Wednesday, March 18, 2015

On the road again: TEDActive, Whistler, day 3

Today's talks were generally good but not as strong as yesterday's.  Still, I enjoyed them and am glad I got to hear them.

Session 6, Radical Reframe, kicked off with a talk by Siddhartha Mukherjee on a new approach to considering and treating diseases, one that builds from cells up to organs and organisms and even to environments.  Though he presented an intriguing paradigm, he offered precious few concrete examples of how we might implement this model. 

Maryn McKenna walked us through a lot of sobering data that suggests that if we don't take better control of our use of antibiotics, we could find ourselves in a very dangerous post-antibiotic world.  I found her data both compelling and scary.

A plant geneticist who's married to an organic farmer, Pamela Ronald offered a refreshingly balanced view of the useful roles of both plant genetics and organic practices. 

In one of the day's weaker presentations, lawyer Steven Wise updated us on his struggle to gain legal person status for apes and other smarter animals.  I'm still not sure what I think about his crusade, but the best parts of his talk were the history lessons, which I definitely enjoyed. 

Adventurer Chuck Berry showed us a lot of neat footage captured by wearable cameras, but his talk was mostly a tour of the footage and offered little more than fun visuals.  

The next session, Creative Ignition, began with a fun talk by Tony Fadell, designer of the iPod and founder of Nest, about ways to fight habituation and be a better product designer.  Though he offered advice, I'm not sure it was concrete enough to be useful.  I will, however, be thinking about it for a while. 

Architect Elora Hardy showed us some amazing bamboo houses she's built on Bali and discussed the virtues and challenges of building with bamboo.  I now have another reason to go to Bali--not that I need more. 

Two days ago, three TED attendees agreed to create and perform a piece just for this show.  That doesn't seem like much time, but with these performers--dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones, cellist Joshua Duncan, and singer/songwriter Somi--the result was simply stunning.  I am not a fan of dance, but I could watch Jones for our hours.  The combination of the music and his movements was hypnotic and wonderful. 

Manuel Lima discussed the rise of the network diagram as one of the most powerful tools for visualizing data. 

In a quick audience talk, Richard St. John gave advice on how to have super ideas.  The talk was a nice idea itself, but it lacked the specifics to be truly useful.

Potter and artist Theaster Gates discussed ways to help in blighted parts of cities. 

In my favorite bit of the day, a guitarist duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela, played two astonishing songs for us.  I must get their albums!  What they do with guitars is amazing and wonderful. 

After lunch, we watched 14 TED University presentations on topics as diverse as coping with epidemics, wealth inequality, dieting, the presentation (and lack thereof) of women in the news, and avoiding asteroids that might collide with Earth.  (Dave, most of us do want to avoid the asteroids.)  It's late, and I'm running out of steam, so let me just say that all of these were interesting, and a few were genuinely intriguing.

The last session of the day, Pop-Up Magazine, featured guest curators from the group of the same name and a large set of performers, most of them storytellers.  I found all the talks at least interesting, though none was up to the best of the show so far.  I find it curious that TED basically outsourced a session, and on balance I can't recommend the TED folks do it again.  To be fair to the many good performers of this session, in any other context they would have been the best talks I had seen in months, so if a Pop-Up Magazine session comes near you, it's almost certainly worth checking out.

Dinner was with a group of fellow attendees at a local pub.  I talked to a few interesting folks and had a pleasant enough time.

I remain exhausted, however, so off to bed I go.


David Drake said...

Dear Mark,

Like many other prophets, my message goes unheard by the majority of the folk of my own day.

I continue to have faith.


Mark said...

I don't think it's that we do not hear you so much as that we do not agree with your desire.


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