The first time I heard about this new thing called email, I was sitting in an undergraduate class at the University of Utah. My professor had read about a new way to send mail but it seemed cumbersome, unreliable and unnecessary. After all, we already had faxes that could relay information almost instantaneously onto another sheet of paper. Why would we need electronic mail and who would trust anything that didn’t have a paper record to back up the information? What if the power went out and you didn’t have access to the information you needed? My professor predicted that email was a novelty – just a passing fad with too many complications to ever be used by the masses. It’s easy to dismiss new technologies until they completely disrupt the way we live and then we ask how we could have ever lived without them.
Imagine that 20 years ago, you could have predicted the rise of email, text messagng, Instagram and Snapchat. And whatever else some unknown entrepreneur just created that we won’t be able to live without five years from now. Imagine if you could have predicted the creation of the iPhone, and the rise of mobile technology.
At the Downtown Partnership, we want to re-imagine our future, preparing for these rising technologies that will disrupt the way we live, work, and play. Our goal: to help public and private leaders make informed, thoughtful decisions as our city continues to evolve. Working with our partners at the USFSP Kate Tiedemann College of Business, we created the Sunny Side Up speaker series to focus on new trends in technology and demography that will impact the ways St. Pete develops. Every other month, we bring experts and futurists to Lynn Pippenger Hall for breakfast conversations with St. Pete leaders. Over the past few months, we’ve covered smart city technologies and the role of new technology in healthcare.
Next up, we are tackling driverless cars – an innovation that will change the way we travel as much as the shift from animal-powered vehicles to automobiles did more than 100 years ago. On May 23, we will host a panel discussion with Sen. Jeff Brandes, Dr. Dean Bushey from Voyage Auto and Kam Simmons from Starsky Robotics. The free event is open to members of the Downtown Partnership and community partners of the Kate Tiedemann College of Business at USFSP.
Running a successful city like St. Petersburg is hard work, and it’s easy for public sector leaders to get immersed in the details of managing municipal needs. It’s easy for private sector leaders to focus their attention on running their businesses, profits and loss and quarterly returns. As a private nonprofit, we have a history of thinking holistically and strategically about the future. This series is designed to broaden our conversations to the larger community as we re-imagine St. Pete.