"I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical." - Thomas Jefferson to James Madison in Paris Jan, 30 1887.
The Nor'easter tearing through Camden is waging a rebellion all its own against my warm, dry California senses, and, in doing so, serves as a fitting backdrop to this year's PopTech conference. The theme this year is Rebellion and the host is John Maeda. John is the former president of the Rhode Island School of Design and currently a design partner at the VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
The theme of rebellion ties deeply with the work I'm trying to do, not to mention the underlying ethos of the d.school.
Make. Break. Make. Break.
So, when I was fortunate enough to have the chance to attend, I pounced. This is my first time in Camden, my first PopTech gathering and my first real foray into the PopTech community. The firsts alone were more than enough to make this an irresistible opportunity.
In the first few hours, I already see why everyone has been telling me how fortunate I am to be able to attend this conference. Camden offers few distractions other than its calm, quiet out-of-the-way vibe and its spectacular views of the water. The conference is linearly scheduled. There are no simultaneous sessions, other than ones people have previously signed up for. The establishment of community is almost immediate.
I arrived late Wednesday night after a rough flight, and started my PopTech experience this morning with a talk by Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab. Joi had some fascinating observations about rebellion and its significance across numerous areas -- everything from social and political unrest to education.
A few points from Joi's talk struck me:
Music's role in rebellion: "Before we had Twitter, we had music," Joi told the audience. And music, he continued, pulled rebellion together.
Money's role in rebellion: "The relationship between the sort of rebellious artists ... and the people who fund them have always been a little bit at odds." The patrons are basically "the man" funding those who are the rebels, "there used to be a middle class patronage of the arts, but it's becoming less and less so.
"There's this fundamental historical inconsistency, but it's kind of getting amplified."
"We all kind of like rebellion because it's cool," said Joi. "It reminds us of our childhood. ... But who pays for it?"
The opposite of fragile isn't robust or resilient, it's "antifragile": Antifragile objects and systems are things that get stronger when they are attacked. There is a book by this name by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Replace the word "education" with "learning": "I don't really like the word education," he said. "Education is what people do to you and learning is what you do to yourself."
That last point, of course, reminded me of the d.school's work on Stanford 2025 and our goal of growing students' creative confidence...
But, diving deeply isn't easy at PopTech, at least not here on the blog. I am already a third of the way through David Burstein's talk on American politics, and I don't want to miss any more than I already have.