What is the Eris Society?
Eris is the Greek goddess of discord, whose golden apple was marked Kallisti "to the fairest". The squabble over this apple created the jealousy that led to the Trojan War. We have adopted that name to describe a group of free thinkers who meet once a year to discuss the arts and sciences, philosophy and theology and any other subject which may lead us to the world of ideas beyond our workaday lives.
The Eris Society is a unique organization, if it can be called an organization at all, since it actually has no formal structure. It is not incorporated, is not a partnership, is owned by no one in particular. We pay no dues and have no bylaws or voting. Rather, it belongs to those who are invited to its annual gathering.
The Eris Society was started in 1981 when Doug Casey (pictured left), a best-selling financial writer (The International Man, Crisis Investing), decided to invite a few of his friends to a party at his home in Aspen. In subsequent years, the original invitees expanded the gathering by inviting other individuals who enjoy sharing ideas on a wide range of topics.
Eris gatherings are opportunities to meet some of the most interesting people in the world. They are a broad spectrum of individuals who have distinguished themselves in their fields: film producers, doctors, scientists of all persuasions, historians, artists, philosophers, educators, multimillionaires and hobos (at least one anyway). All are in regular attendance. Well over fifty percent of our attendees are published authors and many publish newsletters.
In other words, Eris is an annual gathering of friends and their guests, those with whom they feel they would enjoy the stimulus and challenge of such a gathering. In the spirit of Eris, we maintain a discordant, non-mainstream bent in our talks. We don't just want to hear folks with whom we agree. We seek out speakers with controversial ideas -- ideas which they are willing to defend in front of about 125 friendly, skeptical, eclectic and intelligent listeners, and vice versa. We don't have "gurus" who address a "peanut gallery." Almost all attendees are gurus in their own right.
The essence of Eris has always been to give people who should know each other an opportunity to meet. Our social activities offer ample opportunity for extended and stimulating discussions. That's why the dinner parties at night, usually sponsored in the homes of some of Aspen's leading citizens, are as much a part of the conference, in their own way, as the daytime speeches.
A different person is tapped each year to run the conference (we call this "the passing of the apple"). This gives each year's gathering a unique flavor and fosters the ongoing tradition of a dynamic annual gathering.
March 2, 2007
In the spirit of discord, weíre bringing change to Eris. And I think it may be about time.
Eris was founded on the premise that it would allow people we think should know each other, but donít, to meet.
Eris was never intended as an annual get-together for a bunch of my longtime pals.
Do you think Eris has become more of an entertainment, an interesting class reunion for mostly American buddies?
I think so.
I fear that Eris has, like all institutions, become a bit conservative and concrete-bound as itís aged.
The time has come to reinvent Eris a bit. It canít be that hard; Madonna has done it several times within the same period.
So Eris is striking a discordant, yet global, note:
A U.S. venue will no longer be considered for Eris until the membership is more on the order of 50% non-American and much more active.
Eris was founded in the 20th century -- no question the 20th was the American century.
Equally obvious, at least to me, is the fact that the 21st century will belong to China or India. Just as it did through much of history prior to the industrial revolution and the brief Asian flirtation with socialism.
Eris, from its very first meeting, has always had an international flavor. But that flavor has become a bit diluted.
Meanwhile global change and opportunity is off the charts in both velocity and scope: soaring to the upside where Eris isnít; and unfortunately seemingly accelerating on the down-slope where Eris seems stuck. Aspen was good to us years ago, but weíre now missing people we should know.
My recent experience is that many interesting people abroad decline to participate in Eris because they simply refuse to travel to the U.S. to be fingerprinted and brazenly informed that they shouldnít expect formerly self-evident rights.
And Iíve already accumulated a lifetime of people to keep up with who are from that 20th-century world of Western dominance.
I havenít been truly motivated by Eris in a while. However, Iím inspired by what Iíve been seeing elsewhere on my own travels. There are people we should be meeting but arenít getting the opportunity.
Itís time to understand what the most interesting individuals in Brazil, China, Malaysia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and even Africa are thinking, planning, and already achieving under the radar.
How the world evolves from here is not going to be dictated by smart Americans ó the terms and trends are going to be set by smart Chinese or Indians or Brazilians.
Eris may return to the U.S., perhaps when its membership is majority non-American or non-Western ó thus realigned with its credo.
Eris is about gaining the connections that are missed without the Eris nexus. Itís a unique forum ó not a reunion.
I greatly appreciate seeing you all every August, but Iím not sure Iím even going to spend much time in Aspen in the future; for buddy time, please come see me in Argentina or New Zealand privately ó where we can spend quality personal time reminiscing and reuniting or discussing favorite speculations and the drive for a new, truly global Eris.
Eris is leaving the U.S. until it breaks out of its Western-centered inertia.
This has been a long time coming.
Those of you who see, as I do, the fresh opportunity, please invite speakers and new members from these emerging regions with renewed, and for some of you, emergent, vigor.
One problem Eris has always had is inadequate help from the attendees in inviting new minds to the membership. This has always surprised me, in that itís a great forum to reach out to authors, thinkers, and intriguing personalities. And for those of us who have actively done so, it is fun to try to outdo each other for the best new additions each year.
I surmise that there are individuals in China who have written fascinating 1m+ copy bestsellers in Chinese that we wonít ever hear about without making this kind of change.
Iím old enough to know when even something as non-organized, and as good, as Eris needs a change; and still young enough to seek new frontiers for that change.
Letís re-seed Eris with minds that will lead us even further afield... expand your horizons, as I am, and send new speaker and member introductions to info at erissociety dot org.
Iíll let you know where the 2007 Eris will be held after whatever hiatus and sabbatical is required to get to a wider venue.
Iím appointing a non-American Apple bearer ó a first, and about time.
Also weíll be introducing some new technology to allow virtual participation and perhaps even simultaneous language translation if necessary.
Jon Sisk, Eris webmaster, is working with me and a couple of like-minded members, Arthur Tyde and former co-chair Christian Eyerman, to create a virtual ďEris IslandĒ in which speeches will be simulcast and far-flung members unable to travel can still congregate and enjoy ďsocial networkingĒ in the ďnew mediaĒ sense. Jon Sisk has offered to train any Eris members on the fairly straightforward mechanics involved in the process of attending Eris virtually. More on this evolution of the Eris event will follow in subsequent communications. Arthur Tyde and Christian Eyerman are working with David and me on the next locale, apple bearer, the virtual Eris Island, and speaker-member invites around the globe. Get in contact with us and your ideas.
Eris was founded to pull me into a sphere of people I should know and I put forth the effort to enter into that milieu. The Eris Society was the result.
Itís time to renew that spirit, so Iím doing it again globally, saying goodbye to the 20th-century venue.
You can join us in a radically more exciting and diverse Eris of the 21st century.
Feel free to contact Arthur or Christian, in addition to David and myself, directly with your thoughts on where and how to take Eris to new frontiers. Jon Sisk welcomes contact from the technically minded or virtually curious.