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Considering Summit at Sea.

Midday on Sunday. My left sock, which started the day white, is being darkened by the small trickle of blood running down my leg. There are an awful lot of small lizards in the undergrowth, and the rustles of their darting back and forth is the only sound I can hear. About a mile away, at the other end of the island, there are hundreds of people, but I wouldn’t know it if I hadn’t walked past them about half an hour ago.

cococay tree sm Considering Summit at Sea.You join me on Little Stirrup Cay, in the Bahamas, for the third and final day of the Summit at Sea. The current solitude isn’t really in keeping with the overall experience, but, for me, this is the moment when the whole thing starts to make sense.

Offshore the Celebrity Century is parked, or stationed, or anchored, or whatever one does with an astoundingly large boat when one wants to leave it somewhere. It’s been home since we boarded on Friday afternoon. Not that boarding felt like the beginning of things: that was late on Tuesday, when I found myself sharing a house in Miami with a wonderful group of people. We stood by the barbecue at two in the morning, talking about black holes, string theory and the holographic universe. After that came meetings, dinners and assorted gatherings, all underpinned with themes of entrepreneurism, philanthropy and varying degrees of social good.

What do I need to tell you about Summit at Sea, in order for this to make sense? Let’s see… It was an invite-only event, which “builds a community of global innovators and thought leaders to affect positive change,” in the words of the organizers. It’s also been described as “Davos for Generation Y”. In this year’s incarnation around one thousand CEOs, non-profit founders, designers, producers, writers, actors, musicians, oceanographers, sportspeople, doctors, politicians, and more all came together on a cruise liner for talks and activities, both scheduled and serendipitous.

(Aubrey de Grey and I gave a talk about the mission of SENS Foundation on Saturday afternoon, which is why I was invited, if you were wondering.)

But back to Sunday… I’m on the nature trail on the island, rather wishing I had a bottle of water with me, and reflecting on the decisions which have brought me to this point in my life. And it occurs to me, that this is really the heart of the Summit. Despite their diverse backgrounds, everyone is here because of the decisions that they have made: about their careers, about the goals they wish to pursue, about their place in the world, and, indeed, about how that world should look. Those choices may be in the past, but Summit is about creating an environment for the construction of new trajectories; an environment for new decisions.

With such a potential to be deeply egoistic, if not downright solipsistic, it’s heartening that so much of the conversation was about enabling others to take control of their lives – to give them wider opportunities to take their own decisions – through better education, access to healthcare, improved connectivity and infrastructure, and ongoing support. As ever, there were disagreements about the interplay between profit motive and pure philanthropy, but there was real engagement with the topic, and the positions, whilst varied, were generally predicated on a shared desire to achieve real, effective change.

As well as rejuvenation biotechnology, I took another idea with me to Miami, one in keeping with the overarching ethos of the Summit. (A way to help people understand the complexity of the world around them, by creating a unified ecology of users and content providers across the internet. Since you ask.) Talking to potential collaborators and funders I arrived at two conclusions which, in themselves, made the whole trip worthwhile for me.

First, if you feel that you’d rather fail at what you’re doing than succeed at something else, you’re definitely on the right track.

Second, if you believe in your idea then assume others will too: you’re not begging them to support you, you’re offering them an opportunity to work with you on something amazing. (But don’t get cocky, kid.)

Oh yes, Sunday… I’m bleeding amongst the lizards of the Bahamas, but it’s nothing serious, just a slight abrasion from a rock, suffered as I knelt to take the picture above. Thirty minutes later I’m back with new friends, cleaned up and sporting a chic little sticking-plaster. One final afternoon and then it’s definitely time to put the wider world aside for a while and dance on deck as the sun sets.

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There’s a gallery of pictures which I took over on Facebook. If you want to read more about the events of the Summit try the links below. And if you want change the face of medicine through rejuvenation biotechnology, or use the internet to harness the intelligence of the world (and not just its information), or do both… Well, you know where to find me.

Letters From Sea: A Recap of This Weekend’s Summit at Sea Conference by Lisa Katayama on Fast Company
Rocking an Anchored Boat – Summit at Sea by Caroline Scheinfeld on The Zelkova Blog
Summit At Sea by Jonny on the Eclectic Method blog
Summit at Sea! on The Scene Bisnow
Summit at sea: Entrepreneurs swimming with sharks by Cool Green Science Blog from The Nature Conservancy
Summit at Sea: the entrepreneur schmooze cruise of the year by Courtney Boyd Myers on TNW
The Roots Keep Summit At Sea Rocking, Blown Speakers And All by Steve Bertoni on Forbes
To infinity and beyond, on a party cruise by Caroline McCarthy on cnet News

Tell the world.

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Comments

There are 3 comments for this post.

  1. Cyrus Radfar April 14, 2011

    Nicely said. Enjoyed the story-telling. Didn’t expect it and it was a nice departure from the other articles news form.

  2. dan peguine April 14, 2011

    That’s a beautiful recap of Summit. Thanks.

  3. Micha Elyi April 20, 2011

    Davos for Gen Y? Naah, more like the Gen Y’s version of the Bohemian Club – complete with a stay in the woods.

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