06/20/2013 12:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Monks, Drones and No Big Data


The Île Saint-Honorat. The monks still live in silence and solitude much as they have since the year 410. They still make wine and honey much as they always have. But much has changed since they first set foot on this beautiful island off the modern coast of Cannes, France.

Beautiful yachts now cruise the azure waters, tourists walk the picturesque pathways and buy their wine and honey at a gift store, and drone helicopters buzz in the air over the boats, piloted by operators in surround-view goggles... WAIT!

Just another day at the monastery?

Not when some 100 passionate creative people attending the 60th Cannes Lions Festival gathered at Stream Cannes 2013 to soak in imaginative ideas, big concepts, new technologies, wild applications, crazy thinking, inspiring entrepreneurialism, mind-boggling innovation, audacious opinions, ingenious originality and just plain-old business resourcefulness... in an atmosphere that no doubt was why the monks came here in the first place and not once did anyone mention Big Data...

Sponsored by WPP, Stream Cannes is an extension of the much-sought-after Stream Unconference gatherings that WPP organizes and stages around the world every year. And, in its second year at Cannes, it proved once again that when unrestricted thinking meets unique concepts in a truly open environment, the mashup goes well beyond the usual panel discussions and more, and the ability to interact up close with some of the world's leading digerati is heady fare indeed.


Think about the collision of possibilities represented by the speakers and session leaders -- their companies and their topics: AOL -- old-new media reinventing itself; traditional new media like Google and Facebook talking about creative storytelling; a newly minted 20-year-old billionaire showing us the Tumblr ethos; a 17-year-old millionaire who created a company that generates news summaries for the mobile world...Summly; a large multinational service provider that uses its foundation to develop its technology to improve people's lives...Vodafone Foundation; a former Obama staffer who is COO of Klout and Obama's digital strategists at Blue State Digital using their political experiences to shape the digital landscape; an incredible new global media company empowering video creators...Fullscreen; start-ups and Duedil sharing insights on new digital opportunities and author Nassim Taleb talking about probabilities and uncertainty...while Bill Buxton of Microsoft Research shared the difference between a true mobile experience that enhances your life and a device experience that doesn't.

And never was the phrase Big Data mentioned.

The common thread -- the lingua franca -- was the realization that digital is about our lives; what we do as human beings day in and day out; adding value to our existence and no longer about the technology and its whiz bang features.

Bottom line -- we didn't solve the problems of the world, cure disease or make world peace, but I daresay we all left believing that we could...

The monks stayed -- we left. They remain unchanged as they have for 2000 years and we left with the drone helicopter... stories to tell... ideas to share... and a firm commitment to open-ended thinking.

And Big Data was never discussed...