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IFAI Expo: 99 and counting…

November 1st, 2019 / By: / Editorial

As we wrap up our 99th IFAI Expo with the show coverage on page 43 (and the cover story on page 22, and The Greater Good on page 68), I’m getting ready to jump backwards in history through decades of the Review, as I did before IFAI’s 100th anniversary in 2012 and Review’s 100th anniversary in 2015. Next year, IFAI Expo completes the trifecta in Indianapolis, Nov. 3–6, 2020. The very first conference was held in Detroit in 1918; because we skipped 1942 and 1945, next year is the centennial. And because the show is once a year, I’m anticipating that it will be that much easier to trace how the show and the industry have evolved.

As I  begin my research, I keep thinking about the premise of one of Spider Robinson’s “Callahan” stories,  in which a visiting alien (described as resembling a 3-foot tall cockroach) scornfully asks the patrons of Callahan’s bar if they didn’t ever think to ask themselves why humanity had made such rapid technological progress over the past century, after thousands of relatively pastoral years. Apparently, they’d been helping us along, in order to produce more useful cattle; and had thrown in a few events from time to time, like the Black Plague, to keep the population under control. 

I’m not in a position to prove or disprove this theory (although if they’d been paying attention at all you’d think they’d have put some effort into politics as well as technology). But starting with the January issue, I’ll be briefly covering the history of IFAI Expo, decade by decade, in the context of industry, politics and society, and I do expect the pace of change to be impressive. However, changing the technology of an industry does not necessarily mean changing the issues that industry is facing:

  • How do manufacturers of custom products take advantage of advances in automation?
  • What impact does changing trade legislation (and disputes, and conflicts) have on manufacturers, their customers and their suppliers?
  • What does “weather resistant” mean in a world with a changing and sometimes increasingly violent climate?
  • What does “the new workforce” look like, and will custom fabric
  • products still require (or customers value) craftsmanship? 
  • How sustainable are your products and processes—environmentally, socially and economically?
  • How fast do you adopt new fabrics,  new equipment, and new techniques? What’s your ROI?

I didn’t make it to Orlando, but I’m going to Indianapolis, bad back, snowstorms and/or presidential elections notwithstanding, to celebrate another 100th anniversary for IFAI. But starting today, if you have any suggestions on how to make the show especially memorable in terms of programming, events and attendance, please contact me.

Special rates for extraterrestrials.