Tuesday, 13 January 2009

In the company of genius

2009 kicked off properly for me yesterday with a fascinating few hours in the company of genius.

I organised a meeting of minds for a free flowing discussion about a rapidly emerging area of the semantic web called FOAF. It was a bit self-indulgent really because I love hanging out with really, really smart people, in the hope that some of it might rub off :)

To my right sat Professor Nigel Shadbolt former President of the British Computer Society, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web, Libby Miller co-creator (with Dan Brickley) of FOAF itself. On my left sat JP Rangaswami Managing Director of innovation & strategy at BT Design but perhaps better known as the blogger Confused of Calcutta, Luke Razzell, the creator of the acclaimed BlogFriends app on Facebook. At the end of the table sat a group of very smart tech guys from various areas of the BBC and my frightenly bright Garlik tech team were scattered around the room.

Unusually for me, I let the conversation flow in a fairly unstructured way, although my personality type was perched on my shoulder screaming "Impose Order, Demand Structure you weak willed, crazy-sock-wearing, happy-go-lucky hippie". But I resisted, sat back and enjoyed the debate.

It was fascinating to watch and listen to such a group of extremely bright people having a conversation. At one point someone suggested that we do a straw poll around the table on our attitude towards privacy defaults, but I felt obliged to point out that you couldn't assemble a more unlikely and unrepresentative "focus group"!

I have a particular interest in understanding and unleashing gifted people. I am developing a charitable educational project to introduce "gifted and talented" education on a huge scale across Africa. Generally educational projects in African start at the level of putting a roof on a building and providing second hand books and that basic work is essential. But at the other extreme, if we use the same criteria as we use in the UK to identify "gifted and talented" young people (i.e. the top 5% by ability) then there are 20m children across Africa who would receive special attention as being the most gifted and talented if they happened to be born elsewhere. Imagine what might happen if we could unleash them? If those minds were working on Africa's challenges and exploiting Africa's opportunities?

So, I think my theme for 2009 is going to be about unleashing brilliant minds to do brilliant things and act as a cheerleader. WoooHooo. Go Genius. Go Genius (cue pompoms and high kicking).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for recognising that there is genius in Africa. Our family once employed a 17 year old genius who could pick up languages just like that. Not only that, he had such a memory that he could read a book just once and remember its contents from cover to cover. Only thing is he could not write. Not even his name! But he could read. I never understood why.