The World of Ideas

I just attended the ideaCity 2007 conference and my mind is brimming with ideas! In a matter of 3 days, I heard ideas from many fields, which included Chemistry, Particle Physics, Astro-Physics, Biology, Economics, Technology, Conservation, Ecology, Entrepreneurship and Religion. The speakers that spoke at ideaCity excelled in their respective fields. The passion and enthusiasm they brought to the conference was quite infectious.

Throughout the conference, I was able to interact with fellow conference attendees, also called Idealists. When I asked why they decided to attend the conference, they likened the packed 3 day conference to reading 25 books in the same period of time! I could not agree more. Some of these Idealists have been coming ever since it started 8 years ago – talk about dedication! Indeed, the allure of ideaCity is the breadth of fields and the quality of the speakers that come to the conference to share their ideas. Even more appealing is that you get to hear all the speakers because all the Idealists stayed in the same room.

The conference is capped at 500 people so it is intimate and not too crowded. The format of the conference was unlike any other I have attended. Each of the speakers spoke for 20 minutes and there were no Q&A sessions after their talk. To make up for that, there were extra long breaks consisting of two 40 minute conversation breaks during each day. During those breaks, speakers mingled freely with the participants and I found that you can almost always find them in the hallway and interact with them. To cap off each day, there were 3 hour long parties during the evening. All of the schmoozing time was more than enough to get to know both the speakers in a less formal setting and fellow Idealists.

Would I go again? Definitely! Rarely can you find a conference with such an eclectic mix of people from different fields and all of them excelling at what they do. Among the speakers, there were two Nobel Laureates – Dr. John Polanyi & Dr. Anthony Leggett, God Delusional author Richard Dawkins, Eco-warrior / Greenpeace co-founder / Sea Shephered Society founder Paul Watson, iRobot founder Helen Greiner , the first female private explorer Anousheh Ansari, In Praise of Slow author Carol Honore, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Morning-After-Pill scientist Dr. Etienne-Emile Baulieu , ZipCar founder Scott Griffith , 100 Mile Diet author James MacKinnon and more. Check out the complete list here.

Are there any ideas in software development that we can use? I cannot tell you of one right off the bat because there were tons of ideas. Remember, I heard about 40+ speakers! I am still processing all of the ideas I heard and I will share them through blog postings and perhaps the study groups. Hopefully, together we can fuse two or more ideas from various disciplines and come up with one.

If there was only one thing I took away from the conference is the fact that these brilliant speakers hit a lot of road blocks before they hit on that one great idea. If not for the hard work support they got from their teams, they would not have been as successful as they were. In the end, the passion, enthusiasm and dedication that they bring with them in their area of work really made the difference.

As Bill Lishman, known as the first human to lead flying birds in formation, said in the conference:


An idea is worth $1.98. It’s what you do with your idea that will make a difference.


Dr. John Polanyi summed it quite nicely about his experience in science when he said:


In science, play is very important. A lot of times, you have to go beyond logic.


So let us play, get some ideas going and work hard at them!

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