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TED Global: Day Four by Ann Treacy
July 31, 2012, 8:44 am
Filed under: Edinburgh | Tags:

I’m not sure if Day 4 was my favorite – but it was definitely closest to what I do in real life – so I liked it a lot! (I guess that’s a good sign for my choice of profession.) Thursday was very technology focused – not so much how to program – but how to use and share. Kind of like introducing the idea of cyborg with Neil Haribsson, Thursday offered a glimpse at how technology is merging online and offline relationships – creating cyfriends.

Rachel Botsman spoke about Task Rabbit and the importance of reputation online. Task Rabbit is a website that matches people who need services done (such a mow the lawn, pick up dry cleaning or paint a room) with people who will do the services for a price. It’s partially a bidding process – but the buyer doesn’t need (or necessarily want) to choose the lowest bidder. The buyer can also see reviews from past buyers for each bid. In this way, it turns the virtual world into a small town. In small town you may be able to overcharge someone from crappy service once – maybe even a few times – but word will get out and you’ll soon be out of work. Same here. Building on that theme, Robin Chase spoke about Buzz Car – a service that connects car owners with folks who want to rent a car.

One of my favorite speakers was Amy Cuddy – she spoke about nonverbal communication and the power of fake it until you make it. I think her video should be required viewing for all teen girls and unhappily shy people. She did an experiment that involved tracking the most attractive job applicants. Half of the group of interviewees was asked to stand in power poses (think Wonder Woman with hands on hips) before the interview. The other half were told nothing. This was a double blind test. Yet the people who power posed overwhelmingly beat the do nothings for the job. In the same way nonverbal cues may change how people view you – they can also change how you view yourself or at least how you perform. I’ve already been putting this one into practice – I’ll be downright menacing before I get home!

Jason McClure was another favorite for me. He spoke about how to combat terrorists – not through combat but through better marketing. The idea really is to appeal to potential terrorists to reduce the flow of new terrorists. First – society needs to show that we’re a better product than what the terrorists offer. It reminded me of the pirate exhibit the girls and I saw with Grandma in St Paul. Many people became pirate because the money and the life were better than becoming a sailor, which was often the only viable option. How often might that be the case today? We need to give people better options. Second – terrorists often garner sympathy by showing themselves as victims. To deafen that cry we need to lift up the voices of the victims of terrorism. Partially that means finding a platform for the victims to tell their story – that also means taking better care of the victims. His talk was very powerful – a dramatic bomb went off during the talk – you have to watch the talk to see what I mean.

Jayne McGonigal was amazing for at least two reasons. First – well she just is. Second – she gave her talk in fits and starts three times due to technical difficulties, which were not her own. I’ll try to recap her really powerful talk. She was injured and spent a year in bed told not to do anything. She got very depressed and entertained thoughts of suicide. Then she realized that as a game developer what she needed to create a game to keep herself focused. (Reminded me of Elyn Saks saying part of what kept the schizophrenia at bay was an occupied mind!)  The game consisted of killing anything that kept her down. It helped. The pain didn’t necessarily go away but the powerless feeling did. She spoke of post-traumatic growth – sort of the opposite of post-traumatic stress – where people walk away from trauma with a stronger love of life. The game helped her do that. She’s made the game available online – and now it helps others. Her talk is really worth watching – and more importantly, I think it’s an idea worth sharing with anyone you think might need it.

So those speakers were just the morning! You can see what I think TED is the best thing ever! The afternoon was really on open source – open source software, hardware, aid, knowledge – access, transparency. Everything I think will help the Internet transform how we do things in communities.

Beth Noveck talked about how making government data available helps public private partnerships. Some partnerships focus on private company using the data to create an app. Some partnerships focus on making those apps available to private citizens to crowdsource solutions. One example – and she didn’t use this but I met this guy and he was a TED wish guy – was a database that tracks quiet places in cities. So if you know of a quiet place you can post it – then if you’re visiting a new city (or maybe even your home town) you can look up a quiet place when you need it.

Heather Brook is a journalist who had a great story about how she pushed for access to government information to make a difference. Specifically she requested expense receipts of members of parliament. To make a long (and interesting) story short – the Freedom of Information laws are making a difference!

Mark Goodman from the FBI spoke about the future of crime and terrorism. Don’t watch his talk before you go to sleep – that’s one thing I’ll say. He really just flipped the scope on so many of the cool things we’d learned about and talked about how a criminal might make use of technology. For example, if  3D printer can create a microscope – it can probably create a gun too. And as people become cyborgs, they become hackable. One silver lining – the ability to crowdsource solutions.

Laura Snyder was sort of a sleeper favorite of mine. She gave the history of science as it shifted from a loose cousin of philosophy to becoming its own field of study based on the inductive, evidence based method. What was interesting to me was the movement to scientifically literate adults through making science more accessible through article written in plain English to the dismal display of science literacy we see today. In the US only 28 percent of adults are scientifically literate. Explains a lot, huh?

Some of the evening speakers were great – but really more visual that I can explain here. Michael Hansmeyer used a 3D printer to create amazing columns based on folding a cube unto itself. The structures are not random, yet as he said, not yet predictable. The intricacies were amazing. Ramesh Raskar demonstrated how through femto-photography we can see around corners. They had a camera that could shoot a trillion phrases a second which allows you to see light in motion!

Then maybe the coolest this I still don’t really understand – Boaz Almog and quantum levitation. I should just say watch it – ‘cause it’s so cool! The idea is that through use of a superconductor you can create a force that has no friction, no loss of electricity, no heat. He levitated a small disc – but more than levitate the disc will “stick” to a surface so if you flip the surface the disc flips with it, constantly spinning a couple inches from the surface. And apparently that small disc could hold a car. So think of a super cool roller coaster. Or more practical – think of a train that could go through a tunnel between NY and Cork!

The After Hours on the fourth night was amazing. Lots of the musicians and dancers were invited to perform – including Preston Reed. I’ll include some videos I took. And in case there are any doubts, the food and drink were always free. Just need to pay for the very late night pints that I shouldn’t have been having anyways! Was happy to close the pub that night with my TED buddies Cath, Preston and Liang.

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