|It’s been a busy few weeks … enlightening all the same. Winter is here and a ferocious storm hit — and people think we’re spoiled when we say “bad storm” in California, but it really was. I talked to a guy from Boston only to find that he had come during the storm to stay on the coast only to find branches breaking off of trees (“big ones!”) as he drove down the Pacific Coast Highway — PCH, or the Great Highway, or Highway 1, it has many names, but primarily it’s the long road on the coast. The lights were out for a while, although not on my grid. And the storm let up enough to attend an outdoor Stones concert; Stu called up at the last minute with tickets in hand and told me to hightail it down, which I did. Hey, they may be old, but they still make me feel young.
I was asked to attend a meeting over at SRI during the tail end of the storm. The meeting hosted by SRI was really a very inspirational meeting considering what has happen in the last 13 months and our current situation in the world with the illiterate war-monger Bush at the helm. You know I once had a meeting with Henry Kissinger who was actually much more elegant in his speech than our dear Mr. Bush — that’s actually saying quite a bit. Anyhow, it’s been a mere year-plus since we had the roof fall in on us on September 11, 2001, a day that marked, once again, a time when we were attacked on our own soil. Adding insult to injury, we soon thereafter had the rug pulled completely out from under us here in Silicon Valley. My last book, FutureNet, had been due into my editor that same week in September, and I had called her that day and told her I’d need another two months to rewrite the book - that technology would never be the same again. And it wasn’t.
I took those two months and contacted everyone I had interviewed for the book - a long list of tech luminaries and futurists and asked them to sum up our new future. And it was in this desperate environment that I reshaped where people in the know thought the Internet would be heading. Both Leonard Kleinrock and Larry Roberts, the co-creators of packet switching, had great concerns about government intervention in technology (both creation-of and the listening-in aspects).
Meanwhile the rubble was being cleared away from the WTC site and we were bombing caves. That’s when I received the first of many Flash games where the user could shoot at Bin Ladin hiding in caves. And all of those petitions…. I remember receiving that Afghani women petition asking people to participate in liberating the women of Afghanistan. I remember shooting of an annoyed email to the woman who had sent it a note; a. informing her that it was a hoax, and b. hadn’t she been watching the news? Then another chain letter telling people to put a candle in their windows to grieve for the people lost in the 9/11 tragedy. I shot off another email telling this person that I had known someone in one of the planes and that I’d grieve in my own way, thank you very much. It was annoying how much crap was going over the Internet. The pipeline was full, because we felt the need to communicate - to reach out and touch someone virtually. To post, to read, blog, to send.
And although we had lost two major nodes in the WTC towers, the Internet stood strong and we didn’t go down, at least not in the online sense. The phone companies could not say as much; there were many calls that didn’t go through that week…the call you made cannot be connected at this time, please hang up and try again later. That’s how things were going when I was introduced to Jerome “Jerry” Glenn. Jerry called me from his office in DC, we talked about the things he had done in his past - he developed the first internet connections in a third-world country used for economic trade, and that’s where the “Internet” was a phone line and a coupler. He talked to me about his organization, The American Council for the United Nations University and the Millennium Project. He goes around playing a serious game of Tai-Chi push hands where the participants mentally banter and feel each other out to make sure they are on balance. A civil game of James Bond for intellectuals not packing missiles in their shoes. Jerry goes around the world meeting with other Futurists from other countries who are all trying to avoid war — he’s been very busy as of late.
I met Jerry in the flesh for the first time last week; I had been invited to participate in the Millennium Group’s Silicon Valley node. And there I was at SRI meeting with some very intelligent and creative people such as Doug Engelbart, the creator of hypertext and the mouse. I was seriously impressed by the attendees. Our mission? To create peace via technology. That’s pretty cool. As Jerry put it in the last sentences of my book, “What’s the next killer app to make human’s enlightened? Can we get another Carl [Sagan] up there saying there are applications for enlightenment and we’re going to pursue them and that’s going to be the next Manhattan project of the future?”
And all of the sudden I realized while sitting at that table participating in this discussion (where even SRI’s CEO Curt Carlson dropped in) that even though the Valley had just seen another round of layoffs that day, I knew things would not only be right again, one day soon they’d be better than they had been.
But, that was weeks ago and now I'm reveling in the really great time Donna Compton and I had putting on a dinner party for the return of our BBC buddies from London, Neil Koenig and Peter Day. A sit down dinner for 16! Whew, and we were both trying new recipes for everything. I made this Bahamas creole thing I made up as I walked the rows of stuff at Safeway at 3AM the night before...shrimp, marmalade, coconut, lychee, pineapple hearts, mangos, mandarin oranges, and it all turned out pretty well. The saffron rice was a different story - I had never cooked so much rice at once and that never did get cooked all the way, not really. And brochetta - that was my side of the vegetarian meal. Donna made pumpkin soup and a beautiful rack of lamb and a gorgeous salmon. Good company, good food and a lovely evening filled with close friends and warm laughter, stories about what the guys have learned over the last few years of covering Silicon Valley and thought about the future.
This particular evening — actually this morning — are the wee hours before THE BIG GAME. Pat are going to climb on Bart tomorrow and make our way to Berkeley to attend the big football Stanford-Cal game, where we shall once again kick their asses ];-> The tailgate party should be a blast, although I wish the parking is as good as it is at Stanford. I've never gotten used to riding public transit, it's a bit too pedestrian for my California-must-drive-everywhere lifestyle. Oh well, every other year I have to do something a bit unpleasant like go sit in the stands of an inferior stadium and ride the Bart. But, it'll be worth it to keep the axe www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2000/janfeb/classnotes/trautman.html
www.csua.berkeley.edu/~yoda/sports/biggame/axe.html www.axetheft.com/History/nutshell.htm in the end. Turn on the TV and you might see us, I think Pat's bringing her Cat in the Hat hat.
Anyhow, I’m going to climb into bed and try to get a few hours of sleep before night meets dawn.