Life in a connected world
At Fortune's Brainstorm conference, the most thoughtful (and powerful) people we know from a wide variety of fields talked about a wide variety of topics.
NEW YORK (FORTUNE Magazine) -- At last week's Brainstorm conference, organized by FORTUNE Magazine and the Aspen Institute, a profusion of voices from many fields spoke up on a surprising range of subjects, all under the rubric of our theme "Life in a Connected World."
Here are some highlights:
I enumerate this diverse list of fascinating moments to illustrate what makes Brainstorm different - its range of ideas. We take the most thoughtful (and powerful) people we know from a wide variety of fields and put them together for two days to see what happens.
Since I'm director of the conference, it's no surprise that tech issues were frequently on the surface. The Connected World theme was meant to suggest that issues relating to tech and the Internet affect just about every sphere of business and society these days.
Many of the world's top tech venture capitalists and entrepreneurs were in the audience. Newly-appointed Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie of Microsoft (Charts) told me at a cocktail party how excited he is about his enormously-demanding job. He actually sees the mammoth task of transforming Microsoft for the Internet age as fun.
At one point I mentioned to eBay (Charts) founder Pierre Omidyar that I was not sure we had to have legislation to guarantee network neutrality - the notion that Internet businesses should not have to pay to insure they get their content to customers.
These new routers - through which all the electronic bits that make up the Internet must pass - increasingly will have the capability of detecting exactly where those bits originated and what kind of content they are carrying - video, audio, text, instant message, etc.
Omidyar says eBay worries that this capability may be very tempting for service providers at all levels of the Internet food chain to use to discriminate between content - from local ISPs to long-distance backbone carriers. It's a technical change, in eBay's view, which necessitates this regulatory change.
Brainstormers heard from a panoply of speakers that ranged from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to Home Depot (Charts) CEO Bob Nardelli to Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth. Then there were the members of the Japanese parliament, President Antonio Saca of El Salvador, ousted Dutch Parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and several journalists from China.
To assure the conference itself stayed connected, of course we included a variety of bloggers. They ranged from Arianna Huffington to Asian expert Rebecca MacKinnon to citizen journalist Dan Gillmor to venture capitalists including Steve Jurvetson, Joi Ito, and Fred Wilson.
Also blogging were Google's Head of Special Initiatives Chris Sacca, Wiki software entrepreneur Ross Mayfield of Socialtext, conference expert Gary Bolles of Conferenza, and Diego Rodriguez of design firm IDEO. You can also go to Flickr and see photos taken at Brainstorm by Jurvetson, Mayfield, Esther Dyson, and others.
Fortune's writers also posted our own extensive notes on our own blog where you can still join in the Brainstorm conversation by posting your own comment.