TUCSON, Ariz. -- Twenty years ago, a group of "chip heads"
met to gossip about the semiconductor industry and take a guess at where
the business was headed. The host was Ben Rosen, the gossip was great and
the projections were no better or worse than other attempts at trying to
forecast an industry that constantly shifts underfoot.
Twenty years later, at the swank Westin La Paloma in Tucson, that
semiconductor gossip group has morphed into The Living Web conference
hosted by Esther Dyson. Agenda items? Well, it sure isn't submicron
lithography or client/server computing. Try the 8:20 a.m. session on "The
Metaphorical Mind." Or how about "What Would Darwin, Rousseau, Hobbes and
Smith have said?" Or "Tending the Soil, Clearing the Paths."
Can you really take a group of 600 or so Internet-time paced, E-mail-crushed, nervous venture capitalist-spurred industry execs, sit them down
in a ballroom in Tucson, and have linguistics professor George Lakoff
deliver his Metaphor 101 lecture? The answer is yes, but after about 20
minutes, the digerati in the audience started to steal looks at the Wall
Street Journal to check stock prices or catch up on news of Microsoft
booting the launch of Memphis into next year.
The metaphor discussion was interesting for about 25 minutes, but was
scheduled for more than an hour. How long can
you have a discussion on the definition of Web event when
your stock might be tanking because someone cloned your product?
The news at events such as PC Forum usually occurs late at night in
the hotel bar and in both chance and planned backroom meetings. For research purposes only, I hung out at the bar the night before the forum started. Once the compulsory discussion
on "Will Microsoft crush everyone?" was disposed (the answer was
Java and zero-footprint devices may save the day), the question of what
the next big thing will be held center stage at the bar. Education and
education-related activities were the topics that held sway. Could it be that the
graying (and balding) PC Forum attendees want to leave more of a
legacy than a bunch of successful IPOs?
Esther Dyson, in her opening remarks, claimed education and non-profit activities are becoming the hot subject of debate. Even Lakhoff's remark that seeing education as a
business is simply "awful" (a self-serving remark from a professor if there
ever was one) didn't dampen the education discussion.
The second place where news takes place is the exhibit rooms outside the
main audience and in brief presentations before the assembled
audience. There were six presentations scheduled for the PC Forum session
on Monday. I'll be posting a synopsis of each product later in the day.