools to ensure that we develop enough bright young tech stars to inspire and keep it growing.