So this post was meant to go before my prior post on etech, but I thought there was some great stuff on George Dyson I promised myself I'd make notes about.
As the industry's see and be seen pow-wow for alpha geeks and hacks alike, I feel a little out of place because I'm coming to this as a representative from the Research Board --the most corporate of the corporate member-driven research organization. On my right in the hallway pontifications Clay Shirky, the usability and on-line community guru at NYU's TPI lab and a friend of my colleague George Scriban. One of the brightest guys in the field and a fantastic speaker as evidenced from his keynote talk yesterday (Wednesday) in the main convention hall. So far during the convention I've managed to rub elbows with Bruce Sterling of Wired fame, Scott Rosenberg of founder of Salon, Ray Ozzie of Microsoft, Jeff Han of the NYU media lab (creator of the multi-touchpoint interface), and Jon Udell of Infoworld. Its a little disconcerting realizing the different kind of dynamic these new media titans interact, as I come from a world where alpha is based on personality, looks, and being outgoing, rather than your ability to be nerdier, snarky, and a more popular blog than your neighbor. At the same time, this is not a conference that hubs around the vendors but rather the attendees and the speakers.
I also want to note, that George Dyson gave a tremendous presentation that I've only been able to grasp a fraction about. As a historian, his perspective is more about being an objective recounter and a collector of artifacts on the development of the modern computer concomitant with the development of the atom bomb at the fertile grounds of Princetons in the 1950s. Von Neumann was co-located with the likes of Einstain and Godel where there was a dynamic of co-opetition. His presentation was both a collection of pictures, scraps, letters to and from his wife. What was most interesting was the way that Von Neumann approached the idea of the computer....the brain is not a statistical device and it doesn't make calculations in the same way the computer does. still the approach, was what he couched as "matrixed" based appraoch, which I'm unfamiliar with and would need to create a reading list to understand. I've made myself a list of books to familiarize myself with before I can touch the subject. In my continual quest to contextualize all that's happening in computing, this is the equivalent of an archaeological dig for me, but its probably an essential underpinning to making chronicling the iterations upon iterations in computing that have happened as well as conjecturing where the new universal OS, i.e. the web, might go. As a machine that never turns off and is continually consuming cycles and almost unlimited resources, I'd say we're closer to a Cyberdyne than we've perhaps every imagined -- although Bruce Sterling would say otherwise.
P.S. As a side note, Esther Dyson was hanging around the Makefest floor shooting marshmellows at unsuspecting attendees, quite funny. Looks like it hurts.