“Living in Public”: Josh Harris’ Brilliance Leaves Audience Dumbfounded

Day Three of Internet Week 2010

Event of Choice: June 9, 2010 Living in Public Q & A with Josh Harris at Razorfish.

Josh Harris is the subject of We Live in Public, the Sundance Documentary Grand Jury Prize Winner of 2009.  Called the “Warhold of the Web”, artist, futurist, and visionary, Harris made billions for the Internet television network “Pseudo.com” during the dot com era boom, only to lose it all a few years later.  He was the creator and founder of the “Quiet” project, where over 100 people lived together in a room while under surveillance for 30 days beginning New Year’s Day 2000.  Harris also created his own version of The Truman Show by living six months under complete surveillance in his loft apartment with a (spoiler alert) pseudo girlfriend.  All of Harris’ projects questioned the habit of us wanting to trade privacy for an emotional connection and recognition.

The event was held at the offices of Razorfish, an interactive marketing and technology company I have developed a crush for over the last year.

While Josh Harris is undoubtedly a brilliant man, sometimes I think he lets his genius get the best of him and his audience can be left dumbfounded and confused.

Some food for thought i.e. brilliant quotes from Josh Harris:

According to the Mayan Calendar, the world will end in 2012.  Harris interpreted this as an end to humanity and the beginning of “singularity”.

Singularity defined by Wikipedia:

Technological singularity refers to a prediction in Futurology that technological progress will become extremely fast, and consequently will make the future (after the technological singularity) unpredictable and qualitatively different from today. It is most often associated with the ideas of futurist Ray Kurzweil.

Although technological progress has been accelerating, it has been limited by the basic intelligence of the human brain, which has not changed significantly for millennia. However with the increasing power of computers and other technologies, it might eventually be possible to build a machine that is more intelligent than humanity.

Theoretically, if a machine built by humans could bring to bear greater problem-solving and inventive skills than humans, then it could design a yet more capable machine. If built, this more capable machine then could design a machine of even greater capability. These iterations could accelerate, leading to recursive self improvement.

Scary, right?

Speaking of 2012 i.e. the big “freak out”, put this in perspective.  If Benjamin Franklin knew the average person would spend 10 hours a day looking at a screen, he would freak out too.

Humans are wired CPUs that can suffer from internal damages.

Evolution equals losing privacy. The most important thing is to remain centered.  If you remain true to your ideals, you shouldn’t be wary of sharing your life with the public.

Advertising is meant to connect people in a single time at the same moment and place, usually over a brand like Crest.

Speaking of Crest, if we could develop a virtual relationship with Cindy Crawford by seeing how she brushes her teeth via a screen in our bathroom mirror, maybe we would brush our teeth more diligently.

Last but not least…

We are all in one big Purdue Chicken Factory and we are simply the chickens being processed (he repeated this metaphor multiple times.  By the look of Adweek‘s Brian Morrissey (moderator), the murmurs of the audience, and my own intuition, no one else really got it).

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