I wonder if the Israeli Presidential Conference relies a lot on FOMO in order to be one of the most popular events of the year. I’ll have a better idea of the answer to that question by the end of Thursday, after this 2.5-day conference comes to an end.

(FOMO: You know, “fear of missing out.”)

This conference is an annual event hosted by Shimon Peres. No, really.

My lovely coworker-friend and I got there late (well, who finishes work in time to be anywhere by 5:00pm?!). We stood in line in a boiling room for half an hour, and we missed the first session which was a bunch of notable figures, mainly Dr. Ruth.

Standing in line, besides thinking about how hot I am, I mean was, I couldn’t help but notice how many cool looking people are attending this event.

That didn’t make me feel cool at all, in case you’re wondering. I’m thinking of having a cool-lift by tomorrow morning.

Do I even like Peres?

Well, no. Not really. And I definitely felt like the minority in that regard. The standing ovations for him were deafening (can’t they keep it down for us rightists in the room?). All I could think about was:

All together now:

Be my friend… for peace.

It has taken me a long time to feel convinced that this video was indeed done with Peres’s consent… But really, it looks like he cooperated and it isn’t (purposely) making fun of him.

Either way, I admit that I don’t really know that much about Peres. And this conference makes me want to read up on him some more. It fascinates me how popular he is in Israel, or at least at a conference hosted by him. Thing is, when I think of him, I mainly think about tacky videos and the fact that he is still proud of shaking Yassar Arafat’s hand.

Young Israelis and their cool inventions (no, I won’t call them ‘innovations!’)

Even if I have major hesitations about Peres, it’s quite exciting being at the conference. I’m too shy to talk to strangers but I met some of the people manning the different booths. Here is what I learned:

Moshe Unger and Miri Peretz from Ben Gurion University are doing their doctorate on the BodyPointer. The technology is for people with different levels of major physical disability, helping them use a computer. For example, for one person, when he raises his right hand the mouse moves to the side, when he moves his left foot it moves up and down, and when he thinks to the right, an application is opened.

Yes, when he thinks to the right.

Moshe Unger and Miri Peretz talk about their invention (oh sorry, we now call it innovation). Moshe is wearing a crazy thing on his head that senses brainwaves.

There was also a professor from Ben Gurion University (he looks so young, I initially assumed he was the student) who was presenting his students’ robot inventions: A snake made out of 18 motors that can go under collapsed buildings to look for survivors. And a cool-dude robot that you leave at home, and then, when you’re at work and you want to make sure that the guy that broke into your house found the orange juice, you activate the robot, remotely directing it around the house. Watch it hanging out with Peres’s guests.

Hello, cute little thing. Will you go catch the bad guys?

I also spoke to neurology research students from Hebrew University. They are researching how hearing works. They put sensors in animals’ brains, put them to sleep and then let them smell things like their next meal or their offspring, testing the brain’s reactions on a cellular level. As in, watching the activity of a single cell.

I asked one of them if it’s true that brain cells don’t replenish themselves. He said that, yes, it is probably true, but that it is the connections between the good cells that really matter — and that is something that gets more and more complex as you get older.

Ha! I am smarter than my three-year-old nephew.

He also said that alcohol and marijuana don’t kill brain cells unless you use a lot of it.

Well, that’s good news, right?

The real harm they might do is wreck the connections between brain cells.


The conference’s goals

So, what is the goal of this conference? It is called “Tomorrow,” and it is supposed to be about what the future might be bringing and how we can direct it in a positive way.

But I don’t totally get that idea. At least tonight, for me the conference was about trying to see people. Like, really see them. It’s great to see or meet individuals and hearing about what they are doing with their lives – seeing them proud of hard work, in their element talking about their research.

Now to see what tomorrow’s lectures will bring. I just hope they’ll bring me material for my blog. I know you share that hope. Thank you.