Many of the most poignant moments at the eg style of conference are what happens in the betwixt and between - realizing commonalities or contrasts often sparked by some comment, reference, gold nugget that's been uttered on stage.
This morning, for example, I began with a discussion on Libertarian solutions to cutting bureaucracy, and perhaps improving education, over morning coffee with Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Harvey Allison of Attractor, IDEO's Doug Solomon and Krisztina "Z" Holly, who runs the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation. One focus of discussion was Bezos' comment that the learning/feedback loop in education is long, and can impact a generation, though education overall is probably improving by more than schools are credited. He notes it took the Romans 80 years to realize linking acquaducts with lead was not a healthy innovation. While that may have been relatively fast, an education experiment that took as long to determine to have failed might be intolerable. Allison noted perceptible changes in schools are spread rapidly.
Minutes later, RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser kicked off session 3 "Media Biz" with the first public discussion of the results of his "progressive education branding project" undertaken with the Center for American Progress. The project created eight 30-second television spots and test marketed them. The spots include two that are take-offs of Apple Inc's PC/Mac advertisements.
"Aren't YOU a Progressive?", the ads ask in closing. Turns out, in at least one sample, progressive self-identification increases by 67% in these recent tests. The Youtube versions, linked above, were posted a few weeks ago.
No doubt the debate will continue in discussions outside the auditorium, as the contrast of the Progressive record of achievement along and the Libertarian critique make good fodder.
During Monday morning's "Media Biz" and "Nerd Alert" sessions, presenters frequently cited earlier presentations, as Jamy Ian Swiss had done Sunday evening.
Among the most oft-cited was Emily Levine, a perennial favorite "humorist philosopher" of RSW's TED conferences. Levine recounted how she had dealt with diagnosis of apoptosis of her prostate, and with a combination of gravity and humor led the audience through her evolution from comic writer to comic philosopher to "comic oracle", or "Emily 3.0". Apoptosis, it seems, leads to enlargement of the head and extremities. Levine concluded the entire country may be suffering from the malady - starting with the head of state.
Some other observations:
- "99% of medicine that we practice today was developed in my lifetime." - Keith Black, neurosurgeon who has conducted more than 5,000 brain surgeries over two decades.
- Working for the government I was reminded there was a situation the government could actually put me to death - treason, noted Keith Schwab, a Cornell physicist who expressed with a certain nervousness that his work was being supported by an employer who was "now threatening to kill me" if he were to misbehave...
- "There's only three things I've ever been afraid of - electricity, heights and women," - the words of a high wire power line repairman, in a video short interstitial.
- There are 10 times as many stars in the planetary system as there are grains of sand on Earth's beaches. - Paul Horowitz, Harvard professor of physics.
- "We live in a world governed by chance and probabilities," quantum physicist Brian Greene.
- "The web community is a big community. It's not the repository of all knowledge. It's the repository of discovery," Adam Savage, co-star of Mythbusters.