Monday, April 24, 2017

TED 2017, day 1: Wow


I'm not going to talk further about our announcement earlier today, because I want to focus on TED, but I will show you this picture of Bill and me wearing the shirts at the big photo-op TED sign.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Bill's smiling nicely, and I think I've managed to tone down my resting I-will-kill-you face to something only vaguely violent, but you be the judge.

TED kicked off with two sessions of presentations by over two dozen of the TED Fellows. All of the talks were interesting and informative, and I was glad to have been able to catch them. Because it's late here and I have to get up early, I won't run through them all, but a few struck me as particularly notable. (All really do deserve your attention; I'm just hitting ones that stayed strongly with me and are still on my mind.)

Karim Abouelnaga discussed how his Practice Makes Perfect organization is closing the education gap for students from low-income communities in the New York City area. Both practical and inspirational, his work deserves more attention and support.

Neuroscientist Rebecca Brachman gave an intriguing talk on the possibility of resilience drugs that could act basically as vaccines against PTSD and clinical depression. Both the possibility of such drugs and the ethical issues that preventative psychopharmacology raise are fascinating topics.

Artist and activist Damon Davis used art as both a defense against fear and a way to boost courage during protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

Wanuri Kahiu, a Kenyan filmmaker and writer, argued persuasively for the importance of what she called "Afrobubblegum," escapist stories set in Africa. I found it refreshing to hear someone else espouse some positive values of science fiction.

Comedian, filmmaker, and social activist Negin Farsad again wrapped up the Fellows' presentations with a lot of funny and yet shrewd observations about how to deal with tyrants, even if they happen to occupy an elected office.

Honestly, I could say good things about all of the Fellows' presentations, but it really is quite late here, so on I go.

Each year at TED, I've shown the contents of my goodie bag, so I won't break the tradition.


I chose some of the items, while others were standard.

After a snack and conversation break--before the day ended, a couple of folks had indeed asked about our shirts, so we made a tiny bit of progress on that front--the TED main stage opened with the first session, One Move Ahead.

Wow.  Just wow. This was the strongest opening TED session in my memory. The weakest talk was good, and most were excellent.

We began with Huang Yi dancing with a robot he created, while cellist Joshua Roman played beautifully. The interplay between man and robot was both beautiful and frequently touching.

Futurist and designer Anab Jain discussed projects her studio creates to show people what possible futures would look, feel, and in one case even smell like. Mixing the predictive futurism of some SF with both artistic and practical design considerations, her work serves to give people a great way to consider what might be coming.

Chess great and human rights activist Garry Kasparov discussed not only his experience first beating and then losing to IBM's Deep Blue, but also deeper considerations of the relationship between people and increasingly smart artificially intelligent machines.

Cyber-security specialist Laura Galante argued persuasively and passionately that Russian state-sponsored hacking and information manipulation may have been the key element in the election of our current President. I do not have and probably never will have access to the data necessary to know if what she said is what indeed happened, but even if it did not, the strategies she outlined were enough to make clear that the battlefield of future cyber-warfare is vastly more complicated than most people ever imagine.

Next up, the band Ok Go first played live along with a video and then shared some insights into how they create their incredible videos. Singer Damian Kulash, Jr. explained that they do not so much create ideas as find them, a statement that does not do justice to the approach he then explained. I am still processing this approach to creativity and expect to be doing so for some time, but I believe I have a great deal to learn from it--both for myself and for my businesses. They received a well-deserved standing ovation, as did the next three speakers.

Tim Ferriss spoke about his approach to dealing with stress, an approach that he has used to help cope with being bi-polar and having suffered over fifty depressive episodes to date. Basically, he practices stoicism. He showed some particular tools he uses to manage the stress that can trigger his episodes, and like the notions of creativity Kulash discussed, I am still processing these. I will say that a lot of what he described is similar to techniques I've come to rely on during the past several years, so I'm certainly in his target audience.

In a deeply touching and disturbing talk, artist Titus Kaphar discussed his work to illuminate the real history that art frequently hides and how we can reclaim that history from art without getting rid of the art.

Last up was Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who in addition to having a great deal to say was also clearly an accomplished orator. He argued that futurists examining the evidence of today might well conclude that we worship the self, the I, and that instead we should put our energies into the us. I know that sounds crunchy, but it's not, because there is a real difference between focusing all of our energies on ourselves and directing them to the service of others. He argued for the us of relationships, of identity, and of responsibility. "It's the people not like us who make us grow," he said as part of his discussion of the importance of communicating with people who feel differently than you do.

I've not done justice to any of these talks, but fortunately, TED will ultimately put them all online, and then you can watch them for yourselves. I definitely recommend you do so.

Late in the evening, I've now caught up with personal email and so can try to sleep, but my mind and spirit are still trying to process all that I heard. That's why I come to TED, and it's a delight to be so full and so challenged so early in the week.

Oh, yeah: I've already signed up for next year.



Buy a shirt. Start a conversation. Change the world.


I’ve been teasing for a while now that today I would announce one of the odder things I’ve done. I’m happy to deliver on that promise by introducing you to Limit Your Greed (formally LYG, LLC), a new company that my business partner, Bill Catchings and I are starting. You can visit its site here.

As friends and long-time readers know, Bill and I are the founders and co-owners of Principled Technologies, Inc. PT is the leading fact-based marketing and learning services provider, but it is also — and always has been — a social experiment.  Bill and I started PT in part to see if it was possible to build a business that follows very different principles from traditional businesses and yet still does well and makes a profit.

With PT now in its 15th year, we’re happy to report that the experiment is a success. You can run a business very differently and still do well.

Now, we want to take that lesson to a broader audience—in fact, to everyone—and try to change the world. We want to do so by persuading business owners and executives to choose to do something both simple and radical: to take less so that others can have more. To limit their greed.

Our goal is not new government legislation; instead, we’re hoping to help start a movement in which folks choose to build different businesses and help make the world better for a lot of people.

One way in which we hope to do that is by selling a book, Limit Your Greed, which we’re still working on but should finish soon.

Another is today’s announcement.

As the site says, “Philosophically, LYG is a movement. Practically, it’s a clothing company.”

The idea is simple: Buy shirts that contain challenging and conversation-worthy slogans. The first is “Limit your greed.” Another is “Nobody wins unless everyone wins.” Each shirt comes with talking points. When someone asks what your shirt means, you have a chance to show them a better way for businesses large and small to behave.

I don’t want to repeat all of the material on the site, so let me instead point you to its Practice page for answers to the questions about how to make this happen.

Of course, you could just buy the shirts because they’re cool—and they are. They’re made in North Carolina, where we’re based, from cotton grown here, and they’re soft and lovely to the touch. The designs are nifty, both visually appealing and conversation-worthy.

You could also buy the shirts in the hopes LYG makes a profit, because if it does, half of all profits will go to charity.

What we most hope, though, is that you will buy the shirts—Get ‘em all! Collect the whole set!—and help us change the world.

I have to warn you that you can’t buy the shirts quite yet. That’s intentional. Bill and I will be wearing one of these shirts each day at TED, which we’re attending this week. To help make sure no one felt we were flogging products—a TED no-no we take seriously—we didn’t want them available for sale yet.

So no, we’re not wearing the shirts at TED to sell them. We’re wearing them to do what we hope you will join us in doing: start conversations, and change the world.

I promised odd, and I think that me going into the movement and clothing business is odd enough to make that promise real.

Odd or not, though, I hope you join us in this movement. Together, we can make the world better.





Sunday, April 23, 2017

A few quick pics from my day


After a wonderful sleep that lasted over eleven hours, I worked for a bit and then walked into the food court that connects to my hotel.  The spicy bento box struck me as just the right choice for lunch.

Click an image to see a larger version. 

It was indeed delicious, though it could have been even spicier.

After strolling over to the Convention Centre and registering for TED, a process that is as easy and as luxurious and as tightly controlled as it could be, I found my way back to a wonderful local gelato shop, Bella Gelateria.


I tasted three flavors, and each one was superb.  This place deserves all the honors it's earned.

The view out of my room's huge window, which runs the width of the space and most of the height, is both attractive, industrial, and indicative of the prevailing weather I've experienced here.


Tomorrow morning, TED!

Oh, yeah:  Look for an early blog post from me tomorrow, round about noon Eastern time, for the odd thing I've been mentioning for a while now.  I think you'll find it at least interesting, and I hope it intrigues you.




Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sometimes the perfect plan is a simple one


I'm now in Vancouver for TED, which starts Monday morning and for which registration opens tomorrow.  I've not seen much of this city, but it seems to be a cool place, and I know it has a strong food scene, so normally I'd be spending my Saturday night at a hot restaurant.

Instead, I'm eating room service and watching a movie in my room--because it's exactly what I want to be doing right now.

In unrelated news, my next band name may well be Chew the Sphincter.

Oh, yeah:  the new thing launches Monday.



Friday, April 21, 2017

Willow and TED


Over the last year, Willow has become one of my favorite Portland restaurants, and it's also the best bargain for a tasting menu I've experienced.  Earlier tonight, I enjoyed a delicious six-course (seven if you count the amuse) meal for fifty bucks; that's a bargain.  Every course was interesting and delicious.  I can't recommend this place too strongly.

Tomorrow, I must get up very early to do the check-out/airport run/flight thing.  Destination:  Vancouver, B.C., Canada, and TED!  I'm excited.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

So, about that new, odd thing that's coming Monday


You can see the countdown to it on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram.  Those pages will give you a tiny bit more data.  Sign into your accounts on all three, like these entries, and follow them, and more info will come to you.  On Monday, a lot more will come to you.

I'm excited.  I hope you will be, too.




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Monday


is when that new, odd thing should appear.  Already, a countdown is showing up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I'll tell you a tiny bit more tomorrow.


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