Connection

While some would seek to divide us by physical borders, political ideology, caste identity, or religious moralism, in the larger reality there are no borders. We are all made of the identical stardust, subject to the same universal laws, and given the freedom to love unconditionally, or to define and defend our exclusions. This video is another reminder of our very small community. When looking down at the pale blue planet, astronauts have described an overwhelming sense of fragile sacred unity. Here’s a musical offering to the greater reality of our planetary lives together — songwriter Ed Robertson in duet with I.S.S. astronaut Chris Hadfield, with live choir. “You can’t make out borders from up here, Just a spinning ball with a very tiny atmosphere. All black and white just fades to gray, Where the sun rises 16 times a day. What once was fueled by fear, now has 15 nations orbiting together here. So sing your song, I’m listening. Out where stars are glistening. I can hear your voices bouncing off the moon.”   One astronaut said, “When we originally went to the moon, our total focus was on the moon. We weren’t thinking about looking back at the Earth. But now that we’ve done it, that may well have been the most important reason we went.” A twenty-minute documentary explores in stunning HD the “Overview Effect” experienced by astronauts. I would suggest that accelerations in global-virtual connection are creating a similar kind of social overview effect: re-wiring our “sense of place and being” from local-tribal to global-concurrent-participatory. “We have to start acting like one species with one destiny. We are not going to survive if we don’t.”    

Solvay 1927

More or less the foundation of all contemporary physics (click to enlarge): Einstein, Schrodinger, Pauli, Heisenberg, Debye, Dirac, de Broglie, Bohr, Planck, Mme Curie, Lorentz, Wilson. Is it just me, or do Pauli and Heisenberg look like they’re ready to go pubbing for some Belgian Ale? The only female in this group, Mme Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel prize, the only woman ever to win a Nobel in two categories (Physics & Chemistry), and the only person ever to win in multiple sciences. She was the first female professor at Sorbonne and the only woman to be entombed on her own merits at the Pantheon. She coined a number of common scientific terms (“radiation” etc.), established the first military field radiological centers, and somehow found time to raise a family, teaching her daughters their native Polish and making frequent trips to Poland. Among the elements she discovered, the first she called “polonium” after her native Poland. From Wikipedia: She was known for her honesty and moderate life style. Having received a small scholarship in 1893, she returned it in 1897 as soon as she begun earning her keep. She gave much of her first Nobel Prize money to friends, family, students and research associates. In an unusual decision, Marie intentionally refrained from patenting the radium-isolation process, so that the scientific community could do research unhindered. She insisted that monetary gifts and awards were given to the scientific institutions she was affiliated with, rather than herself. She and her husband often refused awards and medals. Albert Einstein remarked that she was probably the only person who was not corrupted by the fame that she had  

Equal Justice Initiative

Just back from TED2012 Conference in Long Beach California. Thomas Dolby asked me to play guitar in the house band this year. I’ll post some photos in a bit. Bryan Stevenson gave what I believe will become an iconic talk — in the same league as Jill Taylor or Sir Ken Robinson. Deeply inspiring and motivational, Bryan asks us to balance “TED” (technology, entertainment, design) with empathy, humanity, justice, and compassion. “We will not be judged by our technology, intellect, or reason. Ultimately, the character of a society will be judged not by how they treat the powerful, but by how they treat the poor.” After his talk, he received a breathtaking standing ovation. The raw energy and length of ovation was unequaled by any talk I’ve experienced at a live conference (probably 45 seconds of applause is edited from the video). He is asking us to do something about the injustices in our own country. Later in the conference, Chris Anderson (TED’s curator) asked the audience to help Bryan’s work. Within a short time, over $1.1 million had been pledged.  

Power of the Crowd

Humanity wastes 550,000 hours a day typing in the annoying Captcha (200,000,000 Captchas per day * 10s per instance). Luis Von Ahn, inventor of the Captcha, explains why this is a good thing. And if you’ve ever been frustrated by the poor quality of Google Translation, please take 16 minutes and watch his brilliant TED Talk on Massive-Scale Online Collaboration. While you’re hearing about the historically unprecedented power of 100 million people working towards a common goal, be dreaming up your own ways of helping the planet while using your  

A National Strategic Narrative

I attended a conference last year called PopTech in Camden Maine. Couldn’t go this year, but did have a chance to watch some of the live feed. One of the presentations featured Naval Captain Wayne Porter and Marine Col. Mark Mykleby — military strategists working at the highest level of government. Together, they present highlights from their paper, “A National Strategic Narrative.” Their ideas ” less military force, more social capital and more sustainable energy practices ” have caused a stir in policy communities. Their proposal is one of transition away from some old policy ideas that no longer apply in the Google age.They want to move the nation towards an open system that seeks equilibrium in an interdependent global ecology; to move the idea of national security from containment to sustainability: from theories of control to theories of credible influence; from power to narrative: a national strategic story that doesn’t “hold the jello” quite so tight; towards a citizenry that demands purposeful participation. They rightly point out that government can only reflect the values that its citizens embody and that competition cannot be a zero-sum game in a deeply interdependent world. They focus on three issues they believe to be the highest social priorities to maintain a healthy nation moving forward. 1.) Education 2.) Security 3.) Energy I would personally put energy at the top, for without cheap, concentrated energy, access to education will erode as our economy weakens. Their brilliant talk concludes that we, as a nation, are moving towards polarizing ideologies that offer little more than divisive ultimata. Porter and Mykleby insist that we need a collective narrative that takes us beyond today’s ideologies; that will inform our skill, knowledge, and ultimately our technologies. Please invest 21 minutes in this important  

The Very Idea of Humanity

Gus Mantel As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures…The very idea of humanity, as far as I could observe, was new to most of the Gauchos of the Pampas. This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in public opinion.  – Charles