‘The Atlantic Meets the Pacific’ innovators forum at UCSD


By Ashley Mackin

The 13 participants in this year’s “The Atlantic Meets the Pacific” forum include a video game designer, a campaign manager and several entrepreneurs, scientists and authors. The forum, presented by The Atlantic magazine and hosted by UC San Diego, runs Oct. 7-9 in various venues around campus.

“This gathering is a rare opportunity to enjoy conversations with some of the country’s most cutting-edge thinkers to examine breakthrough innovations in science, energy, health, media and technology,” said Mary Walshok, associate vice president of public programs at UCSD.

Elizabeth Baker Keffer, president of Atlantic LIVE, which organizes the event, said the speakers were chosen because they have made discoveries.

One such speaker is Deborah Brooks, co-founder and executive vice chairman of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Another is Steve Schmidt, who served as John McCain’s campaign manager during his 2008 presidential bid. Schmidt also advised Arnold Schwarzenegger during his California governorship.

DreamWorks Studios partner, co-chairman and CEO Stacey Snider, will also speak. DreamWorks recently produced the films, “The Help,” “War Horse,” and the upcoming “Lincoln.”

Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, whose book “The Tell-Tale Brain,” is a New York Times bestseller, will discuss his role as “the Marco Polo of neuroscience.”

Several scientists in the realm of genomics will make presentations at the forum, too. Eric Topol’s research at the Scripps Research Institute combines genome studies with digital technology to further improve medicine. Spencer Wells is the director of the Genographic Project for National Geographic, which studies DNA patterns around the world to determine human origins. Geneticist J. Craig Venter is founder of the J. Craig Venter Institute.

Keffer pointed out Venter’s storied history in the field of human genetics, and also his current research on algae bio-fuel. “In him, we got a ‘two-fer’ because he’s so well established with the work he’s done in human genetics, but he’s also at the forefront of a brand new field of energy,” she said.

Two of the speakers have published books on how to live happier lives. Tal Ben-Shahar is the author of “Happier” and “Being Happy.” Having taught psychology courses at Harvard and in Israel, he now tours, hosting lectures and workshops on positive psychology. Gretchen Rubin, author of the book and blog, “The Happiness Project,” chronicles her constant pursuit of happiness. The book, which details a year of studying different theories on happiness, is an international best seller.

“I’m very happy to get the chance to exchange ideas,” Rubin said. “The more I talk to other people about happiness … the better able I am to understand the world.” At the forum, Rubin will discuss the small changes people can make to their daily routines to make their lives happier. Her emphasis is being happier at home.

From the field of technology, website and game creators will talk about their innovations.

Ben Rattray founded This site allows members to create petitions to better their communities. The petitions created to date, have been effective in changing or launching laws and policies.

Jessica Jackley is the co-founder of, which allows the public to donate to individual entrepreneurs, giving them the start-up capital they need. donations total more that $300 million over 216 countries.

Chris Cox is product development leader for Facebook. His team is responsible for features like Facebook Groups. Jane McGonigal is the designer of alternate reality games, in which players must address real world problems and find solutions. While archived and outlined online, many of these games are physically played, such as the simulation game, “World Without Oil.”