Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I had a few ginger ales with Shekhar Kapur, a well known Indian film director. We talked about the life, the universe and everything. We talked about what it takes to direct a good film and how Shekhar chose which films to direct.

He talked about being asked to direct "Long Walk to Freedom" about the life of Nelson Mandela. He said he turned it down. He understood about inequality and prejudice from his experiences in India and being Indian, but that he didn't think he would ever truly understand the extreme conditions of apartheid. He would never truly understand the rage of being treated as a completely different class of human being by the white man.

Later, in Hollywood, in the office of an important studio exec, Shekhar explained that he had turned down the offer to direct "Long Walk to Freedom". The exec told Shekhar that he thought that it was a good idea since people weren't interested in a story about the struggles of a black man.

Shekhar was infuriated by the comment, but contained it and kept a straight face. He excused himself and went to the rest room. From the rest room, he called his agent and told him to accept the deal. Shekhar was now able to feel the rage and his passion for the film had developed.

It is very difficult to get the cultural passions right in a movie. Usually the culture is the backdrop of a story or the story is about how American culture triumph over other cultures. Shekhar's insistence on understanding the cultural passion that would be core to a movie was impressive and something that more directors would strive for when making movies about other cultures.

I sat next to Sir Martin Rees at dinner last night. He is the Royal Astronomer of the UK and the Master of Trinity College. I met him last year at the same dinner. He's amazingly smart and funny.

Ever since I'd posted my entry on aviation and global warming, I've been trying to figure out how to get to the bottom of this issue. The journalists told me that they just cited experts and the trick was to find good experts. I figured Sir Martin Rees would probably have an educated and balanced view.

Sir Martin Rees told me that he thought it was probably true that global warming was happening and that CO2 emissions contributed to it. He said that his main concern with global warming with the possibility that something non-linear would happen. In other words, his worry was not just the melting of the ice caps or the increased heat, but that this would cause something unpredictable and significant, such as a change in the circulation of the oceans.

He talked about some of the interesting mail he got. He said that he once got contacted by a cryogenic company which wanted his opinion on the idea of "the end of involuntary death" by freezing yourself before you die. When he replied that he'd rather be buried in a cemetery than a freezer in Calfornia, the company posted on their web site that "Rees is a deathist".

In a controversial book that he wrote called "Our Final Hour" he says that there is a 50/50 chance that our civilization will end this century. He mentioned that the original title of the book was "Our Final Century?" The British publishers took out the question mark and made it "Our Final Century". Then the US publishers change it to "Our Final Hour". ;-)

The dinner was off the record. "Nothing leaves this room. Just like Las Vegas." But I received permission from Sir Martin Rees to blog his comments. Sir Martin, if you see this and I've quoted you in error, please let me know. I don't have your email address.

The World Economic Forum has posted a pdf summary of the blogging panel. As usual, the tone isn't the same as what I experienced and they got most of what I said, but I think my emphasis was a bit different. I hope Loic gets his video transcript up so you can decide interpret it yourself.

billmon at Whiskey Bar is blogging from Davos. I wonder who he/she is. I looked up "Bill Mon" and last name "Billmon" in the directory and I couldn't find a listing. I couldn't find his/her real name on the blog either. Is Whiskey Bar a pseudonymous blog by a professional journalist?

Thanks for the link Abe. I think billmon is presenting an interesting view. I'm focused primarily on hanging out with people I like and going to sessions that I'm interested in so billmon's view is probably a good way to see another side of Davos.

danah's always talking about privilege and I've started to think about this more consciously than before. Just about everyone here in Davos is privileged. Some have been born into privilege and some have gained it through their work. Some people carry their privilege well, others don't. There are people who seem to gloat in and flaunt their privilege, constantly bragging and doing the nudge-nudge-wink-wink. Others carry it naturally. Others seem to feel bad or strange having been chosen to be among the privileged. Some seem to guiltily enjoy the privilege.

Some seem to believe that the privilege they have comes with the responsibility to use it to help others, while others seem to think that privilege is something they deserve to use for their own personal gain.

It's interesting to watch. I wish I could do a survey of all of the people here and ask questions like, "Do you think you deserve the privilege you have, and why?" "What do you intend to do with the privilege and do you think you owe it to the world to focus your energies on helping those without privilege?" Then there are deeper questions about whether people are helping underprivileged people to gain more recognition, out of guilt, out of love, out of a sense of responsibility or some other reason.

I haven't attended any of the philanthropy sessions, but maybe that's what they talk about.

I personally think I deserve some of the privilege that I've gained, but that there are many who don't have as much privilege as I do who deserve it more. I think I owe a lot of my privilege to where I was born, the way my mother raised me, the people I've met and an odd combination of networking skills. I do feel extremely responsible for using the privilege that I currently have to solve as many of the world's problems as possible. I continue to remind myself that the particular serious of events that have put me in the position that I am in has more to do with the people around me than anything else and I owe it to them to carry this privilege well.