Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn speaks at Ignite 18.

When Seattle hosted the World’s Fair 50 years ago, people predicted a 2012 full of flying cars and jetpacks.

Of course, that hasn’t happened yet. But speaking to a packed house Thursday night as part of Ignite Seattle, Mayor Mike McGinn made it clear that those same people were correct about at least one thing.

“We can make fun of what they thought the future was, but they got one thing exactly right: That we would be the city of the future by focusing on innovation, science, arts and culture,” McGinn said. “We’ve done that the last 50 years.”

McGinn received some of the loudest cheers of Ignite Seattle 18, the popular series of talks on a wide variety of topics with the motto, “Enlighten us, but make it quick.” Speakers are limited to 20 slides, each auto-advancing every 15 seconds, for a total of five minutes.

The mayor spoke about the city’s now-vibrant innovation, science, arts and culture scene. He also touched on Seattle’s fiber optic network and how the city can advertise dark fiber to the private sector.

“We’re trying to squeeze data through lines that were built for cable and T.V.’s,” he said. “Why don’t we build a big fat data pipe and use cable and T.V. and phone as apps on that data pipe?”

McGinn

McGinn has already pushed hard to bring fiber optic cable to Pioneer Square, a high-tech hub that historically had been bypassed by the big telecommunications companies. The mayor and University of Washington president Michael Young have also been working together to help improve Internet speeds around the UW community.

McGinn had people laughing after talking about the city’s new “Where’s My Snow Plow” app that allows citizens to figure out where snow plows are. He said it’s an example of how technology can be used to connect the city to its citizens.

“We’re good at pushing information out, but we have to figure out how to listen and interact with you,” he said. “That’s the next generation.”

He stressed the fact that connecting people of different disciplines — arts, tech, science, etc. — is the key to innovation.

“We create places in the community where artists, scientists and entrepreneurs can get together. That fuels our economy,” he said. “It’s not an old vs. new economy. Everyone has to innovate.”

There were nine other inspiring talks, some funny, some serious, all inspirational. My personal favorite was Kristina Anderson’s account of the the Virginia Tech tragedy.

Kristina Anderson gave an inspiring talk about her experience during the Virginia Tech shooting

Anderson was a sophomore sitting in the classroom at Virginia Tech where a fellow student took the lives of twelve people directly around her. She was shot three times during the shooting but made a full recovery. Her talk was the most powerful and moving of the night. She retold the day’s event, recounting the details of the horrific day.

“The most basic thing I learned is that life is incredibly short,” Anderson told the crowd. “It doesn’t matter if you get 20, 50, 70 years — all that matters is you appreciating what you have. Appreciate that you get that moment.”

There were many other great talks. Here is some of the reaction to the event I saw on Twitter.

Ignite started in Seattle and has gone on to become a global phenomenon with Ignite events around the world. The next event will be February 20th at Town Hall.

RelatedWhat type of city do you want to live in? Creating a sense of ‘place’ in Seattle

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/madbaddoberan Madison bad Doberan

    Seattle is not the City of the future when the Mayor of Seattle signs 10 million dollars in funding to Inscape Holdings LLC to preserve artist space only to renege on contract leases which forces artists out making this an office building only venture.

    http://www.seattlechannel.org/news/detail.asp?ID=12064&Dept=22

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