Ethan’s roundup of TED talks

Posted by on July 24th, 2010
Stored in Cyberculture, Lines of thought

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TED (conference) (Technology Entertainment Design), an annual multidisciplinary conference

TEDGlobal: Jason Clay and a sustainable future through corporate collusion

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

(Clay?s talk is similar to the one he gave at the Aspen Institute last year, though that talk was more than an hour long and, obviously, was able to cover more territory than an 18 minute TED talk. Here are my notes on that longer talk, which Clay was kind enough to vet and correct?)

TEDGlobal: Stefan Wolff and learning lessons to stop ethnic conflict

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Stefan Wolff is a scholar of ethnic conflicts and civil war. He tells us that, while there?s seldom good news when we talk about these topics, there are reasons for hope. Specifically, he?s hopeful about three factors: leadership, diplomacy and institutional design.

TEDGlobal: Rachel Sussman photographs plants from before year zero

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Rachel Sussman is photographing organisms that are more than 2000 years old. The project was inspired by Jamon Sugi, a two thousand year old Japanese Cedar at a remote island called Yaku Shima. The project is a combination of philosophy, photography and history, starting at year zero and working backwards.

TEDGlobal: Nic Marks and happiness that doesn?t cost the earth

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Nic Marks founded the Center for Well-Being, a consultancy that tries to expand definitions of social and governmental progress to include broader quantitative and qualitative measures of well-being.

Martin Luther King didn?t say, ?I have a nightmare.? Marks?s dream, he tells us, is that we?ll focus less on the nightmare and more on the dream. Modern filmmaking is almost always about catastrophe ? he references The Road, a bleak, post-apocalyptic film.

TEDGlobal: Johan Rockström and resilience

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Ecologist Johan Rockström begins by reminding us modern humans have just experienced ?10,000 years of grace,? an interglacial period capable of supporting human development. He tells us we?re currently putting the planet into a ?quadruple squeeze? through pressures of human growth and inequality (80% of climate impact from 20% of people), climate change (whether we end up at 350/450/550ppm of CO2), ecosystem loss (loss of 60% of species), and the problem of surprise ? rapid tipping points.

TEDGlobal: Patrick Chappatte and global cartooning

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Editorial cartoonist Patrick Chappatte is a true global citizen ? Lebanese/Swiss by birth, born in Pakistan, he publishes in the International Heritage Tribune and other global newspapers. Introducing him, Bruno Giussani explains that a session on global power is best closed with a person who mocks powerful people.

TED Global ? Matt Ridley on how ideas mate

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Matt Ridley tells us that, when he was a student at Oxford (not all that long ago), the future was bleak. None of the bleak scenarios ? nuclear winter, oil shortage, mass starvation ? happened. In his lifetime, child mortality is down two thirds. Food production per capita is massively up despite a population doubling. How did we become the only species that is more prosperous as we become more populous?

A wider world, a wider web: my TEDGlobal 2010 talk

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

I enjoy blogging conferences, and I especially enjoy blogging TED. And while I?m pretty good at conferenceblogging, blogging my own talk is beyond me. So here are my notes ? I can?t promise that what I say on stage will bear any resemblance to this, but this is what I?d planned to say. The slides are available at Slideshare, and if all goes well, I hope we?ll see video of the talk online in the next weeks or months ? I?ll keep you posted.

As an American, I try to avoid forms of football that don?t involve men larger than me tackling each other, but it?s been hard to avoid the 2010 World Cup ? when I go on Twitter, there?s been lots of unfamiliar terms in the trending topics list: ?Vuvuzela?, ?Furia Roja?, ?Octopus??

TEDGlobal: Sheena Iyengar and the paradox of choice

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Columbia University psychologist and business professor Sheena Iyengar promises to take us around the world in her 18 TED minutes. She begins in Kyoto, Japan where she was doing her dissertation research. She tells a funny story about trying to order green tea with sugar and being politely told, ?One does not put sugar in green tea.? Escalating the conflict, the manager got involved and told her ?We have no sugar.? So she ordered coffee? and was served a cup promptly? with sugar.

TEDGlobal: Laurie Santos, irrationality and our primate financial advisors

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Yale professor Laurie Santos tells us that homo sapiens are extremely smart and extremely vain. Despite the fact that we?re really smart, we can be incredibly dumb about some aspects of our decisionmaking. Think of our recent financial crisis.

We?d like to believe these bad decisions are the result of a few bad apples. But the mistakes we make are predictable, and we tend to make them over and over, even if we are corrected. How is a species as smart as we are capable of such presistent errors?

TEDGlobal: Lewis Pugh swims for the environment

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Lewis Pugh?s job is tougher than yours. He swims in very, very cold water ? three years ago, he swam across the North Pole. The water is -1.5 degrees Celsius, and ?if it all goes pear shaped, how long will it take my body to fall the four kilometers?. The swim ? accompanied by music on an iPod ? took a bit more than 18 minutes, and was enough to freeze his fingers into the shape of sausages.

TEDGlobal: Inge Missmahl and the talking cure in Afghanistan

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Inge Missmahl is a Jungian analyst who?s worked in Afghanistan since 2004. She?s working on an important, but sometimes unexplored, aspect of reconstruction ? recovery from trauma.

TEDGlobal: Addressing HIV in Southern Africa

Annie Lennox explains why, in her excellent set at TED Global last night ? she was wearing a shirt that says ?HIV Positive?. Indeed, she?s wearing the same shirt today. She tells us it?s a sign that she is ?in solidarity with people living with HIV? and that ?we can talk about this issue, it doesn?t have to be in the closet.?

TEDGlobal: Arthur Potts Dawson and urban sustainable food

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Chef Arthur Potts Dawson describes himself as ?a London boy with country roots? who?s fascinated by urban sustainable food. He wants to make food that doesn?t impact on sustainability today or in the future. But this is a challenge, because he tells us that restaurants are some of the most wasteful industries in the world. The food we eat there is drenched in oil, and generally ten calories are wasted for each one you eat.

TEDGlobal: John Hardy?s Green School

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

John Hardy tells us he grew up in a small village in Canada as an undiagnosed dyslexic. He was the little kid in the village who cried each day on the way to school.

TEDGlobal: Neil Gershenfeld promises us a replicator

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

The final session of day 2 at TEDGlobal 2010, Different by Design, starts with a strange, ethereal multimedia performance by Miwa Matreyek. Using animations, music, and her body, we move through a world that looks like a child?s picturebook come to fluid life. Matreyek, in shadow against a screen of animation, interacts with the figures, buildings and birds projected before her. Her arms, stretched wide, become a highway for a toy car, then they open a window on her heart, which drains out milk, filling the screen. Watching on simulcast, as I am, I can?t tell what?s being performed live and what?s on video, but I get the sense the essense of the piece is about the interplay of the physically present and the virtual, the real and the imagined. It?s extremely beautiful.

TEDGlobal: Tan Le reads our minds and moves our robots

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Vietnamese/Australian entrepreneur Tan Le tells us that our communications with machines have always involved explicit commands. Human communication is much more subtle ? we communicate expressively, through our faces, bodies, etc. Her project ? and her company, Emotiv ? is intended to let computers respond to our facial expressions and emotional experiences by interpreting the signals from our brains.

TEDGlobal: Growing away from styrofoam

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Anne Quito tells us that she discovered a Warhol ? a signed screen print ? which she?d walked past in her office for seven years without noticing it. Discovering this for her was subtle, but epic. She works in an office with an art collection spread throughout the building, uncurated and largely undiscovered. It?s everywhere and nowhere, and sometimes in the way.

TEDGlobal: Transforming voting, and education

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

David Bismark has a very clever idea for making elections more transparent and verifiable. He explains that elections are incredibly hard to carry out ? ?running a country wide election is messy and bad things happen.? To make sure as few things as possible go wrong, we have all sorts of procedures in place, and generally, our trust that our vote is counted is a trust in the voting systems.

TEDGlobal: Jessica Jackley?s new project, Profounder

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Apologies for missing much of the morning. I gave a lecture in my friend Munro Price?s program at the Annenberg Summer program in Oxford. I?ll be missing some more talks this afternoon as well, getting ready for my afternoon talk? Sorry!

Jessica Jackley, one of the cofounders of Kiva, tells us that she?s going to tell us a love story. ?The stories we tell each other, and tell about our own lives matter.? She first heard stories about the poor when she was six years old and in Sunday School. She was told that we needed to help and that Jesus wanted us to give to the poor, and she was psyched to help. But she was also very frustrated, because Jesus also said, the poor will always be with us. She said she felt angry, overwhelmed, like a homework assignment that couldn?t be completed. ?I didn?t know what would happen when I ran out of things to give.?

TEDGlobal: Auret Van Heerden and bringing human rights into the global supply chain

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Auret Van Heerden of the Fair Labor Association holds up a cellphone and tells us that the phone started its life with artisinal mines, run by gangs and staffed by slaves in the Congo. It was built in a factory in China where people have committed suicide and died after impossibly long work shifts. Chocolate comes from cocoa harvested by children in Ivory Coast. Diamnonds come from impossibly dangerous mines in Zimbabwe. Uzbekistan shuts down the schools to bring children into the cotton fields to harvest ? they allow the country to be the world?s second largest cotton producer. And all these products end up in dumps in slums in places like Manila.

TEDGlobal: Peter Eigen and global transparency

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Peter Eigen, the founder of Transparency International, warns us that our governance systems are failing us in the face of a globalized economy. We can see evidence of this failing governance: billions of poor, hungry, people without access to sanitation. And we can see that some problems are beyond the reach of national or multinational governance: the image of a helpless Obama at a oil-covered beach, a helpless Ban Ki Moon at a refugee camp.

TEDGlobal: Gero Miessenböck wants to control our brains

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Gero Miessenböck tells us he has a dopplegander ? Dr. Gero from Dragonball Z. This sinister character has his skull removed and can control things with his brain. And Miessenböck believes we can control the brain through light. But that?s where the resemblance stops ? Miessenböck promises he?s doing this to learn, not to build a robot army.

TEDGlobal: Heribert Watzke ? We cook therefore we are

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Heribert Watzke isn?t a real popular guy with the raw foods crowd, I suspect. He theorizes that humans aren?t omnivores, but coctivors ? we are the animals that eat cooked food.

He asks us to smile at each other, and asks us to look at each other?s canine teeth. They?re pretty pathetic, not really useful for ripping meat off bones. Our teeth are now evolved to eat soft, easily digestible, cooked food ? our behavior has changed our body over time.

TEDGlobal: Stefano Mancuso and plant intelligence

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Botanist Stefano Mancuso sees something moving from the biblical story of the ark. ?Where are the plants?? There?s a deep bias in human history that tells us that plants aren?t living creatures.

We tend to say that the blue whale is the biggest living creature ? it?s not. The great sequoia is far larger. Do we discriminate because plants don?t move? They do ? watch the venus fly trap capture a snail. And this isn?t just a special case ? plants move when they blossom, and they reposition and reorient to capture the sun, though you need to use time lapse to see this.

TEDGlobal: Sebastian Seung mapping the connectome

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Sebastian Seung asks the room at TEDGlobal whether they are more than their genes. After all, genes seem like they have awesome power. They control our appearance and our vulnerability to diseases. But we think we?re more than our genes. He urges us to cheer ?I am more than my genes?.

Okay, so what are we. He offers, ?I am my connectome?.

TEDGlobal: Sugata Mitra, beyond Hole in the Wall

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Sugata Mitra tells us that there are places on Earth, in every country where, for various reasons, good schools cannot be built and good teachers cannot or do not want to go. And those places, as it turns out, is often where trouble comes from.

TEDGlobal: Dimitar Sasselov and the 100 million earths

from …My heart’s in Accra by Ethan

Dimitar Sasselov uses a recent event in history ? the reburial of Copernicus with honors in his native Poland ? as a way of discussing a major discovery in his own work. Like most of his contemporaries, Copernicus had been buried in a communal grave. Scientists found hairs in a book which they knew to be in his library and attempted to match them to remains in the crypt where he was buried. By comparing DNA, they were able to make a confident match and exhume his remains, reburying them with the recognition deserving of the man who changed our understanding of the solar system to a heliocentric one.

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