Brilliant and me

Larry Brilliant

You remember me mentioning the chat I had with Larry Brilliant, the man who helped to eradicate smallpox, at our (The Economist‘s) recent “innovation summit” in Berkeley?

The video of it is now on our site.

It’s about 14 minutes, and after a brief warm-up we talk about how to think about the worst threats facing the world.

As usual, there were some snafus: I had recorded an “intro” and “outro”, but we lost the recordings, so the voice you hear at the beginning and end is not mine. But then it’s me talking to Larry.

Larry is a bit of a Renaissance Man — interested in many things, like The Hannibal Blog — so it took us a bit to focus the conversation. Regrettably, some of the most interesting parts of our chat occurred after we turned off the camera. It turns out that Larry, like me, is fascinated by the Bhagavad Gita and Arjuna, so we discussed that for a long time.

Anyway, if you have 14 minutes and want to be scared, check it out.

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17 thoughts on “Brilliant and me

  1. At least the intro and outro are short. On Meet the Press, the intro is always half as long as the whole show.

    Looks like during the outro you handed him the check for the tea.

    Wordo. Good one. Never heard it before. How about puncho for punching the wrong person?

    I think eradicating carnivorism would be a good start. As we’ve just heard, butchers are potentially dangerous carriers of novel viruses.

    • The Brilliant one said it at 03:26:

      … and in the last century, half a billion people—that’s not a wordo: 500 million people—died of smallpox, more than all the wars in that century…

      Were you present during the interview, or had you pre-recorded your questions along with the intro/outro and then the editor pasted them into the clip? Whose hand is it which hands over this alleged “business card”?

    • Now I caught it. Yes, it’s a great word. I’ll start using it.

      I was sitting across from him during the interview, but our style is not to show correspondents (just as we don’t have bylines in the magazine). Do I find that ridiculous? Yes, moderately. But what can I do?

      Nothing was pre-recorded (believe me, then it would have been more eloquent). AFTER the interview, I recorded a few seconds of intro and outro onto a Flash Mic, but I guess that was erased or misplaced.

      My hand. Can’t you tell? So gorgeous.

    • It just looks like The Economist is a low-budget operation that can’t afford a second camera.

      Before I moved to NYC, my mom and I had a subscription to Vienna’s English Theatre. One of the differences between watching plays there as opposed to at the homegrown theaters was that at the English Theatre, at the end of every play the entire ensemble would come out and bow collectively. No single bows to see which actor gets the most applause.

      I conclude that the British may have a stronger ensemble spirit, which may explain your employer’s distaste for individual bylines.

  2. Fantastic! This was especially timely because I got an e-mail today that had been forwarded about 1000 times telling me that I should not get a flu vaccine because it is plot to kill everyone. The Luddites are alive and well.

    • It is “plot” to kill everyone? What does that mean?

      On another blog, I just read that all one has to do is to connect one’s old computer to the new iMac and it “copes” everything onto the new machine. Is that American slang for “copy”?

      As a non-native speaker, I sometimes honestly can’t tell if I’m looking at a typo, a wordo, or a usage I’m simply not familiar with.

    • At my daughter’s preschool, during flu season, the parents seemed roughly 50-50 split between regarding vaccination dangerous and evil and crucial and necessary.

  3. You are not pessimistically inclined as you suggest in the interview, Andreas, quite the reverse.

    Yes, Thomas, there are very vocal groups who oppose vaccination of all kinds. If I were one of them, the success of the smallpox campaign, and this interview, would be a serious challenge to me.

    It should be mentioned that the smallpox campaign owed much to financial support from organisations like Rotary.

  4. A creative debate, Andreas, and your voice is pleasant, differently I’ll confess from that of the “intro” and “outro” guy (that is not well recorded or he’s kinda stammering).

    And this Larry Brilliant, while I saw him here for the first time (so I read a bit about him,) to me he is the quintessence of a side of North America I like a lot: good nature, good will, optimism, faith that ‘things can be done’ (while in Europe we often get a ‘it can’t be done’ response), a trait I MUCH prefer to ALL our mummy-land history. As Douglas justly observes in my blog, “science should not be solely optimistic”, which I agree upon, but that doesn’t diminish the said trait imo and the person.

  5. Smallpox, a highly contagious disease, is unique only to humans. The smallpox virus is caused by two virus variants called Variola major and Variola minor. Variola major is the more deadly form of the virus; it usually has a mortality rte of 20-40 percent of those that are infected with the virus. Variola minor on the other hand is much less severe and only kills 1% of its victims. Neither of the Variola’s are bugs that you want to get. Avoid them at all costs!.`

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