I spoke yesterday at The Economist conference, Information: Making Sense of the Deluge. Very interesting speakers, I was excited to go. The stated and sincere intent was to get a discussion going, including the audience. But the format was like watching TV news (and I don’t mean PBS): toss someone on stage, let them roll a 6 minute video, answer a few questions, and on to the next. This format was good for Twitter-bytes, but not for thinking or reflecting or building ideas.
One of the topics was Nick Carr on how “pseudo-multitasking” is hurting our brains. The conference itself seemed to follow the same format. This morning, for example, the schedule for the first 50 minutes has 7 different people on stage, in four sessions:
Act II: Bottom up: Information for people
Flash of genius: How to translate the internet
Luis von Ahn, A. Nico Habermann, Associate Professor, Carnegie Mellon University
Flash of genius: Turning information into knowledge
Amit Singhal, Engineer, Google
The intersection of search and big data
Luc Barthelet, Executive Director, Wolfram Alpha
Arkady Borkovsky, Chief Technology Officer, Yandex Labs
Moderator: Kenneth Cukier, Business Correspondent, The Economist
Flash of genius: The information entrepreneur
Scott Yara,Vice-president, Products and Co-founder, Greenplum
The audience is finding plenty to Twitter about. But 10 minutes is only time for a sales pitch; it is not enough time to discuss the weaknesses as well as the strengths of an idea.
On the plus side, this means there’s still a need for academics who can sit in an empty room and work on one thing for an hour. Of course to accomplish that I have to discipline myself not to check email…..
A friend who was there told me he “never follows Twitter.” It turns out that he means he keeps a Twitter feed in the corner of his screen 100% of the time; he just does not explicitly devote time to reading it! Talk about distractions…