Battle of Ideas ’13

Wist very kindly bought me a ticket to The Battle of Ideas for my birthday.

It’s a fantastic event curated by the Institute of Ideas. You pick and choose the talks you’d like to see (there’s around six or seven running in parallel) and then race around the Barbican in the gaps to get to the next one.

First up – we went to see ‘The crisis of innovation: Dude where’s my flying car?”
There were some fantastic speakers and some really interesting things were discussed.

We learnt about the Sailing Ship effect – where the introduction of a new technology accelerates the innovation of an incumbent technology. We heard that Landrover define innovation as something that is new, articulately depicted and that creates value. Something that is new but that someone wouldn’t pay for isn’t counted as an innovation. And someone used a very cool engineering phrase ‘If there’s no heat, there’s probably nothing happening.’ I also loved this quote that was used – ‘An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing.’

Next, we went to a fascinating debate called ‘Time to get serious about irony?’

It was great to see Julian Baggini on the panel, as I’ve read a couple of his books and they’re fantastic. His talk was fantastic – finishing with the sentence ‘In order to seriously examine yourself, you need to be aware of the comic mismatch between ambitions and actions.’ John Waters talked about metaphysical anorexia – our view on ‘self’ is diminishing in modern society as we morph ourselves to fit with public opinion. Late in the questions, he also dropped a fantastic CS Lewis quote – ‘You can’t see through everything. To see through all things is akin to seeing nothing. The window is transparent because the garden beyond it is opaque.’

The ‘Art of Biography’ session was good too – the central theme being that it’s the flaws in us that make us human, and it’s those flaws that make us interesting.

I’m a little light on notes from the talk – and there was a bit too much chat about Benjamin Britten for my liking – but it was good all the same.

Finally then, we popped along to the session ‘Baby on board: the battle over pregnancy.’ Wist established that she wanted to see this talk to help with work. Before that, I was a little worried…

If I’m brutally honest – this wasn’t a topic that I was particularly interested in and I wasn’t cognitively in the room for a lot of it – but apparently it was good. You’ll have to ask Wist if you want to know the details…

Brilliant birthday present and really fun day – well done everyone at the Institute of Ideas for putting on such an interesting event.

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