Ok, so let me put it one way:
I come up to Seattle for a tech conference. It was mostly OK, but brought down by a few factors:
1) Self important morons
2) Irrelevant subjects
3) Bad Internet access
These three items were a bit annoying, but over-all I had fun at Gnomedex. Chris and Ponzi and his parents do an amazing job, and it feels like a summer camp more than a big tech thing. I just hate the fact that you have these blowhard hacks who suck the life of the room with their own sense of self important.
What was supposed to, and what I think NEARLY came out of Gnomedex is that beyond the hall of mirrors and navel gazing that is the tech sphere, there is a larger world out there that NEEDS help desperately to get it out of the situation it is in. All the Web 2.0 shit, RSS tagging folksonomy crowd-source bullshit is not going to help situations in developing countries, namely the United States of America’s own third-world.
You want a good task for Gnomedex 08 Chris? Make part of it on the streets of Seattle, coming up with technological solutions to the povery, drugs and lack of health-care that exists on the very streets outside the conference hall. We pay attention to some stupid fight between overweight white guys inside a conference hall, where outside there are significant problems that we ignore for the sake of our own false prophet building.
We came close. Really close to something amazing. Darren and Derek approached that dark area that no one wants to enter. The area that makes us question our motives and understanding of our world THROUGH technology rather than using technology as a means to validate our own insecurities with unneeded self-import. RSS feeds will not feed a person for a year. The power of what is decentralized communication could bring just might, but we don’t look at that. Gnomedex showed that we’re all so caught up in being clever, irreverent, ironic and competitive (myself included) that we forget the real power granted through every glowing screen in the room.
If that was turned outward, think of where we’d be.
I bring this up like such because I saw one of the most inspiring, soulful and powerful musicians alive today in Seattle tonight: Ms. Patti Smith.
Patti sings as if channeling all the souls of those she lost and those she worshiped through her being. When she snarls into the mic “YOU HAVE THE VOICE! YOU HAVE THE POWER!” you don’t just believe it, you BELIEVE it and you want to run through the streets following her liked a piper chanting the mantra: The people have the power to redeem the work of fools, upon the meek the graces shower, its decreed the people rule..
Patti at one point tonight dimmed all the stage lights and covered Smells Like Teen Spirit, with Peter Buck playing with her and her son on the other side. Peter knew Kurt, so this was emotional for him, and it seemed to put the room in a heavy fog of collective emotion and recollection: Here we are now, entertain us, I feel stupid and contagious, here we are now, entertain us.
The song, about the hollow emptiness of a worldview born not of optimism but of the knowledge of the essential and unavoidable nature of pessimism seemed to ring not as a blast from a distance past, but a cautionary tale for the future of the world I inhabit and the one that the conference was about.
We yield dangerous tools. They can and have been used against us, and our loved ones. In a world dependent on data, its the wielders of the math who hold the ultimate power, and those that can recombine math upon data upon material life that are more dangerous than any threat in existence.
It is within our capacity to take that back, and recombine ourselves. If we continue to get caught up in playground fights over who’s dick is bigger, we’re just holding the gun to our foot and pulling the trigger.
R.E.M. has a new record coming out in the next year, and it is amazing and has some poignant and sarcastically biting lyrics. I’ll leave you with two:
“Now, hope for the future took a pounding in the parking lot.”
“If the storm doesn’t kill me, the government will. I’ve got to get that out of my head.”
I think both speak to the potential and the potential reality of technology and the world. I hope we can keep hope for the future alive, and I sincerely hope the storm doesn’t kill us, and neither do those who can cause it.
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