Over the last decade or so, it’s become fairly evident that the geek shall inherit the earth. Topics that we cover regularly here on Nerdist have become that of mass cultural interest: comic books, science, and technology have become a part of the mainstream and conventions are growing in popularity and frequency. This weekend, one of the newest and most exciting cons makes its debut: Silicon Valley Comic Con, opening its doors for this first time on Friday, March 18, 2016. It seems like a no brainer, right? What better place to celebrate nerd and geek culture than the place synonymous with STEM?
Presented by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, SVCC aims to be the premiere intersection of pop culture, science, and technology. Nerdist had the opportunity to sit down with Woz to hear about how he got involved with the con, why Silicon Valley was the right place to host it, and what he thinks the future of technology holds.
While it already feels like convention season has grown from the summer to a year round affair, the involvement of Steve Wozniak seems like justification enough to add one more to the list. I asked Woz, a man who has accomplished so much during his lifetime, how he got involved in Silicon Valley Comic Con. Like many who possess great power and great responsibility, it all went back to one well-known figure.
“I met Stan Lee and of course, I’ve always heard of him, honored him, admired him so much,” says Woz. “[I] met him in Las Vegas a couple of years ago and he met me and he respected me and we just started talking like old friends about everything we could in life and what was interesting and cool and good, and nobody could separate us, and we walked away saying, ‘We’ve got to do something together sometime.’ And it kind of stuck with us, and when the idea to do a Comic Con came up, Stan and I both said, ‘We’re in!’ So that was the start.”
Wozniak’s experience with fandom began at an early age, according to the entrepreneur. While it never fully leaned into producing conventions, he found himself interested in large celebratory gatherings. “When I was younger I went to things like Star Trek conventions and I love big events, I love when people get together with common interests. I have put on large music festivals in the past.” And, as Wozniak explained, combining pop culture, science, and technology made sense to the creative team behind SVCC. “We put the two together—the similar crossover and interest. Certain types of technology, like that. So we decided we’d include a technology element and a scientific element but only in places where it crosses over very closely to the pop culture arena.”
One panel in particular that Woz is excited about is on the topic of artificial intelligence. And while he may have been wary of A.I. at first, he’s perhaps a little less nervous about it now. “I travel around talking a lot about the future of computers and artificial intelligence, once we started talking to our computers and our cell phones and it was so easy to think a thought and talk it and live in the human world, not in the technology world of memorizing all the steps, I just thought, more and more it’s getting like a person, I’m talking to my cell phone, it’s like a friend of mine. Almost someday it might be smart enough to know me and my heart and soul better than a human does. This is a geekish thought—and I can just be with my technology and avoid the dumb humans that aren’t kind to me. So we’re on that path and artificial intelligence is what it’s leading to. Self-driving cars, all these thinking machines… They’re going to think like humans, are they going to be our friends or our enemies, and I’m very positive on artificial intelligence right now. More and more I’ve been getting positive since I went through a negative phase.” He continued, adding, “It’s a big topic coming up. We’re going to have a panel on what is the greatest threat to mankind’s future: artificial intelligence or super babies? I want to hear that discussion! A lot of good ideas, but we don’t know, we don’t know…”
Speaking of Siri and super babies, technology has found itself in the middle of a national conversation recently as the United States government is asking Apple to break into a suspected terrorists iPhone. While Apple has refused to comply, the issue is certainly a hot button one. I asked Wozniak his thoughts on the matter, and he revealed, somewhat unsurprisingly, that when it comes down to it, he’s with the tech companies. “I’ve come to realize that authority generally overuses its bounds and lies more than [individual] human beings do. So I take the side that most technology companies are taking, of supporting Apple on this one. I think it’s a very lame case. Even the local sheriff down there says that phone isn’t going to have any data for them. The FBI wants to get this software written that then I’m sure they’ll make some kind of snapshot of the software and have it forever and hackers will eventually get onto it.”
To meet Steve Wozniak in person—as well as the cast of Back to the Future, Stan Lee, William Shatner, and many, many more—be sure to check out the first year of Silicon Valley Comic Con running Friday, March 18 through Sunday, March 20.
Featured Image Credit: Steve Wozniak