The Atlantic Meets the Pacific (and I Meet Will Wright and Amory Lovins)


SAN DIEGO -- Some days this job is hard. Other days you get to prep for interviews with game designer Will Wright and energy analyst Amory Lovins. These two men have been towering figures in their fields for decades and by some incredible luck, I drew one-on-ones with them both at the inaugural The Atlantic Meets the Pacific conference here in San Diego.

While the Atlantic Live team puts on (or co-produces) dozens of events each year including The Aspen Ideas Festival and Washington Ideas Forum, The Atlantic Meets the Pacific is very near to my heart. Not only is it our biggest foray on my beloved West Coast, but its programming is focused squarely on the future of technology, medicine, and energy. The event kicked off Monday evening with a dinner conversation between our James Fallows and Elon Musk, Paypal cofounder, SpaceX CEO, Tesla Motors CEO, and SolarCity Chairman.

Tomorrow, there's a wide-ranging lineup of presenters from Deepak Chopra to Pullitzer Prize-winning author and oil analyst Daniel Yergin. Check out the packed program yourself. I also love that we're doing lab tours in the afternoons. This seems like it will be a conference that gives you the sense that people are doing things to solve big problems rather than simply reinforcing that deep quandaries exist.

As for my interviews, I couldn't be more excited to talk with Amory Lovins about his new book, Reinventing Fire, at lunch Tuesday. His book is nothing less than a blueprint for reinventing the entire energy system over the next 40 years from transportation to buildings to electricity generation. Lovins has been brilliant ever since he started needling the establishment in the 1970s. He is particularly good at taking whatever the "Washington consensus" about a particular topic is and thinking through all of its implications. That kind of thinking can shake even true believers in a given technological path. Lovins did so with the nuclear industry in his groundbreaking book, Soft Energy Paths, 35 years ago, and I think he's done it again with fossil fuel infrastructure in his latest book. Except this time around, Lovins has been seasoned and tempered with decades working with businesses to improve their products and processes.

Will Wright, creator of SimCity and The Sims, may be the best game designer of all time. He has a fervent following, too, that (judging by my Twitter followers) is fascinated by the emergent complexity of his games. From the simplest requirements and smallest actions, deep interactions arise unscripted. The whole experience seems strikingly life-like, requiring the player to balance, not dominate. Somehow it seems like Wright may have life lessons for how to navigate our own overwhelmingly complex world.

If you're here in San Diego, do say hello. If not, stay tuned for more coverage from the whole Atlantic team.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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