Monday, June 22, 2009

Inspire Innovation: From the Caves to the Stars: Art and Technology Define What It Means to be Human

From the Caves to the Stars: Art and Tech- nology Define What It Means to be Human

By Richard Power

At the conclusion of the afternoon program, attendees rode on buses to the Computer Science Museum for “An Evening of Impact and Imagination.”

In a compelling talk, Raymond J. Lane, Managing Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufeld & Byers and University Life Trustee and Campaign Chair for Carnegie Mellon offered poignant insight on Carnegie Mellon’s national impact from his own life story.

When Lane was a boy, his father, an executive in the steel industry back in Pittsburgh, attended night school at Carnegie Mellon.

“He would work all day, then he would have dinner with us, and then he would go upstairs and study all night … And he would explain to me that what was going on at Carnegie Mellon was possibly the development of a whole new industry that would be more exciting, higher growth and might be an industry that would attract me more than the steel industry.”

And indeed, throughout Lane’s information age career, he has drawn on the university’s wellspring of talent.

“After leaving IBM and EDS, I spent twelve years with Booz Allen, I spent eight years with Oracle and I have spent eight years with Kleiner Perkins. The most important thing that I have done in all three of these endeavors is to find talent, to have a pipeline of talent. And in all three of them, a management consulting company, a software company and a venture capital company, Carnegie Mellon has been my number one source of talent … So much more analytical, so much more practical …”

Apple Inc. Vice President Edward H. Frank (S’85), also a University Life Trustee, underscored Lane’s message with an observation from his own experience.

“Many of you who are at these companies have heard the expression ‘Carnegie Mellon Mafia.’ Microsoft has one, Apple has one, Sun has certainly has one, Google … The talent level is so extreme that we kind of all congregate together, smart people like to talk to other smart people.”

Frank moderated a panel of experts on the inter-relationship of Art and Technology:

Ralph Guggenheim (HS’74, S’79), CEO of Alligator Planet and Founding Member of Pixar Animation Studios

Richard Hilleman, Creative Director of Electronic Arts, Inc.

Golan Levin, Director of Carnegie Mellon’s Studio for Creative Inquiry and an Associate Professor of Electronic Arts

Jessica Trybus (MET’04), Edutainment Director of Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center and CEO of Etcetera Edutainment.

In framing the evening’s theme, Frank said, “If you look back millions of years ago at how humanity evolved, it seems that there are two things that human beings did that make us uniquely human, we develop technology, to help us hunt and help us eat, and that makes a lot of sense; but then we does this other thing … we make art … Carnegie Mellon is a unique institution, because it has great strengths in both of these areas. The crossover between Art and Technology is stronger than ever.”

At the end of the panel session, Beverly Wheeler, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C. State Board of Education, and President-elect of the Carnegie Mellon Alumni Association, surprised Ralph Guggenheim by presenting him with the Alumni Award.

The evening’s discussion was a reminder that although there is more to life than advancing technology, e.g., the fine art, even in the pursuit of these other riches, technology has become a vital element of success, and furthermore, that Carnegie Mellon is at the forefront of both pursuits.