5 Must-See Talks from Google Zeitgeist
What the resilience of books has to do with the media arts and recasting the political limelight.
By Kirstin Butler
It’s no secret that we’re big fans of meetings of the mind here at Brain Pickings. Not included in our two lists from last year of cross-disciplinary conferences, however, was Google’s Zeitgeist series. These invitation-only events gather global thought-leaders to describe the current moment — a kind of Weltanschauung according to Google — and now the online giant has created a deep library of talks from three years of its elite twice-annual get-togethers. Served by YouTube, natch, the Zeitgeist videos have been handily broken down into chapters so that viewers can drop in on specific sections.
Plenty of TEDsters are among the offerings, including Cameron Sinclair, Hans Rosling, and Rives; often the speakers share the stage in interview-style format and panel discussions. Since the conference is hosted by a NASDAQ behemoth, multinational CEOs and heads of state make up much of the list of 231 speakers to date. The result is a kind of behind-the-scenes view of the inner architectures of power — what author William Gibson termed the world’s “order flow” in his latest book.
Running from eight minutes to an hour in length, we’ve waded through the library to pick our five favorites. (In our number-one choice wait for the priceless story about Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin punking their current CEO Eric Schmidt.) We hope you enjoy these perspectives on how the zeitgeist looks from Mountain View.
ERIC SCHMIDT WITH LARRY PAGE
Perspective from Google 2009, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in conversation with Google Co-Founder Larry Page:
So to give you all sense of how we work together. So Larry and Sergei called me into their office, they have one office together. And they said, we’re depressed And I said, like, why. They said, well, we’re bored. Well what do you want to do? They said, we want to get into the appliance business. And I said, oh, computer appliances, notebooks, that sort of stuff. And they said, no, no, no, no, refrigerators. And so we had this ten minute conversation about the economics and capital structure of managing refrigerators, which of course, as you know can be computer controlled and managed by Google for your benefit, before I realized that they were completely fooling me, and that we are NOT getting into the refrigerator business at the moment. Remember that? He won’t admit it. It’s true, trust me.”
THE GREGORY BROTHERS
Auto-Tune the News, The Gregory Brothers:
“We wanted to release shorter videos more frequently, and we wanted to shift the limelight from the already famous newscasters and politicians and sort of pick out everyday people who we thought had that amazing unintentional star singing quality that we’re sort of always on the hunt for.”
LEE CLOW & ALEX BOGUSKY
Advertising: Stories or Games, Lee Clow and Alex Bogusky:
I call what we do– I hate the word advertising, but unfortunately it is the name of my business. But I like to believe that we’re in the media arts business. We try and take every media that a brand uses, and try and make it artful, smart, and lovable.”
Human Connection, Sebastian Junger:
There are social and political factors that cause wars that can simmer for decades and be ignited literally in an afternoon. One of my jobs — one of the things I do in my job is to explain how that catalyst worked or try to predict when it’s going to happen again. It happens all the time.”
CRYSTIA FREELAND & SALMAN RUSHDIE
Literary Thought in the Information Age, Crystia Freeland and Salman Rushdie:
I don’t know, I think you know the death of the book has been forecast almost since the birth of the book. And it’s an oddly resilient technology.”
Published February 18, 2011