I spend today feeling really ill, and it’s not just the wine from the night before (3 glasses over 5 hours is hardly caning it). I think I’m beginning to suffer some kind of information-related malaise. Researching for my interviews, meeting a brace of super-brains, and processing what they are saying (whilst having innumerable new questions piling into my brain) is without doubt a wonderful and inspiring challenge… but I feel like I’ve been asked to compete in some kind of Olympic-level mental Decathlon…. In my short time so far in America I’ve met leading thinkers in robotics, urban development, solar energy, political science and genetics. Before I go home I will meet arguably the world’s two most important climate scientists, a leading neuroscientist and an AI pioneer who’s also building the very first version of Star Trek’s replicator. And I feel sick.
Still, the good news is that the US has changed in a fundamental and joyous way since I was last here some years ago. Some might argue that America is now better to visit because of Barack Obama’s undoubted diplomatic renaissance. But for me, the most important change is that you can now buy a half decent cup of tea. It’s still not a good cup of Yorkshire Tea and some places still operate the bizarre and barbaric practice of offering you only lemon tea and asking if you want cream or warm milk in it – but these outposts of despair seem to be slowly disappearing, at least on the East Coast. I know one thing, and that is that the future, for me, must include strong tea.
I spend the day researching and preparing for my interview with Wally Broecker and Klaus Lackner, in part by reading Wally’s book (co-written with Robert Kunzig) “Fixing Climate”. The book is a story of how we came to understand the contribution of carbon emissions to climate change (and Wally’s key role in facilitating it) as well as advocacy for carbon scrubbing technology invented by Klaus. It’s the only ‘joint’ interview I’m doing.
Colin returns from San Diego in a dilemma. The job looks perfect, he’ll get his own lab, but it would mean leaving his beloved New York. Colin likes a bit of angst – but this tussle is heart vs. head battle of mammoth proportions for the poor man. I feel we’ll be talking about it a lot during my stay.