Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘TED’

03 MARCH, 2011

TED 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder, Day 3

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Embracing chaos, 57 things Google knows about you, and how to 3D-print a kidney.

This week, we’re reporting live from TED 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder. So far, we warmed up with 5 must-read books by some of this year’s speakers, synthesized highlights from Day 1 and Day 2, and spotlighted an inspired urban intervention by designer and TED Fellow Candy Chang. Today, we’re back — on the brink of our sleep budged — with highlights, photos and notable soundbites from Day 3 — dig in.

Historian Edward Tenner

Culture and technology historian Edward Tenner showed statistical evidence that the greatest time for game-changing innovation in modern history was actually The Great Depression, which had a paradoxically stimulating effect on creativity. He argued that one of the grand questions of our time is how to close the gap between our capabilities and our foresight.

Our ability to innovate is increasing geometrically but our capacity to model those innovations is linear.” ~ Edward Tenner

Tenner’s excellent 1997 book, Why Things Bite Back: Technology & the Revenge of Unintended Consequences, will change the way you think about adversity, opportunity and innovation.

Chris Anderson presenting the winners of the Ads Worth Spreading contest.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

TED announced the 10 winners of the inaugural Ads Worth Spreading contest, seeking to reframe commercial communication from an interruption to inspiration.

Eli Pariser of MoveOn.org fame, author of the excellent forthcoming The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, delivered a stride-stopping and timely curtain-pull on our modern information diet and what we’re being force-fed by the powers of the Internet. Google, apparently, looks at 57 data points to serve us personally tailored search results.

We’ve moved to an age where the Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see.” ~ Eli Pariser

Which raises the question of responsibility: Is the responsibility of those who serve information to give us more of what we already like and believe, or to open our eyes to new perspectives? And if it’s all algorithmically driven, is there even a place for such responsibility? Our key takeaway from Pariser’s talk, one particularly relevant to our own credo, is that human information curators will have an increasingly important role as moral mitigators of algorithmic personalization efficiency.

Eli Pariser 'We need the new information gatekeepers to encode a sense of civic responsibility into algorithms.'

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

We need the Internet to introduce us to different ideas and different perspectives.” ~ Eli Pariser

Virginia Tech’s Dennis Hong is building the world’s first vehicle for the visually-impaired. and recently made history with the Blind Driver Challenge.

Dennis Hong 'We need the new information gatekeepers to encode a sense of civic responsibility into algorithms.'

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

High-functioning autistic savant Daniel Tammet opened the door to his fascinating view of the world. He used synesthesia, the strange neurological crossing of the senses, as an example of how the world is often richer than we think it to be.

Daniel Tammet shows us the world through the eyes of an autistic savant.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Tammet’s Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant is one of the most fascinating perspective shifts you’ll ever read.

Google's Sebastian Thrun 'We took a driverless car from San Francisco to LA, and no one even noticed there was no driver.'

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

The idea behind the Stuxnet worm is quite simple: We don’t want Iran to get the bomb.” ~ Ralph Langner

Security consultant Ralph Langner 'Mossad is responsible for Stuxnet. But the real force behind that is not Israel, it is the only cyber force: The U.S.'

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

In one of the day’s most jaw-dropping demos, the kind that restores one’s faith in humanity, Berkley BionicsEythor Bender showcased the incredible eLEGS exoskeletons, which enable the paralyzed to walk again, and HULC, which enables ordinary people to carry up to 200 lbs. Bender was joined onstage by a soldier, who demoed HULC, and a paralyzed woman who walked for the first time in 18 years thanks to eLEGS.

Eythor Bender on stage with paraplegic Amanda Boxtel, ecstatic in her new non-invasive exoskeleton legs.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Biomedical engineer Fiorenzo Omenetto is developing amazing non-invasive implants made of silicon and silk.

Fiorenzo Omenetto shows a disposable cup made of silk, a biodegradable, biocompatible alternative to the highly unsustainable styrofoam.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

There was no shortage of astounding demos today. Anthony Atala, whose work in 3D organ printing is an unbelievable next frontier in medicine, literally “printed” a kidney on the TED stage as 1,700 of the world’s smartest people gasped in awe, speechless.

Anthony Atala 'prints' a kidney to a collective gasp.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

The remarkable papercut artist Béatrice Coron, whose stunning artwork we’ve spotted on the New York subway, echoed some of our own beliefs about combinatorial creativity:

I’m influenced by everything I read, everything I see. In life and in paper cutting, everything is connected: One story leads to another.” ~ Beatrice Coron

Watch Coron’s creative process and swoon like we did:

Keep an eye on our live Twitter coverage and come back here tomorrow evening for highlights from the final day.

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03 MARCH, 2011

TED 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder, Day Two

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Redefining life, understanding consciousness, and why technology is humanizing education.

This week, we’re reporting live from TED 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder. Earlier, we warmed up with 5 must-read books by some of this year’s speakers and kicked off with exclusive coverage of Day One yesterday. Today, we’re back — sleep-deprived and intellectually overstimulated in typical TED fashion — with highlights, photos and notable soundbites from Day Two. Hold your heart and brace your brain.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio: 'A conscious mind is a mind with a self in it.'

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

The day’s first session, Deep Mystery, opened with one of our favorite brain-tinkerers, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, whose work on consciousness we’ve previously covered and whose new book, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain, is an absolute must-read. Damasio spoke of the three three levels of self — the proto self, the core self and the autobiographical self. While we share the first two with other species, the third, which deals with memory and weaves complex mental narratives, is uniquely human.

Antonio Damasio: 'Consciousness is how we know we exist.'

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Consciousness is what we regain when we awaken from deep sleep” ~ Antonio Damasio

Philosopher Damon Horowitz: 'I want to know about wrongness itself. The idea of wrong.'

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Everything around you is connected, and that’s the profound weirdness of quantum mechanics.” ~ Aaron O’Connell

Biochemist Felisa Wolfe-Simon, whose recent discovery of arsenic-utilizing bacteria that thrive in otherwise poisonous environments rewrote science textbooks in a profound way, reminded us of the importance of questioning our most fundamental understanding of life.

Astrochemist Felisa Woldfe-Simon is responsible for one of the most important discoveries in modern life science.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

If all life on Earth was made of the same pieces, how can we look for something different? I can only find what I know to look for. It’s really hard to look for something when you don’t know what it is.” ~ Felisa Wolfe-Simon

We’re fascinated by language, so MIT Media Lab’s Deb Roy blew us away with some astounding research on how children learn language, some of which is reflected in his Human Speechome Project and some in his fascinating observation of his baby son’s speech development, meticulously recording his development for three years. Listening to the evolution of the child’s pronunciation of the word “water.” Essentially, Roy made a 90,000-hour home video to explore the evolution of human speech.

As our world becomes increasingly instrumented and we gain the ability to connect the things people are saying with the context in which they’re saying it, new social structures are being revealed. And I think the implications for science and commerce will be significant.” ~ Deb Roy

Groundbreaking documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, of Supersize Me and 30 Days fame, took us behind the scenes of his new film, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold — an irreverent investigation of the make-believe world of product placement. In fact, he auctioned off the naming rights to this very TED talk, which EMC eventually acquired for $7,000. (Spurlock subsequently handed the check to The Sapling Foundation, TED’s parent entity, and joked that it was to be put towards his 2012 attendance.)

Embrace fear, embrace risk. Today, more than ever, we need to embrace transparency.” ~ Morgan Spurlock

Documentarian-provocateur Morgan Spurlock

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

When you’re traing your employees to be risk averse, you’re training your whole company to be reward-challenged.” ~ Morgan Spurlock

TED’s Tom Rielly brought this year’s remarkable class of TED Fellows on stage — exceptional doers and world-changers working across everything from documentary film to education to tissue engineering — for a well-deserved ovation.

Tom Reilly introduces 2011's class of fellows and senior fellows.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Astro-historian David Christian made a passionate argument for teaching kids Big History — essential knowledge about the origin of the universe. His 2005 book, Maps of Time, is an aboslutely must-read

Bill Gates with David Christian: Collective knowledge -- the ability to record information and pass it beyond the lifespan of the individual -- is what makes us different.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

We can share what we learn with such precision that it can outlast the individual and remain in our collective memory. That’s why we have a history. I call this ability ‘collective learning.’ It’s what makes us different.” ~ David Christian

Polio is like a root fire — it can explode again if you don’t snuff it out completely.” ~ Bruce Aylward

The Khan Academy may just be the most important phenomenon in grassroots open education of our time, so it was an absolute pleasure to see its founder, Salman Khan, take the TED stage.

Bill Gates with Salman Khan.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Here I was, an analyst at a hedge fund, and I was doing something of social value.” ~ Salman Khan

Khan Academy founder Salman Khan: 'By removing the one-size fits all lecture from the classroom, these teachers have used technology to humanize the classroom.'

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Khan was introduced by Bill Gates, who curated the entire Knowledge Revolution session — a new guest curation experiment at TED. Last fall, Gates eloquently captured just why the Khan Academy is such a formidable force of social change:

Learn math the way you learn anything, the way you learn to ride a bicycle. Fall off that bicycle and get back on. We encourage you to fall, we encourage failure, but we do expect mastery.” ~ Salman Khan

The day’s final session opened with a surprise talk directly from TEDxCairo. Wael Ghonim — the widely credited with sparking the Egyptian revolution by building a Facebook page for Khaled Said, the businessman slain by police brutality —

No one was a hero because everyone was a hero.” ~ Wael Ghonim

Internet activist Wael Ghonim delivers a powerful surprise talk.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Everything was done by the people for the people, and that’s the power of the Internet.” ~ Wael Ghonim

Deep-sea explorer Edith Widder studies bioluminescent creatures.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Bioluminescence expert Edith Widder delivered a fantastic follow-up to her 2010 TED Talk on the fascinating glowing world of the world’s deepest waters.

There’s a language of light in the deep ocean and we’re just beginning to understand it.” ~ Edith Widder

The day wrapped up with street artist JR, the most recent $100,000 TEDPrize winner, who showcased some of his incredible work and echoed our own beliefs about remix culture, and revealed his ambitious new global collaborative art project.

TEDPrize winner JR in Session 7: Radical Collaboration.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

It doesn’t matter today if it’s your photo or not. The importance is what you do with images.” ~ JR

Keep an eye on our live Twitter coverage and come back here tomorrow evening for highlights from Day Three.

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01 MARCH, 2011

TED 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder, Day One

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This week, we’re letting our brains explode so you don’t have to.

This week, we’re reporting live from TED 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder. Earlier, we warmed up with 5 must-read books by some of this year’s speakers and a lovely urban revitalization art project by TED Fellow Candy Chang. Today, we’re back with highlights from Day One. Ingest, enjoy and ponder.

TED curator Chris Anderson, one of our big cultural heroes, opens the first session of Day One: Monumental. It certainly was.

In an exclusive TED reveal, Martin Scorsese revealed a new project using cutting-edge digital technologies to restore Luchino Visconti’s iconic 50-year-old film Il Gattopardo to its full glory. A partnership between Scorsese’s nonprofit, The Film Foundation, and Gucci, the effort will grow the collection by at least one film from a visionary filmmaker every year.

Astronomer and physicist Janna Levin asked some mind-bending questions about the nature of the universe and played some incredible black hole demonstrations by Andrew Hamilton.

Astronomer Janna Levin tickles the underbelly of the universe with the profound touch of human curiosity.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

We have to ask, is it possible that our universe is just a plume off some greater history? Is it possible that we are just one patch in a multiverse? Are there others wondering who else is out there?” ~ Janna Levin

New York Times columnist David Brooks, one of our favorite magazine writers, probed into social psychology and the depths of consciousness.

The effectiveness of a group is not determined by the IQ of the group but by how well they communicate.” ~ David Brooks

David Brooks points out that the human mind takes in about a million pieces of information per minute, of which it's onl consciously aware of about 40.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Emotions are not separate from reason, but they’re the foundation for it because they tell us what to value.” ~ David Brooks

Eric Whitacre told the story of his deeply inspirational virtual choir, which brought together nearly 200 talented singers from around the world in a spellbinding collaborative performance of “Lux Aurumque” via YouTube:

Whitacre finished with the premiere of the project’s sequel, “Sleep 2.0,” bringing together over 2,000 videos from 58 countries in an ambitious collaborative performance of Whitacre’s original 1999 song, “Sleep.” It was revealed to the world for the first time here at TED and debuting online in April.

Al Jazeera founder Wadah Khanfar offered timeless insight on human rights and democracy, wrapped in timely insights from the recent Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. He shared that Al Jazeera has been banned from Tunisia for years, but the people in the streets became the network’s “reporters,” filling Al Jazeera’s newsrooms with raw footage, tweets and constantly flowing real-time information.

Al Jazeera's Wadah Khanfar delivers an impassioned defense for the monumental importance of journalism in today's global politics.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

The values of democracy and the freedom of choice sweeping the Middle East right now are the best opportunity for the world to see stability and tolerance and peace.” ~ Wadah Khanfar

The lovely Sunni Brown goes bold in defense of doodling as a way of making sense of the world and sparking the kind of thinking at the root of innovation. Her book, Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers, is an absolute must-read.

Doodling has a profound impact on the way we process information and solve problems.” ~ Sunni Brown

The Handspring Puppet Company brings to life the Joey the War Horse.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company demonstrated their remarkably lifelike puppets that live at the intersection of design and engineering, with a delightful Steampunk feel. Here’s a little teaser from the Indaba design conference:

British architect and designer Thomas Heatherwick showcased some of his remarkable, thoughtful architecture projects, including the mind-blowingly brilliant Seed Cathedral UK pavilion from Shanghai 2010 and London’s astounding rolling bridge.

Seed Cathedral was the only project we ever built that when it was done, looked more like a rendering than the rendering.” ~ Thomas Heatherwick

Arctic photographer Paul Nicklen took us on a bittersweet journey to a frozen wonderland, showcasing the breathtaking beauty and vibrant character of its inhabitants and stressing that by losing polar ice, we risk losing this entire fascinating and rich ecosystem.

Polar photographer and conservation advocate Paul Nicklen made friends with a female leopard seal, who kept bringing him dead penguins as a token of her love. We all have our ways.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

See more of his breathtaking work in the most excellent Polar Obsession:

Looking towards an uncertain future, a huge male bear triggers a camera trap, taking his own picture. Leifdefjorden, Spitsbergen, Norway

A gentoo penguin chick peeks, checking for patrolling leopard seals before tempting fate. Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula

Mother bear and two-year-old cub drift on glacier ice. Hudson Strait, Nunavut, Canada

As longtime fans for Bobby McFerrin, whose insight on music and emotion is unmissable, we were overjoyed to see him take the stage and call on TED audience members to join him in some incredible improvisation.

The one and only Bobby McFerrin unleashing his improvisational magic.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Improvisation isn’t about music or talent. It’s about doing what you do and keeping on going.” ~ Bobby McFerrin

Carlo Ratti of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab made a compelling case for using digital tools to better understand and engage with cities. He spotlighted the brilliant Trash Track project, which we’ve raved about before.

Cities account for 2% of the land’s surface, 50% of its population, 75% of its energy production and 80% of its carbon emissions.” ~ Carlo Ratti

Ratti proceeded to demo MIT’s stunningly futuristic FlyFire swarm of bioluminescent robotic mini-helicopters. By the end of the year, Ratti expects to have a working cloud of these “flying pixels.”

We were thrilled to see our friend Aaron Koblin, wildly talented visual artist and data visualization mastermind, finally take the TED stage and showcase some of his brilliant projects, including The Sheep Market, an early creative project using crowdsourcing long before crowdsourcing was a buzzword, Bicycle Built for 2000, an audio-visual collage of 2,088 voice recordings stitched together to sing the iconic “Daisy Bell” HAL song, and The Johnny Cash Project, a mesmerizing global collaborative “resurrection” music video for the legendary artist’s final studio recording.

Data viz wunderkind Aaron Koblin, an authentic geek-rockstar.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

The day wrapped up with the announcement of TEDED, an ambitious new effort focusing on global education, currently seeking educators, filmmakers and other creative professionals to contribute to the TEDED Brain Trust.

Keep an eye on our live Twitter coverage and come back here tomorrow evening for highlights from Day Two.

We’ve got a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.