Web 2.0 Summit videos: Huffington, Musk, Gore

The Web 2.0 Summit wraps up with conversations about the Internet, politics, renewable energy, and space. Here are videos of onstage talks, courtesy of TechWeb.

Zoe Slocum Fomer Senior editor, CNET News
Zoë Slocum joined CNET in 2003, after two years at a travel start-up. Having managed the Blog Network and served as copy chief, she now edits part-time and serves as a mom full-time.
Zoe Slocum
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The Web 2.0 Summit wrapped up Friday with conversations about the Internet, politics, renewable energy, and space. Below are videos of on-stage talks, courtesy of TechWeb.

In a panel discussion in which The Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington is joined by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Democratic campaign organizer Joe Trippi, Huffington argues that "were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not be president," in part because the blogosphere has "an obsessive-compulsive disorder." Trippi agrees that "the (Internet) medium demands authenticity."

In response to Huffington's remark that "politicians definitely need to adjust how they behave," never assuming that they are having a private conversation with anyone in public, New York magazine's John Heilemann says to Newsom, "So Gavin, there's no off-the-record ever again now."

Newsom, who says he is "obsessed with Facebook," agrees: Politicians need to "get over it," he says. "You're on the record. If you get into public life, you should expect nothing short of it."

Continuing their discussion, the quartet focus on how the political spectrum is changing, largely because of the vast exposure to information that the Internet affords. But not everyone can afford to access the Internet regularly, Newsom says.

"We have a huge digital-divide problem," argues the San Francisco mayor, who has been working hard to bring his city municipal wireless broadband. "We are slipping; we are not making any real advancements." Hundreds of thousands of people still rely on network television to gather their political insights, he says.

Meanwhile, Huffington says citizen journalism on the Internet is playing a major role in transforming the lingo and polarization of American politics.

"We are so completely used to talking about right versus left," she says. "It's a lazy way to talk...If you really want to transform politics, you have to transcend these divisions and really define the new center, and I can't really think of anything more important."

For The Huffington Post, at least, "right" and "left" are now "the forbidden words."

Newsom, a Democrat, chimes in: "If you don't want to be part of the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, you better be part of the get-it-done party, and the peril of all of this is that you've got to deliver."

Next up: Web 2.0 Summit moderator John Battelle, head of Federated Media Publishing and longtime journalist, invites serial entrepreneur Elon Musk up to the stage to talk about the three areas Musk identified in college in which he wanted to get involved: the Internet, renewable energy, and space exploration.

Musk acknowledges somewhat smugly that he wasn't confident during college that he'd be able to innovate in the latter two areas; the Web provided the easiest (read: least expensive) endeavor. "I'm more of an engineer than anything else, I guess."

But once the PayPal co-founder could afford to buy himself anything he wants, he says, he started investing in cutting-edge technologies such as solar energy (SolarCity), electric vehicles (Tesla Motors), and space travel (SpaceX).

"The point of Tesla is to get to mass-market electric cars, but to get there, you need to start with something. And if you look at any technology developments, in almost any sphere, you start with something which is expensive," Musk says, referring to the Roadster's current $109,000 price tag. "The first thing is about making the technology work, and then you go from there to optimizing the technology."

Musk points out that, like cell phones and laptops, in their early days, "internal combustion engine cars were considered toys for rich people, because everyone then was riding a horse."

In discussing recent Tesla news regarding fund-raising and layoffs, Musk compares running a successful start-up to running a highly trained military unit. He says taking a "special-forces approach" is necessary to becoming large and successful.

"The minimum passing grade is excellent," he says. It's "the difference between special forces and Army."

Closing the summit is former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who famously went from losing the 2000 presidential election to winning an Academy Award for the global-warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth and a Nobel Peace Prize. He came to the Web 2.0 Summit to talk, at least in part, about Current Media, a Web video company he co-founded that partnered up with Web darlings Digg and Twitter to cover the election last week.

"The Internet democratizes information," Gore says, arguing that Sen. Barack Obama's win had much to do with how his campaign made use of the Web.

Gore also focuses on the motivations behind Web innovation, and he uses a lesson he'd learned from a dog trainer to illustrate his point.

"A puppy has to have a purpose," he says. Likewise, "Web 2.0 has to have a purpose. We have to have a purpose."

As the conversation turns to the collective human purpose of cutting down on pollution and its devastating effects, Gore notes that people generally need a sense of urgency to act.

"The urgency center of the brain is geared to snakes and spiders and fire," Gore says, explaining that people generally require a bit more processing and analyzing, as well as conscious decision making, to react to many other potential dangers. "It needs to be stored in the cloud. It's the aggregate bandwidth that counts...so that we can respond to it collectively."