California is one of the most visionary states in the nation. Between the innovators of Silicon Valley and our famous New Age thinkers, inspiration, innovation and mind-bending ideas have always abounded here. It is thus, particularly eyebrow-raising when outsiders or those not in-the-know refer to LA as intellectually challenged.
Certainly, as a warm weather place, outdoor activities and sports do sometimes seem to trump more heady activities. However, there are plenty of hives of out-of-the-box intellectual activity for those curious enough to seek them out.
Technology, Entertainment, Design
A good starting point for a visionary exploration of LA is undoubtedly the global TED conferences, which promote innovative ideas through speakers from different vocational arenas. Unbeknownst to some, TED also gives its name to smaller local events: TEDx. On TEDx's schedule for 2013: a 'Theme: Performance, Body and Presence' event at Cal Arts on March 9th.
NASA JPL Open House
Although not an intellectual talk or hub of would-be philosophers per se, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) annual open house weekend in June is a vital part of LA's mind-expanding scene. What could be more thought-provoking than space exploration, after all? It offers an insiders' glimpse into the inner-workings of the lab whose projects include the Mars Curiosity Rover expedition.
Mindshare Los AngelesThis online-based events organization dubs itself a "Mecca for intellectuals, artists, scientists and other progressive characters." Its aim is to broaden people's perspectives and create a sense of community for curious intellectuals. Mindshare host workshops, salons and other events, that encourage interaction, on a monthly basis. Past events have included talks on mindfulness, human sexuality, the future of space exploration, interactive education, nanotechnology and the art of Burning Man. Visit the Mindshare website and put yourself on their mailing list to be kept up to date on new events.
Center For Inquiry
As the name implies, the Center For Inquiry is Angelenos' go-to spot for inquiry, critical thinking and humanist ideas. This educational nonprofit organization promotes its ideas through education, outreach and social services. They host a range of events such as: a freethinkers' Toastmasters, a 'Feed Your Brain' series (whose past subjects have included 'What It Means to be Human in the 21st Century'), atheists' meetups and special film screenings.
If you're into the psychedelic side of mind exploration, this local branch of New York scribe Daniel Pinchbeck's mind-bending online community, will appeal. The emphasis here is on building a new world through creative and often pretty out-there thought by coming together as communities. In its mission statement, Evolver LA says it aims to raise awareness about poignant issues of the day, to inspire activism and explore practices like meditation, permaculture and shamanism. Visit Evolver LA's page for more information.