Kraig Farkash: Emerge is … a reengineered petri dish whose occupancy willingly entered its confines by fearlessly climbing to its upmost edge and jumping in headfirst

by Kraig Farkash

After experiencing firsthand the 72 hour Emerge 2013 festival I am still hard pressed to express exactly what just happened. I liken Emerge to a reengineered petri dish whose occupancy willingly entered its confines by fearlessly climbing to its upmost edge and jumping in headfirst. I sincerely doubt that even the curators of Emerge know precisely what this cohesive containment of unbridled creativity will produce. I am equally positive that this temporal unknown is by design.

What better way to celebrate the sciences and the arts while facilitating their potential for the advancement of human kind than Emerge? In mass the event demonstrates that at its core creativity is not merely a function of social status, scholastic achievement or international stardom. Ingenuity is basically a formula comprised of attributes that as a whole encompass the underpinnings of the human condition. Generally speaking those attributes are the compulsion to dream, the resolve to grind out that phantom afterthought and the overarching determination to thrust the fruits of such intimate labors into the void of cavernous, insatiable hunger that feeds on us all – the future.

Although I suspect the impetus of this colossal brain-fest is actually an amusement mechanism for a particular, sizeable intellect (more on Mr. Bruce Sterling in a bit) I do see the fingerprints of brilliance pressed upon every sentient moment that Emerge provides. The Emerge event’s seemingly rudderless, but tempered environment has a truncated lifespan. The tangible pressure of time swiftly fleeting at the instant the festival begins keeps the current moving. Do to the purposeful blurring of various academic disciplines there is only one way forward. That path entails chipping away at those precious moments with the omnipotent tool we have lurking within our skulls. At journey’s end the thought-wealth is disseminated to everyone and everything. A sharp example of “Emerge bounty” is when those who may never have had the chance to do so before discussed the visual properties of color and its relation to a colorblind Cyborg’s ability to hear color (that latter observation is courtesy of Cyborg and Emerge guest, Neil Harbisson).  Arizona State University is at the forefront of this interdisciplinary unification and I cannot honestly say if Emerge is a response to it, the cutting edge of it or if this is all interlocking happenstance. What I can say is that Emerge is a reflection of what the learning environment should be. In that sense Emerge is the future of truth.

We come to truth by various methodologies. One of the most ancient and threadbare seems to be marginalized at all costs in our present society. To achieve truth we first must ask a question based upon what we know. To reach back into the deep recesses of inquisitiveness and demand the unknown to show itself or be forcibly pulled out of obscurity into the forefront of conciseness takes courage. Such an endeavor is best served by allowing all thinkers to do what they do in a single, coordinated effort. Emerge guest Sam Arbesman’s presentation brought forward the phenomena of “hidden knowledge”. As I understood it the theory outlines how it is impossible for any one person to know everything. Due to that certainty knowledge can be lost and thus fractures exponentially. Emerge is the counter weight to that phenomena. The festival endeavors to eradicate the potential for knowledge loss by building the translucent walls of this Emerge shaped petri dish. That structure allows for the once discombobulated to conjoin into something greater than the sum of its parts.

As for my place in all this it is apparent that the nascent “E” that comprises the Emerge logo is now tattooed upon my inner child’s forehead and it kind of hurts…thanks a lot Joel, Ed, Merlyna, Dan and Braden! Then again I am one who believes that the old adage of “stretch and grow” applies to the mind. A manifestation of that truism was borne out in real-time via a chance encounter with the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination’s Visionary in Residence, Bruce Sterling. I had not known of him until we first spoke last Thursday evening over art and cocktails. The boisterous, unabashed beauty of that man’s mind needs to come with some sort of well-endowed, intergalactic warning system. Bruce’s generosity in person is only matched by his light speed tempo when behind a podium and at center stage. Take heed because hanging with Bruce has an affect akin to what I would imagine NASA astronauts encounter when they strap their frail bodies into a G-Force simulation/training contraption in order to ready themselves for the necessary trauma induced by the bone crushing pressures met during actual liftoff. Regardless, I unaffectedly suggest you wing it and say hello to Mr. Sterling should you ever get the chance. Just do so knowing that when chatting with Bruce the probability is great for faces to be stretched, minds to be blown and you may feel a little queasy afterward. At its finale it is alight and worth the likely dynamic recompilation of all you thought you knew pre-encounter because just like attending Emerge the exercise will sharpen your wits and rightly challenge your notions of humanity.

– Kraig Farkash
Windows Infrastructure
Technology Support Analyst Senior
Engineering Technical Services
Arizona State University

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