Friday, March 4, 2011

On the road again: TEDActive, day 5

I awoke tired but eager to hear the day's speakers. The usual snapshots of highlights follow.

Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies talked about creating dinosaurs from chickens, a feat that requires a fair amount of genetic work but that is likely to prove possible because chickens are at core dinosaurs. His folksy manner clearly belied a great deal of intelligence.

Rajesh Rao's talk on trying to translate the Indus River valley script showed not only the obvious (but nonetheless extraordinarily difficult) linguistic problems involved but also the less obvious political ramifications of this ancient untranslated language.

Retired General Stanley McChrystal spoke about leadership and some of his experiences. He came across as a man of great will, intelligence, and integrity, and I would happily have listened to him for far longer than TED's allotted 18 minutes.

Bill had to leave then, and I did a little email, after which the second session began. We watched first a few one-minute rebuttals to previous talks. The most controversial of them was a Chinese man responding to Ai WeiWei's presentation and claiming basically that the Chinese people were happy with their government. I have no way to know if he was right or wrong, but the audience very clearly did not agree with him.

Kathryn Schulz spoke about the importance of accepting that we are often wrong and how not attacking topics with an open mind can lead to a series of bad assumptions (in order, ignorance, idiocy, and evil) about those who disagree with us.

We then got to see a video, made just that morning here in Palm Springs, of an eye portrait from JR assembled by people in the pool.

Teacher John Hunter blew me away with his intelligence, groundedness, and modesty. Years ago, he invented the World Peace Game for his fourth-grade students, and what they do with it each year in Albemarle County, Virginia is amazing. I teared up at a couple of points. A documentary on him and this work, World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements, is now on my must-see list.

In the final session of the day, Roger Ebert, who lost his jaw and ultimately his voice, came on stage, spoke for a bit through a computer, and then had three others, including his wife, finish his talk. It was a brilliant bit of casting from Chris Anderson and the TED team, fusing Technology, Entertainment, and even Design in a talk that even the coldest heart would find touching.

After a farewell lunch party around the pool, at which I forced myself to talk to some of my fellow TEDsters and had as good a time as my deep sense of alienation permits, the conference officially ended. There are post-TED activities here, but I did not sign up for them. I'll work the rest of today, then fly home Saturday morning.

I do hope to be back next year. If you've ever wanted to come and wondered if you should apply and try to do so, if your budget would permit it, I would have to recommend it strongly.


Anonymous said...

I've always wondered why these eloquent, intelligent, and visionary people aren't the ones running are government. It saddens me to see that those in power seem the least capable of wielding it.

Michelle said...

I am very jealous that you were able to hear Jack Horner speak. Ever since Jurassic Park came out, whenever I see him, I imagine him as the inspiration for the Dr. Grant character. A little hairier, but just as intriguing. What an eclectic group of speakers TED puts together. You are right, everyone should have a chance to attenf TED!


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