Paul Kedrowsky: Around the Horn (Defrag08)

Paul Kedrowsky starts the panel by referring to a James Surowiecki article in The New Yorker called Everyone's Watching. If I understand the reference, the key point is that the current financial meltdown wasn't caused by too little information, but too much--and with no one paying attention.

There's some discussion about whether we need to take a step back and pay more attention. On Twitter, @kevinmarks says "this makes me think of Neal Stephenson's ideas from Anathem of deliberately introducing isolation and delay to gather deep insight." Paul doesn't believe that paying more attention is an option.

Is the problem with gatekeepers? Have the old gatekeepers (like editors--weird to hear the word used in a positive sense) given way and there's nothing to take their place? Questions of trust abound. Sound bites convey a lot of information to the initiated (or true believers) but leave others out. Understanding sounds bites requires previously established context.

(There's some funky things going on with the sound system. Different panel members are coming out of different speakers and it keeps throwing me, thinking someone is talking from the back or side of the room. Several of the panelists are simply not understandable due to poor audio, at least by me.)

Stow Boyd makes the point from the audience that hyperconnected financial markets are examples of things that are inherently complex and unpredictable--like the weather. The solution isn't better understanding or magic oracles (gatekeepers?) but simplifying things so that they're understandable. Paul disagrees that there were a few key measures (like debt to GDP) that we just ignored.

Panelist makes the comment that every one in the room is sitting on a mountain of data that they could use to make better sense of their world. Being data driven is a culture.

Paul makes the point that extracting useful signal from noise leads to constantly telling people how things are different and you risk getting into a Cassandra syndrome, where you are constantly perceived as a "doom and gloomer."

Eric Norlin makes the comment from the audience that our metaphors are breaking down. Email has a metaphor that anyone can understand because the understand letters. Humans are not good at dealing with asynchronicity.

Paul says that the financial crisis is a great problem for this group because we aren't talking about the theme of the conference in some abstract sense, but we're living in an example.

Final comment from Brad in the audience: we're not in a difficult time compared to most people in the world and especially most people through time. The people in this room have an incredible opportunity to innovate and solve problems. We need to look at this from the positive side.