When Worth Media Group CEO Josh Kampel visited Orlando’s Lake Nona region about a year ago to moderate a forum, he was impressed that the area had been built around the intersection of technology, innovation and well-being.
So, when it came time to choose a location for the publication’s flagship conference, “Techonomy: The Promise and Peril of AI,” he quickly determined Lake Nona’s Wave Hotel would do the trick.
Not only would the hotel’s technologically advanced structure fit right in with the conference focus.
The neighborhood would also provide a range of offerings for conference-goers to enjoy as they made their way through the event’s three days.
“A lot of times, when you do a conference like this, your attendees are stuck in a ballroom or a hotel for three days,” he said. “The way (Lake Nona) was designed allows us to use various aspects of the location.”
Techonomy starts Sunday afternoon, bringing national experts to discuss the state of artificial intelligence as it affects various sectors.
Longtime event to make Orlando debut
The event made its debut in 2010 and has been hosted in various cities, including Detroit, Tucson, Ariz., and Washington, D.C., among others.
Among the experts coming to Orlando are tech leaders from major companies and organizations including GE, Qualcomm, the New York Academy of Sciences, Deutsche Bank, FedEx and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
In addition, Orlando-based experts from KPMG, Falcon’s Beyond, Guidewell and others will also take the stage.
These experts traveling to Orlando – or walking out their doors to visit Lake Nona for the conference – provides a cross-section with enough range that they can tackle the AI question comprehensively, Kampel said.
“The core concept behind Techonomy is to not just look at the digital transformation,” he said. “Instead, let’s look behind the transformation to look at the bigger societal impact it could make.”
Good timing for AI conference
The timing of the conference likely could not be more ideal.
Wide-ranging industries including government, education and entertainment have been dealing with how to implement – or limit – the use of artificial intelligence.
Rather than focus on tools being used, Techonomy targets whether their use benefits society or not.
However, Kampel warns the conference’s purpose is not to render a verdict on the tech.
“It’s bringing the people who represent government, academia, obviously different industries to talk about the bigger picture of going down this path,” he said. “Tech is ingrained in our personal and professional lives. What will the impact be on the bigger picture, on our kids, on our lives? How do we balance that? How do we govern that?”
Local leaders showcasing area talent
For Tavistock SVP of Brand Experience & Innovation Juan Santos, landing a conference like Techonomy illustrates what the 17-square-mile Lake Nona area has been pushing for.
It’s a chance to show off its footprint rather than draw comparisons to other well-known tech communities, he said.
That’s why it was a no-brainer to welcome the Techonomy team once the shift to the East Coast was imminent.
“A lot of talk is about being the Silicon Valley of the South,” Santos said. “I don’t want to be that. Silicon Valley is Silicon Valley. New York is New York. What we need to do is say ‘This is Lake Nona,’ and it needs to be understood that this means innovation.”
The region has worked to set itself apart when it comes to implementing the latest technologies, when possible.
However, one challenge is letting people from outside of the region know what Lake Nona offers.
“It’s not the same thing to tell the story,” Santos said. “It’s better when you can show them. This is a huge opportunity. We want to be able to show the world that we are a tech destination, as well.”
That’s why the agenda includes some informal outings in the neighborhood.
Seeing the neighborhood
Even before the event starts Sunday evening, the site will already pay dividends for those in attendance. The U.S. Tennis Association’s National Headquarters will host former No. 1 tennis player Lindsay Davenport, who will offer tennis lessons on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Santos will lead an art walk around the Wave Hotel and other areas in Lake Nona.
The conference will then showcase Boxi Park, the outdoor music venue with food truck-style eateries, during a concert on Monday.
“It’s been an uphill battle but it’s been a fun challenge,” Kampel said. “But we have a great partner. We hope to get great local investors and entrepreneurs excited about AI.”
As for the specific agenda of the conference, the goal is to bring industries together for a big-picture discussion, he said.
“We have this opportunity to bring this multi-stakeholder audience that can have a very serious conversation about the bigger impact,” he said.
“You need adults in the room and people who are willing to debate the pros and cons of what this technology is doing,” he said. “You need the regulators in the room to talk about: How do we potentially govern this and put policies in place? Everything is a dialogue.”