Tuesday, March 18, 2014

On the road again: TEDActive, Whistler, day 2

Enough folks have asked that I'm going to get the health report out of the way first:  Things are worse.  I have piercing pain in my left ear and down my left sinuses.  I can't swallow without wincing.  I'm exhausted.  I skipped tonight's dinner outing to work all evening and eat alone in my room, so that I could be in bed before 1:30 a.m.  (TED sessions start early, way earlier than I normally get up.)  If I get a fever (none yet) or if things worsen, I'll seek Canadian health care sometime tomorrow.  If I get better, great.

Now, on to the fun stuff:  Today, TED delivered the magic that has kept me coming back year after year.

Brian Ferren kicked things off with a rambling but interesting talk about why the Pantheon matters--it's way cooler than I had realized--and what it takes to make truly big advances.  His pick for the next big advance that will change our lives dramatically is fully autonomous cars, and he made a good case for them both happening and affecting our lives in many ways. 

Brian Greene followed with a short presentation on various ways to see the timeline of the universe.  Though not deep or particularly new, the ways he showed for envisioning time on the large scale were fun.  (One was Sagan's famous 24-hour day.)

Architect Marc Kushner talked about how shared realistic renderings are making it possible to change the way communities interact with buildings they're planning.  If you have any interest in architecture, check this one out. 

Yoruba Richen next spoke about the civil rights and gay rights movements, and how the latter is learning lessons from the former.  I hate that either movement is necessary, but given the real world, I'm glad to hear any talk with useful strategies for moving us closer to true equality for all.

TED curator Chris Anderson then pulled off one of those logistical miracles that happen, at least in my experience, only at TED:  Ed Snowden appeared in a telepresence robot and did a long interview with Anderson.  Anderson wanted the perspective of the Web's inventer, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, so he asked Berners-Lee to join him on stage for more discussion.  Getting to watch and listen to this discussion was an amazing treat. 

This talk is already live.  Do yourself a favor and check it out. 

All of that was in the first of several sessions!

We had so many talks today that between my health, all the work I had to do, and my fatigue, I just can't bring myself to write about them all.  I'm going to hit a few that I particularly liked.

I don't know if Michel Laberge can pull off a functioning fusion reactor, but I have to love someone who said he turned to fusion creation as a part of his mid-life crisis. 

Amanda Burden, NYC's chief city planner under Bloomberg, made a powerful case for the great importance of city parks and other shared spaces. 

Illusionist and crossword-puzzle-maker David Kwong did a wonderful bit involving drawings, markers, and a crossword puzzle.  If you like magic tricks, you'll want to see this talk as soon as it's online. 

We had a full session of live talks at TEDActive.  All were short, and I generally enjoyed them.  I was particularly interested in Jakob Trollback's description of the amount of work that goes into each second of the many modern TED title clips he has designed:  an average of over 25 hours. 

One of the regular session moderators from TED, June Cohen, then made a surprise appearance here at TEDActive and moderated a good session.  Though four of the five talks were interesting and informative, the one that stood out the most was the one that was a story, a presentation from TEDActive co-host Rives.  Rives has always been a spectacularly nice guy, but his on-stage persona is generally slick and edging toward shallow, with quick jokes and an obvious intelligence, but more than a bit of a sardonic distance.  His talk about four in the morning was funny and clever and witty, which I expected, but it was also genuinely heartwarming and touching, which I did not.  I admire his talk and hope I take the chance to tell him so in person. 

In the final session of the day, Zak Ebrahim gave a brave talk about coping with being the son of a terrorist and instead choosing to be tolerant and an agent for peace. 

Chris Anderson interviewed Bill and Melinda Gates, whose foundation is doing an amazing amount of good in the world.

In the TED Prize part of the program, this year's winner, Charmian Gooch, leader of Global Witness, talked about her wish to end the use of anonymous companies, many of which do a great many bad things in countries around the world.

Sting closed out the day with several songs.  I've not been a big fan of his work, but the songs from his new album and Broadway show, The Last Ship, really worked for me.  I'll definitely be checking out that album.

What a day.


Rosanne said...

Sounds like an awesome day (except for being so sick). Thank you for sharing all of this information w/ your blog readers. I hope you feel better soon. Please take care.

David Drake said...

Dear Mark,

At the risk of sounding like an idiot, is 'the Pantheon' the one in Rome, built by Agrippa and rebuilt in present form by Hadrian, or some piece of popular culture that Everybody Knows About?

Who's no better on popular culture than on political correctness

Mark said...

Thanks for the kind wishes. Except for my illness, it was indeed a great day.

Mark said...

Dave, sorry for not being clear. I did indeed mean, as did Ferren, the Pantheon in Rome. He was discussing its astonishing mix of art and engineering, particularly in its roof, and how it taught the young him that those two worlds need not be opposing forces but instead could join together to produce great works.


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