Yesterday, we took a deep dive into what it means to be a world in transition.

Transition 2015 was a marketing conference like no other. It wasn’t a presentation of Percolate’s product roadmap, a review of the megatrends we’re strategizing around, or even a summit to bring our clients together.

Instead, we and the audience that filled the Timescenter in New York’s Times Square were challenged, as marketers, to think about the role we play in the future of technology, society, and the enterprise. We tackled the difficult questions that arise from a world being transformed by greater wealth, new levels of connectivity, and the deployment of software.That meant Q&As and presentations about topics ranging from the untapped talent pool in Africa, shipping containers, and a design revolution taking Silicon Valley and Tech by storm.

It was chock-full of moments that opened our minds, put realities into stark relief, and, of course, made us laugh. Below are some highlights from the day. And keep your eyes peeled for more Transition-related content in the near future.

James Gross and Noah Brier: Think Broadly and Think in Systems

Percolate’s co-founders kicked off the day with a discussion on what it means to make marketing great. James made the first point: Transition both has nothing to do with Percolate and everything to do with it. The reason we want to think about such broad themes at Transition is that’s when we’re at our best.

The best marketers care about broader topics in the world.

He was followed by Noah, who laid out a fourth, underlying theme for the day: systems. They run the world around us, he believes—including marketing. To properly understand systems, he explained the sizes they come in; how they can connect; the type of output they produce; and the rules that can govern them.

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Geoffrey West Blows Our Minds

A physicist, a biologist, and urbanization expert—all rolled into one person—was the first guest speaker of the day. The former president of the Santa Fe Institute proceeded to set an appropriate tone for the day by blowing our minds with the scope of his research, what cells and metabolic rates have to do with urban and corporate growth, and what it means for societies to avoid collapse after a period of unbounded growth.

Oxford University’s Max Roser on How He Became an Optimist

Max Roser, who publishes OurWorldInData.org, took up economics to research how incomes, poverty, and living standards have changed over the past few centuries—and he treated us to some of that research yesterday. When James asked him in a brief Q&A what economists can do to be more optimistic, Roser responded: “Look at the data.” The global poverty rate has fallen to 12% according to estimates, down from 94% in 1820. There’s still a lot to do to eliminate that remaining figure—but it’s clear we’re headed in the right direction.

General Electric CMO Linda Boff Tries to Get Noah to Express His Feelings

Linda Boff, the recently appointed CMO of GE, sat down with Noah for a conversation about running the marketing department for one of the biggest brands in the world. Part of that includes recruiting. Boff explained that the problem solves itself to some extent: “The more people get to know GE, the more they love us.” She looked to Noah for validation, pointing out GE was one of our first clients and an advisor at times. “You’re fond of us, right?”

Noah, sincerely but in classic deadpan: “I’m very very fond of you.”

Christina Sass with Andela: “Brilliance is evenly distributed. Opportunities are not.”

Co-founder and COO of Andela Christina Sass gave an eye-opening talk about the rising importance of Africa to the tech industry. The continent has a population of 1.1 billion people; seven in ten are under 30 and the unemployment rate is at about 50%, she said. Meanwhile, the U.S. tech industry is facing a massive skills-gap. The implication: Africa is the largest untapped pool of talent in the world. All it needs are chances to build those tech skills. The following statement encapsulated her logic: “Andela is based on the principle that brilliance is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not.”

KPCB’s John Maeda On Why Designers Are Building Tech Companies

John Maeda, design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, delivered a punchy presentation on design in tech, explaining why great design is functionally important to making a company—the discipline requires both business intelligence and strong engineering skills. He also shed light on how designers have changed the tech startup landscape in recent years; the quote below sums up KPCB’s findings.

Jessica Federer with Bayer: Digital is About People

Marketers spend a lot of time thinking about connectivity to the Internet and how to embrace it. That can be difficult for companies that weren’t built in the Information Age—like Bayer, which was founded 150 years ago. The company isn’t historically afraid of reinvention however, as Chief Digital Officer Jessica Federer explained. With expertise in chemistry as its core competency, the company moved from the fabric dyes company it started out as to the biological sciences one it is today. As the company embarks on the concerted digital transformation strategy it started a year ago, Federer said that it is keeping one truth in mind: Digital isn’t about technology so much as it is about people and how they work together.

Real Talk for Marketers with Wieden+Kennedy’s Martin Weigel

In a conversation behind the curtain, Martin Weigel told us his talk, “Brand Building in the Age of Immediacy,” was alternatively titled “Marketing Crack.” That’s because he thinks many marketers have become overly drawn to immediately available data and results that don’t speak to real, long term value. “We chase real-time optimization, short-term metrics and efficiencies. This isn’t brand building,” Weigel said. “It’s addiction.” The path forward begins by accepting that “sustained, profitable brand building is long-term by nature,” he told us.

Kevin Ashton Takes Us On a Journey

Kevin Ashton walked onto Transition’s stage, cracked open a can of Coke, and took a second to refresh himself before launching into a mysterious hypothetical. The man behind the term “Internet of Things” and author of How To Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery asked us to imagine that we take a journey all over the world —Western Australia, an island off the eastern coast of Africa, Sri Lanka, South America, a specific factory in New Jersey—to strip minerals, find a special orchid, scrape bark from a tree, collect a unique leaf, and clean those leaves, respectively.

These and other items in our imaginary itinerary have been part of the process for creating a can of Coca-cola since the company began using aluminum, which Ashton continued sipping throughout. His point: while connectivity is increasing, the world has been connected for a long time. When we connect more with each other, we gather new resources to create new things. “This connected world is intimately related to our instinct to create.”

Brand-Building Wisdom from The Coca-Cola Company’s Bea Perez

Coca-Cola’s former CMO and first-ever Chief Sustainability Officer Bea Perez personified Ashton’s Coca-Cola motif with her talk. She came with pearls of wisdom about both managing brand and driving change throughout the world. She set out the company’s priorities for becoming water neutral by 2020 (they’re 94% of the way there, according to Perez), empowering women globally, and support global health. This quote crystallizes her view on what sets off a truly great brand, and she is committed to transparent sustainability.

Tim Hwang’s Con Artistry in the Name of Data

In one of the more quirky presentations of the day—though no less informative and interesting than the rest—Data & Society’s Tim Hwang taught us why he decided to write “the Audobon guide for shipping containers.” Hwang has been increasingly focused on how accepted standards guide our behaviors and practices. In a Q&A with Fortune’s Erin Griffith, he told us how he and a group of interested friends founded the “Bay Area Infrastructure Observatory”—they just wanted a tour of a nuclear power plant, which aren’t really granted randomly. So they booked an appointment as the Bay Area Infrastructure Observatory, and were greeted with banners and all.

The After-Party

You wouldn’t know you were in the middle of Times Square if you found yourself at Urbo. We had an amazing time with everyone who managed to join us after the conference.

Percolate's 2015 Transition Afterparty

To see more highlights from Transition, read the full collection of speaker profiles here.