Mark Moffett

I’m a jungle guy, I don’t know how to use this electrical stuff sometimes. 1 frog can kill 500 people. I licked it on Conan O’brian. Today I’m going to talk about ants, I grew up looking at ants, I just keep looking. This is a bulldog ant, and can leap up and catch honeybees in mid-air. Going to talk about the relationships between ant societies and human societies. Some are very tiny, like 10-20 individuals. I call this the swiss army ant and it has a very specialized face, basically a toolchest built into their faces and to do everything on their own. They’re egalitarian, everyone can do anything. (Except the queen, which is the exception in all ant societies.)

Tempo. Some towns people walk around slow and easy, in NYC it’s a race. Same thing with ants. Slowest ant is the mud ant, it chases snails in super slow-motion. You speed up things as they get bigger. We go faster in bigger cities because we learn more, same thing with ants, they learn from the streams as they go through. You look at a big society, you see ants going the wrong direction sometimes. Error in big societies can lead to innovation.

Communications. Smaller societies are simpler communications, one ant will lead another to the food. The army ants of Africa, had swarms of these coming at me that are 100 feet wide with millions of ants. In these situations there’s a huge amount of redundancy. They don’t tie up cows in Africa because the army ants can kill them, they wander around with good reasons. There are beetles that pretend to be ants.

Specialization. Bigger socities get a lot more division of labor. They send the “cheap” ants first, the bigger ants come later, they’re 500x the size of the smaller ones. Lake Tahoe is the center for ant slaver in the US.

Assembly lines & teamwork. A big one starts dragging a piece of food, and a smaller one comes under it and picks up the end. There are other ants that serve as living roadfill, they lie down in the holes along the way. Ultimate assembly line is leaf-cutter ants, they take the leaves back to the nest and then grow fungus. They mash it up and different sized ants do different duties until it gets reduced to a pulp and they plant. They do everything human farmers do, including antibiotics, pesticides, fertalizer. Leaf-cutter ants will bury their garbage in a container the size of a human casket 20 feet down, they also put diseased organisms down there, the workers that do that are the old ones that are going to die soon anyway. They used to grow fungus on stones, about 10 million years ago they figured out to grow it on leaves and now the fungus is no longer biodiverse so it’s vulnerable to disease just like we have.

Infrastructure. They have nests 40 feet wide, underground beltways between the nests.

Warfare. Ants and humans are the only species with long-term warfare. You work out things with your neighbor until you have a no-ant-zone between you where no ant will tread. This is the terrorist ant from ??? it literal blows up when another ant approaches it, explodes and exudes this poisonous liquid. Army ants are so good at killing they have a sort of detente, but they’re civilized in that they won’t kill each other. Honey ants in American Southwest checking out each other’s size out, they look at each other and whoever is bigger wins.

The Argentine ant extends from San Francisco all the way down to Mexico. It’s a single social unit. If you go to the right suburb of San Diego, this is a pile of ants going on continously, million of ants are dying every day there are no truces, they just keep killing each other in the backyards of these houses and appear to have been doing so for about 100 years.

Bill Lange & Dave Gallo: Deep Sea Explorers

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution rolled tape on some amazing underwater imagery filmed by robots and high-tech cameras. The Institute also films using air ships to monitor (without disturbing) marine animals.

The purpose of their presentation is to share with us the idea that the world, made up mostly of water, is not an empty oasis – there are lifeforms we’d expect to find in alien planets that exist in our deep seas. We see fish living in an ocean made of sulfur, 200 degree F.

What’s the message? Life on this planet wants to happen.
Where we expect to find no life at all we’re finding thriving communities, not living off the sun’s energy but from the ecosystem of the ocean.

These scientists are finding terms of diversity and density that rivals the rain forest.


Using technology, where we once left shipwrecked souls to live underwater in eternity, now no shipwrecks are beyond our reach. We can go to the deepest depths – find sunken war tanks, oil ships – and these ships are now being explored, and the truths of their histories uncovered.

Most of this planet, blanketed with water is a totally different world than what we know on land. All these micro-ecosystems prove that we can find life where we never thought we’d find life before.

Consider the implications for us when we consider what lifeforms might exist on other planets.

See some of their images & multimedia here.

Fresh Approaches Finished

We just wrapped up the “Fresh Approaches” part of the afternoon, we’ll be back with “Evolution & Revolution” at 5:30 PM PST, including Mark Moffett, Frans Lanting, Dana Gluckstein, David Macaulay, and Cameron Carpenter.

In appreciation: George Carlin

Mike Hawley wanted to honor three wordsmiths, one per day, in the conference that passed away this year. The first today is George Carlin. Mike chose to highlight two vignettes of George’s work, the first the intro to the famous 7 words sketch, which you can watch here but for obvious reasons I wouldn’t recommend it for work. (Though why are you at work in the first place, you should be at EG. ;))

The second was a clip from an intreview done only a few days before George passed away, which I believe I’ve found on Youtube here:

David Elliot Cohen – photography can change the world.

Bestselling author and editor, David Elliot Cohen has written or co-authored more than seventy large-format illustrated books — many with Rick Smolan — that have collectively sold more than 5 million copies. Most were in the hugely popular Day in the Life or America 24/7 photography book series co-founded by Cohen and Smolan.

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I’m going to present to you some issues that are really tough to look at. When I was doing the Obama book, I was reading a bunch of his speeches.

My latest book, called What Matters, is about essential issues of our time. with some of the greatest photographers of our time. All of them are masters of their craft and they are deeply passionate about what they shoot.

How passionate are we talking about?

Passionate enough to shoot about water issues for our chapter on thirsty world. About finding an end to malaria. About AIDS ravaged communities.

All of the pictures, the stories you see going on behind me were shot under very difficult situations, with very little pay.

I wanted to explore and understand, and imagine – telling stories that need to be told, regardless of the obstacles. You get to a certain age and you want to work on something worthwhile.

I tried to work on essential issues and then focused on what can or can not be shot.

I asked 25 photo editors from around the country [NYT, Wash Post …]

What photos have you seen that are really important?

I considered bio-tech but there weren’t enough pictures that could tell that story. But they also brought to my attention other pictures and stories, I didn’t think of: Child Brides – 1 million girls between 10-15 years old are married off each year.

After gathering all the images I went to talk to writers. I tried to talk to writers who were the best in their field who could elucidate these photos.

Then I added the final step. A comprehensive section for the readers who wanted to turn outrage into action – just in case that happened.

What Matters was published in 2008 and I’ve been trying to push it out there as much as possible. I’m trying to tell people why this matters, why they should care. The reason i have to go out there and tell people is because most people wont spend $20 on a book that shoves tough issues in their face.

I’ve done hundreds of interviews (mostly radio) – the question I get most often: Why did you do this book?

You can either give them a sound bite or you can think about the question every time it’s asked. I did my best to consider the answer every time.

Here was my first answer: I walked into the big sprawling Barnes & Noble near my house – all usual suspects, glossy, well-done. and I thought to myself, after 8 years of Bush and Cheney, I gotta do something else, I can’t do another book like that.

[the crowd applauds]

I wanted to talk about how the language of photo-journalism can entice change.

Photo-journalism can capture a decisive moment and make the viewer think about the meaning of that moment. All great photo-journalism is personal and specific and compels you to think of the ramifications of that moment.

We consciously pursued stories that can make a difference. We thought that photos mattered. Photography can change the world.

I believe in my heart one great photograph can change the world.

When one great image resonates with one talented and energized person, and they take action, that can create positive change that can change the course of the world.

I can’t predict which person will connect, which image will resonate, but I completely believe it will happen.

Then the universe gave me proof.

I was introduced to Mark Johnson, an artist who built a music school for kids in a poor township near Capetown in South Africa. It was such a success that he’s now building these schools all over the world.

Why is he doing this?

Well, 6 years ago I was given a  book: A Day in the Life of Africa

The image I saw served as a symbol for me and my crew.

I went to Africa, met a local jazz artist. I asked what can we do to give back to your community?

Answer: the kids here need a music school, need inspiration.

And so we built a school.

Now we’re going to build hundreds of these schools around the world.

One photo :: One inspiration :: One dedicated person :: One change for the better

There are 200 photos in What Matters.

See the book for free:

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I’m inspired. Let’s go make change!

Matt Harding

Matt Harding is my nemesis, for taking the #1 search result spot for “matt” on Google. (I held the spot from 2003–2008.) But just take a look at some of his videos and you’ll see why:

New York Times declared it almost a perfect piece of internet art. If you Google for “matt” there’s 174 million hits on the internet, I’m the first three.

He’s now going through a fake explanation of how the whole thing was a hoax, like people on Youtube think. Recently declared by Time magazine as the best viral video of the year.

At the end everyone went up on the stage and danced!


Miru Kim

[Miru Kim’s site] I was raised in Soeoul Korea, and I moved to NYC to attend college. I was pre-med and I thought I’d become a surgeon because I was interested in anatomy and dissecting animals really piqued my curiosity.

At the same time I fell in love with NYC and started to realize that I could look at the whole city as a living organism. I wanted to dissect it through artistic means. I became interested in creatures that dwell in hidden parts of the city.

In NYC rats are part of everyday lives and most people ignore them, I took a liking to them. I started looking around and trying to photograph them. One day I was snapping picutres of the tracks trying to catch a rat or two, and a man came up and said you can’t take photographs here the MTA will confiscate your camera, and then started going into the tunnels and following the rats. There’s a whole new dimension to the city.

I started meeting “urban explorers” who regularly explore urban ruins like abandoned subway stations, factories, hospitals, and so on. When I took photographs in these locations, but I felt there was something missing in the pictures, simply documenting these wasn’t enough for me, so I wanted to create a fictional character that dwelled in these spaces. The simplest way to do this was tho model myself, and decided to do it without clothing because I wanted the figure to be without cultural or time-based indicators.

[she’s now going through pictures from factories, aqueducts with herself as the model inside and around the area.]

When you go into spaces like this you’re directly touching the past because they remain untouched for decades. Instead of looking at reproductions at home, you’re feeling the bricks, the cracks, getting wet and muddy and walking in a dark tunnel with a flashlight. This is a tunnel underneath Riverside Park, the murals were done by graffiti artists to commorate the thousands of homeless people that were displaced when the trains started to come through.

I decided to title my series Naked City Spleen. Naked City is the name for New York.

The tunnels were once built for the prosperity of the city, but is now a sanctuary for the outcasts.

This is underneath my alma mater, Columbia University, and the tunnels are famous for being used in the Manhattan Project.

After exploring recently abandoned buildings I felt like things could fall into ruins very fast. I was reminded by how fragile our sense of security is and how vulnerble people truly are. I love to travel and Berlin is one of my favorite cities, it’s full of history and full of bunkers and tunnels from the war. I explored the catacombs in Paris extensively in the off-limits areas and fell in love right away. There are over 180 miles of tunnels, and only about a mile are open to the public as a museum. The remains of over 6 million people are housed in the catacoms, some over 1300 years old.

There are phone cables that were used in the 50s, and many bunkers that were used in the World War 2 era. I found a lot of grafitti from the 1800s. After exploring below decided to go up. In all this time I never saw a single rat in any of these places, until recently in the London Sewers. This was the toughest place to explore, had to wear a gas mask and when the tides of waste matter come in in sounds as if a storm is approaching you.

The last place I visited were the Mayan ruins in Honduras. This was taken in an archeological tunnel in the main temple. I like doing more than just exploring these spaces, I feel an obligation to animate and humanize these spaces to preserve them in a creative way before they’re lost forever.

Jon Kamen

Jon Kamen Most recently the executive producer of  Britney: On the Record, Jon Kamen is chairman and chief executive officer of

I’m a producer. I have a company called Radical Media: tv shows, documentaries, advertising. We work with NGOs and very eclectic projects.

I got a call from Richard (founder of EG) – I can say it in 3 words:


What does that mean?

The amazing thing is this goes back to something he did all the way back in 1961. One of Richard’s first books was maps of cities done to scale. Anyway, he brought us in to help realize it and reveal what this concept of mass urbanization would mean in our everyday lives. This is a work in progress, going to share a little teaser film we put together because every time we show it to people they get inspired.

[The film has started, talking about how 1.4 million people are moving into cities each week. How will we care for our children? Our aging? Ourselves? How will we live? How will it change the way we work, invest, trade, learn, eat, consume, recycle, power, engineer, innovate? 19 cities with over 20 million people in the 21st century. Understanding lives in the world’s largest cities. Finding the future first.]

The concept of finding the future first was born, and it was based very much on the understanding of the way we live in cities. By 2050 2/3rds of the world’s population will live in cities, up from about 50% right now. The data around that becomes incredibly important in the future. Some people say the world is flat, but it’s actually rising, the rise of supercities.

It’s a 5-year project, but we’re going to share it as we go along. It’s technology, education, health care, crime. Something that will affect every city, and that every city needs to share with itself. Choosing the first 19  cities just as a template, just as something to compare, a benchmark.

Before I begin, we have to take a look at the history of cities. This will be Planet Earth but for people. It’s about the migration. In 1000 A.D. Cordova, Spain was the largest. By 1500 Bejing started to rise , and 300 years later was the first city to be over a million people. By 1900 London became the center of the universe with over 6 million people, then in 1950 New York was pronounced the first megacity with a population of over 10 million people in the greater metropolitan area. Now the US has fallen behind and population centers are shifting to Asia.

It’s a planet of water. That’s why these cities pop up where they do. One frightening fact: if the rise of water continues at its current pace, all 19 cities we’re studying will be at least partially underwater by the time we’re done with the project. Cities may be part of the solution though, as vertical living can be a lot more efficient. There’s a placeholder website up at They’re currently looking for a broadcaster to support 30 minute shows culminating in a 12 hour project much like Planet Earth, then books, exhibitions, and finally ending in summits and conferences.

Imagine a half hour show on things like transportation, what’s it like getting to work in Bangladesh, in Tokyo, what’s the average commute time? (25 minutes in LA, 79 minutes in Dacca.) If you look at healthcare, it’s about the pulse of a city if it compares to life in the city. (200 patients per doctor in Berlin, 3800 in Decca.) Life expectancy is longest in London at 87. In 1950 Lagas had a population of 200,000, today it’s at 11 million and counting. Energy per capita, and eventually guides to the different cities, and someday the cover of Time and National Geographic. The exhibitions are going to become urban observatories, want the first one to be in Shanghai in 2010, if you look back at the history of expos in difficult economic times they tend to be very influential. In Shanghai there’s currently a museum for urban planning, they currently do balsa wood models of the entire city, but it’s changing so rapidly they can barely keep up.

Rick Smolan

mcm_6416Rick Smolan is an American photographer probably most famous for his Day in the Life series.

Rick Smolan opens by thanking everyone who helped contribute to his project, and for being here at the EG conference.

We all live in really  tough time right now. The world has become a scary and unsettling place.
We shouldn’t leave the opportunity of any crisis unmet.
This is the time to look at things with a fresh start.
This is the time in American history to change the way that the world lives.

At times like this, when you’re concerned about the world, it’s when you look at the friends and family around you.
My daughter Phoebe went to her first sleepover last spring, she was very nervous about it.
The next morning we picked her up and walked home hand in hand.

We asked Pheobe: what’s the one thing you’ll remember for the rest of your life about this sleepover?

Dad, she whispers, did you know other people’s lives are different then ours?

It was the first time she’d realized that what you do in your house, the rituals, the ceremonies are different.
Pheobe asks: Dad, do you remember your first sleepover?
I respond: funny – I just had a flashback. I was young and I was at my first sleepover and the family I was with, they held hands and prayed before dinner.

Pheobe: Dad, you and mom should do a book on how different people have different lives at home.

So we decided to do it and called it America at Home. We hired a 100 of the best photographers of America and spread them throughout the country. We did our best to get the photographers out in various locations, to make sure we captured as much as we could.

There are 4 things that are meaningful to me about this project:

1 – the time we live in
2 – the 100 photographers
3 – we invited the public to participate as well, as photographers
4 – letting the public customize the covers of their book – professionally produced content skinned by the public.

Amy Tan, David Pogue, wrote personal essays on the concept of home. thank you.

Our projects have been featured by Time and Newsweek.
Custom covers was the first time in history in publishing that the public was able to customize, personalize their books.
“America 24/7” – featured on Oprah

We also created UK at Home

From BBC clip:

Find yourself a camera and you might become part of history.

Capturing images for posterity. Alongside leading photographers, people will be encouraged to take photos that showcase snapshots of contemporary British life.

Imagine you found a book in your attic from 100 years ago, telling what everyday life was life. not told by media but by everyday people.

Slideshow of book covers:

  • people performing in second life at home, making a living.
  • homeschooling.
  • a picture of a man in a cluttered home, looking for his wife’s ashes among the mess.
  • near Rigly Field, people build bleechers on their roof.
  • the morning routine of shaving.
  • a 10,000 playhouse with electricity and hardwood floors.
  • a woman who lives in an 84 square foot cottage on wheels.

The book is not a hallmark card. it’s showing real people, with real problems.
The changing face of american society is really fascinating.
None of the people in this book are strangers.

Image: a vietnam veteran that takes apart his makeshift home every night and remakes it every day, per the city of NY.


Aaaaand we’re off!

Welcome back everyone. We just opened with an amazing performance by Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe, concert duo-pianists who as Mike put it “I play piano and they play piano in a way I’ve never heard before.” If you’d like a sample of their playing, here’s a Youtube video from their site:

I’m honored to be back and covering the event again, and to help out we have a new blogger Janetti Chon.