Last week, I had the great pleasure of spending a couple of days at the Young Technology Leaders Summit in Austin, Texas. The event, hosted by Envision EMI, brought together more than 1,000 high school students from around the world for 10 days of workshops, projects, discussions about business ethics, and fun. They were a truly delightful, bright, and outspoken group of teens who shared their career aspirations, their favorite technologies, and where they've received inspiration to get so involved with the stuff that not only serves as the foundation for their fun, tinkering, and productivity in school but also for business innovation today and in the future.
One of my first questions to the group was what they thought of Adrian Lamo, the 21-year-old hacker who was the subject of our cover story last week (see "With Friends Like This," July 8, p. 22). While they don't necessarily admire the guy, they do think Lamo is doing companies a favor. "If there's a security hole, someone malicious could get in," said one teen.
I guess their feelings shouldn't have surprised me, especially when you consider that by Day 2 of the conference, some of the students had already hacked into the conference network, and almost everyone knew the admin passwords, according to one attendee. I guess that's why many of these teens said they don't shop online, and if they do, they don't use credit cards online.
What I found refreshing about many of these kids is how they measure (or will measure) success. It's not money, big titles, or stock options, but rather the ability to create unique and lasting products, to find jobs they're passionate about, to create their own businesses-many of them have already written business plans. Not all, of course, had romantic views of the future. The potential to make a lot of money still excites a lot of young people. The 17-year-old entrepreneur who came after my presentation had a lot of the folks mesmerized.
During the coming weeks, we'll share more of the research we've conducted on these young tech influencers. Their habits, preferences, knowledge, and energy will, no doubt, shape future product development and business models. And if some of this doesn't register with you, perhaps you're part of a GG (that's generational gap). But don't worry, a few RPGs (that's role-playing games) or a LAN party (that's where kids get together, set up a network, and play games or share music) and you'll fit right in.