Huffington, Hastings Highlight CEA Leaders In Technology Dinner



Arianna Huffington and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings spoke, the Federal Communications Commissioners received awards, and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced that International CES attendance through Day 2 is higher than that of the 2010 show’s audited attendance.

Those were just some of the highlights of the annual International CES Leaders in Technology Dinner (LIT), held at the Wynn Hotel earlier this month.

CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro began the festivities by announcing that attendance at this week’s show for the first two days was 132,191, higher than the 2010 show’s first two days of 112,515 and the final 2010 International CES audited attendances of 126,000. By the end of the show, CEA estimated attendance of 140,000.

“That’s a positive sign for our economy,” he told an audience of industry and government luminaries.

But beyond mere headcounts, the 2011 International CES also exudes “a mood of optimism” and introduced a “tremendous amount of innovation,” he said.

Shapiro used the latter point to segue into another pitch for his well-publicized book “The Comeback,” which promotes innovation as a key engine of economic growth.

He noted that the book is “CEA’s book, not my book. I won’t see a dime from it, but I did write it.”

Next Shapiro presented the trade group’s Digital Patriot Awards to four of the Federal Communication Commission’s five members (Commissioner Michael Copps took ill) to acknowledge their National Broadband Plan for freeing up spectrum and meeting growing broadband demand.

In accepting his award, Chairman Julius Genachowski quipped that CES’s attendance figures officially made the show “the largest book launch in history.”

CEA then served up a “fireside chat” between author/ journalist Arianna Huffington and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

Huffington took the stage to share her take on technology’s three most significant trends: social media as the new entertainment; using technology to help others, like the texting-based charity drive to aid Haiti’s earthquake victims; and the need to occasionally disconnect from ubiquitous connectivity.

“We need to unplug and recharge,” she said. “We need a GPS for the soul.”

In her one-on-one interview with Hastings, the Netflix founder revealed that the DVD-distribution company represented “a chance at redemption” after his previous startup, Pure Software, was acquired by its largest competitor, which he equated with failure.

“The humiliation of losing is sobering,” he said. “You can learn a lot from pain.”

Hastings said he prizes creativity over operational discipline and therefore has no vacation or expense policies at Netflix, only “innovation” policies. Employees are encouraged to only work when they want because “structure stifles creativity,” and the company’s novel work rules attract creative people and encourage inventiveness.

The former Peace Corps volunteer added that he continues to work because running Netflix is “pure fun,” while the wealth it generates for him can be channeled into charter schools and education technology, the two pet projects he is most passionate about.

“My dream for society is that all kids get a great education,” he said.

In the dinner’s program there was a reminder that the 2012 International CES will be held a week later than this year — Jan. 10-13 — which is a Tuesday through Friday schedule vs. the more typical Thursday to Sunday format.


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