Reality television host and activist RuPaul Andre Charles may be the biggest name speaking during Life Is Beautiful Ideas, but there are noteworthy and interesting talks up and down the lineup happening at Venue Vegas. Here are seven highlights, organized by the personality type most likely to be moved by the discussion.
Science-fiction stories about the future often focus on the new and different, featuring devices we couldn’t even imagine how to create today. But what if, instead, the future looked exactly the same as now—just more interactive?
Dr. Kate Stone has partnered with companies to start down that path, making paper posters that play music on devices based on touch and connectivity. (Sunday, 4:49 p.m.)
The Problem Creator… and Solver
An audience wants to know how the magician does his or her trick. A reader wants to finish The New York Times crossword. David Kwong may have created both magic performances and those NYT puzzles in his dual career, but both of his jobs tap into a very human impulse: to solve. (Friday, 5:46 p.m.)
The Smart Jock
As part of the new wave of fitness entrepreneurs, Joe De Sena turned a love of long-distance events and extreme workouts into the Spartan Race. Today, his races are in countries around the world, and more than 1 million people have taken part—even if they haven’t all finished the strenuous obstacle course. (Friday, 5:13 p.m.)
The Entertainingly Morbid
A “memento mori” is defined as an object that reminds or warns one of death. “The Adventures of Memento Mori,” a podcast hosted by D.S. Moss, is not some sort of omen for the listeners, or a Ring-like indicator of impending doom. Rather, it’s an exploration of our obsession with death in all forms, be it séances, an art series focused on people in hospice or even the science of trying to defeat the Grim Reaper. Let Moss tell you how “remembering to die” can teach one to live. (Sunday, 3:43 p.m.)
Born in the Congo, raised in Belgium and England, and then discovered in New York before moving to Las Vegas, Vital Germaine has seen the world. As a performer in Cirque du Soleil’s Mystère, he danced for thousands of tourists before an unfortunate injury ended his career. He’s gone on to become a motivational speaker and author. (Saturday, 6:22 p.m.)
If architecture influences behavior, how does the architecture of our cities—everything from the roads to the parks—influence our society? Thomas Ermacora is a leading urbanist and futurist deeply involved in place-making, the idea that the decisions to change a city’s infrastructure should only be made after considering the people living in the community and the spaces they share. (Sunday, 5:12 p.m.)
Interviews, at their best, can simply be transcribed conversations, ones that probe a subject to its limit. Esquire writer-at-large Cal Fussman is one of the best at the art, having talked with everyone from Mikhail Gorbachev to Muhammad Ali during his career as a journalist and best-selling author. But asking the right questions—during a job interview, first date or any other life event—can transform a person’s life, whether the answers go into a magazine or not. (Saturday, 5:59 p.m.)