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TED Day One: Truth, Drones & Wildlife and Human Nature by Ann Treacy
June 21, 2013, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh

Session 1: Moments of Truth

George Papandreou – Former Prime Minister of Greece

First a note on Papandreou’s appearance and the ensuing demonstration. The TED folks warned us about the demonstration – suggesting that we turn our name tags around so that no one would know who we were. Turns out the demonstration was quite small and any advanced warning unnecessary – but I guess better safe than sorry.

Papandreou spoke about the failure of leadership – claiming that the people have been taken out of the process of politics. Greece, he explained had been used as scapegoats in the economic meltdown. By the time he had been named Prime Minister the unemployment, which had been described as 6 percent was actually more than double that. He went to the EU meeting thinking that the problem would be solved on a regional level. What he found was that the problem of Greece was solved hurriedly to beat the opening of the market in Japan. Papandreou said we need to restore confidence in government , we need to work on youth unemployment and our lack of creativity and compassion. Use Europe as a global model, he suggested. Give immigrants in the EU European citizenship as a step to developing a common identity that could become a democracy.

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Steve Howard – IKEA

Three billion people will join the Middle Class by 2030. We’re seeing temperatures increase due to global warming. Populations in cities are growing. The rise of populations, especially in urban areas will create environmental issues. Businesses need to step up to be stewards of the environment. IKEA has already done this with an expectation of 100 percent goals towards being environmentally friends with things such as LED light bulbs, solar energy and a code of conduct in their supply chain to encourage environmentally sound decisions and prevent child labor. Businesses need to measure their impact on social concerns and shouldn’t be afraid to go all in.

George Monbiot – Journalist

George has plans to rewild the world – by that he literally means introduce wildlife – plants and animals into the ecosystem. He talks about lions in Trafalgar Square – and not the lion statues. By allowing wildlife to emerge again that will allow for rewilding of human life. His ideas were very out there – but interesting, starting with the idea that we can ecologically bored.

MUSIC – Tariq Harb – played guitar

Manal Al-Sharif – Women Can Drive

Manal became an accidental activist women’s rights in Saudi Arabia by driving. The common law belief in Saudi Arabia was that women couldn’t drive, although there actually was no such law. But when Lanal drove she and her brother (who has lent her the car) were both detained. A video of her driving raised even more questions. Her actions and a concerted effort to create a day when hundreds of women drove led to a change – women now drive in Saudi Arabia but it left Manal with a dual identity of sorts. She became a hero outside of her community but a villain within her country. A funny example was two hashtags used to track her actions: #oslotraitor and #oslohero.

Anne-Marie Slaughter – US State Department/Mother

Anne-Marie spoke about reassessing the feminist narrative. She had a big job with the US State Department and gave it up to stay home with her kids, when we kids were a bit older. (Teenagers, not toddlers.) It was a very thought-provoking talk and many people seemed to have an opinion on it. I think her best point was the need to socially lift up the role of staying home with kids. As she said, making a place for those we love is a global imperative – but often there’s not much social street cred that goes with it. She said we need to re-socialize men to be comfortable making the decision to stay home. I think staying at home could use a good PR campaign with both genders.

Session 2: Flying Things

Raffaello D’Andrea – Autonomous Systems Visionary

Raffaello gave a demonstration on drones and spoke about how they work. They are agigle but unstable. They can be programmed, but they can’t necessarily learn and adapt.

Lin Pin Koh – Drones Ecologist

Lin Pin advocates for positive use of drones as a means to view and monitor wildlife. He gave a range of positive puposes for drones:

  • Survey wildlife populaiton
  • Take pictures of animals and habitats
  • Zoom in and out for patterns
  • Create a map of landscape
  • Create 3D models of forests
  • Thermal imaging
  • Camera traps
  • Track radio collars
  • Access remote areas with microphones

Andreas Raptopoulous – Greek Activist

Promotes drones as a positive means for providing service to people with no access to roads. Apparently 1 billion people have no access to roads. So his idea is that drones could be used to deliver medicine and other follow up to telehealth care. Infrastructure required to do that would include: flying machines (drones), landing stations and routers. They are testing this in some emerging communities. The thought is that it could also work in future urban locations where the shortest distance between two points might include a flight rather than road transport. His motto – Matternet will do for transportation what mobile did for communication.

Daniel Suarez – Sci-Fi Thrillers

Daniel spoke to the nefarious side of drones, lethal autonomy and fear of the anonymous war. There are three ways war becasome less human with drones:

  1. Deluge of video from drones
  2. Electronic jamming
  3. Plausible deniability

In a war with drones citizens in high tech societies are most vulnerable. The deluge of data will provide opportunities for folks who can recognize patterns and anomalies. The secret to minimizing impact of drones on warfare is transparency.

Music – Elizaveta – Musical Alchemist

Greg Asner – Aerial Ecologist

Uses technology to map the Amazon. Has been able to learn things like female lions hunt out in the open during the day. Male lions hunt but very differently – they ambush as night. He had three question:

  1. How do we manage carbon reserve in the rain forest?
  2. How do we prepare for climate change in the rain forest?
  3. How do we manage biodiversity in a planet of closed/protected areas?

Session 3: Exquisite Enigmatic Us

Russell Foster – Circadian Neuroscientist

Why do we sleep? Restoration – Energy Conservation – Brain Functioning à Mostly people need sleep for mental health

The numbers:

  • 32 years – the amount most of us sleep in a lifetime
  • 31 percent of drivers microsleep
  • 8 hours – average time slept in 1950
  • 6.5 hours – average time slept in 2013
  • 9 hours – time teens need to sleep
  • 5 hours – time teens actually sleep

Tips for falling asleep – dark room, turn off phone, no caffeine, wind down

Elizabeth Loftus – False Memories Scholar

Memories are like a Wikipedia page – we can change and update them, but so can other people. Researchers have been able to successfully (and pretty easily) plant false memories. It has been done to get kids to “remember” that they like healthier foods.

Hetain Patel – Visual Artist

I thought Hetain’s performance piece was fascinating to watch. He started by speaking in Cheinese and had a translator – until the translator revealed that actually he had been repeating the same paragraph over and over. His native language was English but he didn’t want to be stereotyped by his North England accent. He said his art was art based on what we look like and what determines our identities. Limiting someone, he said, can reveal something unique.

Sandra Aamodt – Neuroscientist and Science Writer

Sandra spoke about learning to eat mindfully. She had good news and bad news. She had learned to eat mindfully and had lost weight quite easily. The good news is that hunger and energy are controlled by the brain. The bad news is that your brain has a set point weight for you – and the weight your brain has may not be the weight you want. The hypothalamus regulates weight, hunger, activity and metabolism. If you lose more than 10 pounds, your metabolism will change for 7 years. Changing food environment may be the most effective way to combat obesity.

Intuitive eater tend to be smaller. Controlled eaters are more likely to be bigger. Weight obsession predisposes people to weight gain. Family teasing also tends to lead to obesity.

Kelly McGonigal – Science – Help Psychologist

People who experience stress but didn’t think it was a bad thing did not die sooner than people with no stress. People who think they experienced too much stress died sooner than others. Stress is not a bad thing – the issue is how you handle it. Stress signs may prepare you for action. Constricted veins is the difference between stress and joy. Otherwise physically the two emotions are quite similar. Stress makes you social; it causes oxytocin (the cuddle drug). Oxytocin is a stress response that helps heat cells regenerate.

Music – Natasha Bedingford – UK pop songs


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