EXPONENTIAL CHANGE THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
The idea for the Telluride Tech Festival came from deep within the soul of my computer. Like so many other people, once I discovered the internet and the World Wide Web on my computer, I was completely captivated. I’d spend days on end exploring. I’d find a thread and follow it until I was exhausted.
My curiosity led me to delve into the history of how computers were invented and how the internet came to be and ask: What is the World Wide Web, where did it come from—did someone invent it?
I read story after story about how the computer was invented and was fascinated by the people and personalities. I read up on the people that gave us the internet and how it came to be and again found them to be intriguing and then I found that there was just a guy that one day invented the World Wide Web and I thought that these people were heroes, true, living heroes.
Not unlike, Telluride’s own, L.L. Nunn who had moved to Telluride in the 1880’s and built Telluride’s first bath tub, managed mines, owned the Bank, the newspaper, brought the train to town, built the dam at Society Turn and later at Trout Lake, incorporated Sawpit, built the First National Bank Building (Nugget) and along with Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse changed the world by building the world’s first alternating current power plant in Telluride in 1891. Nunn, who did the only thing in the history of Telluride that will ever be remembered in five hundred years, built the power plant to save Telluride from economic disaster and failure. Nunn went on to launch the Telluride Institute to educate young men in the field of electrical engineering, started a college within a college at Cornell with the Telluride House and later started Deep Springs College on the California/Nevada border---all of which are going strong today. (www.deepsprings.edu) (www.tellurideassociation.org).
I had long know about Nunn and his accomplishments in Telluride, but now I understood that Nunn had done something as important and paradigm shifting in his day by bringing AC electricity to the people as had the inventors of the Information Age. There were just too many similarities to ignore. Plus, the idea for all of this had come to me while I was sitting in my office in Nunn’s First National Bank Building which my wife and I had purchased in 1999 with our friends, Bill and Katrine Formby from Austin, Texas for purposes of saving it, preserving it and restoring it.
I decided that I wanted to get to know the people who changed all of our lives while we were just going on living. What better place to have such a gathering of the greatest technology and scientific minds in the world than Telluride and Telluride could meet them and learn from them and maybe it would make a difference in the town and the people.
Through the years, there were some of us in Telluride with long histories here that realized that our generation had built a community that a lot of people thought was grand and we all heard the statements of people who said, “It could have turned out a whole lot worse,” or “It’s my favorite mountain resort.” However, we were like the person that lovingly built a house, a dream house, that looked grand on first appearances and initial visits, but one in which, we saw mistakes—little cracks, the unfinished corner, the view from the living room that fell just short of sweeping and magnificent. The mountain views and the beauty were magnificent, everyone said so, but that was the part that nature had given us. How would the house that we built compare and would it endure the tests of time and would it be studied and revered by future generations like great architecture or great art.
The Achilles heel of the mining era was economics—Telluride was a one horse economy and when outside factors like the price of silver or the cost of energy fluctuated, Telluride paid a heavy price. The historical lesson was that we needed to diversify our economy and when the going got rough that technology could save us.
I dreamed of think tanks, and technology schools, and rewarding, interesting and challenging jobs for our people and inspiration for our children all in a place I loved and a place I wanted to continue to live and be proud of. Rather than just another pretty face ski resort where we entertained people, we’d be great not mediocre or short-sighted. We’d build an economy that wasn’t overly dependent on real estate, construction and growth, tourism, skiing, or the whims of people that did not live here. We build a place where our children and their children would live.
Through my involvement with both the Telluride Film Festival and Telluride Mountain Film Festival, I knew that if you invited people to come to town during the summer and agreed to pay their way and give them an award they would come.
I got together with John Matthews, who had moved to Telluride after completing college and whose family we knew well and were close with, and told him about the idea and I asked him to join me in producing the event. He was as excited about technology and science and the dream of the future as I was and quickly agreed. Next we picked a date and we were off.
TESLA COIL DEMONSTRATION IN FRONT OF COURT HOUSE
But who to invite as honorees and special guests? After learning more about the internet and who were the unsung heroes that deserved recognition for their contributions which weren’t about money, I decided on our first invitee to be Richard Stallman, the founder of the free software movement. Richard believed that the information age should be available to everyone and that we should be able to freely share programs, information, and knowledge without having to pay for it, or ask permission from government or big business. He had recently won a McArthur Genius Award which gave him enough money to rent his first apartment in Boston. He had been living in the computer lab at MIT for years and sleeping on the floor of his cubicle where he fell when too tired to go on programming for GNU. The Linux operating system came from the simple ideas of the free software movement started by Richard Stallman.
FOUNDING PARTNERS OF TECH FEST: JOHN MATTHEWS AND SCOTT
I found Richard’s email on the web and wrote to him and invited him to be an honoree at our First Telluride Tech Festival. He responded immediately accepting. His reply was short, it said, “I am honored. When and where to you want me.?”
The belief, that we are all connected and that working together is superior to each of us hoarding our information is something I believed in. In farming, when one farmer came up with some innovative solution to a problem it was readily and freely shared with the other farmers and neighbors. The individual farmer could only succeed if the community of farmers succeeded. Taking care of one another and freely sharing information is in the best interest of everyone was how I was raised. Mix in some honesty, integrity and some hard work and you have something.
The next person was easy, it would be Ray Kurzweil. Ray was a very interesting person and had just published his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines which was the best selling science and technology book in the country. He was known as a visionary that had attracted the attention of Presidents and technology leaders around the world. He had won the Westinghouse Science Award as a high school senior in 1963. He had made a computer, and programmed it to write music. He had been on the Steve Allen television show, “What’s My Secret”. I had actually seen the show and remembered it. Ray played the music which his computer had written on the piano and the panel had to guess the rest, which they did. He went on to invent the first computer to read books to the blind which had been a personal request of Stevie Wonder who told Ray that the worst part about being blind was not being able to read non-Braille publications like newspapers, magazine, current novels and the like without the help of someone else. In the process, Ray had invented flat bed scanners, word recognition software and speech recognition software, or the voice.
I had recently read his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines which was a futuristic book about the Information Age and what we, as humans, could expect over the next fifty years. And, it was mind-blowing and controversial. So, I sent off an invitation to Ray and a few days later I received an email back from him accepting.
Well, no turning back now.
SCOTT BROWN GIVING OPENING WELCOME 2004
We wanted three honorees for our first year and decided that John Perry Barlow would be a perfect.
I met Barlow on the internet. He was charming, super intelligent and just about as close to a Telluride character as I’ll think we’ll ever see at Tech Fest. He immediately “got it”. He was a founder of one of the first ISP’s which was also one of the first chat rooms, The Well. He was the founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation with Mitch Kapor (founder of Lotus) and John Gilmour (Sun Micro) which was established to protect the right of individuals on the internet and World Wide Web and was a contributing editor to Wired Magazine and lyricist for the Grateful Dead and formerly a rancher in Pinetop, Wyoming where not only the Grateful Dead gathered but where John Kennedy Jr. spent his summers.
Barlow also accepted so we were on for August 10, 11, 12, 13, 2000 for the First Telluride Tech Festival.
The kicker we dreamed up was to tie the Tech Fest to our three historical honorees: L.L. Nunn, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse and to add an exclamation point—we’d have a live, free Tesla Coil demonstration on Main Street.
It was all really fun. We hired old friend, Nana Naisbitt as executive director and our daughter, Anna Brown was Program Director and Karen Brown, John Matthews and I just did whatever needed to be done.
Through the years, the event has really turned into a family affair. Karen hosts all the different functions and keeps an eye on the budget and lets me know where I need to be. Both of our daughters have had multiple tours as Executive Directors and our son, Tucker has taken over organizing all the banquets, dinners and lunches.
Plus, we have filmed it all for future generations to enjoy. Telluride Tech Fest: The Movie will be out one day.
SIR ARTHUR CLARKE PANEL: (L TO R: JILL TARTER, SETI; NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT; LEWIS BRANSCOMB, SCIENTIST; ARTHUR CLARKE, AUTHOR; CHARLES TOWNES, NOBEL LAUREATE AND INVENTOR OF THE LASER; FREEMAN DYSON, PHYSCIST, AUTHOR; BRUCE MURRAY, FOUNDER WITH CARL SAGAN PLANETARY SOCIETY, JPL CHAIRMAN.
Following is a list of Honorees, special guests and Board members:
RICHARD STALLMAN: Founder of the Free Software Movement and Gnu. MacAarthur Genius Award and Tekada Prize ( Japan’s highest technology award, MIT Media Lab.
RAY KURZWEIL: Inventor of the first computer to read books to the blind, inventor of the flat bed scanner, and first word recognition software and speech recognition software. Also, inventor of first digital musical instrument to pass the blind test, the Kurzweil Electronic Organ. National Medal of Technology winner (America’s highest technology Award), Inventor Hall of Fame, Author of The Age of Spiritual Machines, Fantastic Voyage, and The Singularity is Near. Ray has appeared on PBS, NBC and is regularly heard on NPR.
JOHN PERRY BARLOW: American poet, essayist, retired Wyoming rancher, political activist, Grateful Dead lyricist, founder of EFF with Mitch Kapor and John Gilmore, Berkman Fellow at Harvard.
DANNY HILLIS: Inventor of the “Connectivity Machine” which connects PC’s together to create super computers. Founder of the Long Now Foundation with Stewart Brand.
LEWIS BRANSCOMB: Telluride resident and former Chief Scientist at IBM, Past Director of the National Bureau of Standards, Former Chairman of the Presidential Space and Science Committee, former Chairman of NSF, winner of Vannevar Bush Award and Professor Emeritus of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and National Science Advisor to three presidents of the United States.
JILL TARTER: Director of the search at SETI Institute. Ph.D. in astrophysics from Cornell University.
NICK DEWOLF: Founder of Teradyne Corp with Alex D’Arbeloff. Inventor, wizard, and inspirational friend.
SEAN PARKER: Inventor, business and co-founder of Napster and Plaxo.
JOHN DVORAK: Contributing Editor at PC Magazine for twenty years. Winner of eight National Writing Awards and known as America’s most influential technology columnist.
DAVID CLARK: One of nine members of the ARPANET Team that invented the Internet. Senior Research Scientist at MIT Computer Lab.
VINTON CERF: Co-Chair of ARPANET that invented the internet. National Medal of Technology winner. Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.
TIM BERNERS-LEE: Father and inventor of the World Wide Web. Chairman of the World Wide Web Consortium based at MIT.
ALAN KAY: Team leader at PARC when the PC was invented and inventor at Apple when the MacKintosh was invented.
MURRAY GELL-MANN: Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics for the discovery of the Quark. Professor of Physics at Caltech and founder of the Santa Fe Institute.
ARTHUR C. CLARKE: Famed Sci-Fi author with more than 100 million books sold. Screenwriter of 2001 Space Odyssey and inventor of geosynchronous communications satellites. Knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
TOD MACHOVER: Director of Music at MIT Media Lab. Inventor of “hyperstring instruments” and composer of symphonies.
GALE ANNE HURD: Famed movie producer and inventor of the “Event Film”. On the Board of Women in Film, The Ocean Conservancy, and Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences and founder of Seakeepers.
CHARLES TOWNES: Inventor of the laser and maser and Nobel Laureate in Physics, former Provost of MIT and presently, University Professor at Berkely. National Medal of Science winner, National Inventors Hall of Fame and Engineering Hall of Fame.
FREEMAN DYSON: Former Chairman of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. Author of numerous science and technology books.
BRUCE MURRAY: Chairman and co-founder of the Planetary Society with Carl Sagan and Louis Friedman. Former Chairman of Jet Propulsion Lab and team leader of numerous Mariner missions. Professor of Planetary Science at Caltech.
MANUELL CASTELLS: Professor of Communications and Annenberg Chair at the University of Southern California. Author of The Rise of the Network Society.
STEVE WOZNIAK: Inventor and co-founder of Apple Computer and National Medal of Technology winner.
LARRY SMARR: Founding director of the National Center for Super Computing, founding director of California Institute for Telecommunications and Information at UCSD and UC Irving.
DAVID GERROLD: Science Fiction award winning author. Wrote the most famous Star Trek episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles.”
DAVID SINCLAIR: Associate Professor of Pathology at Harvard. Co-discovered the longevity gene and lead researcher in extending life-span through the use of reserveratrol which is linked to caloric restriction.
VINCENT MAI AND DAVID SINCLAIR DURING A LUNCH BREAK
ERIC ALLMAN: Computer wizard that invented sendmail the precursor of email. Proponent of the free software movement and GNU/Linux.
EVI NEMETH: Famed Computer Science Professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Proponent of UNIX and GNU/LINUX.
BOB SPROULL: Graduate of Deep Springs College which was founded by L.L. Nunn. Cornell University Professor of Physics, Provost and President of Rochester University and founder of DARPA.
BOB STEIN: Founder of the Voyager Company and producer of the first commercial grade CD-ROM and Director of The Institute for the Future of the Book.
ROBERT WINTER: Director and Professor of Music at UCLA. Co-founder of the Voyager Company and producer of CD-ROM Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.