I’ve been attending TED 2006 – the most quixotic mind fest yet invented by humanity. This is an extraordinary event filled with the highest quality minds intent on communicating with one another in an amazing outpouring of common concern for culture, education and the wellbeing of the planet.
To try to summarise what has been presented here or to even attempt to make some simple coherent whole out of the many parts would be fruitless. But a few snippets might help to explain it a little.
Vice President Al Gore kicked off the precedings with the most cogent and broadranging exposition of the planetary crisis that is global warming. Most telling quote was from Mark Twain:
“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we’re certain of and it just ain’t so!”
Bill Joy talked about the dangers and threats associated with the power of the internet now. He described it as an “assymetrical situation [which] extends powerful technology beyond the nation state”. He talk about a need to limit access to pandemic power because there is no defence against a pandemic. “We can’t give up the rule of law to fight an assymetric threat”. He predicts Moore’s law will continue to factor of six in size reduction and a factor of 100 in power. So in 2020 we will have a $10 computer as powerful as the most powerful available today.
Lots of optimism about new materials and technologies. Carbon Nanotubes, the strongest material known. 30 times stronger than Kevlar and able to repair themselves. He described a “materials revolution” including the idea of a material that could make water. But his chilly coda was his belief that we must limit access to information because it is too powerful… This is a very dangerous sentiment. No one at the conference seemed to pick up on it and yet to me it was a big red flag warning signal that some of our greatest minds are buckling under the fear of what the darknet side could bring. Bill Joy more than many has reason to do so and yet even as he argued that we should not alter the rule of law in order to fight an assymetric threat – he was starting to question whether the law was going in the right direction and whether we shouldn’t head back into a darker age of less information and less disclosure. That will never help us solve the crises we face, it will only aid oppression and discrimination in my view.
More to follow – when time allows…