Did you find everything you were looking for?
Let’s see: two bottles of soylent, three cups of cricket granola, a few drones, and one haptic feedback full bodysuit. Yep, everything looks in order here.
It may seem like the Jetsons’ shopping list, but for those of us who spent the weekend at the Worlds Fair Nano in Brooklyn, these items were well within our grasp.
And why shouldn’t they be? After all, IMAX technology once seemed farfetched, as did the Ferris Wheel, electrical outlets, zippers, and even ice cream cones. Besides amazing audiences, these inventions had something else in common. All were unveiled at world’s fairs.
We know the dates and have the monuments, from 1889’s Eiffel Tower to 1962’s Space Needle. Designed to entertain as well as inform, world’s fairs astounded massive crowds with notions of progress, splendor, industrialization, and cultural exchange. Combining stereotypes of the past with visions of the future, world’s fairs were symbols of the present — the product of their creators’ aspirations, hopes, and wishes of what could be accomplished by humanity.
But if you ask Worlds Fair USA CEO Michael Weiss, these spectacles are anything but history. In fact, for his team, bringing world’s fairs back into the public imagination is job number one. While grand expositions appear every couple of years across the globe, they have been woefully absent in the United States since 1984.
His goal is ambitious. Within a decade, Michael and his team hope to organize a 6-month long world’s fair (reminiscent of the protracted affairs of day’s past) to offer millions of visitors a sense of wonder and what the future has in store. Until then, we have the Worlds Fair Nano, a microcosmic expo put on by the team to offer audiences a sample of a what a full-fledged world’s fair might look like.
To experience this special event — the third Worlds Fair Nano in two years — IVY sent a crack team to explore the exposition. What follows is a brief outline of our incredible day, and a look into the experiences, gadgets, and products the fair had to offer.
11:00 a.m.: Today’s Tech Tomorrow
The early bird gets the worm, but IVY’s team couldn’t make it until 11:00 a.m. Alas, we arrived excited and ready to explore, but were initially puzzled. The first pieces of technology we encountered — printers, skateboards, video games — are all hallmarks of the 20th century. How could this be an exposition of the future?
Of course, these were no ordinary contraptions. Rather than printing paper, LulzBot served up a 3D-printed fidget spinner for our preferred access director, Jarrod Fox, to add to his already impressive collection. I rode an electronic skateboard — and didn’t fall — and watched teenagers don headsets to take down baddies in immersive video games.
12:00 p.m.: Tomorrow’s Art Today
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Once the novelty of self-propelling skateboards wore off (read: they asked us nicely to let others have a try), we decided to exercise our cultural muscles and headed straight for the fair’s art exhibitions. We built sound sculpture cubes, made music with a wireless box, and considered what life would be like without annoying pop music, though we don’t expect to see any changes there anytime soon.
1:00 p.m.: Rise of the Machines
Can we live on after death in a computer? Perhaps so. After enjoying the exhibitions, we met Bina48, one of today’s most advanced social robots. Based upon real-life Bina Aspen’s mind file, which in simplest terms is a digital collection of her personality, Bina48 relies on a combination of human experience and machine learning. She can move, engage in a conversation, and learn from her interactions with humans. Bina48 was created to help us understand consciousness and immortality.
2:00 p.m.: Who’s Hungry?
After three hours at the Worlds Fair Nano, we had worked up quite an appetite. What’s for lunch? A juicy burger? A sub sandwich? Slice of pizza? A cup of coffee to keep our energy up? Not so.
Due to climate change, increasing populations, and the gradual decline in the planet’s resources, we’ll soon have to rely on alternative nutritional sources — but thanks to the Worlds Fair Nano, we don’t have to wait to try them. After enjoying a handful of cricket granola, we washed it down with some soylent (no people were harmed in the making of the product) and enjoyed a caffeine boost in the form of some chewable coffee gummies.
For the record, the fair also had several delicious food trucks filled with the expected fair cuisine. But where’s the fun in that?
3:00 p.m.: Gazing into the Future
Ahh yes, everybody’s favorite technology. Augmented and virtual reality, offering immersive experiences incomparable to simpler forms of entertainment and designed to enhance our engagement with the world around us. While the lines were long, the fair had seemingly limitless options to sample.
Beyond a fun escape, these technologies offer a wide variety of applications. Want to see your home before you buy it? Slip on a headset. Want to see the athletes on the field from halfway across the world? You got it. On-the-job training off the actual job? No problem. The possibilities of this burgeoning technology are endless.
4:00 p.m.: The Future of Psychedelic Science
Throughout the weekend, the fair hosted several impressive speakers, Senator Tim Kaine among them. We stopped by a lecture led by Dr. Stephen Ross, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine and Director of the NYU Psychedelic Research Group. He wowed the crowd with a talk on the therapeutic use of hallucinogens and MDMA in modern medicine.
Particularly, he focused on how psilocybin (the psychedelic compound found in “magic mushrooms”) is used in tandem with psychotherapy to alleviate the psychological and spiritual distress brought on by terminal cancer diagnoses. The work is deep into FDA approval phases, and Dr. Ross predicted the treatments will receive approval in 2-4 years. Listen here to the powerful testimonials of patients who have received the treatment.
5:00 p.m.: The Day Drones On
To conclude our jammed-packed day, we did the sensible thing and took advantage of the fair’s drone technology. Although the line was long, we were able to don VR headsets while we waited, seeing an immersive bird’s-eye view of several stunning landscapes. Once we reached the controller — and proceeded to fight over who got to take the first turn — we steered the drone left and right, up and down, crashing several times along the way. According to one of the fair’s experts, this technology is rapidly advancing, and the machines will continue to receive better batteries, greater lifting capacities, and sharper cameras.
Once each of us finally got a turn, we decided to call it a day. It was a special, sometimes overwhelming experience, but one thing is certain: when Michael and his team erect their six-month world’s fair of the future, we’ll be waiting in line, ready to be amazed.
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