I've known John Brockman and Katinka Matson, NY book agents extraordinaire, for over 25 years. I first met them when I was the CEO of a software company making tools for visualization and organization of ideas. We called them idea processors. The category eventually was known as outliners. In the mid-80s, there was an idea that software might be like books, with publishers and agents. So the big NY book publishers came to Brockman to see if he could put something together. That's how we met.
They're an odd couple, for sure. Brockman is a Jewish guy with a Boston accent, and a past rooted in 60s counter-culture, but these days he hangs with the richest and most famous of the tech and academic world. His annual dinner at TED (which I have never attended) is thought to be a ticket to party with the elite insiders of tech. Katinka is a statuesque beauty with a fierce intelligence. She is an artist. John often wonders how a guy like him attracted a woman like that. It's part of what makes them such a memorable couple.
I love them because they are so weird and interesting, but also because they encourage me as a writer. I think they genuinely enjoy good writing, especially stuff that reaches into the heart. And while I'm not famous or popular enough to get a ticket to TED, I was profiled in Digerati, their original book, given the title of The Lover. I think that was an inside joke, because at the time I, like Brockman, was dating way above my level. Or maybe it was because in the early DaveNets I wrote about love and respect, a lot. Who knows. Steve Case was quoted saying I was the poet of cyberspace, but I don't think the top guys at Apple or Microsoft thought that about me. And I imagine John Perry Barlow might take exception.
Anyway -- at the end of every year Brockman circulates The Question to an elite list of scientists and tech leaders. I've been on the list for many years, but this is the first year that I wrote an essay. What inspired me? Jay sent me a copy of his essay, and I thought, that looks easy, and a few minutes later I had mine. It's about social connections in the big city, but it's really about intimacy. You see, there I go again writing about people instead of science!
PS: The title of this piece is a play on the name of my high school, which I visited on Monday. Fresh memory.