New York's Rising Tide Summit lifts many minds

NEW YORK -- Will computers make humans less intelligent over time? Why is Internet access in public schools so crucial?

NEW YORK -- Will computers make humans less intelligent over time? Why is Internet access in public schools so crucial? How's the Web inciting a revolution in Latin America?

These were just some of the questions addressed at The Rising Tide Summit, a conference and schmooze-fest held Monday that brought together representatives from business, the arts, technology, education and government to discuss: "Who Has the Power in An Increasingly Networked World?"

'There's probably a lot more we can do ... than just make money.'
-- conference organizer Jason Calacanis

Approximately 300 people -- many representing pockets of New York's Silicon Alley scene -- turned out to rub shoulders with Internet innovators such as Tom Evslin, CEO of IP telephony startup ITXC, Cheryl Faver, founder of the Web-savvy Gertrude Stein Repertory Theater and Bert Ellis, president and founder of iXL, an interactive agency known for its deep pockets and acquisitions record.

William A. McDonough, Dean of the University of Virginia School of Architecture, George Dyson, author of "Darwin Among the Machines" and Noel Godin, comic terrorist and organizer of the highly publicized Bill Gates pie-throwing incident also talked about how technology is changing the world.

The eclectic confab, organized by the Silicon Alley Reporter, a monthly magazine that covers the digital scene in New York and Los Angeles, attracted a cell-phone carrying crowd that appeared to welcome a forum far unlike the hardware-intensive computer shows that often come to New York.

More than money
Indeed, instead of taking up residence at the mammoth and impersonal Jacob Javits conference center, the summit was held amidst the elegant white marble columns and soaring ceilings of the 194-year old New York Historical Society.

"There's probably a lot more we can do on the Internet than just make money," noted Silicon Alley Reporter publisher and conference organizer Jason Calacanis who warning the crowd away from usual Internet conference fare -- such as Web advertising techniques, e-commerce tactics and the most notable Internet IPOs.

Instead, streaming audio pioneer Andrei Rasiej invited a group of public school students who do not have access to computers to share their thoughts about the Internet. Rasiej's point: Students are future customers and employees, so Internet companies must invest in them by helping to get public schools online.

More PCs, less smarts?
Computer historian George Dyson offered up the theory that human beings may become less and less intelligent over time given our growing tendency to rely more and more on computers. He suggested computers will be used increasingly to make long-term decisions regarding human life.

Fernando Espuelas, CEO of Star Media, an Internet company targeting Latin Americans, described how the Internet is changing Latin America's traditional power structures. He described the Net as bringing the source of "uncontrollable wave of democracy," and confidently predicted it will be the dominant medium among Latin American's in the years ahead.