Monday, October 24, 2011

Another Brainstorm

October has been Brainstorm month at The Bagdad. Thanks to Wardwell for reminding me. I've enjoyed the three I attended, tonight's being the last.

The neuroscientist Larry Sherman and historical fiction author Jean Auel, wondered how the new magic of electronics might be rewiring our relationships.

The question was apropos, as I'd just gotten voicemail from Occupy Portland that a geodesic dome had appeared. I looked around through the Livestream channel later but couldn't spot it (not surprising).

I'd also texted one of the chiefs how Bill Nye the Science Guy was one of my heroes and then, a few slides later, there he was, projected large, next to a picture of Carl Sagan, and a musician who was not introduced. Larry had picked these guys as major influences.

Clearly, electronics were penetrating my theater experience in a big way. Plato's Cave is far from impermeable.

Mia Birk drew the most questions as she was the authority on re-engineering cities to make them bike friendly. She knew Portland really well and was happy to go street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood.

She understood a lot about ethnic boundaries, which are also namespace boundaries. Not everyone knows or cares what "bike lane" means, or all this other lingo (like "sustainable"), which cogniscenti treat as "the given" already. More physical separation between modes, between cars and bikes, is the harder step in a lot of cases.

Making car trips relatively more expensive: that won't be the cyclists doing that. We'll be those cyclists, running from higher pump prices.

I already hardly drive. Ward Cunningham made a lot of sense last week when he advised not choosing parameters you can't control, like "miles per gallon" (you get what you get). How about "fill-ups per month". What if you only fill up once every two months? That'd be different eh?

I actually had a question on this one: Trimet had been recently unveiling its new open source multi-modal trip planner and weren't trip planners a big part of making a city give up its secrets, in terms of showing off its routes? Kind of a nerf ball question I suppose.

Mia agreed, and somewhat made fun of how all these major players were heading off in various directions rather than sharing data and techniques.

Solving the problem might actually be more satisfying than showing the competition how incompetent it was. Always trying to beat an enemy is probably what CroMagnon excelled at, and why there're not Neanderthals left to tell the tale -- unless they linger genetically (memetically too? -- did they have music? play the flute? a hot topic).

Like Mia, the neuroscientist and author were clearly brilliant, each pulling miraculous performances out of a hat, routinely. They seemed like insanely great stage magicians in that way, though I'm not intimately familiar with the work of either.

Fixing degenerative nerve tissue disorders seems like a really valuable goal, yet this guy spends a lot of time not in the lab but out begging for funding, knowing his schools are pretty low on the totem pole in some namespaces.

Those seeking the next breakthroughs need to get in line behind those just wanting to break things or keep things broken eh?

I bought Mia's book, signed both by herself and co-author "Metal Cowboy".