Illustration: Marcos ChinIn February 2010, Jane McGonigal completed another level in her quest to become America's new guru of gaming. She delivered a talk at TED, the annual California conference that's an obligatory stop for anyone peddling a Big Idea, from Al Gore to Bill Gates to David Byrne. McGonigal's was that video games can fix the planet's toughest problems. It's a bold, appealing proposition: Game-addled kids, who spend an average of more than 10,000 hours fiddling with consoles and controllers before they turn 21, could wind up stopping climate change with their PlayStations!
It should come as no surprise that gamers, techies, and Silicon Valley types have been thrilled to have a much-maligned pastime elevated to an altruistic pursuit—and by an exuberant, un-geeky blonde, no less. In the year since McGonigal's TED talk, the 33-year-old director of game research and development at the Institute for the Future, a Palo Alto think tank, has been interviewed by Wired, had an onstage chat with fellow futurist and Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand, and told the New York Times that 2011 will be the year of "unconventional games with real-world impact." O, The Oprah Magazine, put McGonigal on its annual "Power List," suggesting that she deserves a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a pretty good public speaker, but what if he'd delivered his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech with the aid of Microsoft PowerPoint? William Easterly, an economics professor at New York University, has imagined just that, with predictably inarticulate results.
The folks over at Big Think have just posted a recent interview with President Jimmy Carter. (Watch an excerpt below.) They offered MoJo a chance to ask a question of the man from Plains, and we passed the opportunity on to our readers. MoJo Facebook friend Aaron Parr suggested asking Carter about his July 1979 "crisis of confidence" speech, in which he urged Americans to embrace energy conservation and alternative energy sources as a means to kick start the economy and their flagging sense of civic pride. "The solution of our energy crisis," he concluded, "can also help us to conquer the crisis of the spirit in our country."
It's often called the "malaise" speech, though Carter never uttered that word. For better and for worse, Carter's decision to use his bully pulpit to deliver a sober reality check became one of the definining episodes of his single term. Reading the speech today, it's remarkably—and depressingly—relevant. Which prompted Parr to ask the 39th president, "Has America failed to adequately address the problems you laid out in your 1979 'crisis of confidence' speech?"
Watch Carter's full response to Parr's question below the jump. Here's an excerpt, in which he discusses China's ascendency in the alternative energy market and his iPad (!):
We’ve become increasingly addicted to consumption of goods that we don’t produce ourselves, and a lot of the manufacturing has gone overseas…When I was in office, we had the pre-eminent position in the production of alternative sources of energy—windmills, and photovoltaic cells, things of that kind. Now that ascendancy has moved to China. China's the number one producer of new kinds of advanced photovoltaic cells, for instanced. And they are the number one producers of advanced windmills to utilize the power from the sun and directed through the wind. So we’ve lost that edge that we used to have in scientific innovation applications to goods to be sold. In many ways, that is also changing in the electronic field. Almost all of the materials that we use now are of advanced technology, I have an iPad and also an iPod, both of which are made in China. Although we have designed them here with Apple, for instance, they are manufactured overseas.
The new class of congressional Republicans may be the most right-wing ever. But they've already got lots of conservative company on the Hill. A sampling of vote ratings from a handful of groups—nonpartisan, liberal, and conservative—from the past decade shows that GOP lawmakers have been shifting away from the center more dramatically than Democrats or Congress as a whole.