There will be plenty of "wow" at this year's Imagine Solutions Conference.
There's even a presentation called "WOW," which will feature an interactive presentation by a "mathamagician."
Another wow moment in the waiting: A golden portal — in a shipping container — that attendees can walk through and come face-to-face with people inside sister portals around the globe.
The annual conference, sponsored by the Searching For Solutions Institute, a public foundation, is Monday, Feb. 26. It will once again be held under the big tent at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in North Naples.
As of Friday there were a few dozen tickets still available, leaving room for last-minute purchases online and walk-ins. The price is $650.
As usual, the think-tank event will bring in national thought leaders with big ideas, who will cover big topics.
This year there are 28 speakers, who will talk on nine major topics, from artificial intelligence to cancer breakthroughs. There's a TED-Talk format, with speeches of 15 minutes.
One session, dubbed a national cancer summit, will feature four nationally known experts who will talk about genomics, immunology, resistance and microbiome, which could play a central role in cancer treatment response.
"There is a huge amount of breakthroughs that are right on the cusp of happening," Antik said. "It's an incredibly exciting time for that. There is a lot of news there, a huge amount of news."
The moderator for the cancer summit, Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, said it's unusual to have such leading experts talking to a general audience.
Much has happened in the cancer arena over the past 15 years, which has led to more successful treatments. One of the newer ideas that will be discussed at the conference is using gut bacteria to fight, or even prevent, cancer, and stool transplants, Brawley said.
"This also links into what we're learning about the probiotic diet, how it can be helpful," he said.
Another conference session will focus on longevity. Speakers include Andrew Scott, author of "The 100 Year Life," and Lauren Carstensen, founder/director of the Stanford Center on Longevity.
Science and technology will be a big focus at this year's event too. The speakers in these areas are an "all-star group," Antik said. They include Daniel Franklin, author of "Megatech 2050"; Luke Dormehl, who wrote "Thinking Machines — Artificial Intelligence"; and cyber security expert Laura Galente, who recently attended the Munich Security Conference, where Russia's meddling in U.S. elections was discussed.
Luke Dormehl, author of Thinking Machines - Artificial Intelligence (Photo: Courtesy/Imagine Solutions Conference)
A session with game changers will include a talk by Brad Myles, CEO of Polaris, whose mission is to "eradicate modern slavery."
Myles said he's presenting at the conference because it's "a great venue to reach a lot of influential people" — and a great place to share his group's vision for the next stage of the anti-trafficking movement.
He'll share information on the 25 major types of trafficking in the U.S. that Polaris identified by analyzing the largest data sets on human trafficking in the United States.
Myles also plans to talk about the systems and industries traffickers use, including airlines, banks and hotels, and the need for businesses to be more proactive in identifying and reporting suspected trafficking.
Polaris operates a national human trafficking hotline at 888-373-7888, where suspicious activity can be reported and victims and survivors can find support.
While he's in town, Myles will meet with several groups, including the Women's Foundation of Southwest Florida and human trafficking task forces, to share his message and gather information.
"Florida is consistently in the top five states that we have concerns about in terms of human trafficking," Myles said. "California, Texas, New York, Florida are really kind of consistently the top four, so opportunities to go and work with partners in Florida have always been very important with me."
Game changer Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center, will discuss "the future of truth," another hot topic with the intense focus on "fake news" today.
"It's an important audience in an important part of the world," he said.
Rainie will address the emergence of the new "anti-truthers," who are using the Internet not to present or challenge ideas, but just to confuse people.
"It's more about doubt and mistrust, rather than about promoting ideas themselves," he said.
Political polarization also makes it difficult for people to sort through information and figure out what's accurate these days — and so does social media, where information is often based more on emotion than fact.
In a recent survey, Pew got a 50-50 verdict from experts on whether the phenomenon of fake news will get better. Those who expect improvement think there will be societal solutions and technological fixes, which could come from artificial intelligence. Others think the bad guys will only continue to try to manipulate people, finding ways to use technology to their advantage.
"It's very striking that even when talking to the smartest people, they can't come to an agreement whether things will improve or not," Rainie said.
Along with the inspirational, informative and thought-provoking speeches will come entertainment, including performances by Time for Three, a classically trained garage band, and 16-year-old blind jazz piano prodigy Matthew Whitaker.
In a lively presentation Arthur Benjamin, a nationally recognized math professor at Mudd College in Claremont, California, will show off his rapid mind calculations that he touts as "faster than a calculator."
The interactive golden portal will be outside the tent, open to any attendee who wants to try it out during a break.
Amar Bakshi, an artist and founder of Shared_Studios, created the portals, with a mission to connect people in diverse communities who would likely never meet otherwise. One of his portals was stationed in New York City's Time Square for a few weeks in October and November.
"You walk into it and they have 34 curated sites around the world. You can talk live to someone in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nigeria or Panama City or somewhere in Australia," Antik said. "It's an incredible reaching-out-to-the-world learning experience."