VANTalks is back with a lineup of local luminaries

Innovators to discuss love, happiness and the future of technology

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter



If you go

What: VANTalks, eight local experts share innovative ideas

When: 6:30 p.m. May 24

Where: Kiggins Theatre, 1011 Main St., Vancouver.

Tickets: $15 in advance, $18 at the door

On the web:

One day soon, our cars will do all the driving by themselves. Technology will be so intelligent and capable, we’ll be freed up to achieve total fulfillment through artistic creativity, better relationships and renewal of what it means to be citizens and caretakers of the future.

Then, we’ll hit the drive-thru. Want Burgerville fries with that future?

Eight local thought leaders will bring their unique angles on life, technology and the road ahead to the Kiggins Theatre at 6:30 p.m. on May 24. It’s the second annual VANtalks, a two-hour tour of the cutting-edge ideas and amazing experiences that leaders, innovators and big thinkers right here in Clark County want to share with you.

Here’s the lineup of subjects and speakers. The order may change:

o “How We Work: The Impact of Artificial Intelligence in the 21st Century.” Bruce Elgort, computer technology instructor at Clark College, will outline how AI can help dig real value out of the digital information blizzard.

o “Technology Convergence: Shaping the Technologies That Shape Us.” Adriana Vela, founder of NanoTecNexus, will consider how to keep technology working for good, not evil.

o “Do You Want Fries with That? How Self-Awareness + Love = Powerful Change.” Jessica Brown, manager at Burgerville, will talk about choosing love as we approach a cultural crossroads.

o “Driving Miss Daisy: The Future of Self Driving Cars.” Doug Harness, insurance educator, forecasts a near future (2030) when most of us don’t own cars anymore.

o “Expose Yourself.” Kevin Getch, director of digital strategy at Webfor, will discuss fear, desire and happiness.

o “Impactful Women: The How-to Guide.” Erika Laws, executive director of Impactful Women NW, outlines her unique approach to becoming a female leader in a male-dominated industry.

o “Getting Over Yourself: How to Start a Creative Practice that Sticks.” Eric Smith, the creative director of marketing firm AHA and a prolific songwriter, talks about unleashing your own creativity in a way that really works.

o “What Doing the Impossible Taught Me About Reality.” Last year, activist and Fulbright scholar Melissa Sokolsky Haviv travelled to Greece to help with the ongoing international refugee crisis there; she’ll describe how doing the impossible is easier than we think.

Our local VANtalks were inspired by TED Talks. That’s a popular series of short lectures on outside-the-box ideas delivered by game-changers in every imaginable field, from astrophysics to zoology and politics to psychology. (Check out to learn more. Recent additions to this always-growing collection of online lectures include “How human noise affects ocean habitats,” “Three ways to spot a bad statistic” and “How racism makes us sick.”)

VANtalks got started in 2016 in the optimal Vancouver way, organizers Kevin Hiebert and Steve Valenta said: over downtown beers. That’s where the pair decided that all the brainy work and startling thinking that goes on up here, north of the river, deserves some local boasting.

They tapped some of their innovative friends and reached out for more. They auditioned many short talks and settled on a final lineup of 10 impressive speakers. The first-time event, in May 2016, was a sellout.