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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



TED University & Institute Notes by Ann Treacy
June 19, 2013, 8:20 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh

I wanted to take (and save) notes from the TED Global conference. They might not be of interest to anyone but me, but now I’ll know where to find them and I’ll post the rest as I write them up. Right now I have the “pre-conference” session notes…

Pre-Conference Workshop: Taming Wicked Problems

Tom Wujec, from Autodesk, gave two presentations on Wicked Problems – the interactive morning session and he spoke as part of the TED Institute. He works with companies on their “wicked problems,” which are simply problems that are difficult to tackle, multifaceted and ongoing. Normally he offers the session as a 3-day workshop or works intensely with an organization over a period of time through his process of taming the problems. The key is defining the problems and working together to create a solution – a solution that doesn’t necessarily fix the problem but tames it. His solution is very visual.

We started in teams. Each of drew instructions for making toast. The we (silently) grouped our images and organized our images to use the best from each team member to provide instructions for making toast. It was interesting to see where people started (making the bread, slicing, buying the toaster, maybe building a fire) and what they focused on (the toaster, the toast or the person). No one was right or wrong but there were a lot of approaches. Then in teams we set out to tackle real world wicked problems.

It was interesting to see how well it worked. The key was the visual approach, the silent cooperation and the process of working together.

Tom also spoke about the design continuum: Ideas go from impossible to impractical to possible to expected to required.

TED Institute

Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa – Go ThinkBig

Tokunbo is a former journalist and HEAD OF Go ThinkBig that encourages young people to do well and do good. He build mentorships with young people at risk to help them get ahead and build their own connections that will help them succeed and make things happen. Couple of points

  • Young people will do tirelessly
  • Digital tools open quality education to everyone
  • If every enterprise in the UK employed one young person it would eradicated youth unemployment

Kate Groch – Bush Schools

Kate works has built digital learning centers across rural South Africa. She started by turning a banana factory into an ICT that serves 200 adults and 450 school children. Stressing that technology is not enough, Kate talked about how they have transitioned from meeting in small groups under trees to encouraging small groups to meet via telepresence. It’s been a good way for folks to connect, communicate and get used to the technology. A powerful message from the ICTs in the rural areas was the shift for the residents from “chance to choice.” It used to be if you were born in rural South Africa your opportunities were few. Now if you have access to the learning centers, you have a choice to go to school, to learn, to meet people from around the world. Technology has removed the possibility of being born in the wrong place.

Phillipe Schulz – Renault-Nissan

Phillippe is working to accelerate the transport revolution from the inside. He develops cars that minimize use and need for oil. He points out that in 15 years 70 percent of the world’s population will be urban and offers three reasons we need to work faster to reduce dependence on oil:

  1. To avoid an environmental disaster
  2. For the economy
  3. Oil is a finite resource

Mahadev Raman

Mahadev spoke about the comfort equation – which is 20-25 degrees Celsius with a humidity of 30-70 percent. He talks about the energy wasted trying to maintain that comfort zone around the world in places that may or may not hold people. For example the futility of keeping airports set to comfort equation 24 hours a day when few people are visiting airports in the off hours. They key is better design, smart thermostats and a little bit of common sense and sacrifice – often means small steps such as put on a sweater.

Jeremy Betham

Jeremy works for Shell and talked about his idea of “building memories for the future,” which to me sounded like higher order daydreaming with a purpose – or scenario planning. In the example of Shell, it’s a matter of looking at how human needs and infrastructure are entwined in alarming ways and finding ways to make that productive. On a community level is takes business civic society and government to work together to challenge themselves, put themselves in tight spot and come up with solutions that suit the memories we want for the future.

Chris Perretta

Chris leads technology efforts for State Street. He recognizes that technology is changing the way we do technology – and that the changing that are happening within IT today are changes that will trickle to other fields and departments tomorrow. We need people who can handle these changes, which means we need people who think deeply and wide – people who can understand a whole system because when you understand the whole system you see value where no one else can see value.

Jennifer Healey

Jennifer was a spokesperson for personal ownership of your digital footprint. She chastised the privacy policies that no one reads pointing out that we are giving out a lot of information about ourselves for very little in return. Part of the problem is that right now access to personal digital information is an all or nothing proposition. There are times when you might be OK with sharing your personal data (from buying history to contacts) when the return is worthwhile – but access to the latest game app might not be it. People need the power to be able to manage and negotiate with their own personal, digital data.

TED University

Sheryl Connelly- How to Take in TED

Sheryl talked about the Art of Listening and Taking notes. She offered 5 suggestions for getting the most out of a TED conference:

  1. Give it your all
  2. Take notes
  3. Be open to new possibilities
  4. Challenge yourself
  5. Savor every moment

Peter Doolittle – The Way People Remember

Working memory works by storing – retrieving – processing based on goals. Building a strong working memory is helpful for telling stories and communicating. Generally we can remember 4 things for up to 10-20 seconds but there are some tips to improve working memory. Process immediately by thinking and repeating. Think in images. Build structure and support for new ideas.

Paul Kemp-Robertson – New currencies

Technology is disrupting our trust in money. Trust n technology trumps trust in institutions:

  • 61 percent trust “people like me”
  • 43 percent trust CEOs
  • 38 percent trust government

Drug dealers are now using Tide (yes the detergent!) as currency. Nike community is starting to build a community based on points earned via calories burned in the shoes. In Africa Vodaphone credit is money (FAKKA). BITCOIN is the fastest growing currency. It is a virtual currency earned by accomplishing math challenges.

Ted Gourneios – I’m Elmo and I know it

From Rollins College Ted reminds us that the digital revolution is brought to us by people like you! We don’t just watch media anymore, we live it.

Winka Dubbledam – Bottom-up urban design for Bogota

Bottom-up renewal for a community requires intrinsic motivation. Bogota has used MyIdealCity.com to help spur and channel bottom-up renewal and civic society. The site is a community portal that engages residents is regular conversation – and topics big and small. But it has also given birth to a crowdfunding project that funded a 66 story building in the city. They appealed to resident (although there were few inner-city residents), commuters and potential friends of the area as well. One push is to create a space that will attract residents.

Solofa Batterjee – A unique father-daughter relationship

Solofa shared lessons she learned from her father

  • If you don’t know the difference between pleasure and joy than you haven’t lived
  • Be shy as a woman, but brave as a man
  • Even the sky is not your limit
  • Women are raising the next generation of women
  • Philanthropy is our top job
  • Believe in justice

Yana Buhrer Tavanier – Don’t discount the uncounted

There are inhumane conditions in institutions, such as orphanages. Adequate healthcare would save lives in many of these institutions and love can bring a child back from the brink of neglect.

Julian Treasure – The most powerful sound in the world

Julian offers the 7 deadly sins of speaking:

  1. Gossip
  2. Judging
  3. Negativity
  4. Complaining
  5. Excuses
  6. Exaggeration
  7. Dogmatism

Instead remember HAIL – honesty, authenticity, integrity and love

Sunny Bates – How to meet people at TED

Sunny offers tips to meeting people through GRACE

  • Generosity
  • Rescue
  • Attention
  • Confidence
  • Exact
  • Serendipity

Xavier Vilalta – Designing for emerging economies

Xavier showed his building design for emerging communities- which means using materials that make sense for the environment and a blueprint that mimics those currently found in the economy. So if the economy is based on a market of stalls now – don’t build for department store in the future.

Arzu Coltekin – Three generations of Turkish Women

Introduces the novel idea that women are people and Turkish women vary as in looks and attitudes as women all over the world.

Roberto & Francesca D’Angleo – Parenting our Exceptional Son

Talk about overcoming the challenges of having a child with special needs. Through the challenge they learned to turn the challenge into an opportunity. They tried to teach their son through repetition of action and realized the son wasn’t watching the action; the son was watching them. So they started bringing him everywhere as you might with any non-exceptional child.

Jane McGonigal – My Favorite Game

Jane introduced the audience to Massively Multiplayer Thumb Wrestling. Developed by monochrome, it is exactly what it sounds like – lots of people thumb wrestling each other simultaneously. She got the whole audience to play. (I won one of two games and am now considered a Grand Master!)

Juliana Rotich – Designing Digital Products for Local Needs

Juliana works with Africa on the Edge. She has been working on fiber throughout Africa but one of the very local problems is access to power as much as access to the Internet. SO they are users of BRCK, a tool developed by TED Fellow Eric Hersman that acts like a hub providing access to wireless Internet and storing power to act as back up when local power goes down. BRCK does load balancing for the community/ICT and can act as an on ramp for things if the wireless is used to monitor or otherwise remotely control appliances.

Bastian Schaefer – A 3D-Printed Jumbo Jet?

Introduced plans for the next airbus with a focus on light, mimicking a living organism and end user comfort. Part of the plan assumes use of a 3D printer to replace milling.

Margaret Heffernan – Don’t Stay Silent

I have to mention that Margaret was one of my very favorite speakers last year – on a related topic. (And rumor has it she’ll be in the Twin Cities for an event with The Wilder Foundation.) What I really like about her is the push to say something when you know something is askew. She mentions that silence is often more articulate than what’s being said. To coax out the meaning we need to learn to ask small questions – such as “Does anyone know anything about…” The idea is to explore ideas and options and to build allies.



Last Full Day in Edinburgh – Mountains, Demonstrations, Caves by Ann Treacy
June 18, 2013, 5:23 am
Filed under: Edinburgh, Scotland

Mary arrived on Friday afternoon. We had a fun afternoon evening getting her situated and making her stay up late enough to curb the effects of jetlag. We also had a nice final supper with some of my TED friends. It’s always a little bittersweet to say goodbye since it’s such an intense week.

We made the most of Saturday – our full day in Edinburgh. We start with breakfast at The Elephant House, the coffee shop where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. Then we walked from the Castle, down the Royal Mile to Holyrood, where we saw the start of a Pride parade promoting marriage equality. (Super proud to be from a state that also supports marriage equality at a moment like that!)

Then we climbed up Arthur’s Seat. It’s a good climb up the hill/mountain. I have to admit that it’s not so much the physical nature of the task that gets me – but climbing higher and higher, especially in the steep parts. So we ended up taking an easier but longer way down. That was very OK because really after that we just continued to walk – and you can see the pictures.

We stopped in to see Mary King’s Close – well we didn’t pay for the tour, but we got the idea. It’s a sample of the layered living in Edinburgh going back centuries. There really was a whole village under the city. A couple years ago, we did a ghost tour that also showcased the layered living – the Close exhibit wasn’t quite as scary. But it did give the idea of a livelihood in the caves.

We got a great sneak into the caves again at night. We went to see a band called the Darligntons play at Bannerman’s. The pub part of Bannerman’s is fun but architecturally unremarkable. But in the back room for music you can clearly see that the space is a cave. It’s dark, musty and pretty good. We also went to a bar called the caves, where again we could clearly see the history of the caves, although this bar had done more the feature the cave appeal. In some ways the back of Bannerman’s was even cooler because they just seemed to take the heritage for granted.

We went to The Caves to attend the Torture Garden. No pictures allowed there!



The junkyards of Edinburgh by Ann Treacy
June 17, 2013, 1:13 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh, Scotland

For my friends Amy and Camille who are not on Facebook! I knew if I just posted the picture there you’d never see them. So it may take a week or so before I wrote up all of my TED notes, I figured I could at least write up some of the non-conference details.

Today we have a late start for the TED Global conference, which is super nice as it gave me time for a good 2-hour walk.

Edinburgh is a gorgeous city. All tallied I have spent about 3 weeks here and have seen loads of beautiful things. But beautiful doesn’t always fill 2 hours so today I decided to walk to the  sea. So I set off from my hotel (which is amazing and super centrally located) and headed north. I love UK cities so it was fun to walk by the regular shops and pubs, and off licenses and tattoo parlors – although I soon realized I was walking by more pubs and tattoos than say libraries.

Then I got close to the sea, which it turns out is pretty industrial. To be fair I knew the potential for industry so close to the city. But it was a great opportunity to check out a Scottish junkyard, landfill and recycling center. (Wish I could capture a smell in a camera!) But all of that industry is just a short walk from the sea!

The highlight was walking between the sea and the storage rental spaces. And those of you who know me well will know that I don’t love dogs. So image my delight when I could hear the mean storage security dogs going crazy as I walked past their domain.



Finally a Look at Edinburgh by Ann Treacy
July 31, 2012, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh

So the best thing about TED, was TED – but only because TED is so good, because Edinburgh is still one of my favorite cities – and I did get to see some bits and pieces between sessions. Well really most of what I saw I saw on the first and last days – but I still saw some.

I met someone on the bus from the airport on the Edinburgh and we hung out until we could actually check into the hotel. We went to enjoy a drink at the café where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. Luckily I happened to remember where it was from our last (aka only other) trip to Edinburgh. Also on one of my morning walks I actually saw a fox behind the Edinburgh Castle.

The rest of just sort of nice pictures of great parts of Edinburgh – no real accompanying stories.



TED Global: Day Five by Ann Treacy
July 31, 2012, 9:10 am
Filed under: Edinburgh | Tags:

The final day of TED was a little bitter sweet. The week had been amazing – but frankly I needed some sleep so I was OK with it ending. The theme for the morning was the public sphere, which like Day 4 fit in pretty well with my work, which always ups the interest.

Kirby Ferguson spoke about creative mashups and copyright. The question being how much can we borrow before it’s considered stealing. The example – Minnesota’s own Bob Dylan. I think music is a good example because I think sometimes musicians collaborate, sometimes they willfully borrow large rifts and sometimes I think the music goes into the subconscious remixes itself and pops out without the instrument knowing the origin.

Michael Anti gave an interesting talk on the Internet in China. Yes it’s censored – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to communicate under the radar and at least the transport is there is carry the message. Similar to the talk on factory girls in China it was an interesting glimpse at life from a different perspective.

Margaret Heffernan was possibly my favorite speaker. No PPT, no visuals – she just spoke about openness alone won’t drive change. You also need people with the courage to speak up when they think things aren’t right. And that might mean morally right – but that might also people technically right. Sometimes that just means have a team diverse enough to see things from different angles. Interesting stat – 85 percent of people are afraid to speak up even when they think something is wrong. And again we’re not talking morally – we’re talking technically or structurally. I think we need to use the power poses Amy Cuddy spoke about to get the guts to tell our truths. But I also think organizations need to learn to be open enough to hear when they are wrong.

Daria Musk is an inspiring musician who spoke/sang about how she used Google+ Hangouts to create her career. I heard about Google+ from a few musicians. It made me think that maybe there’s hope for Google+. Or like MySpace, maybe Google+ is going to be a realm mostly for musicians (and people interested in finding musicians).

Clay Shirky talked about tools that allow for cooperation without coordination. Interesting on two fronts – first because it opens the door to crowdsource and second because without coordination sustaining the conversation/effort becomes much easier.

Back to reality – so after not much planning and due to being much more tired than I anticipated I ironically waited 4 hours for a train, which everyone expected to be cancelled due to flooding and mud slides in England. Then I took the train from Edinburgh, through Chester to Holyhead and caught my favorite midnight ferry to Dublin!

(Also I’m just adding some of my random Edinburgh pictures here.)



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.



TED Global: Day Three by Ann Treacy
July 30, 2012, 5:12 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh | Tags:

The third day of TED started with a focus on international. Pankaj Ghemwat started with an interesting statistics – only 2 percent of phone traffic was cross border. I don’t know if that includes Skype. I can’t even remember what the scope of the test group was – but I found that amazing. Although I suspect that except when I’m in Ireland less than 2 percent of my phone traffic is international. The same can’t be said of my email or Facebook traffic.

Robert Neuwirth spoke about System D – essentially off the books economic activity, especially happening in third world (hopefully emerging) economies. I find this fascinating – and love to hear about the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of folks in stressed economic environments and I hate to hear about what the folks on the “right side” of the economic divide are willing to do to maintain the status quo. System D may not be pretty – but I think it lifts a lot of people to a better place – making room for the next generation to make it pretty!

I was surprised how much I enjoyed Alex Salmond (Scotland’s First Minister) on the power of small countries. Without a doubt, it’s the time I spend in Ireland that makes the toptic interesting to me. But like small businesses I think the small countries have an agility that the US has totally lost. And I think agility is more important now that it ever had been in the past. I wish the US would be open to hearing about agile strategies. For folks who don’t know, Alex Salmond would like to see Scotland separate from England. And I found him interesting – but someone asked why Sctoland should separate and he didn’t have a good elevator pitch answer. I think he needs to work on that. (And I’m sure he’s reading this post for my advice!)

Ivan Krastev spoke about governments – he was entertaining – coming as he said from a country of pessimists, Bulgaria. One comments he made the struck me – We can change governments but not policies.

Gabriella Coleman gave a super interesting talk on AnanOps – a group of cyber vigilantes who have been known to take down folks/groups that they feel have earned some agro. I think they’re like Alex in Clockwork Orange or other antagonists who build a subculture hero status by using nefarious tactics sometimes to right a wrong – but sometimes just because they can. One interesting thing about the AnanOps is that membership is open and anonymous – so to even talk about them as a group is difficult.

Leslie Chang gave a great talk on the life of factory workers (women mostly if not exclusively) in China. Her point was that measuring the life of factory worker by US or most European standards wasn’t really fair. The women are working under what I would call horrendous conditions – but the conditions are much better than what they have left in the country and the factory jobs allow them to make major improvements in their lives – and like System D – while the picture isn’t pretty it improves the lives of subsequent generations. I think in the US we’ve lost the appreciation of working for the next generation.

Neil Harbisson was a walking cyborg. He’s color blind – but he has created adaptive technology that allows him to hear colors based on the tone of the frequency those colors generate. Reminded me of many exhibits I’ve seen at the Science Gallery – very cool but I don’t entirely get the direct translation from color to sound. That being said I do appreciate that once you create a standard you can develop a system for translation that can be understood universally so I applaud the effort. Also his geometrical art, based on mathematic-created colors was amazing!

In the afternoon we heard from some more amazing people – a couple of whom had learned to cope with sever metal illness, such as chronic schizophrenia. Elyn Saks spoke about her experience being committed against her will as a young woman and how she went on to get a Phd and live a productive life thanks to medication, a strong support system and an occupied mind. (And I’d add a strong will!) Ruby Wax gave an entertaining look at what it’s like for a brain with issues. Vkiram Patel introduced SUDAR – a tool that will help deploy mental health treatment to patients all over the world through channels that don’t require high level medical staff, which often aren’t available. I love his idea of democratizing medical knowledge. We learned of a few examples. The gist is sort of DIY kits that help semi-trained or maybe even just compassionate people to support to offer medical service to others. Sometimes (as in the case of SUDAR) it’s a matter of rough and ready training for the care giver; sometimes it’s a matter of easy-to-administer medical exams or medication.

We also heard from Rob Legato who did the special effects for Apollo movies (and others but not being a movie person I can’t remember them). He had a fun story of how he recreated the first rocket launch – first they used footage to create an replica and everyone said it was wrong. So they surveyed loads of people – who remembered things incorrectly – but they observed trends in the misremembering. Then they built the second launch as people remembered it and everyone thought it was great.

In the evening we learned about renewable energy projects – which again I loved! We heard from Jonathan Trent (from NASA, who I talked to at a party!!) who talked about Project Omega, a very cool way to tap into biofuels under the sea – in a way that’s respectful to the sea and the surrounding community.

Sarah Jayne Blackmore spoke about how the prefrontal cortex develops through adolescence. Here’s some shocking news – teens have difficulty understanding other’s perspective! Well, it was good to hear that it’s kind of out of their control anyways – not just willful crabbiness, which is what I had previously assumed.

The night ended with my friend Preston Reed playing with Usman Riaz. The music was amazing! But the best part was the visual. Usman is a virtual apprentice to Preston’s style of percussion guitar. Usman learned to play that way via YouTube videos of Preston. Preston is huge with long greyish hair – he plays standing up. Usman is slight with dark hair and plays sitting down. If I were a painter and I wanted to capture a modern day apprentice relationship – I couldn’t do much better than painting them on stage. Plus they both have such a generous and modest stage presence. (Think *big* smiles after each song – while super serious faces while they play.) I’m going to cheat and use video from a TED After Hours event here – since no filing during TED!



TED Global: Day Two by Ann Treacy
July 13, 2012, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh | Tags:

I’m realizing that deciding to type up all of mu notes from TED is sort of handicapping me from adding any notes – so I’m going with highlights.

The day started with a couple more TED Fellow and TED University talks. Jill Blakeway spoke about the placebo effect in acupuncture – and how she learned to embraced the idea that acupuncture might be a placebo. I like that idea – mostly so long as something does no harm I’m all over any effect, placebo or otherwise! Then Margaret Stewart gave a wonderful demonstration on sabering champagne bottles. I wont’ say too much as I plan to perfect it once I get home (and can buy champagne with dollars) and impress everyone.

Then the Big TED event began. I have to start by saying that all of the speakers were wonderful. I think choosing favorites is really a matter of what topics interest you. And the following interested me…

Raghu Dixit – an amazing musician from India. He got everybody up and clapping – if not actually dancing.

James Stavridis, – NATO Supreme Commander – yup no typo there, that’s who he is. He spoke about open source security. The idea being that building bridges will be more effective than building walls but that it requires public-private partnership. Nice to hear someone from NATO promoting that idea. I loved the grouping of speakers – but in retrospect, his talk really fit in well with Jason McCue’s talk on terrorism.

Massimo Banzi – creator of Arduino. If I were a coder I’d be all over this and the idea of taking open source to such a degree as to make everything available to be improved upon. The whole idea of open source is such a game changer in terms of how economy works.

Lee Cronin – print your own medicine. Wow! This was a recurring theme both at TED, Dublin Science Gallery and other things I’ve been reading. The idea that you can create custom chemicals through these printers is amazing. Take it a step further and since you’re creating small batches, it opens the door to creating personalized medicine. So maybe I get a special aspirin that we know won’t react poorly to my eye medicine. Or on a broader scope – imagine the possibilities to thwart the danger of viral diseases.

Daphne Koller – open access to education – allowing anyone to take online (real time) classes from top universities https://www.coursera.org/ – this might shift the goal of education from getting the degree to learning the lessons – never mind the opportunity to level the playing field – for anyone with the broadband to take advantage of it.

Eddie Obeng – one of my favorite speakers! He spoke about reacting to a world that no longer exists. The problem is that we have our regular ways of doing things – from education to running a business. Unfortunately the rules in which those ways were created have changed entirely (see Arduino above) and we’re not changing with them. We need to break away from the regular way to create new ways that take in account the changes that are happening. He speaks about the smart failure!

Karen Thompson Walker – the idea was that fear is intellectual story – we need to learn to read our fears – but the story she told was gripping. Look for her talk when it comes out!

The night ended with a great party at the Scotland Museum, which was very fun. I met some super friendly guys (Rob and Richard) so I had folks to hang with. And we headed to the After Hours event which starred the TED performers Raghu Dixit in a place called The Caves, because it appeared to have been built into caves below the castle.



TED Global: First night by Ann Treacy
July 13, 2012, 3:10 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh

I can’t believe I didn’t write about our fancy first night party for TED. It was held at the top of the Edinburgh Castle. The weather was perfect! The drinks were free. Folks walked around with wonderful appetizers. Everyone was friendly.

There are people who serve as hosts. I think they’ve probably just attended a billion previous TEDs – but they are super friendly and when you’re new to the event and you’ve come alone, it really is nice to have the super friendly people start conversation. And of course this was just a couple of hours after my presentation so many kind people came up to say hello to me based on what little they had learned about me. So that was super nice too.

I took some pictures from the castle – but admittedly they don’t look nearly as good as the real thing. But while I was taking pictures I met someone from Catalonia. (Patrick and I taught English in Catalonia before we were married.) You don’t meet a lot of people from that area. He was very impressed that I had lived in Mollerusa- well if not impressed at least surprised. I have to say that at an event like this it is nice to have done a little traveling.

Just as the castle party was ending I found myself talking to some great people – and we trekked to a nearby pub. For better or for worse this began a happy habit throughout the conference. I’m including various pictures from various nights of me, Cath, Preston and Liang. And I must thank them for helping me ring in my birthday after midnight on that firs night of TED!




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