Why @OneQuestionConf was the best event I went to in 2016

tl;dr – One Question Conference is fantastic and you should really try and get to the second event this coming May

tl;dr – One Question Conference is fantastic and you should really try and get to the second event this coming May (tickets are on sale here). Newsletter subscribers can get a 15 discount of the stated ticket price in the next edition (#218).


In November last year, I tweeted this:

It’s been a good three-nearly-four months so I figured now is a good a time as any to finally write up my notes from the inaugural One Question conference.

One Question, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it is, to use its own words:

‘…an event like no other; a focused agenda based on a single topic, with speakers from vastly different backgrounds providing their unique perspectives. There are no slides, no sales pitches; just inspirational stories designed to educate and excite. Designed to challenge the way we think, as people and professionals.’

The ‘one question’ in this first instance was thus:

‘How do we successfully marry technology and humanity?’

The speakers lined up to address this question came from industries such as advertising, music, technology, media, finance, and more.

And everything about it was excellent.

The venue – stunning. The speakers – well curated. The Wi-Fi was reliable (shocking, I know) and it was clear a lot of care and attention had gone into making the event enjoyable, insightful, and, ultimately, successful.

In short: if you missed it, you missed out.

What follows is a rough, three-month-percolated (yet unfiltered) download of the thoughts, quotes, and notes from the day (with occasional additional commentary). On reflection, there aren’t loads of notes and, tbh, that speaks a lot to the quality of lecture from each presenter.

But still. Here are said notes from One Question 2016.


Session One: The Human Perspective

Rory Sutherland on ‘Benign Bullshit’
– aka ‘things that are meaningless’.

‘Economics is psychology dressed up as maths’.

‘Why doesn’t Google Maps show you a journey by scene vs speed?’

This reminded me of being in Exeter a short while before. I can’t remember why. I think a trip somewhere? Maybe a wedding? I can’t recall. Wait, yes, it was a wedding. Anyway, the day after I met my good friend Scott Gould for a coffee and he said, amongst other things, to take a different route home afterwards. ‘Yes it’s 30mins longer but the scenery is beautiful – and you’ll pass Stone Henge!’ – sold.

Session Two: The Future Perspective
Trevor Hardy on ‘The Long View’.

Delayed gratification. Long news. Slow news. Speed is not always good, says Trevor. I tend to agree.

Session Three: The Creative Perspective
Vikki Chowney speaking to tech is nothing without human influence/narrative. Story-telling. Empathy. Land Rover doing a thing on Instagram (I disagree). Cadbury and QR codes. Have you all seen the QR code on the back of a bar of Cadbury chocolate? You definitely have. Scan it next time. See what happens.

Sidenote: some friends and I used to plant easter eggs behind QR codes (silly photos, comments etc) and stick them around London. I might start that again. Ha.

Session Four: The Start Up Perspective
‘You can’t talk to any start-up for more than 30 seconds without them spasmodically yelling ‘DISRUPTION!” – Richard Newton (brilliant). Also, go look up Nancy Tilbury of XO, super interesting.

Session Five: The Editorial Perspective
‘Reclaiming what we’ve lost in a world of constant connection’ – Michael Harris, The End of Absence

‘The lamp of human attention can only shine on one thing at a time’ – I like this.

‘We’re not multi-tasking, we’re lame spasm attention shifters’

‘Checking your Twitter is like picking nits out of your hair’

Session Six: The Media Perspective

Gut instinct or data insight?

Bias in algorithm. You know algorithms have bias, right?

Not many notes on this one. Not sure why.

(oh, I think I had a work call – bugger)

Session Seven: The VR Perspective

Sol Rogers is ace. Go look up VRTogether.org/Rewind (RWD). Retirement VR is being used to help people save more. Google ‘Clouds over Sidra’ – also, VR as medical treatment. And ‘Bravemind: PTSD’ – or VR snowball fights for burn victims.

This sessions is probably the best answer to the question so far.

Questions from the audience:

  • Will technology like this create a bigger societal divide? Maybe. But democratize it and make it as accessible as possible.
  • What about the dangers of dopamine? Will there be VR addiction centres? ‘Yes, probably. But that’s because dopamine is addictive’

Session Eight: The Music Perspective

This session was amazing. Freda Bolza (there’s a Spotify link you need to get, James) took us on a journey of technology + humanity from starting with Bach, then to the invention of the vocoder, then Moroder (legend), and then to T-PAIN. What an AMAZING session!!!

Got a link to that talk/playlist right here.

General Notes:

  • Great Venue
  • Well Cast – good speakers / mix of people
  • Good length of sessions
  • Water, food, and wi-fi – all reliable.
  • Damn this event is fantastic.


So yeah. One Question. It’s pretty damn good.

You should go.