Davos Launch

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Davos is bright and COLD, and heavily policed, and crowded.  It’s also quite beautiful – just like the postcards.  There are over 2000 attendees at the World Economic Forum, but that’s less than the number of astronomers attending the annual AAS meeting two weeks ago, and yet it’s a lot more crammed.  And then there’s the cloakroom and the need to shed and re-dress in heavy coats and winter foot gear!  I guess there’s a reason that they are building an extension to the Congress Centre.  In the meantime a GPS receiver and lots of practice at geo-caching would be very useful.  Every space is filled with something, there are more convoluted short-cut halls than an Ikea, and at noon delicious food suddenly appears in what was once open floor space.  Lots of human help (lovely young ladies in uniform) available to help figure out the high tech kiosks, answer questions, and act as personal guides.  There are also a moderate number of techies of both sexes to assist with connectivity and printing – in general everybody is smiling, especially those who knew the ropes and registered for the sessions they had interest in as soon as registration opened on Tuesday.  Jack Welch and I were at meetings at the Royal Society listening to Frank Drake give a talk celebrating the 50th anniversary of SETI (and telling Paul Davies that “Yes, the silence is silence, but it isn’t eerie.”).  Today we’ve listened to an eclectic set of sessions – including one on Executive Compensation, and then I got to sing for my supper.

Well my first task here is done, a video show and tell in the ‘Studio’ roon – setiQuest was announced to that room, mostly filled with ‘suits’ here at Davos – let’s see whether I was able to motivate any of them to get involved and join our community.  Dimitar Sasselov from Harvard opened our session on ‘Life on Other Planets’ by talking about the nature of life, and the possibilities of finding it elsewhere.  I followed up with a synopsis of SETI today, and the ways we want to change it to open the search to the world so that they can make it better.  Maybe because I was such a good girl and closed the session by urging everyone to step up to the challenge to RETHINK our relationship to the cosmos, REDESIGN our tools to search for life and technologies, and REBUILD the bonds between Earthlings (can you guess what the theme of this year’s congress is?), they let me get away with giving out a few setiQuest stickers and flashing its URL on the screen.  Official policy at Davos is to avoid self-advertisement.

In a few moments I’m off to an interactive dinner to continue the discussions about ‘’What is life?”.  Me, I’m interested in the post-biologicals.