PC Forum 2006
PC Forum has normally been held in Phoenix but this year (15th for me) moved to Carlsbad, California (near San Diego). The travel to conferences is not always a joy but they do tend to be in nice places — too bad I am not a golfer. PC Forum is always interesting because it focuses mostly on the big picture. It is also interesting because after all these years one gets to know a lot of attendees and catch up with them at breaks and meals and it is also rewarding to meet new people each year.
Esther Dyson opened the conference and set the stage for the theme which was "Erosion of Power: Users in Charge". The concept of "power to the people" is not a new one — I wrote quite a bit about the idea in "Net Attitude" — but PC Forum drilled down deeply on the subject and brought a lot of experts from all walks of life into the dialogue. The first speaker was Barry Schwartz, Professor of Social Theory and Social Action, Swarthmore College. He talked about his book "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less". It was a topic everyone could identify with — going to the store and finding 285 salad dressings, 35 toothpastes, and endless other choices. coffees, and getting a cell-phone model choice that includes an mp3 player, nose hair trimmer, and mini blow-torch. People already are beginning to ask, “Do you have a phone that doesn’t do too much?”. Even in healthcare, you are given choices. The Dr. won’t tell you what to do but will give you choices with pros and cons. The bottom line is that people are overwhelmed with choice and instead of the choices liberating them, they are being paralyzed by them. "People may do better with more choices but not feel as good about it".
The end of the first day of PC Forum was an interview with Pierre Omidyar. The young billionaire is down to earth and has committed large amounts of money to the greater good through the Omidyar Network. Pierre personifies "giving back" and is setting a great example for others. Many of the remaining speakers were inspiring. More to come.
P.S. I did find one geocache at the end of the last day of the conference. It was more of a hike than I expected but rewarding to add it to the "found" list