Wired magazine editor-in-chief speaks on campus
by James Wilt
The audience’s chatter didn’t dwindle as Chris Anderson entered Ross Glen Hall. If a gaze was even briefly distracted, one may have completely missed him being casually introduced to Mount Royal University president Dave Marshall.
Within minutes, the two men — who both represent incredible innovation in their respective fields — were conversing like old friends. The text, “ideas so big, it will blow your mind,” illuminated a screen behind Anderson.
Anderson proceeded to convincingly silence the crowd over the next 55 minutes as he shared his thoughts on the new business economy and the third industrial revolution.
Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine and known business thinker, was at MRU on Jan. 28 to speak as a part of the University’s “Legacy of Ideas” series. His speech was based on the article “In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits,” which appeared in Wired magazine in January 2010.
Anderson highlighted the recent growth of open-source technology and the democratization of manufacturing; essentially, that the tools of production are now available to the consumer.
Alex Bruton, Mount Royal business professor, attended the event and said: “His model implies that if you jump 35 years ahead, you might be looking at a device-maker on your desk where you download the blueprints and get a new water bottle or a new car. There is the long-term potential for something like that and it’s important that we’re discussing those things that Anderson brings them to life.”
Lara Unsworth, Mount Royal centennial strategist, said Anderson was brought to the university because he exemplified the traits of progressive thinking, relevance and potentially controversial and stimulating ideas. She added that Calgarians had never had the opportunity to see Anderson speak live as it was his first visit to the city.
Prior to the official event, a small group of Mount Royal business students had the opportunity to engage in a question and answer session with Anderson. There, the speaker told the students his view of the role of universities today in a world where free courses are delivered online. “You’re learning how to learn,” Anderson said.
“You’re learning rigour. You’re learning to do research. You’re talking to people, and (you’re) incentivized to create a foundation of intellectual curiosity, which will then be fed with knowledge and information for your whole life — not just in university.”
Marshall said he hopes the university can be that sort of intellectual commons where people’s ideas can be “stretched, challenged and questioned, and that they can get the knowledge they need in order to actually nurture and spawn their own ideas.”
Following his evening talk, Anderson said that undergraduate students are some of the least productive members in regards to new ideas like open-sourcing. “We actually find that once people start thinking for themselves and following their passions; they then become much more productive,” Anderson said.
According to Anderson, true productivity begins in graduate school, and culminates in the retired demographic.
“This conversation’s important for Calgary and Mount Royal to be having,” said Bruton, summarizing Anderson’s visit. “We’re a very innovative campus, and there are a lot of future leaders here whom it’s important for them to be thinking this way.”