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Brainstorm Begins


It turns out that Fortune’s Brainstorm 2006 conference is on the record. Also, it turns out, my former Knight Ridder colleague Oliver Ryan, who’s now with Fortune, is blogging with his colleagues.

The backchannel: #brainstorm on for Internet Relay Chat.

Ross Mayfield challenges several of us who are attending to make public the answers we gave to some questions the Brainstorm organizers asked participants. Here are mine:

1. What is the most pressing problem to solve? Why?

Weaning the developed and developing world off of fossil and nuclear fuels and onto clean, renewable and—crucially—decentralized sources of energy. The most evil elements of global politics, as well as global warming, are intertwined with energy policies.

2. Your biggest fear?

I fear that security fears and/or a disease pandemic will curtail our experiments with economic and political liberty just as they are taking hold on a large scale. In America, we may be one terrorist attack away from the Bill of Rights being entirely neutered. We are grossly unprepared for a pandemic, which could easily cause the kind of societal breakdown that leads to dictatorship. I especially worry that Americans are not sufficiently interested anymore in liberty to protect what they may lose.

3. Three global leaders who will set next decade’s course?

George W. Bush (and his successor), Hu Jintao (and successor), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

4. Your most cherished value?


Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is among the first to speak, and she’s eloquent on the threat now being posed to an independent American judiciary. She has “never seen such hostility to judges coming from the legislative branch,” plus some at the executive branch and at state levels.

She cites proposed legislation and polls showing that Americans are suspicious of “activist judges.” She asks, “What’s an activist judge?” Answer: what people who lose in court call the judges involved in the cases.

What the framers had in mind, she says, was a Constitution with a Bill of Rights and a judicial system that could enforce those rights and provisions. This is under a serious threat, she says, and we should all worry about this.

1 Comment on “Brainstorm Begins”

  1. #1 brigitte nacos
    on Jun 29th, 2006 at 6:42 am

    Mr. Gillmor:
    I very much agree with your list of worries and wouldn’t be surprised if other conference participants have similar great concerns. The problem is that we, and many others, agree–but who is acting on this and how? That is the real pressing question. As for retired Supreme Court Justice O’Connor: We would be better off with her still on the bench.