September 21, 2013
TEDxUNPlaza: Entrepreneurs With The Power To Change Everything
BRAVE was the theme at the TEDxUNPlaza's September 16 event at the United Nations. Up first was a moving session on Women Empowerment (check out my piece on three fabulous women who inspired me and the TEDx audience) and was followed by a session entitled Change Everything, which included accomplished leaders in business and government. Renowned investor and entrepreneur Tim Draper kicked off the session.
Tim started his talk comparing government and private sector business models. He asks, "monopolies are bad and competition is good, so why are governments all monopolies? What about competitive governments?" His suggestion is that countries should compete for us -- they should have to compete for us.
Tim's life's mission is to spread entrepreneurship and venture capital around the world, passing along ideas and stories on his journey. He shared a statement a Russian told him on the road, "markets are like parachutes, they're only good when they're open."
In the United States, he had to talk to many commissions when he started his school and the bureaucracy in this process he says slows things down. The country is made up by impersonal democracy.
Take Away: Make countries compete for you; force your country to compete for you. When that happens, the entire earth will be the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Next up was Silicon Valley based Naveen Jain who asks the audience: what makes a true entrepreneur? Are social philanthropic entrepreneurs "true" entrepreneurs?
A business which is not profitable is not a sustainable business and becoming a $10 billion dollar entrepreneur is about solving $10 billion problems. On what he calls true entrepreneurship, he says,
"when an entrepreneur dreams, he dreams big. An entrepreneur is so audacious, they come up and say to you, 'sir, I'm thinking of mining the moon so I can change humanity.' The mindset of an entrepreneur is that he truly looks at problems differently. The moment you define what a problem is, you restrict the solution you can come up with."
It's true. In so many ways, that audacious thinking and behavior gets drummed out of us on our path to adulthood. From a child, you're told the sky is the limit. When you go from here to the moon, you never pass the sky.
Take Away: When someone tells you that the sky is the limit, then you're restricted to your own imagination only. As entrepreneurs, we need to think from a place of abundance in our work and our lives, not from a place of scarcity.
Neil Jain is only 16 years old and yet has already founded Team Gen Z, a student-run group competing for the $10 MM Qualcomm Tricorder X-PRIZE competition. He is a strong believer in "youth leadership" and cites the fact that global connectivity and exponential growth in technology is making it possible for the youth of today to be the leaders of today, not tomorrow.
Team Gen Z is developing a smartphone sized device that can diagnose more than 15 common diseases using non-intrusive sensors better than a team of board certified doctors. All of the members on the team are under the age 18 and their goal is to provide easy and affordable access to healthcare diagnostics to millions around the world.
Take Away: Don't underestimate the youth. His commitment to his initiative Innovation Generation is all about spreading stories of innovative students who are truly changing the world in order to help teenagers across the country realize their true potential. And, since the youth is our future, it is up to us to not just believe in their true potential, but accelerate it.
Kay Kelley Arnold is a passionate expert in among other things, Energy Poverty and believes in changing what needs changing. Kay is an advocate for change and loves a good fight when important issues are at stake, especially social justice and environmental issues which are at the top of her list.
She manages foundation and grants programs as well as the employee volunteer programs (over 85,000 hours donated last year valued at $1.8 million) and leads a team of employees who are charged with finding solutions to the problems low income citizens face.
Kay is a fan of the Conscious Capitalism movement and subscribes to its Credo that “business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity. Free market capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. It is one of the most compelling ideas we humans have ever had. But we can aspire to something even greater…”
The poorest families in America pay over 12% of their annual income for their energy which is higher than any other group (more than triple). Half of the people who are food subsidies have to make a decision whether to buy food or pay for energy and avoidable illnesses happen when people can't heat their homes.
Take Away: Access to food and energy is not a luxury, but a human right. Given that the fastest growing group who are at risk families are veterans and senior citizens on fixed income, we owe them more and this has got to change. If you're going to help change something, help change something that truly matters like basic human rights which are not being met.
Dr. Vijay Vad is a physician for the professional men’s tennis circuit and specializes in minimally invasive treatments of sports injuries, spine, and arthritis.
He throws out some alarming stats that shocked many. While we all know that obesity is soaring and a significant health issue in the states, how many of us realized that obesity rates in France have doubled over the last 15 years. Obesity is a worldwide issue and particularly critical since obesity is linked to so many chronic diseases. Chronic inflammation is a serious global issue and much of that is related to stress and our diet.
He asks, "how many people truly have access to truly healthy food that isn't processed? In India, China and the United States alone, the percentage of people eating processed food full of fat and sugar is alarming.
The fact that in a country as wealthy as America, so many parents and children don't realize how much they're poisoning their bodies by processed food is heart wrenching, an issue which I personally feel needs heightened awareness worldwide and can be accelerated at a grassroots level through educated communities.
This issue is beyond changing something that matters; it's about the simple fact that if we don't change people's attitude towards food now, we'll continue to see soaring stats on heart disease, cancers, chronic mental illnesses, autism and other life shortening diseases. Read my blog post on TEDxBerkeley speakers, which includes a plea by New York based Erica Wides to "Let's Get Real" about food.
We're feeding our children processed food and sugar drinks which is going to have a huge impact on health over time and it's got to stop. In addition to eating "real food" that hasn't been chemically injected, inflammation can be lowered by doing exercise every day.
Take Away: While the human body is an amazing machine, it can't be fully optimal when we pump it with processed chemicals or when we spend more time sitting in a car or at our computers and not being active. Eat less, prioritize your diet on organic fresh food, stay away from buying products with processed ingredients and exercise daily for at least thirty minutes.
Education is not enough to prepare young people for a sustainable future asserts Mona Mourshed, who has led engagements in Asia, Europe, South America, the Middle East, and the United States, supporting school systems and vocational and higher-education institutions to improve students’ skills, their chances of finding jobs, and their day-to-day lives.
She says, "after education, what students are left with is a degree that is a piece of paper and not skills. They're left with debt and promise. They're not finding jobs and they want to be financially independent and make a positive contribution to society but are finding it hard to do in today's climate."
A few stats worth noting: one in two students don't feel that their education has prepared them for what they need to succeed in the real world. The world has created a system of unrelated events, where education happens and then employment happens but there's very little that happens between the two. Young people are falling through the cracks every day and it's much more acute for this generation than it has been in the past because things are accelerating so fast, especially in technology. She asks: "what if we could make those misconnections happen?"
In 2012, Mona led the a study to learn from more than 100 education-to-employment solutions across 25 countries from 8,000 employers, education providers, and youth in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and India. She has designed strategies to increase private-sector participation in developing vocational training programs in the Middle East and North Africa and to raise the employment numbers for vocational graduates in South America.
Take Away: Making young people more employable cannot happen without improvements in the education system itself. We have to support individuals and educational institutions that are trying to raise both teaching, academic leadership and research quality.
Polar explorer and environment leader Robert Swan blew me away. As the first person ever to have walked to the North and South poles, he now wants to do it again, but using renewable energy all the way. Swan’s unique insights and lessons learned about the environment and how to live purposely in this world have enabled him to educate and stimulate young people and business leaders from around the world. What a gift to see him on the United Nations stage last week.
He shared his journey and for those who think that walking through Arctic terrain is "macho man" stuff, he argues that it is completely the opposite: it's all about humility and compassion remembering that when you're out there in the wild, you're human and can just as easily be eaten by a polar bear as you can die from an avalanche.
As someone who was pals with the infamous Jacques Cousteau, he shared some of his advice. "Focus on one thing," Cousteau had said to him on more than one occasion. "The greatest threat to our planet is to believe that someone else will save it." Hear hear!
"All we are, are custodians of this place," adds Robert. "We owe it to ourselves to do something to make a difference and change everything."
On his first journey, he and his team arrived at the bottom of the world after 70 days on foot. To save Antarctica he realized that he needed to be more than a garbage collector and a penguin polisher.
Swan's witty British style drew the audience in...his humor endeared us to him. We laughed with him as much as we reflected on the seriousness of needing to care for the environment around us. His polished appearance on stage and passionate and inspiring ability to transform a large group of people is a stark contrast to his face when he takes on the world's toughest icy mountains and roads. He is nothing short of resilience and bravery at its best!
His passion today is about the need to wake the world up about aggressively using more renewable clean energy in the real world. He has become a renewable energy advocate with a plan to build a mobile e-base on all seven continents. They built the first station in Antarctica built only on renewable energy but wants to do this "everywhere."
Robert and his team journeyed around the world several times showing young people how renewable energy works and he makes it clear that his work is far from being done. With emphasis, he added, "stay relevant. It's very easy in our world to think we're being relevant when the dynamic may have changed and we no longer are."
Take Away: The greatest threat to our planet is to believe that someone else will save it. Electricity should be a human right and there are still places in the world without. Sit in the dark for an hour and see how it feels. We can be more efficient with electricity when we think smart and are proactive. Renewable energy matters: go solar whenever you can and make green choices whenever and wherever you can.
The hole in the ozone is fixing itself because we are starting to get the policy right. We have shown that we CAN make a difference so do what you can to contribute to the environment in small ways every day.
Photo credits: Renee Blodgett except for photo of Swan in Arctic (from Leaders for Business).
September 19, 2013
TEDxUNPlaza: 3 Women on Empowerment & Trusting In Yourself
I was involved in the first ever TEDxUNPlaza event this week in New York City, a full day TEDx event focused on the theme BRAVE with 24 speakers who inspired over 300 people at the United Nations Building.
Considering how many conferences and events I've been to over the years where there have been so few women on the main stage or on panel discussions, it was refreshing to see the very first session of the day focus on women empowerment.
While two fabulous men were also in this session: Steven Rogers, a professor at Harvard Business School and Dr. James Doty, the founder and director of the Center for Compasion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, this post focuses on the three awe-inspiring women who moved me with their passion, commitment and perserverance this week.
New age yogini Deepika Mehta, writer and animator Brenda Chapman and healthy living educator Sarah Hillware rocked the TEDxUNPlaza stage Monday morning.
Deepika Mehta faced a severe emotional challenge when she was told she may never walk again. Today, she speaks from a place of gratitude now that she is not only walking again, but entertains people with her dancing and yoga movements.
She has also trained with some of the top Indian film stars and is one of the youngest instructors to teach at one of the most celebrated Yoga festivals in the world, The International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram.
Brenda Chapman is another great model for resilience who credits her mother for giving her the courage to be where she is today. She says that young girls are trained to be passive and reactive whereas young boys are trained to be proactive. While that may be less the case today than it was twenty or more years ago, old habits are still engrained.
Role models can teach resilience she asserts. And, she says, "they can be family members, teachers, role models...they can be women, they can be men, they can be you."
Brenda has always had a passion for storytelling and movie making and ever since she was a little girl, her dream was to work at Disney. Not only did she achieve her dream, but she became the first woman to direct an animated feature for DreamWorlds Animation's The Prince of Egypt and more recently directed the Pixar film, Brave, the very theme of this TEDx event.
Like Sarah Hillware would echo later on in the session, Brenda talked about the importance of girls having role models, even if they're distant ones. She also reminded us that it's not just about the successes that result from what we learn from those role models, but failures as well. "Failures are just as important as our successes," she says.
"Inspiring by example is a key way you can pass along your inspiration," she adds. "If you can look into a little girl's eyes and let her know that you believe in her, you might just transform her life."
So true, I reflected as I thought about a few people who did that for me when I was 5, 10 and later as a teenager. Was there someone who inspired and encouraged you along the way?
My Take Away: maybe the nieces, daughters and cousins in our lives won't have to fight some of the same battles we had to fight, but there will be battles and stepping up to be a mentor can make all the difference.
Sarah Hillware started her talk with the same tone, as if she was picking up the thread from Brenda's important messages but extending the importance of mentorship to education and health awareness, which is both her strength and her passion.
Says Sarah, "when you educate a boy, you educate a person. When you educate a girl, you educate a family and a community."
Her background in health and educational systems and as founder of Girls Health Ed, she asserts that health education isn't just about physical health, its about inside out wellness. She asks: how do we translate these ideas and the energy that we have into concrete action?
Perhaps having a community base in adolescent health in schools is a key ingredient to getting things moving.
Some of her stats back this up, including the direct correlation between health, particularly mental health and school attendance. Based on her work's outcome, she focuses on three core goals: Positive Development, Individual Goal Setting and Community Inclusion.
In order for these goals to be achieveable, she believes that all interventions need to be relevant to the individual and the community depending on the challenges they face every day. For example, in the western world, standardizing a course on body image in our schools would greatly benefit women. In the developing world, a course on menstruation and menstruation management would be more relevant and therefore more beneficial.
Sarah ends with encouraging people to get behind programs and behind girls we can help in our own lives, thinking from a proactive not a reactive place. She also strongly believes we need to redirect research towards prevention. Hear hear Sarah. We couldn't agree more!
All photo credits: Renee Blodgett.
September 05, 2013
VentureBeat's CloudBeat Brings Cloud Adoption To Next Level
Returning for it's third year, CloudBeat will cut through the hype surrounding the cloud by gathering real customers who have gone through the pain of adoption and change, and who have compelling stories to tell about the ways in which the cloud continues to transform their business. Register now with code “WeBlog” and save 25%!
Join 500 executives — with a mix of business and IT decision makers, analysts, investors, marketers, brands/retailers, and press — for a rare look at what’s really working, who’s buying what, and where the industry is going as the cloud grows up.
This year’s program features new cases from PayPal, NASA, Netflix, Pivotal, Linkedin, Disney, General Electric, IBM, Google, and Salesforce, to name a few. They’ll feature a senior IT executive from each company, talking about cloud strategy and implementation.
Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz will be speaking for the first time about the vision for his new product, Pivotal One, which he’s calling the “operating system for the cloud.”
Salesforce COO and second-in-command George Hu will also be making a rare appearance to talk about his company’s industry-leading SaaS tech.
The event will be held on September 9-10, 2013 in San Francisco at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, 345 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA.
June 28, 2013
Meet Startup Reykjavik, Iceland's #1 Accelerator Program
When I was in Iceland this month for Startup Iceland, an event started by serial entrepreneur Bala Kamallakharan, I had the opportunity to meet a host of locals working on start-up initiatives.
Leading up an effort within the Startup Iceland community is Kristján Freyr Kristjánsson, who is spearheading Iceland's #1 Accelelerator program: Startup Reykjavik.
Startup Reykjavik is similarly structured to TechStars but open for any type of businesses to apply. The program includes ten teams (16k at 6% across 10 weeks) and ends with an investor day on August 23, 2013. It kicked off while I was there and one of the team building exercises was to take 20 or so entrepreneurs into the interior of Iceland's natural wonderland for games and bonding. They headed to a place called Thorsmork, within the Þórsmörk Nature Reserve where they had pow-wows in volcano huts and hiked, a little different from our pizza and soda networking shindigs in Silicon Valley.
Here is an overview of the teams for this year's program:
- Mindlantis: While helping children discovering their true potential, they make high quality products based on their ideas.
- Activity Stream: They enable capture, processing, visualization and reporting of Business Activity Information - in real time - cloud based.
- Golf Pro Assistant: GolfPro Assistant is a web app designed for golf professionals to help them manage all aspects of running a golf teaching business.
- SARdrones: SARdrones develops unmanned drones and image analysis software for search and rescue purposes in barren landscapes.
- Snjohus Software: Snjóhús is a two man team, programmer and artist, working to make high quality apps.
- Silverberg: Designing and developing a measuring equipment for fitness centers, along with a software solution where users can track their progress.
Non-Tech companies (e.g. Bio-tech, Fashion, Alumnium Roller coaster, Whiskey Brewery)
- Herberia: Herberia fills the gap between unregistered natural products and medicines by manufacturing herbal medicines of the highest quality.
- Y-Z: Y-Z is an innovative fashion brand aimed at forward thinking women - classic design with avant garde flexibility.
- Zalibuna: Zalibuna will design and build a one man rollercoaster in the most traveled area of Iceland, Kambarnir.
- Þoran Distillery: The Þoran project it the brainchild of a few like-minded individuals who dream of establishing the first whisky distillery in Iceland.
They have 10 alumni teams and a database of 100 Icelandic startups they have been helping through the past years, with roughly $20 million invested so far. Below are some of the entrepreneurs who participated and are part of the startup scene, from the Hackathon, the Startup Iceland and the entrepreneurs who will be part of this year's accelerator group.
June 13, 2013
Start-Up Iceland Event Draws Iceland's President & Attracts American Thought Leaders
Hackathons are fairly common in Silicon Valley and while they're starting to pop up in pockets around the world, Iceland may not be a place that immediately comes to mind when you think of start-up geek fests.
Reykavik, Iceland's largest city and home to two thirds of its 320,000 people, recently held a Hackathon in conjunction with Start-Up Iceland, an event committed to helping local entrepreneurs build a thriving start-up ecosystem in the country.
Started by serial entrepreneur, angel investor and Greenqloud CEO Bala Kamallakharan in 2012, Start-Up Iceland has not only grown in size in just one year, but attracted top notch angel investors from the states, as well as European and American entrepreneurs and thought leaders.
TechCrunch's John Biggs presented, as did American venture capitalists Brad Burnham from Union Square Ventures and Foundry Group's Ryan McTyre and Jason Mendelson. To top that list, Iceland’s US Ambassador Luis E. Arreaga and the country's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson thought the event was important enough to show up to address the more than 300 attendees at the beautifully designed conference center HARPA in the city center.
In true start-up conference style, the event kicked off with an UnConference led by Joshua Kaufmann and a Hackathon, held at the University of Reykjavik, where geeks gathered together to cook up some innovative ideas.
The Hackathon was free and open to students, hobbyists, professionals and frankly anyone who likes to hack on cool code and be creative.
Startup Iceland Hackathon participants were asked to create and present hacks around the central idea that the world is undergoing drastic cultural, climate and economic shifts that impact global business.
As the founding organizers mission suggests: "Strengths lie not within avoiding catastrophe but in planning and mitigating problems before they arise. We can accomplish this by understanding the needs of the business community, anticipating the hurdles and creating proactive solutions." Well said.
Above, locals present their ideas to attendees and a panel of judges and below, Seattle Angel Conference's John Sechrest moderated a session.
Below the Hackathon finalists pose with American thought leaders and entrepreneurs.
Winners and finalists receive acknowledgement on stage.
The winner of the Hackathon was GreenQloud Automated Server Balancer, which is a collection of scripts that manage and change attributes to a GreenQloud hosted server depending on the load.
Simply put, when a user's server is idle, only one system is running. Once the load gets to a specific point, a new system is activated, which allows for consistant performance across the board without wasting so much power. Lower Power usage, lower wasted dosh.
While green energy may be enviromentally friendly, it's not unlimited, so their notion is that you should only use what you need. With their approach, you can efficiently waste the least amount of power with enough performance to do what you need.The team was awarded $1,000.
Below, Bala does a fireside chat style interview with Ryan and Jason from Foundry Group.
The UnConference presented a host of great ideas, which were far more varied than what you'd find in technology hubs in the United States, largely because many of the needs and problems that locals need to solve on a Nordic Island are unique.
Some of the ideas included angel investing in Icelandic start-ups, the role of big companies in the start-up ecosystem, women's role as investors, entrepreneurs and consumers, cultural barriers between those who have money and those who don't, the value of mentoring, bootstrapping, what can be gained from a Pan-Nordic collaboration, growing Icelandic tourism through better customer service, attracting talent to Iceland and the importance of having a start-up friendly government policy.
Kudos to the Start-Up Iceland team and everyone behind the scenes who made everything happen, from the Hackathon and UnConference, to the more formal Start-Up Event at HARPA, which included a VIP dinner and the President's speech.
I first heard Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson speak at PopTech, an annual event in Maine I've had the pleasure of attending and being involved in over the years. His presentation style is very warm and inviting and once again, he brought that quality to the stage. Below he gives a touching and inspiring talk to attendees.
The video of his talk below.
My takeaway went beyond the fact that Iceland now has a thriving and growing start-up community as demonstrated by Start-Up Iceland and the level of support for the event. Icelanders have resilience and dedication to making things work regardless of what is thrown their way.
Consider what the country went through in 2008 during their financial crisis and how as a nation, they came out the other side as committed and united, able to move forward with a team and “can-do” attitude, something every startup needs to not just survive but thrive.
The fact that Iceland is a small country can be used to their advantage. Icelanders help each other out, share and cross pollinate ideas and don't give up easily. Smaller communities in the U.S., such as Boulder and Portland also implement more of a sharing and caring mentality, something Silicon Valley could use a bit more of. As Foundry Group’s Jason Mendelson commented on a panel, “in Silicon Valley, it’s more like every man out for himself.”
We have a lot to learn from Icelanders and I felt fortunate to meet some of the early entrepreneurs who are helping to make Iceland grow and thrive as a global player in the entrepreneurial world.
May 31, 2013
All Things D 2013 Wrap: Rockets, Authentification Pills & Speech to The Future of TV
All Things D just held their 11th annual conference in Rancho Palos Verdes California this past week. Imagine a few hundred billionaire and millionaire game changers in a room at an oceanside resort, discussing the latest digital technology trends that impact a host of industries: from government, retail and consumer electronics to mobile advertising, digital TV and everything in between. It makes you wonder: Are we moving to a world that looks something like this?
Some of the trends and reccuring themes are not new this year, but they are more pressing as storage gets cheaper, bandwidth gets faster and it is becoming more common to program your home and tap into a mobile device for nearly everything we do.
How people think about things that were once a Star Trek-like discussion are now becoming reality: energy sources, Google Glass that brings virtual and augmented reality to life in more ways than one, electric versus gas powered cars, a trip to Mars if you have a bank account big enough to afford a ticket, wearable devices and how we will view what we now call TV in the next decade. And, that's just the beginning.Some of the leading CEOs and thought leaders driving change in this space were on the D stage this year, hosted by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.
Mary Meeker who I have tremendous respect for and think of among other things as the "Data Chick", shared her annual Internet trends. No one I know can better convey data faster with as much content as she has in a way that is comprehensable to both geeks and creatives. She somehow manages to get through to both. Here's her latest report.
Two themes which continue to come up again and again are privacy and security despite prolific users of social networks and geo-based services like Foursquare suggesting that they no longer matter.
Where else would fingers be pointed than Facebook? Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg took the stage to address those issues in the first day's morning session. A Wall Street Journal reporter asked her about "trust."
He raises the issue of snapchatting, which seems like a direct reflection of mistrust. Trust is the cornerstone of our users says Sheryl. She adds, "its critical that we are transparent in understanding how the product works. It used to be complicated and that translated to mistrust so we've made our privacy page and other sections much more visual to make it easier for the user."
She also talked about the new social world where messaging, texting and photos are continuing to explode and 'it's not going to stop.' While she wouldn't speak to any new 'product announcements,' focusing on those three areas was telling.
Unlike Mark, she's fabulous on stage. Even if you don't trust Facebook for whatever legitimate reasons, she's a great face for the company and knows how to turn that mistrust around.
Hunky Elon Musk seemed to get respect from everyone around me - the techies, entrepreneurs, CEOs and women who seemed to reference more than just his "accomplishments." For those who don't know all his accolades, he's the Co-Founder, CEO and Product Architect at Tesla Motors and CEO/CTO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX).
Et hem, before we get into his D stage shares, just look at those arms. Combine that with his adventurous spirit, desire to go to Mars, lofty sustainable goals and his South African accent and it's no wonder he has so many woman at "Hello."
Elon's major message, at least the recurring one was sustainability. Elon is a man who defies odds -- a bit of a quieter Tony Robbins icon, where his sense of solitude and confidence meets the resolve of a politican and the demeanor of a trusted geek. Or, something to that effect.
He says, "car manufacturers said we could never reach certain goals and we keep beating and meeting our goals, defying odds again and again. Our challenge is that we need to convince them that what we're doing is much more than the niche market Tesla is today. To convince them that electric cars are a mainstream product will require a lot more work but its work we need to do."
His tone suggested that it wasn't work he needed to do because it was best for Tesla's bottom line, but because it's the right thing for the planet.
He also announced the expansion of their supercharger network a day earlier than planned. This move is an obvious and required one to move Tesla more into the mainstream limelight. Clearly, the more people who own a Tesla, the broader the network of superchargers Tesla can support and the more superchargers there are, the more compelling it becomes to own one. If there are not enough charging stations, people won't think of purchasing one as their main car and it will remain a secondary car for those with oodles of money or who live in a city where you don't have to travel very far. Below is their expansion plan in the U.S. over the next several months.
On immigration reform, which he wanted to support, he said there was too much Kissinger-ness! He added, "what we encourage is the political system we will deserve." Hear hear. In an interview on CNBC this morning, he said he left Mark Zuckerberg's political action committee, FWD.us, "because the organization became too cynical."
He also addressed carbon and believes in having a carbon tax that will honor the right behavior and penalize the wrong behavior just like we do with alcohol and tobacco. He says, "how we collect the money is irrelevant but the government needs to be paid so we need to reallocate where that money comes in from and set up a system that condemns bad carbon behavior."
With Steve Jobs legacy still lingering and the fact that he was such an icon on the All Things D stage every year, it's no surprise that the fireside chat with Apple's CEO Tim Cook filled an hour and a half on opening night.
He avoided any commitment over rolling out a TV set, so much so that a Sony guy I talked to after hours was hissing about it. He wasn't the only one since it wasn't just Tim's reluctance to talk about an Apple TV set; he avoided discussing anything related to future product plans.
"While the company has seen modest success with Apple TV," he said (selling more than 13 million since the device debuted), "it has been less a flagship product than a sort of learning experience for the company. It’s been great for customers, but it’s also been good from a learning point of view for Apple.”
Chatter in the corridors throughout the conference was twofold: he did himself a disservice by showing up and not sharing any deep insights, which would have helped to re-ignite faith among thought leaders, partners, press, pundits and the pools of money in the audience and b) while Steve Jobs might have been able to get away with secrecy in that Apple culture and aloof kind of way, people had faith in the silence because they had faith in Steve.
While Tim claimed that Apple had a "grand vision" for TV and innovation was needed since there hasn't been much progress in the last two decades, he didn't convey much more. When Kara asked him what kind of CEO he was, he didn't answer despite a couple of attempts.
Here's one thing I think would have worked: talk about your operations and "bottom line" strength - while he's not the creative genius or stageman that Steve was (and btw, no one is), focusing on what he can and does ace, can go far. Secondly, people want to see a personality through texture, color and energy even if that energy is a quiet one.
Even if not theatrical on stage, he could show confidence and humanity (a kick-ass combination for any CEO in my humble opinion), by bringing up two or three personal examples in his own life. If he went with that approach, I am certain that if the wealthy and influential audience at D did't hang onto every word he said, anyone and everyone watching him on the live stream and the video of the interview later most certainly would. My two cents...
He also addressed wearable devices, the growth of their adoption and seeing it as a trend. Here's a video the All Things D team took that shares a few insights on Google Glass and its current value-add including Tim Cook's take. Four or five guys were wearing them at the conference, so I got a chance to test a pair out. The experience was a bit eerie and distracting, making me feel unsettled about my physical environment - in other words, I was more fixated on the potential augmented reality rewards and "digital data" within my surroundings than the person or physical object in front of me. A good thing? Perhaps I'll rephrase that. A healthy thing?
I also might add that it didn't do wonders for my otherwise stylin' dress and unless a different designer gets involved in future versions, I don't see this being a fashion add-on, at least not for women. (from one woman's viewpoint. To add to that, even Tim Cook agreed that people wear glasses because they have to and that they should reflect a person's fashion and style while being unobtrusive).
Another D speaker favorite is Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo, who I've known since his early Feedburner days. He has fabulous energy on stage and this year was no different. Personally I think his Chicago edge and humor play well in this environment. Fortune 500 CEOs who present often, TAKE NOTE: Wit Matters.
Kara who took the lead on topics addressed the news aspect of Twitter and asked whether Dick sees Twitter as a "news organization"? Interesting question since she's right, so many people, myself included, use Twitter as a source for our news, or at least catching up on trends, ideas and events. It's a curation of all three and more from my vantage point and I get to select who I read, when and how.
He says, "I see us partnering with news organizations to distribute news in real time and to help organize and sift through the noise. The beauty of the feed is that you follow who you want but you can also get an aspect of discovery in the mix. The accuracy of the signal that it delivers is remarkable -- we are seeing in the data that people are using the discovery tabs more and more. In the future, I see us surfacing discovery in a simpler way."
Simplicity was a core theme. While it's easy to keep adding more features, the challenge is in removing complexity while keeping the functionality and value-add there, something he says Jack Dorsey aces. Dick says of Jack, "he has remarkable product sensibility - he sees things in a way that no one else does and has a unique way of finding innovative things early on. He's extraordinary."
What is Twitter missing today? Simplicity, he says again. "Because of the 140 word constraint, people have created memes and language that everyone knows in the tweetoverse but newbies have to learn."
A capital investment guy asks him, "Twitter is having an extraordinary impact on the financial markets - it's a constant flow. When does government say to Twitter that you need to control it?"
Dick says that it will likely flow less from government and more from how the media laws are written in each country. They are so different depending on where you are, referencing the UK's broadcast media world as an example.
Another D favorite was Pinterest's Ben Silbermann, largely for his honesty and down-to-earth approach on stage.
He talked about how people use Pinterest today - people ask themselves: what activities should I share with my kids? What gift should I get my wife? Pinterest was started to address those needs. He says, "Collecting physical things was always a passion for me and I think what you collect says a lot about who you are.I was interested in taking things offline and putting them online."
When asked what he didn't know at the beginning and what they have learned along the way, he talked about the overlapping pins, as a way to learn about someone else or a group of people who shares similar interests as you somewhere else in the world. He says, "people who share things creates an interest graph - it gives you an intuitive and human way to discover things."
Some call Pinterest the sleeping giant although it isn't really sleeping anymore. Media in general is becoming more visual and while there have been discovery platforms over the past ten years, the timing didn't match the adoption of integrating a digital lifestyle as a normal and daily routine. Timing isn't everything but it matters more than a lot of entrepreneurs think it does.
I see this with clients all the time! Many start-up founders see, feel and taste the vision long before a consumer is ready to embrace it and often, no amount of advice will stop them from moving full speed ahead even if the market isn't quite ready for it.
Ben also talked about how their team thinks about Pinterest on a mobile device or iPad differently based on user behavior. He says, "we ask the question from your access point, 'are you on the web to browse and put collections together or are you at the supermarket accessing Pinterest through your cell phone to find a recipe with ingredients you need?"
What about Pinterest as a lead generation for brands? Your phone and tablet is always around you so it matters, he says and mobile is huge.....and growing. It begs the following questions: Is Pinterest a mobile interest graph company or will it become one? What business is Pinterest in today and in five years?
Simplicity was as core to Ben and his team as it is to Dick and his at Twitter. Says Ben, "when the average person uses Pinterest, it has to be easy-to-use and intuitive." They are taking feedback from both the partner and consumer sides.
The latest evaluation? 2.5 billion evaluation today. To that Ben says, "If Google teaches you anything, it's that small things can get big."
Dr. Regina E. Dugan, Motorola's Mobility SVP of Advanced Technology & Products was on stage with the CEO of Motorola Mobility Dennis Woodside.
Last time she was on the D stage, she was at DARPA and her personality, wit and confidence was a hit with the geeks and entrepreneurs alike. She was equally compelling the second time around.
Regina talked about some of the things they and others are working on around authentication. She showed a tattoo on her wrist, a tattoo that would ultimately authenticate everything. While it's only a prototype now, the thought of wearing one of those for authentification purposes is freakingly eerie. What scares me most is if the government or pieces of it decide that tattoos or a variation of them should become a standard, in the same way there's now a standard way of airport security and opting out is possible, but awkward and time consuming.
There's also an authentification pill and no I'm not kidding. The pill would emit an 18 bit code using your stomach acid as an electrolyte (think battery) and you'll be able to transmit that digital code repeatedly. The latter means that you'd have to take a tablet every day at least initially. If you were forced into one method of authentication, would you choose the pill or tattoo? Frankly, a button on my cell phone that matches my personal thumb print would do just fine.
Other issues the Motorola Mobility team is working on is battery life and broken phones and disruption in the mobile and TV world - who gets paid what and what becomes the new "fair" in the new digital world? What does mobile innovation look like when it is less feathered and tampered with by carriers?
Regina was proud to announce that Google Glass wearers walking around with the new Motorola phone slated to come out in August will be made in the U.S., not overseas. (70% will be assembled in Texas).
Lastly, they're kicking off a fun project this summer that will test the limit of "great new ideas." In true makerfair fashion, they are taking a van 10,000 miles over five months to universities and fairs, giving people access to tools so they can create things -- from medicine and mobile to 3D printing.
Less exciting on stage was GE's CEO Jeffrey Immelt, but then again, it's hard to compete with Regina's fabulous energy.
GE is clearly thinking about and innovating with 3D printing. He says, "the practice of 3D printing has some practical applications in the big industrial world of building jet engines." Like Musk, he and his team are thinking of big ideas, not iPhone and social media applications.
Nuance's CEO and Chairman Paul Ricci talked about the future of speech recognition. As someone who led communications efforts for Dragon -- now owned by Nuance -- I'm a sucker for any advancement in the speech world. He says, "most of what we do is service large enterprise service companies, cars and the consumer electronic industry."
Clearly, as has always been the challege with speech recognition accuracy and mainstream adoption, it's not just the literal accuracy but the understanding of what you mean: natural language processing and beyond. It continues to get better but still has a long way to go.
That said, recognition is better than it's ever been in history. I'm a user of Siri and find the accuracy remarkably good, so much so that it has become habit, unlike so many other false hopes and useless technology promises.
While B2B and enterprise remain a core part of their business and embedded speech to enable things we use everyday will continue to grow, there's still the consumer application for speech which has helped so many.
I felt a sense of pride and nostalgia when he referred to Dragon products as the only products in his lifetime which has had such a profound impact on people's lives. I too remember so many times when people walked up to me and shared stories about how Dragon's recognition software had literally changed their lives. It was a nice touch and great to hear on the afternoon of the last day.
There's always new & innovative demos shown at D and my favorite was from Max Levchin, formerly of Slide and Paypal. He showed a demo of a new fertility app called GLOW, which is a mobile app that calculates, tracks and monitors data for a woman's pregnancy, such as optimal time of month, and so on. That data can be used to assess the best time for a woman to get pregnant.
There were also demos of Fanhattan and August. Fanhattan is a cloud-based app that is attempting to aggregate video sources into a single location making it a more seamless user experience.
August uses an iPhone and Bluetooth to automatically lock and unlock the door of a home or office as you come close. When you leave, the same process will lock the door behind you. You can access the app through the web or your mobile device, where there are controls, such as digital key sharing and log data of who entered your home and when they were last there.
The app is in synch with the theme of needing to speed up and automate authentification since we are doing it more and more often every day. There's clearly a need for a solution that tackles this problem. I'm feeling a bit better about this than the Motorola authentification pill to be honest. How about you?
Below Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher bid the crowd farewell and thanked their team for yet another successful D. Other speakers not mentioned here include Walt Disney's Thomas Staggs, Box's CEO Aaron Levie, John Chambers, Barry Diller, CNN's Jeff Zucker, Anne Sweeney, I. Marlene King, Scooter Braun, Troy Carter, Guy Oseary, Google's Sundar Pichai, Steven Sinofsky from Harvard, Kazuo Hirai and the 49er's CEO Jed York.
And, a hats off to the crew I came down to D with for making the to and fro such a pleasure: Patti and Larry Magid, Gary Lauder, Shireen Piramoon, Gary Kovacs, Nat Goldhaber, Renee Blodgett. Also, a major kudos to Nat's incredible flying ability. As always, the best conversations of any conference always happen offline. Hallways, elevators, cars, planes, taxis, swimming pools and bars all count! :-)
Photo credits: Top photo of globe from intentblog.com, Sheryl Sandberg shot is a screen grab from the All Things D video from MikeIsaac's article on the All Things D site/blog, Tim Cook Shot from Asa Mathat / AllThingsD.com and all others Renee Blodgett.
May 17, 2013
5 Important Issues From 5 TEDxBerkeley Speakers: Help Us Pave the Way
As a co-curator of a TEDx event, you have a joyful honor of bringing important issues you want to see brought to the table...to the table, or in this case, a TEDx stage. Having been involved in the curation process at TEDxBerkeley for a few years now, there are speakers and writers I've met along the way who have haunted me -- positively and negatively -- the latter often provacative enough that regardless of whether it's a pretty story, you know the story must be told.
Personal issues that keep me awake at night include the ugly embrace of processed food, climate change & the implications for wildlife and the world, the growing divide between the rich and the poor, our sad state of healthcare and education, and women's inequalities. There are countless others, but there's only so much that can absorb my already noisy back channel at any given time.
At TEDxBerkeley this year, we were able to bring some of those conversations to attendees.
I have always wanted Robert Neuwirth to speak at TEDxBerkeley ever since I first heard him speak at PopTech a few years ago. He is best known for his work with squatter communities and poverty. He wrote Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World, a book describing his experiences living in squatter communities in Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul and Mumbai.
He brings us on a journey to West Africa and how locals came up with a creative way to source their own energy when the government couldn't.
Lagos residents use energy conservation. In his time in Lagos, he saw people get their water in large canisters not from fresh water sources or private wells. The Lagos government claims that it provides safe drinking water in sufficient quantities to its people, according to a newspaper he read on his way out of the country and yet, its far from reality. There is no real functioning water system in Lagos and other things are not efficient either. Apparently they waste N1.5 billion by leaving their computers on standby.
Kim Polese was the opening speaker for this year's theme of Catalyzing Change. In alignment with the theme, she addressed the communications gap between education providers and students. Students don't know what courses to take so they can succeed in the 21st century.
Our challenge is to preserve the excellence and transform old curriculum she says. "We face a new crisis, the skills gap, which is a crisis which is affecting everyone so we need a revolution in the teaching model, a few of which are MOOC (massive online open courses) and passive versus active participants in online open courses (small online classes) in SPOCS, Small Private Online Classes.
The revolution is not about cutting costs, it's about this new transformational learning model that is more engaged and also it allows for mass distribution to more people. Only 50% of undergraduates receive a degree in six years. Moreso than that, 55% of students need remediation.
The typical student attends multiple universities, which equates to lost dollars and time because so much of the credits don't transfer over. Often, a student takes "on average" over a year of credits they wouldn't need to take.
One idea: What if we offered and made those transfer of those credits seamless? Think about what Visa did to revolutionize the credit business, by swiping a card and it just works. If we standardize undergraduate classes so the credits can be applied as seamlessly as a Visa card is used today to pay for products and services.
The STEM gap (science, technology, engineering and math) aka rouhgly 33% of students who just felt that they weren't prepared enough is widening......in the U.S., we lag behind most developed countries.
Five out of every new jobs will be in STEM related jobs in the next decade and yet we're lagging behind countries like Singapore, France and other developing countries. If we just focused on increasing the number of STEM graduates by 10% can produce 75,000 more STEM graduates by the end of the decade, which is close to what Obama's goal is for higher education.
Women are turning away from computing, the percentage at its all time high was 34% and now its down to below 15%. The first programmers were women. During World War II, the army recruited a group of women out of the University of Pennsylvania to calculate bolistic trojectories and they called these computers women. She refers to the work of TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra.
Known for his work in education research, Sugata Mitra won $1 million TED Prize to build his School in the Cloud.
Many who keeps tabs on education will know him for his project called “Hole in the Wall”, an experiment he conducted in 1999, where Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall near an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC and walked away.
Over time, while a hidden camera filmed the area, the video showed children from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process, teaching themselves now only how to use it themselves, but sharing that knowledge with their friends.
His goal is lofty – he invited the world to embrace child-driven learning by setting up something he refers to as Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs). He asked for help designing a learning lab in India, where children can “embark on intellectual adventures.”
Second in the session was Eden Full who is the Founder of Roseicollis Technologies Inc. She studied for two years at Princeton University and is currently taking gap years to work on her start-up full time after being selected for the inaugural class of the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship. Named one of the 30 under 30 in Forbes’ Energy category two years in a row and Ashoka’s Youth Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Eden founded Roseicollis Technologies Inc. to take her solar panel tracking invention called the SunSaluter to developing communities and established markets that need them.
The SunSaluter won the Mashable/UN Foundation Startups for Social Good Challenge and was awarded the runner-up prize at the 2011 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. While at Princeton, Eden initiated and curated TEDxPrincetonU. Proudly Canadian, she was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. After coxing for the Princeton lightweight women’s team, Eden was selected to be the coxswain for the 2012 Rowing Canada’s senior women’s development team, where they won a gold medal at Holland Beker and the Remenham Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta, beating the German Olympic boat.
She shared her story about her patent-pending solar invention called SunSaluter which she has been using in East Africa. Provided extra electricity every day for one 60W panel to charge, plus not just the benefit of getting extra water but clean to people every day. She tested it out in a polit in Nyakasimbi Tanzania and thereafter with a partner in Kirindi Uganda. The goal is deploy 200+ units to 15,000+ villagers.
Curt L. Tofteland is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB) program. During his 18 years of work with Shakespeare in corrections, he facilitated the SBB/KY program at the Luther Lucket Correctional Complex, producing and directing 14 Shakespeare Productions.
"It is within the silence that we discover the absence of self," he said to TEDxBerkeley audience, as he opened with lines from Shakespeare. "We arrive in this world, naked and alone and we leave this world, naked and alone; we take with us our memories and we leave behind our deeds," he says reading a story that addressed life issues such as dealing with truth and ego.
May 17, 2013 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On Politics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, On Women, TravelingGeeks | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 15, 2013
Fourth Annual TEDxBerkeley Event To Kick Off April 20
The fourth annual TEDx Berkeley Event (a 501c3) will kick off on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall with 13 thought provoking and renowned speakers and three performers, set to tackle this year’s theme: Catalyzing Change.
This decade presents significant and global change that will impact how we use technology, how and where we work, communicate and use utilities and applications across industries, from education, mobile technology, biotech and biofuels to healthcare, government, sustainability and beyond.
Learning and sharing ideas in a way that provokes change and making the world a better place is what TED events are about. Given that Berkeley is an epicenter of innovation, inspiration and talent, it’s the perfect location for speakers and attendees alike to participate in this important global conversation.
Below is a list of the 2013 TEDxBerkeley speakers and performers:
- Chris Anderson: Chris is the co-founder and chairman of 3D Robotics, former editor of WIRED Magazine and author of The Long Tail, Free: The Future of a Radical Price and Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.
- Louann Brizendine, MD: Louann is a practicing neuropsychiatrist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor at UCSF, founder of Women’s Mood & Hormone Clinic, and a media commentator specializing in sex differences and The Male and Female Brain.
- Mallika Chopra: As a media entrepreneur, Mallika is the founder of Intent.com, The Chopra Well, author of 100 Promises To My Baby and 100 Questions From My Child, and a notable voice in the fields of parenting, meditation and intention.
- Alexei Filippenko: Alex is a UC Berkeley Professor of Astronomy and member of both teams that discovered the accelerating expansion of the Universe, who was honored with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.
- Eden Full: Eden is the founder of Roseicollis Technologies and spearheaded the solar panel tracking invention called the SunSaluter.
- Dan Millman: Dan, an author of 16 books which have been translated into 29 languages, have influenced millions of lives. His most popular book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, was adapted to film in 2006.
- Robert Neuwirth: Robert is the author of two books on alternative social and economic structures: Stealth of Nations, an up-close investigation of the value of street markets and underground trade and Shadow Cities, which looks at squatter communities as normal urban neighborhoods.
- Kim Polese – Kim serves as Chairman of social finance startup ClearStreet, was founding product manager for Java at Sun, co-founder of Marimba, CEO of SpikeSource & was named to President Obama’s Innovation Advisory Board.
- Ananya Roy: A UC Berkeley professor in City and Regional Planning and distinguished chair of Global Poverty, she authored City Requiem, Calcutta: Gender and the Politics of Poverty and Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development.
- Karen Sokal-Gutierrez: Karen is an associate clinical professor at the University of California and Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program and School of Public Health.
- Curt Tofteland: Curt is the founder of Shakespeare Behind Bars, and has produced dozens Shakespeare Productions at correctional facilities around the US.
- Cecily Sommers: A global trends analyst who helps organizations understand and prepare for the emerging technologies, markets, and ideas shaping our world, Cecily was selected as one of Fast Company’s Fast 50 Reader’s Favorites, founded Push Institute & authored Think Like a Futurist.
- Erica Wides – As national authority on how to find, afford, cook and eat minimally processed natural food, Erica is host and co-creator of Let’s Get Real: The Cooking Show About Finding, Preparing and Eating Food on the Heritage Radio Network.
Performers include Ambiance Lights, a student group dedicated to glove lightshows, which is a style of dance that involves finger and hand manipulation with strobelights, California Golden Overtones, a UC Berkeley all-female completely student-run A Cappella group and Victoria Theodore, keyboardist, musician and background singer who was in Stevie Wonder’s band since 2007. Yaelisa is an Emmy Award-winning flamenco dancer/choreographer and the artistic director of Caminos Flamencos and The New World Flamenco Festival.
For the first time, TEDxBerkeley also falls on Cal Day, UC Berkeley’s Annual Open House. This independent TEDx event is operated under license from TED. Visit the TEDxBerkeley speaker page for more information. Mobile users can also download the AppBaker-created iPhone app for the event.
March 25, 2013
HAPIfork Parades Around Austin Taking in the Energy of SXSW
HAPIfork, which has taken on a mind of his own, decided to embark upon Austin during South by Southwest (SXSW) with Andrew Carton and I. He made a few interesting stops along the way and had quite a few encounters, starting with a little saloon action in the lobby of the Driskill Hotel. After all, we were in Texas after all.
Then he headed to the Rackspace party where he met Travis.
A little more Western cowboy and rope action along Fourth Street.
When the bartender at Eddie V's Steakhouse remarked on his color, shape and design, he asked the chef to write Congratulations across the top of our dessert plate in delicious chocolate. It isn't quite HAPIfork's birthday yet, but he wasn't displeased to see the surprise. Nor were we.
It's hard for HAPIfork to stay away from a dinner table, after all, it's one of his favorite places to hang out.
The guys at the Connected Health booth on the SXSW Convention Center floor said hello to HAPIfork.
There were even a few musicians who got into HAPIfork, after all, we don't need to tell you how fabulous great music is with fabulous food...and the slower you eat, the more present you can be with those tunes.
He kept returning to the Hotel Driskill night after night since he loved nestling himself up against that incredibly historical statue in their lounge area as he listened to live music play till late.
HAPIfork even went to support Jen Lim, CEO of Delivering Hapiness and others at a HAPPINESS panel, because after all, he believes like the rest of us do, that eating slower and taking time with your meal equates to a more fulfilled, healthier and happier life after all. He was thrilled to hang out for a stint with Jen albeit short.
Alas, HAPIfork was sorry to say goodbye to Austin but excited to be visiting more cities, towns and great restaurants in the near future.
March 21, 2013
Al Gore on the Environment, Healthcare, Guns & Democracy at #SXSW
I've met Al Gore a few times now over the years and have heard him speak about a dozen times, maybe more, particularly since he became so entrenched with technology while he was in office and after the fact. It should be no surprise that he was in full form at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year on the main stage in Austin in a fireside chat with WSJ's Walt Mossberg.
Those of us who know his agenda and his passion for climate change were waiting for him to dive full force into his 'green' agenda, which he did towards the end of his talk. They started with the digital revolution, appropriate given the "Southby audience." Print media are devastated he said, which is a very old discussion in the world of social media, where SXSW is the Queen Bee conference that takes such discussions to the next level...and this one started eight or so years ago.
That said, mainstream consumers in small towns are still reading newspapers and while they all may have a cell phone, they don't necessarily all use it to get their news. He refers to the 'now' economy as a 'stalker one,' where kids are even wearing 'chips' and being tracked by governments.
"I hope this stalker economy will create a gag reaction," he said. Gore suggests that we're seeing a shift in power that is bigger than what we've seen in 500 years. He also brought up Asia and how China will quickly surpass the U.S. as the largest economic power in the world.....because of that concentration and shift of power, 93% of extra income has gone to the 1% who are in power.
He added, "that's an economic fact," and then went onto say, "while our country is in serious trouble, it doesn't mean I'm not optimistic," but in order to take that power back, he suggested that "we as a country need to TAKE democracy back." Democracy as we know it he asserted, has been hacked. Said Gore, "Our OS (operating system) for the U.S. is our constitution."
He noted that earlier in this career when he was part of the 'system,' they'd spend about 1% of their time raising money versus the 5 or so hours a day today. While modern democracy has never been perfect, the will of the people did drive policy he believes. He said, "Congress is incapable of passing any reform of any significance unless its passed through special interest groups." Mossberg referenced Shapiro's The Last Great Senate at this juncture, reaffirming just how much has changed between the mid 1960s and the 2013 Congress of today. While the world knows about his hunger to educate the world about the negative impact of global warming, it's not as if Gore wasn't convicted and passionate about a number of other topics and issues, including healthcare and the NRA.
On healthcare, he reminded us that the federal government is the biggest purchaser of medicare and medicaid and if that's the case, then "why can't government negotiate like big corporates can to bring the costs down for American citizens?" That received a huge applause from the audience, no surprise given how many of us have been and continue to be screwed by insurance company premiums, wopping high deductibles and taxes. It would be impossible for guns not come up given the random and shocking killings this year in schools, small towns and beyond, and so when it did, Gore was not shy about how he felt. He scratched his head.
"C'mon, the NRA is a complete fraud. A lot of people belong to it, I used to belong. It is financed by the gun manufacturers and the organization has puppet strings. Same thing with the Smoker's Alliance." I wish they spent more time there frankly. On overall growth, Gore suggested that we should no longer use DGP as a guide for economic policy since it doesn't take externalities into account, like a negative one such as pollution or a positive one such as investment into a city in core areas such as mental health, music, culture, education, all of which counts as an 'expense,' not an investment. "They don't take into account future benefits of that investment in a city or region," said Gore. He threw out a few stats demonstrating just how far behind the U.S. is in so many areas including social and economic growth. He said, "We have worse upward social mobility than Tunisia and Egypt. Inequality is growing in the U.S. and so much of it is because our tax code is ridiculous." Hear hear Gore, go go go, not that these kinds of pep talks ever change anything back in Washington. People I know who were Middle Class are now in a struggling Working Class and those who were Working Class are either now working 100 hour weeks destroying their family life and health or on the streets.
And. then there's a wealthy Silicon Valley which seems to be numb and oblivious to how the rest of Americans actually live and think. I know - I live there. Gore asserted that we need to find ways to communicate with other and more effectively in a way that restores democracy.
"We need to TAKE BACK AMERICAN DEMOCRACY," he said firmly to a packed room in the main SXSW auditorium. And, since he couldn't wait to get to climate change, he finally migrated there but softly starting with garbage suggesting that we toss garbage into our 'country' as if its an open sewer, filling up the 'sewer' of gaseous unhealthy waste that is equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs.
With 53% of the country in drought, he also suggested that this shift we've been seeing is also related to global warming. Like garbage, like open sewers, like car fumes and everything else we've leaked into this environment without a care for the consequences, he threw out another alarming stat: we've seen $110 billion in climate disasters alone.
On the upside, he claimed that the investment in solar and wind is rising and the more we invest here and use it, the cheaper it will become, making it more inexpensive for us to rely on solar than coal, gas and oil over time. In order to get there however, he said that we need to reverse organizations, not people. Yes, organizations AND government Al.
Photos by Renee Blodgett.