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.



2 comments:

Cynthia Hyde said...

Looking forward to your writing about talks the LYG shirts prompt while you and Bill are at TED.

Each year it is always informative and inspiring to watch the TED talks after they are posted.

Our world is full of potential as the great speakers at TED prove to us. You and Bill are sharing another great one with us, I hope it catches on and the principles you two have built a great business from becomes more of the norm.

Thank you both for being great human beings and caring about others in this world so full greed and selfishness.

Mark said...

Thanks again for the kind words and the support.

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