Tue Mar 7, 02023, 12:30AM UTC
Ben Soltoff, Lindsay Yazzolino, Jason Sydoriak, Alex Zhuk, and Kate Reed
Flash Talks: Changing the Future
Long Now Boston welcomes five remarkable individuals to the 5th Annual Flash Talks on March 6, 02023: Kate Reed; Alex Zhuk; Jason Sydoriak; Lindsay Yazzolino; and Ben Soltoff. The event will highlight the future opportunities for radical design innovations and the critical importance of climate resiliency.
Long Now Boston welcomed five remarkable individuals to the 5th Annual Flash Talks on March 6, 02023: Kate Reed, Alex Zhuk, Jason Sydoriak, Lindsay Yazzolino, and Ben Soltoff. The event highlighted the future opportunities for radical design innovations and the critical importance of climate resiliency.
Ben Soltoff is a systems thinker who is passionate about exploring how new ideas, technologies, and business models can address the world’s most pressing problems, particularly climate change and other environmental challenges. At the Martin Trust Center, Ben is the point person for all things climate tech, and he leads the delta V accelerator, the capstone entrepreneurial experience for students at MIT. Ben served as the Environmental Innovation Manager at Yale, helping students design, build, and launch environmental solutions and he has been part of several environmentally relevant startups. Ben holds dual master’s degrees from the Yale School of Management and the Yale School of the Environment, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree from Duke University. You’ll also find him writing away at Flourish Fiction on substack.
Lindsay Yazzolino is a nonvisual designer and accessible technology consultant bringing STEAM concepts to life through "hand-catching" tactile experiences and accessible digital content. As a cognitive neuroscience research advisor who has been totally blind since birth, she leverages her nonvisual expertise and science background to develop experiences which make use of our nonvisual senses. She and her collaborators have designed museum exhibits, public art installations, and educational materials that make use of the latest technologies such as 3D printing and touch-responsive sensors and tablets and she advises researchers on best practices for conducting studies of cognitive abilities in blind individuals. She is a proficient user of blindness-specific desktop and mobile assistive technologies, and works alongside digital designers and developers to create accessible user experiences.
Jason Sydoriak works at the US DOT Volpe Transportation Center, the internal think-tank for creative solutions to transportation challenges. His assignments include research on land use planning, transportation coordination in support of disaster relief operations and Transit Oriented Design (TOD). TOD seeks to create and deploy transportation system assets to encourage compact, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use communities. Jason began his career of public service by enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corp where he deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, as an infantry non-commissioned officer. He earned his bachelors in Economics and Political Science from Colorado State University, and a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and is a Fellow of the RSA US.
Alex Zhuk is cofounder, President and Director of climate-tech company Perennial.Earth, Perennial, which builds technology to unlock soil as the largest sink to reduce global warming. A graduate of Brown University, Alex lives in Boulder CO. The Perennial Team has raised $25M in funding from top climate, food and technology investors including Microsoft, and Perennial’s Soil-Based Carbon Removal Verification Platform was listed by TIME magazine a Best Invention in 2022.
Kate Reed built her first wearable device when she was 13, before the introduction of the Apple Watch. Since then, she has designed, engineered and built hundreds of wearable computers. Kate was the first graduate of the MIT-backed NuVu Studio and earned dual undergraduate degrees from Brown University and The Rhode Island School of Design. Kate allows nature to grow in computational space by modeling the processes and systems of nature to create algorithms that allow for predictable and replicable growth. She is Director of Design with the Arch Mission Foundation and the inaugural Artist in Residence at Dassault Systemes. Her designs and inventions have been featured at the White House, New York Fashion Week, Boston Fashion Week, the Museum of Design Atlanta, the Boston Children’s Museum, the Hackaday Superconference, the MIT Museum, and more.
Long Now Boston FLASH TALKS program provides early career individuals an opportunity to share their work and ideas with an engaged audience with a long-term perspective.
Kate Reed built her first wearable device when she was 13, before the introduction of the Apple Watch. Since then, she has designed, engineered and built hundreds of wearable computers. Kate allows nature to grow in computational space by modeling the processes and systems of nature to create algorithms that allow for predictable and replicable growth. One example is the remarkable process by which mushrooms grow and the amazing physical properties those natural materials provide. By programming this process and letting the computer evolve and then print with appropriate biochemicals, you can effectively build a mushroom of any shape – even a chair. The approach provides the basis for creating novel artifacts built on natural principles. Kate also envisions a universal digital repository for all natural algorithms, supported by blockchain technology and available to all. The entire natural world can in this way be digitally backed in an eternal, permanent record forever.
Alex Zhuk is cofounder, President and Director of climate-tech company Perennial.Earth. Perennial is working to build an entirely new industry – regenerative agricultural practices that promise to provide significant benefits in reducing climate impacts by sequestering carbon in healthy soils. At the farm level, regenerative practices increase soil health and the quality of the harvest, and at the global level, carbon sequestration in soil can reduce atmospheric carbon and offset carbon emissions. Perenniel seeks to bridge between these scales by harvesting existing satellite data sources that can measure and document soil carbon in local farms and thereby validate carbon credits in the global carbon offset market. Those revenues can then be invested at the farm level to improve farming practices and rebuild depleted soils. The Perennial Team has raised $25M in funding from top climate, food and technology investors including Microsoft, and Perennial’s Soil-Based Carbon Removal Verification Platform was listed by TIME magazine a Best Invention in 2022.
Jason Sydoriak is a transportation analyst and designer at the US DOT Volpe Transportation Center, the internal think-tank for creative solutions to transportation challenges. Jason is passionate about the approach known as Transit Oriented Design (TOD), which places transit at the center of the urban planning process. Urban planning faces the twin challenges of an embedded infrastructure based on antiquated technology and planned without appropriate forethought, and an increasingly important need for future flexibility and resilience. In this environment we need to modify, create and deploy transportation system assets that will facilitate compact, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use communities. Jason also argues that such design can remediate inequities and inefficiencies created by transportation system decisions made in the past century. Through planning that integrates diverse perspectives with best practices, urban environments can be created that will increase the livability, equality and local amenities in the 21st century and beyond.
Lindsay Yazzolino may be blind, but she is also a accessibility designer, a passionate advocate for STEAM (science technology, engineering, art and mathematics) and an aspiring space explorer. An AcroAccess Ambassador, Lindsay participated in the first zero gravity disability research flight in December 02022, with 14 disabled crew members from five different countries. Lindsay emphasized the importance of design research that enable the broadest inclusion of people with different talents, backgrounds and limitations as we expand on efforts to explore and colonize space. One experiment they conducted was to test tactile cabin signage that would allow blind astronauts, or sighted astronauts in a dark cabin, to orient themselves and locate emergency equipment. She asks the rhetorical question – what if you are in a space colony and dependent on the specialized skill of an individual who becomes disabled.
Ben Soltoff is a systems thinker who is passionate about coaching entrepreneurs towards goals with social and environmental significance, and a writer / editor seeking to express ideas and visions that will lead to a better future. Ben argues that we need to tell stories rather than simply presenting data, as data without a story has no influence on our understanding or our creativity. The stories of the 21st century that matter will be the ones that chart the pathway to a livable climate and a better, more inclusive and more creative world.
The panelists then joined in a wide-ranging conversation exploring the basis for new design concepts and creative practices that will enhance equity, sustainability and resiliency. This will require more bottom-up thinking and collaboration rather than traditional hierarchical top-down planning that presumes knowledge about the future that we simply do not have. Based on their enthusiasm and extraordinary technical competencies, this group of forward-thinking innovators is an encouraging sign that the future can, indeed, be more creative, more inclusive and more sustainable.