The New York Times Global Forum by Thomas Friedman

Can also be found on my blog here: karishmamehrotra.wordpress.com

Here are my thoughts after attending the New York Time’s Global Forum hosted by Foreign Affairs columnist Thomas Friedman.

 

I heard about the event through KQED and looked it up online. Interested by the speakers and topics, I decided to give it a chance and request an invitation. I didn’t even really know what to put under organization. Emory? KCBS? PAWeekly? AJC?

 

Surprisingly, I got a ticket … for $250. So I convinced my parents (it helps to anticipate qualms through email before even starting a face-to-face conversation with them – us kids know how to exploit the internet against our parents).

I had no idea what to expect. I have never really been to one of these fancy, adult, sophisticated gigs — only watched the live youtube feed sitting in the comfort of my Batman pajamas.

 

I wore something I thought would be acceptable (again, feeling frustrated that I can’t just put on some generic man-suit that no one will notice).

 

It was definitely a large networking event; business cards galore with the appropriate amount of bathroom small talk. About 200 professionals, wearing large badges. More men than women, more old than young, more white than anything else. But still, I met some very interesting people in completely different industries – teaching, business, tech and journalism.

 

The first thing that surprised me was the Freidman opposition movement on Twitter. I knew he had haters but these trolls were in the audience, professing their passionate disapproval of the man to hashtag heaven. Some of the backlash is merited, some overboard.

 

It seems ironic many people at a conference about hyper connectivity were missing out on the meta-conversation happening on the #nytgf feed (although they did see the carefully selected posts on @FreidmanForum feed being displayed to the left of the stage).

 

I met a semi-”troll” in the women’s bathroom who pointed out that the forum did not tap into  potential dialogue within the audience; we were being talked at, not with. She also had some funny things to say about the other “sophisticated” women in the bathroom, like the one who “went to a Harvard class where everyone was talking about this app called whatsup.” It’s called wazapp. But she went to a Harvard class so she knows better.

 

Surprisingly, many not-so-tech-savvy people surrounded me. I showed the men to my left and right the app Snapchat and even showed one how to get the forum’s twitter feed.

 

But the highlights of the day were speaking to Thomas Friedman during my lunch hour and Quentin Hardy during the reception. I asked both of them advice for an aspiring journalist. Friedman said “write, write and (dramatic pause) write.” He also mentioned how long-form journalism still matters and how he doesn’t spend much time on Twitter (I would know, he doesn’t respond to any of my tweets – Quentin re-tweeted me, Tom.) He also somehow slipped in how he doesn’t pay attention to his critics (“I don’t know if you have looked me up on Google but there is a lot … you have to look past the noise.”)

 

I was surprised that a journalist doesn’t take a look at his critics comments. But then again, when your column consistently makes it to NYT’s most-emailed, who gives a shit?

 

As for Quentin, he was able to talk to me for much longer. It’s important to not get married to any one platform but to find one passion, he said. And then he talked extensively about globalization and how nation-states will become problematic. He really stressed that I needed to promote myself constantly.

 

My next highlight would be the Bits Blog panel. I wish I had a chance to talk to Nick Bilton.

 

Favorite points of the day with some of my responses:

 

“What historians will look back and say was the biggest thing will be the merger of globalization and IT.” – Tom

 

“What does it mean? … If the whole world is a math class, the whole global curve just rose.” We can’t be average any longer – Tom

 

   - how is that different from the revolutions of the past?

 

To be good in this world, be obsessive with peripheral vision – Moises Naim

 

“To adapt to this world … think like a new immigrant … paranoid optimists.” – Tom

 

  – when my mom heard this, she told me that now I finally understand my parents

 

Robots are not the replacement of humans, but the amplification of human capabilities. – Cynthia Breazeal

 

       - I don’t know if I’m convinced. Cynthia is ONE person with a moral compass in the development of robots. Who

says all the developers will/do feel the same way? Most humans won’t be part of the dialogue so the outcome depends on those with an impact.

 

Robots are lousy at ideation. They are answer technology not question technology – Andrew McAfee

 

        – will that change?

 

“The best thing about being a reporter is that you don’t have to speculate. That’s for the visionaries.” – John Markoff

 

       - but isn’t that what reporters do all the time?

 

“I also cover Yahoo! … which makes my life depressing.” – Nicole Perlroth

 

       - nicole seems really, really cool.