Video: Actor Alan Alda talks tech with Microsoft's Craig Mundie

Hollywood meets Redmond in a back-and-forth on collaboration and creating giant brains

REDMOND, Wash. -- What happens when a world-famous actor and a research leader at Microsoft Corp. get together to discuss technology? The result at Microsoft's TechFest 2008, held here last week, was an interesting give-and-take between friends.

Alan Alda, known around the world for his long-running portrayal of Hawkeye Pierce on the television series M.A.S.H., sat down for a public discussion of the vendor's technology plans with Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft, during a TechFest keynote presentation.

Alda is also a technology and science enthusiast, and has hosted the series Scientific American Frontiers on PBS for 11 years.

Mundie told the gathering of reporters and Microsoft research partners that the two became friends after talking about technology's impact on business and society. And when it came time to plan this year's annual TechFest event, he wanted to have the same kind of open-ended, shoot-from-the-hip discussion in front of a keynote audience.

TechFest highlights the research that Microsoft scientists are doing around the world.

In the video clip shown here, Alda and Mundie discuss the concept of online collaboration and what it would mean not just to workers in the enterprise but also to students and families. "The step up from communication to collaboration … is going to be one of the transformational things that happens, not just in the enterprise but for everybody," said Mundie.

The discussion between the two men was far-ranging, hitting on the importance of real-time collaboration, the ability to collaborate using one computer or many over a distance, and the social lessons students will learn while collaborating on a project.

"There's a benefit to building a giant brain out of various brains that exist around the world or the brains that exist in the classroom," said Alda. "The smartest kid in the class now has to share some of his brain with the other kids without sitting in the car in the parking lot and letting them copy his homework. This is a much better way to do it."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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