The Being Human conference was held yesterday, March 24th, at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Part of its description is " insights from science and philosophy shed new light on the processes of human experience – the how of feeling, thinking, and believing – and invite us to redefine who we are as human beings."
Sounds like philosophy, right? Worse, maybe New Age philosophy. Nope, this was good stuff and I am pleased to say I got to watch this event evolve from the beginning - because I have long wanted to do a real Science 2.0 conference (i.e., not some conference where someone wants to use 'science 2.0' as a buzzterm) but it has mostly seemed like a good way to lose a lot of money. As everyone who has read Science 2.0 for any length of time knows, communication is one of those four pillars I originally laid out and on this site, everyone gets paid to participate. It's financial transparency and what separates us from legacy science media. Since I am basically responsible for that, I give away nothing for free, just like I wouldn't give away the money of anyone here, even a nickel.
But I gave away free ads for this and there is a good reason why; first, of course, I became convinced these were serious people who wanted to put on a quality event. When everyone got together for a post-event drink last night, every person involved with the event who talked to me used the term 'woo' - so I am guessing months ago I must have used it enough that it sort of sticks when people thought about me. They wanted to have a cross-section of what being human means, and that meant a mix of social science and neuroscience and philosophy and they pulled it off. Not all of the material appealed to me but, like me, at least a majority of it sure appealed to everyone, and they paid real money to be there so that's what counts.
The second reason is because Michael Taft contributes here. This is a point lost on marketing people. We have a brand and lots and lots of marketing people write me every day and want to leverage our brand, for free. It's always funny to get an email from a highly-paid PR person representing a billion-dollar company who wants me to write about their latest whatever for free. They think that is a 'blogger strategy'. If you're participating in Science 2.0, I am more likely to help than if some generic PR person writes me an email but the 'shotgun' approach is a time-honored strategy so I assume it works.
Michael came here because he had done a guest post after I reviewed the book he did with Peter Baumann. I encourage people to guest post - well, I encourage people to post, why the entire world does not write here is a mystery but some people do write at places like Psychology Today or Nature and that is just the diverse nature of humankind - because a real name and voice does lot better than for actual book sales than a review, I think. If people like what I say about a book, okay, but if people like what the actual book author says in an article, they are a lot more likely to buy a book by them.
So what the folks behind Being Human did right, for everyone they partnered with, was making them feel like they mattered. That is not appealing to vanity or blowing smoke, that is just 'being human'. Relying on people to do something for nothing - actual altruism - is just relying on luck. That is not a strategy. But making people feel like they are part of something important so it has an implied benefit, even an intangible one, is a smart idea. By the time this rolled around, I liked these folks enough I really, really, really did not want them to lose money because I want good people to win. Who would you rather live next to, an oil baron or the Tibetan lama they had on stage? I am taking the religious guy.
So yesterday, with two sick kids and a sick wife, I got up at 5:30AM and 2.5 hours in the rain to San Francisco. That is not to make any point about how awesome I am, it is to make the point about how awesome they are. I wanted them to have full seats and. since we were a media partner, I want to support them intrinsically too.
See? They're still making people feel important, long after it was necessary. At some point you just accept they mean it.
Yes, this is the place to hold a conference, if you have the scratch:
I don't need to go into too many details of the conference. It was terrific and you can watch all of the content online. Like I said, they went way over the top on outreach efforts. Here's a clip where a philosopher, a psychologist and a neuroscientist all present their different takes on interesting things about the human condition.
Being Human: Mental + Representations&Decision-Making from Being Human on FORA.tv
You can pretty much determine the ebb and flow of the thing by following the Twitterfeed.
That's true about the Army officers being funniest. Like with scientists, that defies stereotypes. Maybe the funniest was V.S. Ramachandran, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California-San Diego. Not only is he a scientist, he is Indian - so that is a double whammy for humor stereotypes.
After the event, there was a reception and I got a picture of Bloggy Michael Taft and Peter Baumann. Do you think Peter ever smiled like that when he was a keyboard player in Tangerine Dream? Nope, a Bloggy pic is the highlight of anyone's career. Actually, he does smile like that all of the time. He is a pretty happy guy.
Funny aside. We talked about the book a little bit and I said the only part I didn't like was the stuff about long-distance healing. Peter's face scrunched up a little bit and he said, that can't be in there. Michael started laughing. "He's f---ing with us." w000t!
Out of focus but this was on a blackberry. Not sure how the camera was not in my computer bag, but it's likely because I have too many computer bags.
I had also met Science 2.0 member Lindsay Starke earlier but didn't get a Bloggy pic. However, she referred to us as 'amazingly awesome', which pretty much insures she will get a t-shirt; the only thing better than a pic with Bloggy.
Jeff Klein. It's always bad form for anyone internal to claim any more credit than anyone else - events are a team effort and they will all defer to Peter, since it was his money at risk. But someone has to be first so I pick Jeff. He is a rare combination of both persistent and likable. I'm not good about returning emails and even worse about phone calls. None of that phases him. Plus, he seems to speak fluent Hank - in that I would say something vague and he always seemed to get it.
Super bonus pic: Jason Goldman of Scientific American was also in attendance and as funny as me in his tweets.
I probably was tall because I had boots on. I didn't wear the hat because that might be a little *too* cowboy for San Francisco. I did get objectified once during the conference, just not by a woman. As I continue to age I will have to gradually accept people may only like me for my personality. And that is going to suck.
Congratulations on the event, Being Human folks!
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