Tuesday, April 10, 2018

TED 2018 kicks off in style

I'm back in Vancouver, B.C. for this year's TED conference.  I look forward to each year's event, and each year I come away inspired and with a great deal to process.  I expect this TED to be no different.

Though Vancouver greeted me with its usual gray, rainy weather in the morning, by afternoon the views through the conference center's huge glass walls were amazing. 

Click an image to see a larger version.

The first two sessions of today were not on the main TED stage.  Instead, they were shorter talks from TED Fellows.  I'm trying to get at least a reasonable amount of sleep this trip, so rather than review every talk, I'm only going to hit a few of them.  In the two Fellows sessions, most of the presentations were basically introductions to the work each Fellow was doing.  I ended up wanting more depth from almost all of them. 

I was intrigued by Essam Daod's work trying to provide mental health care to refugees, to help people both cope with their PTSD and to limit its effects by working with them as quickly after arrival as possible.  Rola Hallam's work with hospitals in Syria was inspiring; she and her organization, candoaction.org, are doing a great deal of good with very limited resources.  Adam Kucharski's data-driven approach to infectious disease research and prediction struck me as a very sound and practical way to attack this issue. 

Paul Rucker's talk on systemic racism hit me hard.  We have so very much work to do here. 

DeAndrea Salvador, a North Carolinian, works on the inequities of energy costs for poor people, something I think we should all try to help with. 

I appreciated the way Kotchakorn Voraakhom attacked the flooding problem in Bangkok and her emphasis on urban design and planning as a way to help make us more climate resilient.  We're going to need that in the years ahead. 

We were treated to multiple musical moments, all of which I enjoyed.  My favorite was the one that began the first Fellows session, an absolutely lovely performance by cellist Joshua Roman. 

The main stage talks, the "real" TED talks, began at 5:00 p.m. today.  All the talks were interesting, though few seemed to me to contribute a great deal to the ongoing conversation surrounding their topics. 

That said, the topics were important enough that simply hearing about them is important.

Tracee Ellis Ross discussed the continuum of male aggression against women, noting that the existence of a range from seemingly innocuous to downright horrific is itself a problem.  I certainly agree that this is a male problem, and we men need to own it and address it. 

Diane Wolk-Rogers, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, shared her experiences at the February 14 shooting tragedy and discussed options for preventing more such horrors.  As she noted, there are no easy answers, but I have to hope that we as a country are going to attack this problem.

Jaron Lanier's talk was as odd and yet as interesting as one would expect.  His perspective is always worth understanding, even if you don't agree with it.  In this case, I thought he raised many excellent points about the usage by big companies of our data, but I doubt his cures would actually work.

In a musical interlude that was all fun, The Soul Rebels, a New Orleans bass ensemble, played three long numbers that I very much enjoyed.

Zachary Wood discussed how important it is for us to hear viewpoints different from our own and to really talk with people who hold them.  Our country needs more discussion and less shouting. 

Kirsty Duncan, Canada's Minister of Science, discussed some of her country's attempts at suppressing science and what a bad idea that was.  The implications for the U.S.--and every other country--were obvious.

The session closed with Steven Pinker arguing, with masses of data that he used in his new book, that in fact we as a species are making progress and slowly improving all aspects of life on the whole.  He didn't try to say we didn't have huge problems or that the improvements are not unequally distributed--he's way, way, way too smart for that--but his case was persuasive and helped the day end on an upbeat note.

After the sessions, we had a dinner party with the usual TED foods, but then Chris Anderson and company treated us to two unusual shows. 

The first featured two dancers performing while hanging from ropes outside our windows. 

They're not easy to see in this shot, but look to the center.  The show was fun, though notable primarily for its setting.  

After that, at 9:00 sharp, a local fireworks team, as Chris Anderson put it, crammed a 15-minute show into one minute.  They launched from a small barge in the harbor, right outside the convention center, so the show was close and fun, but I had to shoot it through glass, so my pictures aren't great.  

Predictably, I loved the show.  I am a sucker for fireworks.

Well, here I've gone and written a small treatise when I promised myself I would not.  Don't count on me doing that again this week.  It's now late, and due to the early starts that TED seems to love, I have to get up in the sixes, something I hate.

A good day at TED.

No comments:


Blog Archive