In 1993 Tony Perkins launched the Red Herring Magazine with Jaron Lanier on the first cover. It is particularly fitting that at the recent AlwaysOn conference at Stanford Jaron was a featured panelist with a host of other big thinkers. Much that transpires in The Valley is a result of the folks who regularly attend and present at the many conferences hosted by Tony Perkins. These gatherings grew out of the Red Herring conferences that are now the stuff of legend. I fondly recall standing with Ron Conway at The Chateau Marmot in LA asking Pamela Lee Anderson why she was at an Internet party and she said, “Honey, I own the Internet.” In 1998 this was actually true as she was one of the first online megahits.
Well you can feel the pages fall off the calendar like in an Orson Wells movie as we zip into 2007 and all anyone seems to be talking about is how to save this creaky ol’ planet (with the unsaid subtext of continuing to make ungodly piles of money). Me, I think we ought to just deep freeze our heads until we figure out the planet saving but short of that I guess we will have to buckle down and do the hard work. Through these conferences we get to tackle some of the big issues.
But first: Entertainment, with the OnHollywood conference. Yippee! We get to hang out with movie stars. Let’s face it, much of life is entertainment. Who isn’t crazy about sitting in front of the flat god and absorbing mind numbing canned laughter and zipping back and forth on Tivo between Curb Your Enthusiasm and The View (I know that you only watch PBS and are exempt but trust me someone is watching). One thing about Hollywood is that it is completely American and so far it can’t be knocked off in a Chinese chop shop. We own Britney (for good and bad) and if you, Ms. International Consumer, want her you have to pay us. Of course even Hollywood is slipping off its slimy pedestal and getting all conscious n’ stuff. Jeff Skoll and Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth sparked many to action followed by Thank You for Smoking and Fast Food nation. Hey, I want Key-rap from Hollywood! If I wanted a lecture I’d give it myself. Entertainment is supposed to be like those 8% real fruit juice drinks and these new, evolved moguls are diluting our water with more juice, darn them!
On the strictly business side the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit deals more with technology issues although we did take political timeout for a keynote from Senator John McCain.
ISC NOTES ON THE CANDIDATES IN 2007
McCain is running hard for President and although I think his politics are wrong headed the man is a towering figure in a field of candidates many of whom would be hard to bring home mama. Ron Paul is just bizarre. He is so far off the chart that even the Libertarians won’t have him and even though Dennis Kucinich makes sense on paper, he is scary in a lives-to-close-to-the freeway-fumes sort of way. Fred Thomson is amusing as the sleepwalking “nominate me if you run out good ideas” candidate who tells the religious right he is too busy (sleeping) to go to church. And Mitt Romney? I love the question as to whether we should elect a Mormon. Statistically (and I say statistically, metaphorically) at least a third of the candidates are atheists and are lying about their spiritual beliefs. But not Mike Huckabee who told an NRA convention that “angels guided my bullet into the head of the antelope” and “I’m sure there is duck hunting in heaven.” Maybe he was kidding, but still. Giuliani is the prochoice, progay, prodivorce, guncontroling big city Democrat ahhh Republican. Barak Obama was famously criticized for not being “black enough” at the same time being criticized for pushing his way onto the national stage too soon in our racial maturity because he might be “too black.” So far it seems likely that Hilary Clinton will be elected. In fact it has to happen. Look, we elected Reagan because he was folksy, Schwarzenegger because he was a famous, smack talking, movie star and now we will elect Hilary because she was the First Lady and that’s just damned odd and odd is what we do.
The Stanford Summit is a three ring affair with CEO pitches in one room all day long. Every few minutes a presenter gets up and gives a five minute rundown about their companies. What I find interesting is how much solid effort is behind sometimes small, nitchy applications proving my old axiom that, “It takes a lot of effort to do stuff.” On the main stage panels discussed the latest buzzly sizzle like: collaborative filtering, the disintermediation of social friction, swarm publishing, interactive advertising, and disambiguating signal to noise. Humm, maybe we know where the missing bees are.
Joe Schoendorf of Accel Partners is always hanging ten on the wave of the latest international trends and he reminded us that Moore’s Law drove the last 40 years of innovation and that globalization will drive the next 40. An old Indian scout once told me that to see the trail you have to look to the horizon because it is vanishingly faint but our new scout, Joe, tells us to look right at our feet. He said that those of us who remember disco (my words) are just getting comfortable with Mega, Giga and Tera but the kids are living in a Peta, Exa, Zetta and Yoto world and that one in eight new couples met online up from about zero ten years ago. Joe loves to remind us that we are ripping forward at warp speed and he always makes it sound like fun.
Phillip Rosedale demonstrated Second Life and we say that is still a bit hard to use when even he had a little trouble with the controls. As most folks around here know Second Life is the virtual world where boys will boys and more, and girls can be dragons or screaming hot bartenders in taverns, where the alcohol is digital and the pick up lines are literally typed lines of text. Social issues in SL include civility, honesty, productivity, aesthetics and all the issues we face in real life but, of course, it isn’t real. Or is it? In another virtual world Craig Sherman, CEO, Gaia Online told us about a teenager who wanted to buy a virtual hat but his mother wouldn’t give him the money at the time. Later the lad was at a real trade fair and found the Gaia booth where they had cloth versions of the virtual hat. He was heard to remark as he bought the cloth hat (with no hint of irony) that he wasn’t able to buy the real virtual hat but he had a real fake one. The emerging virtual worlds and the weird turn video viewing and producing is taking are blending business and entertainment. Like an Escher print we are producing and consuming at the same time following such Yoda-like characters as Lanier, Kevin Kelly and Ray Kurzweil.