Andrew Keen Interview

Andrew Lippman – Architectures for the Future

The message that I have is simple: We’re not in charge anymore. It’s over. I’m a geek, I’m a technologist, just didn’t qualify for the geek session so I got thrown into this session. We invent, control, debug, our hope is we’re having some effect, and we’re not! Society has taken over, it’s not about what we invent anymore, doesn’t matter if it’s media or technology, it’s the same thing, it’s over.

Andrew Lippman

There are a few reasons: “Technology was anything that was invented after you were born.” — Alan Kaye. That quote has become debased because it was used in Newsweek. The rate of change in society is relative to the age you were when you introduced to the dominate technology of the time. If you’re 16 when the car comes, there are 16 year changes. That’s the fundamental rate where it moves. You get introduced to the computer when you’re 4, so the rate of change is 4 years.

I have kids that graduated high school when the other one was going in, they can’t relate to each other, they’re a generation apart.

I go visit companies, I listen to how they design “products” but there are no more products, there are architectures. We don’t make things, we make the tools that allow everyone else to be creative. The typical design session I call RFD, reasoning from daughter, “did you see what my kids did?” There’s two kinds of parents in the world: the kind that wants their kids to be better than them, and there’s the kind that’s threatened by that.

It’s easy to have an idea, but scaling is the fundamental problem. Two varieties: the raw technical challenge. A friend said it was easy to make a great high school in a city, but no one has made 99 great high schools and created a great school system. Viral systems are scalable, incremental, and value-adding. Intelligence is at the edges, costs are low, they are agile. The internet’s ability to scale has exceeded our ability to use up that scale.

A green network, everyone brings to the network what they take from it. When you get to radio or wireless it’s not so easy, it’s not like fiber where you can always lay more, or storage where you can just buy more. Radio is finite. Is the limitation on communication that we can do wireless rooted in physics or is it rooted in the technology of the times? Take two flashlights, cross the beams, do the photons fall on the floor when they run into each other? The way you scale these broadcast systems is to move the intelligence to the edge.

They’re going to try that at MIT, called Living the Future. Give every student their own programmable wireless device. Replace the MIT ID, the RFID is a technology whose time has passed. I walk up to a door and it says who are you and my badge tells it everything it knows. I want a badge that asks the door who it is before giving them all my info.

Amy Tan

There is no way to nail down what imagination is, but for me it’s metaphor. Those with imagination seem to see associates here and there, more free with some than others. When creative people take tests sometimes they test closely to psychosis. A traumatic childhood, her father and brother died within one year of brain tumors.

Amy Tan

String theory of imagination, suddenly you wake up, repression and flashback, reincarnation and past life regression. Sometimes I’m given to thoughts of the supernatural. At least 7 levels of anxiety, a preoccupation with death. We’re trying to create a symbolic form of immortality, what it is that might or might not continue to exist. People are going to watch what you’re doing and criticize you. Obsessiveness. Stories can try to capture an ephemeral moment. Accidents, coincidences, and luck. I visited a remote province in China, they have no written form of their language, was part of work for the opera I’m working on.

She went back as part of a story for National Geographic, but between the first visit and the second, there was a fire and a fifth of the homes were destroyed. The average per capita is less than $100. The fire was caused by a man whose quilt had fallen into the warming fire, and the son of the man was banished to several kilometers from the village. They felt it was because of bad Feng Shui that the city was still cursed to an extent. The story ended with a flood, and she asked the Feng Shui master if he thought the luck was still bad, but he said it had hit the entire province and it was just bad weather. They simply needed to rebuild and get on.

John Abele

John Abele

For six decades he and his brother have been looking for a submarine lost in WWII, wose skipper was their father. They found it off the cost of Alaska, after a Japenese historian found some more information about its last battle. The U.S.S. Grunion was surfacing, trying to finish a cargo ship it had tordpedod, but the ship fired back 84 times.

There are some fascinating coincidences — three submarines from WWII were found the same year. In 2000 someone went to a antique store and mought a diagram for $1 of the wiring of the Kano Maru. A man in Japan was a WWII hobbiest and had translated an article on an event that occurred in the summer of 1942. In a obscure Japanese Maritime Journal. The Grunion attacked the ship, shot a torpedo that struck the stern, detroyed the stern gun and radio. It was an armed freighter and had another gun. He and a friend went to a Japanese defense archives, and dug up the logbook of the captain and two eyewitness accounts. Usually after a war the two countries get together and figure out what happened, but the Grunion was lot. The Japanese occupied two US islands, one of which was Kiska. In 2005 they started talking about the possibility to go down and find it.

They have a crab boat, the Aquila, and used it as a research vehicle. Got two scan sonar Scanfish and scoured almost 250 square miles looking for potential targets. On the fifth day, they discovered a shadow that looked a little like a surface ship. They anchored in the Kiska island, the wind would blow 85 miles per hour. They launched the ROV with the camera on it. They have a WordPress blog. When they dropped the ROV in the water, they found the submare in 20 minutes, which never happens. The Kiska volcano had erupted 3 times since 1942, and there had been a 9.0 earthquake, so they weren’t expecting to find anything, but he submarine was nearly intact.

Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond Today I’d like to talk to about the number thirty-two. It’s two raised to the fifth power. To an economist it’s interest because it measures the difference in consumption rates between first and third world, we use about 32x oil and power. Today the world has about 6.5 billion people, will rise to about 9 billion in the coming decades. Several decades ago people considered population the most important issue.

The product that matters to us is total world consumption. Local population times local per capita consumption rate. Population only matters only as much as they consume or produce. Most of the impact occurs in the first world. The US consumers 322x more resources than Kenya. This difference in consumption rates motivates countries to support their “crazy people.”

To improve your conditions in a third world country, you can either try to do it at home, or immigrate to someplace that has higher consumption rates. It’s proven impossible, even for Japan, to keep out the immigrants. Each immigrant raises the world consumption rates, even if most immigrants take time to ramp up.

Americans are obsessed with China, good reasons. It has the most rapidly growing economy, and consumption rates, and there are 1.2 billion Chinese, 4x the US. We reason that the world is going to run out of resources much quicker if China reaches its goals of reaching first-world consumption rates. The rates have risen from 32x below first world, to 11x first world rates. Let’s assume nothing in the world changes except China reaches first-world consumption, assume all populations stay the same, everyone else consumes the same amount, and that there is no immigration. You’ll see that China catching up will double the world’s consumption rates, including oil and metal consumption. If India catches up too, world consumption rates triple.

If the entire world was at first world consumption rates, it would be the equivalent of 72 billion people at current consumption distributions. We promise and hope that we hold out to third world countries is that if they embrace free economies and honest governments they can have similar rates as us. But it’s a cruel lie, and we’re having maintaining our consumption rates in the first world. The only sustainable outcome, that China, India, etc will accept, would be an outcome where consumption rates were equal around the world, but there’s not enough resources.

The only thing that would work is if we met in the middle, at levels significantly below current first world consumption rates. The world doesn’t have enough resources. Consumption and living standards are related, but not tightly coupled. Consumption in the US much wasteful. Places in Europe use half as much oil as we do, but their quality of life are higher. Look at the cars in the garage of the Getty, think of their gas consumption, and ask if that consumption really contributes to quality of life.

We know how to manage fisheries sustainable. We could meet historic fish levels sustainable, the world’s timber needs sustainable, etc. It’s likely that consumption rates in the first world are going to be lower in our lifetimes, the only question is whether that’s by force or choice. The gap between consumption rates of first and third world are going to be more equal. These are not trends we should resist, the main thing lacking is the political will. Some encouraging events, Australia just had an election that reversed their ecological course of the last decade. I would describe myself as a cautious optimist. The world has serious problems, but we can solve them if we choose to do so.

Richard Saul Wurman

We don’t have to be here, we could get things off the web, out of a book. There’s something so enormoursly special about conversation. They haven’t invented a computer that nods. Think about that. When you talk to another human being they nod, sometimes a lot, sometimes imperceptably. Sometimes a noise comes out of their mouth like from Jeff Bezos that you hear for miles around. As much as we don’t have to come to a conference, it’s expensive, it’s a committment, it’s the space between the events is as important or more important. These conversation are longer than a speech! The celebration of conversation, which we’re never taught in school, how to talk to another human being. The number one thing in a relationship, it’s not about sex, it’s not about money, it’s about having a conversation. (Especially in later years.)

You can have conversations with animate objects and inanimate objects. Buildings you can’t have a conversation with aren’t as good building. Same for books. All of my books are not so good, the last two were pretty good, Understanding Health Care and Understandni Children. My goal was to have a conversation with the page. I do love the art of talking to people, and reacting, and taking that goal into all of our work. The best speeches are those where the person can be having a conversaiton with the audience.

Richard Saul Wurman

Two Jewish women every Friday they have a luncheon date, have a drink, then lunch. They go in, the first one says “Oy!” The second one says “Oy vey!” The first one says “Let’s stop talking about our children, time for something else.”

Think about the comedian, and this amazing thing that they do, of giving you a different look at something. I cant wait to see Jonathan Winters. Some comedians are amazing, I learn so much. “Everything is in walking distance if you have enough time.” Think of that sentence, that’s a two semester course in city planning, in how to talk to another person. A friend was picked up by the police because she was walking in LA, in Beverly Hills.

I’m not surprised I was invited, but that doesn’t make it not an honor tobe in front of you. He’s going to read some Wormanisms.

Everything takes place someplace. All news, everywhere should be organized that way. We get into bad habits of watching TV news and we have no idea where it’s happening, you have to get grounded. What is it that makes you get into something, takes it away, what’s the first sentence someone says clears the anxiety. If a booger is hanging out of my nose that’s all you could think about if you were talking to me.

You have to in a conversation, understand what it’s like to not understand. You have understand understanding. Which is a funny word.

I once was forced to do my own road atlas, because I realized you don’t drive across the United States alphabetically. Most do one state per page, which means they’re all at a different scale.

I did a fable in 1975, called the architecture of information, was running the AIA national conference with 5,000 people. Even I could not do the keynote at a conference I was chairing, that was too over the top, so decided not to have a keynote. Wrote a keynote fable, a historic fable of the futuer. One of my favorite books. The main character was the commisioner of Curiosity and Imaginition. First thing he does is change the laws of copyright to the right to copy, he flipped everything in society and flipped it. The only thing you could copyright was bad ideas. One new department, Waiting to be Wanted. Dedicated to old buildings and old people. Life didn’t come from chloroform. They found life coming from hot sulfur water, or cold methane gas.

There’s been some wonderful presentations, I had never heard Nicholas better, not to say he’s been bad before. He’s really a pain in the ass, so tough, so funny, so hard to get to sometimes, but he’s done such a service for it. In 1984 at the first TED conference he announced the MIT Media Lab.

One minute to go: 19 cities in the world with 20 million people in the 21st century. 51% of the people live in urban areas. Borders between nations are hostile. There are sister cities but no sister countries. We know nothing, comparitively about the cities of the world. Even when you take census from city to city, sometimes it’s block data, sometimes in census tracks, you may have a number but no density. You might know mean income, but what about the cost of living? We started a project called 19.20.21. No two cities ask the same questions, have maps drawn to the same scale, we’re going to develop new ways of mapping, have comparative statistics. Most of the major cities in the world are on the water, so will be impacted heavily by global warming and the water level rising. Cities are the new unit of significance, not countries.

Bob Metcalfe

At lunch I caught up with Bob Metcalfe and asked him what he thought about the acceleration of technology. He believes in it, but with one important twist.

Tim Kring – Heroes

Tim¬†Kring Creator of Heroes. How it got started, the internet fanbase, and where it’s going.

Global consciousness, and how I as someone with a hit TV show can hopefully raise that consciousness. When I was young I was a total geek, but anyone can stumble into greatness. This is a hugely powerful message for people, it’s the reason or the huge success of the Harry Potter series. At the heart of that success is the idea, potent wish fulfillment, that even the most neglected of us can be chosen for something extraordinary. I was a terrible student in school, had difficulty learning to read and write. Was interested in nature, found solace in the natural world around me.

I remember having experiences of sensing an overwhelming connectedness to everything and everyone. I was having these peak experiences that were shaping my consciousness even though I wans’t fully aware of what to do with that. Unable to articulate that, I internalized them, made them something wholly my own. There were very low expectations for a kid like me. No one expected much, but I sort of did. Just wasn’t sure what form it would take and how it would show up. I could prove people wrong.

Let’s jump ahead a few decades… graduated college as religious studies major, was interested in photography and film, went to USC Film for graduate. Worked at the B, C, and D level of Hollywood production. Just worked any job he could get. My classmates wo were getting ahead were doing it by writing scripts. Being a screenwriter is still the best and fastest way to enter into the film business. Anyone can be a screenwriter, you can be a weirdo or deviant and it doesn’t matter. In Hollywood they say if Hitler wrote a great screenplay they’d send a limo to the airport to pick him up.

Young Tim Kring

Got started writing a cheesy episode at Knight Rider. I was drawn to the solitary lifestyle, which carries with it some irony, because I ended up working in series television which is the most social of all screenwriting careers. It’s very intense. Was staffed on many shows, working with other writers. My writing started to draw on these themes of interconnectivity that I had internalized as a kid. One of those assignments led to me creating a show on my own, Crossing Jordan. First year was a constant battle with the network about the creative soul of the show, saw it as a spiritual theme around death and existence, the network saw it as a crime drama, with action and tied up in a nice neat bow every week. Didn’t wield much power at the time, and chose keeping the show on the air, 117 episodes and 6 years. 1 out of 85 shows makes it to a fith season, it’s a very small group.

I became a bankable show runner and creator. In the last year I was given a development deal which meant that they guaranteed me a chunk of money to come up with a new show for them. When it came time to pitch, I waited and the phone didn’t ring. Since I started with NBC it had gone from #1 to #4 in the ratings, the new network president had come in with a mandate that he would completely reinvent the network. He was going to go to Sundance to get drama, an edgy nightclub in New York for the new comedy stars, young and inexperienced was what they were looking for, and that wasn’t me. Having a show on the air for six years had turned me into a journeyman hack. I had sublimated my own creative instincts and asked “how high” when they said jump.

I got pissed off and really anger. Great creativity comes from everywhere, I was flubbed and I didn’t just want a show on the air, I wanted something big, bold, and wanted to prove them wrong. Only problem was I didn’t have an idea, so I was just left angry and worried about it.

I knew I needed that could exist on multiple platforms, primarily the internet. Viewers are getting harder and harder to find in traditional television. You need DVD sales, a literary arm, take advantage of the internet, else you’re at the mercy of the slipping Nielson ratings. Lost and 24 had come around and proven that these serializations could really work, and did very well internationally. Charles Dickens had written some of his best novels as serializations in the newspaper, with a cliffhanger each week. I became obsessed with these interlocking stories told in very short brush strokes, haiku storytelling. Audiences need far less story than they used to, they’re so sophisticated in the elements of storytelling. They want to guess, predict, be wrong, be right, they can be mad, frustrated, all of that is fine, all you don’t want is indifference.

Had the format, just needed an idea. My wife an I are raising kids, I’ve become obsessed and concerned with the way the world is these days, and what they’ll be inheriting. Where will the heroes come from? We can’t rely on government or institutions. It’s a post 9/11 idea that the heroes will come from all around it. But the problems are so huge, global warming, climate change, etc, what sort of characters could deal with this? So assumed a new wrinkle, that we as a species could adapt, and what would those first mutations of natural selection look like? Build a show around this, a message of hope and interconnectivity. Make the characters like you and me. Pushing it through network development was going to take everything I had learned as a writer over 20 years. In the right hands it could be awesome, in the wrong hands it could be a pile of. I lied and cheated and schemed and manipulated all the way through the idiocy that is the notes process when you do this, was able to push the production through relatively unscathed and in the form that it would work in. I finally gave that kid who stares out the window a voice. That’s how Heroes got on the air.


It’s not the most original idea in the world, you build and borrow. Just put these pieces together in the right way, at the right time, and on the right network. The archetypal narrative is a very powerful form of storytelling. It can create a collective experience, in our case it created a community. We launched it at ComicCon in San Diego. We had 3,000 screaming and breathless fans that had somehow heard of this show, 3 months before the first episode aired. They drove them to a website, and the early adopters talked and chatted and created their own websites, an unbelievably amount of buzz and took the mainstream press by surprise. The fans grew into a true community.

Here’s all these people connected by this message of saving the world. IT would be criminal not to do something positive with that demographic. We can build a community around this idea of global consciousness. As far as the future is concerned, TV an the internet is merging, and that’s the heart of why we’re striking right now, there’s going to be a dynamic involvement between the fans and a show, we’re moving into the Long Tail of niche entertainment. A future where a show and its fans will have a greater interwoven relationship, feeding off of each others input, creating material together. Ordinary people like you and me come together to do great and noble things.

Nicholas Negroponte – One Laptop per Child

Nicholas¬†Negroponte He told his father he wanted to be a sculptor Paris. His father told him that for every year he went to MIT he would pay for a matching year in Paris when he finished. It was very clever. He was planning to study architecture, because it was art and mathematics put together. His headmaster told him, “I like grey suits, I like pinstripe suits, but I don’t like grey pinstripe suits.” While at MIT he realized that hte mixing of art and mathematics was computers, and began focusing on that.

Didn’t have to worry about earning money, or what people thought of him, let’s tackle a big project. He worked with Joe Jacobson and thought if they could leverage children and bring universal access information to the world.

The OLPCs are shipping! Here’s a picture of the assembly line at the factory, taken at 3 in the morning:

OLPC Factory

There’s not a person in this room who doesn’t give their laptop or cell phone to their kid to debug it. He doesn’t think the question of “Who’s going to teach the teachers to teach the kids?” is valid at all. Research found that kids that program think differently, and debugging was the closest children could come to learning about learning. His son Demetri set up a school in Cambodia, connected it to the internet, and gave the children regular laptops.

One Laptop per Child is a non-profit, being a non-profit is fundamental. Everyone advised him not to but they were wrong. Why? The clarity of purpose is there, he can see any head of state, anybody because he’s not selling laptops. Second reason, you can get the best people in the world. All of their services are pro-bono, and it’s not to save money because they have money in the bank, but they attract the best people in the world. They couldn’t afford a CFO, they put out a job description at zero salary and had dozens of amazing applicants.

What’s different about OLPC from a normal computer? It used less than 2 watts (which is roughly what you can generate with your upper body?), dual mode sunlight display, wifi mesh network, and it’s rugged.

Design matters. When he graduated from MIT he thought the silliest thing to do would be to go to Paris for six years, so he didn’t. In English the word “cheap” has a double meaning, which is very apt.

If you’re in a desert the OLPCs can talk to each other about 2 kilometers. In the forest it’s about 500 meters. They’re launching with 18 keyboards, English is the smallest. There has never been a keyboard in Ethiopian, they had to go in and help them make a keyboard which is going to be a new standard for the country. In the beginning they decided to go to six country: Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand. They wanted to get it out, and then the little countries could piggyback on the bigger ones. He was traveling 330 days a year. Meeting heads of states in a tent, with camel smells everywhere.

Big states were big on the photo ops, but not on follow through. Current launch countries: Uruguay, Peru, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Cambodia. There was a domino effect, Uruguay started it. Add up all those countries, still wasn’t enough. They announced a program for the United States: Buy one Get one. They now have a Give Many Program. Tell people about it, tell your friends about it. $100 target price in 2009, $50 target price in 2012. The first kids just got their laptops. They went to Peru and Mexico, they’re only making about 5,000 a week, they hope next year to make a million a month. In laptop land is a big number. Everyone in the world combined is 5 million laptops a month.


Timothy Childs – TCHO

He’s talking about the process of making a chocolate company. Used to be a space geek, then a confectioner. Chocolate is one of the most complex things he’s seen. How do you choose a chocolate? How do you choose by percentage and origin is clunky. They wanted to create a simplified model of the chocolate universe. What are appropiate existing models? Maybe like wine? They created a new taxonomy for describing chocolate by flavor.

Chocolately, citrus, fruity, floral, nutty, earthy. This moment represents something they’ve been working on for a couple of years, millions of years later, they’re announcing and launching right here at EG.