Here's another in a long list of careers to sign up for at this conference: Stuart Brown is a play expert at the National Institute for Play. From the chaotic games of Medieval times to polar bears nuzzling the necks of huskies (instead of chomping on their jugulars), he actually studies play. Most notably, how its absence in childhood leads to violence in grown ups. So think about that the next time your kid is wailing because you told her it's time to put away the Polly Pockets. The reason for this is that play is not only essential for intelligence and developmental behavior, but it's also essential for trust. Brown says the case of the "wooden" Al Gore is a different example of a potentially play-deprived youth (but not in a violent way). This person probably didn't have a whole lot of play in his past--long days spent working, studying and trying to be like dad--but once he got to play around with his slide show....well, you saw the change. So take a cue from Al and think back to your most creative, joyful moment in your past. Start building ideals from that notion into how you live your life now. It should be just as much a part of your life as sleep and dreams.
As principal of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Elizabeth Diller's architecture is all about play--and they sure do like playing with water. Their Blur Building in Switzerland screwed around with weather systems by turning a buildings walls into mist from the lake it sat in. Another art project created a frozen lake made from branded waters from around the world. At the Biennale in Venice this year they're actually going to use water from the canals to make the best espresso in the city (really, you must tell us how that goes). Diller also is working on the High Line, that abandoned elevated railway through Manhattan. Playing with the definition of a public space resulted in their ideas being so vibrantly embraced that starchitects wanted to build near it, celebs like Ed Norton wanted to get involved, and David Bowie had a benefit concert for it...that was actually nowhere near the High Line. And isn't that kind of the measure of success for your entire life? When David Bowie supports you, you can retire, right?
Robert Lang's origami floated around the internet awhile back like paper airplanes sailing in from another dimension. This ain't your eighteenth-century origami, because in the last few decades, origami got discovered by mathematicians. That's right, nerds found out how to fold paper. It's so math-based, you can look at an object and break it down into formulas. You're basically breaking down a piece of paper into a series of flaps, which are really a series of circles, and suddenly you've got a praying mantis devouring another praying mantis. In fact, it's so easy and systematic that Lang wrote a computer program, TreeMaker, that can actually formulate the crease pattern for you.
But origami also has scientific applications like an eyeglass telescope where the "folding" of glass helped its reflection power. How about a stent used to keep an artery opened? The airbag in your vehicle? Origami might save your life! "See," Lang says, grinning. "This actually happens a lot: Things you pursue because they're fun, turn out to have a practical interest."