California-based TED is perhaps the most visible of the groups that are leading the crossover of serious intellectual thought into the pop mainstream. TED's approach – the 18 minute inspirational talk – could broadly be described as "Ideas, Wow!" New York's Big Think is on a slightly different tack, presenting big idea and skill lessons more incrementally, with the intention of helping its readers to assimilate the most influential thinking of the day and put it to work in their lives.
Lucid NYC is taking a third road – hosting live events in a dinner-lounge setting, featuring a handful of diverse innovators from various disciplines. After the talks, which last 10-15 minutes each, the small audiences mingle with the presenters and one another. The result is what you make of it – MENSA style thinkers' club, mellow networking event, brainy dating opportunity – or a mix of all three. Whatever your angle, it's good, smart fun and a refreshing change from the usual hipster scene offerings.
I attended a Lucid evening back in March, at Drom in the East Village. Thinkmodo's James Percelay spoke about viral marketing campaigns including one in which a woman's head was transformed into an iPad. Passers by could "read" her thoughts by interacting with the touchscreen. Photographer Kyoko Hamada talked about her recent visit to Fukishima province, the radiation-afflicted area of Japan which is now going about its post-disaster life, and how odd it was to see people living more or less normally alongside public geiger counters. Natalie Jeremijenko, an artist and engineer, proposed experimental urban designs, including elaborate zipline transportation systems.
The idiosyncratic lineup worked well, I thought – the speakers were engaging and the format offered a broad spectrum of inroads and conversation starters for audience members with different interests.
Lucid's back tomorrow with "Game culture, molecular cuisine, battalions of eco-friendly robotic boats, and sizzling New Orleans jazz."
If you're in New York, I'd strongly recommend checking it out.
Big Think views the mainstream-ization of serious thought as a wholly positive development, and sees tremendous potential for its transformation from "Ideas, Wow!" to a more efficient way of helping people to connect the interdisciplinary dots, sparking innovation that can benefit us all.
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