Monday, May 06, 2013

Terry Talks


Some will think of TED talks, reading that title, and indeed ISEPP's Pauling House now has a videographer who produces for TED.  However Terry's run longer and the live audience still gets the immersive experience.  ISEPP's venues are less of a studio, though sound mixing and video recording are happening.

Terry's talk is of course cosmic in scope, but also perfect for Portland, a boom town these days.  We're rational optimists out here in Oregon, still surrounded by an undefeated spirit that feels at home here.

If this were football I'd say Terry is making an end run around the defending Scientists by separating out the disgruntled engineers, less appreciated, and making them an opposition.  There's deliberate tension in setting up the dialectic that way, with Fatalism fading to Defeatism owned by science, with Engineering still a throbbing heart of possibility.

As a consequence, religion is both shut out, and shut in.  But you've got a discourse, with heroes, and philosophy.  Terry flashed through a sequence of champions versus the dunce cap B Team.  Paul Erlich is definitely B Team, along with all the other waiting-to-say-I-told-you-so pundits believing we'd be dead by now, instead of at 9 billion.  Paul Romer, on the other hand, another big picture speculator, is A Team in Terry's playbook.

Terry scoffs at apocalyptic doomsayers more than most, and urges some of the loudest of such to retire from the podium, given their track record is so bad.

How he gets there, to his position of Engineer-Optimist, is more through Karl Popper and lets say Hegel.  He's happy to admit he's not the first one to truck out a dynamic Noosphere (not a term he used, something I picked up through Princeton) that has direction, towards some "good" (how that's defined is maybe less important than agreeing there's direction, an alchemy of fear and longing, not just value-neutral "trying stuff at random").

He doesn't much lean on Bucky Fuller or even American Transcendentalism back to Whitman.  He relies on Pragmatism instead, with lots of emphasis on John Dewey.

He'd just given this talk, or one like it, in China, and he freely admitted out at outset that his Engineer Ascendent memes maybe had a receptive audience there, not just because of recent great leaps forward, but because of a Marxian schooling in the background, wherein history plays out against a backdrop of a larger evolutionary tale, seamlessly the same thing, Nature a steering committee.  We could say Marx absorbed some key memes from Hegel, much as did Schopenhauer, and these memes resonate in Chinese thinking as well.

To get to this pinnacle minus Bucky or Wittgenstein is all the better for me.  I'm not going to be accused of just cribbing from Bristol, nor he from me.  We're coming from different foothills. Yet we both understand synergy and more-with-lessness.

How many man-hours does it take to produce one lumen's worth of power?  We effortlessly channel light, ergs, straining our spines relatively less per unit.  More like the PR around magic in the old days: as though you could wave something called "a remote" and choose "a channel" (or frequency) -- we know how to do that today, even from a young age.

Thanks to my board member valency, I was able to replace a cancellation and bring Trisha in for both the talk and the Heathman Dinner (a yummy slice of salmon with accoutrements).  She's a working mom, artist, hard worker, free spirit, just the right kind of Oregonian to appreciate Terry's upbeat hypertalk.  Glenn, Don, Steve and I joined her, closer to MHCC, from which she hails, for a reunion of sorts (not the first time at Pub 181), and a visit to her newest digs.

Suburbia and the Global U.  New circuit designs...

We stayed pretty late for old guys, but I had my morrow's trek to prepare for:  a long drive to Florence, Oregon by way of Big Bear Camp, and thence to a Girl Scout camp for our WQM gathering.

During the Q&A, both in the church and at the hotel, Terry was on his best diplomatic behavior.  He knows how much distrust there is for myopic, self-aggrandizing, environment-despoiling "engineers".

The proud / loud industrialist who leaves an eco-disaster behind, hiding behind a sham, self-justifying ideology, is a stereotype, and Terry is doing his best to dodge attempts to stick him with it.

He knows we've been awful.  He's not denying that humans are mistake prone.  Trial and error is not banished from his equations, just he thinks there's "cosmic genius" in the trying (noncomputable), or there's what the Quakers call "that of God" in each participant (some sense of the whole).