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Silicon Valley Life

Published Tuesday, June 22, 1999, in the San Jose Mercury News

MINISTER OF INFORMATION

So Saturday night I was over at Doug Engelbart's house, talking to Carver Mead ...

Let me pause here to emphasize what a thrill it is for me to be able to write that. Some people might get goose bumps over the chance to hang out with movie stars or pro athletes. For me, it's visionary geniuses who have changed the world, and both the above-mentioned gentlemen fall into that category. Engelbart's inventions include the computer mouse, windowed displays, hypermedia publishing and dozens of other innovations critical to the PC-and-network revolution. Mead's contributions include the microwave amplification system used in communications technology, the concept for very large-scale integrated circuits and electronic systems that model human senses.

The occasion was a get-together of members of the Foresight Institute, an organization that, among other things, assembles diverse bunches of very smart people to use their collaborative brainpower to anticipate and respond to the challenges of a world in which technology is evolving far faster than our ability to direct it for the common good. I'm not a joiner by nature, but that's my kind of crowd.

The kicker was that Engelbart and Mead spent time telling me how important my job was, in view of the responsibility of the popular media in shaping perceptions, explaining issues and maintaining, against the distraction of short-term economics and gee-whiz gadgetry, the focus on the human condition. That evening will keep me humbled and inspired for a long time.

By John Murrell
Mercury Center Senior Online Editor


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