17 July, 2010

TED session 12: Waging Peace

And so to the last session - as always, it's gone so fast and the combination of TED miasma, overload and sheer fatigue creates a unique altered state that takes a day or two to subside - hence the famous 'TED crash'.

Julian Assange, Whistle blower
Julian founded and runs Wikileaks, the website that invites whistle-blowers globally to send in their stuff, check it and then publishes the classified documents. This is powerful: their activity changes the outcome of the Kenyan election. They are struggling for the resources to grow (their people have to be very well qualified). The TED audience voted him a hero rather than a villain, though clearly his organisation is walking a fine line and could cause great damage as well as do great good. He seems to have a firm hand and care about this, however.

Stefan Wolff, Ethnic conflicts scholar
Ethnic conflict and civil war has declined in frequency by 30% over the last 20 years. However ceasefires are no guarantee of peace.We must have leadership, civil society, diplomacy and also well designed institutions if we are to keep this decline happening.

If we embrace complexity and use good visualisation techniques we will discover that there is clarity and simplicity on the other side. Complexity is not complication. Patterns are the guide to understanding.

William Perrin, Community activist
He is Blair's former web advisor, and lives near Kings Cross in a rough area, and (like a growing number of local communities in the UK) is using the web as a tool for community action to improve the local environment and funnel community pressure for change to the authorities. He proposed a charter for government (still locked in a post/telephone world) about the Internet:
1 make the Internet into the primary communication medium
2 train people who don't know how to use it
3 change all the institutions to make them web-compatible
Agreed - though I was sitting next to him and he could not stop accessing Twitter on computer/smartphone throughout others' talks (which is against TED rules) so he may be a little hooked on this stuff!

Mallika Sarabhai, Dancer, actor, activist
Absolutely brilliant combination of dance, acting, poetry and political message - of woman moving into her full power and glory.

Zainab Salbi, Activitst and social entrepreneur
Quote: "War is not about sound; it's about the silence of humanity." Women understand war as well as men - if not better, since they are so often victims of it and they are primary in the healing from it, often the only way hatred can be stopped from cycling through the generations through their good influence on their children. So why are women excluded from peace negotiations? We must support women if we are to have peace.

And that's it. 700 semi-conscious TEDsters with fried brains file out to go punting and say goodbye for another year. It's been a fine TED for me: some highs and lows as always, and much to absorb over the coming days and weeks. For me right now, the mushroom replacement for styrofoam, the luminous Elif Shafak, the inspiring Jessican Jackley and Sugata Mitra and the thought-controlled computer were the standouts among many great talks. 

Now to process dozens and dozens of business cards... if only there were an iPhone app to take pictures of them and get them straight into Contacts. I gather Google has such a thing on the Android so maybe it won't be long.

So long to TED until July 2011.

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TED session 11: The Tiny Blue Dot

Good news - Caroline's superb hurdy-gurdy music (from TED-U) is now linked on the TED blog here. Get some!

This session is about the planet.

Johan Rockström, Sustainability expert
There are nine 'planetary boundaries' and we have already transgressed three of them (climate change, nitrogen, species extinction). We are squeezing the planet in four dimensions at once: human growth, climate, ecosystems and the element of surprise. Slowing growth is not going to be enough: we are going to have to bend the curves downwards. A shocking stat: 25% of rivers now don't reach the ocean because we are taking the water.

Jason Clay, Market transformer
Great quote: "You can't wake a person who'e pretending to be asleep." Population x consumption must = planetary resources, and it does not. The average American consumers 43x as much as the average African. the average European cat has a bigger environmental footprint than the average African. The key to cutting our footprint is trade. 100 companies control 25% of the trade so it's realistic to change their behaviour to using sustainable resources. 40 have signed up to this already, 40 more are about to. This make sustainability a  pre-competitive issue - asking consumers to choose green will just not work.

Rachel Sussman, Artist and photographer
Rachel photographs the world's oldest living things. A 7,000 year old tree in Japan; clone aspen that's 80,000 years old; Siberian actinobacteria that are 600,000 years old. Fascinating.

Rachel Armstrong, Senior TED Fellow
We can produce technology that produces positive outputs instead of waste products - for example buildings that absorb CO2.

Ze Frank, Humourist and web artist
A brilliant and very funny talk as always - I loved the mashups/community created music he makes. 

Dimitar Sasselov, Astronomer (and hear my AudioBoo interview with him here)
The Kepler telescope has just gone into orbit and Dimitar gives us a sneak preview of the results. They have found more than 140 Earth-sized planets already, so the conclusion is that our galaxy is rich in them - probably 100 million in total. Within a year we'll have identified Earth-type planets. The other end of the bridge is synthetic biology on Earth. 

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TED session 10: Who's The Teacher?

Sugata Mitra, Education researcher
This was a wonderful TED talk from a charming, funny and brilliant man with a great heart. Children learn to use computers on their, given space (and no teacher) - anywhere in the world. Arthur C Clarke: "Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine, should be." Groups of children (ideally pods of 3-4 on each computer) can learn without being taught to navigate the Internet and achieve defined educational objectives. Sugata shows many inspiring examples of this in India, the UK and Italy. He is setting up SOLEs (self organising learning environments) around the world, with a Granny Cloud (!!!) because he's found that children learn especially well when they can check in with a granny figure. There aqre hundreds of grannies connecting virtually with children all over the world - wonderful stuff that rewards both ends of the link! He should run the world's educational systems IMHO!

Conrad Wolfram, Mathematician
We must change the teaching of mathematics. Why do we obsess about grinding children into tedium by teaching only the boring bit (computation) when they will never use it in life - we have machines for that. The interest bits are formulating the right question, turning it into a mathematical formulation, and then interpreting the results. Computation is a necessary evil, not the 'basics'. Do you need to understand mechanics to drive a car well? Teach children to feel the mathematics. The first country to do this well will have a big advantage.

Tom Chatfield, Gaming Theorist
We can learn lessons from computer game design that we can apply in many areas of life. For example, game designers are brilliant at motivation through exactly the right mix of risk and reward - make a game too easy and people are bored, too hard they give up. Some transferable technologies: performance bars, multiple long/short term goals, rewards for effort (as well as for achievement), rapid frequent and clear feedback, an element of uncertainty, bursts of enhanced attention, peer cooperation in self-created groups.

Chris Anderson, TED curator
We are in a period of crowd accelerated innovation, courtesy mainly of YouTube. 90% of the world's Internet traffic will be video - the most natural form of communication between human beings, as it combines sound (voice), gesture and facial expression, as well as showing action. Groups of expert learners are forming and sharing and setting new standards in all sorts of activities, from skateboarding and unicycling to dance and poetry. TED is part of this, spreading ideas faster in video that text ever could. we had a revolution with Gutenberg, and this is just as big, possibly even bigger as the whole population become net contributors instead of passive consumers. Absolutely Chris - and it's strangely satisfying to see him go through what so many TED talkers have!

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TED session 9: The Unknown Brain

Gero Miesenböck, Optogeneticist
We don't understand the brain's code and we won't get there any time soon by trying to decode millions of neural impulses. Optogenetics uses flashes of light to change behaviour, and aims to understand the resulting brain activity. Our brains control an actor (controls actions) and a critic (learns and interprets). Using light, Gero has identified the brain region of the critic in flies and believes we can in humans.

Herbert Watzke, Computational neuroscientist
We aren't omnivores - we are coctivores: animals that eat cooked food. "I cook therefore I am." We perceive five tastes, of which three are acquisitive (sweet, umami and salt) helping us to find nutritious food, and two are protective (sour and bitter), warning us of dangerour food. We have two complete brains! Our gut has a brain connected with the limbic system that manages our complex gut - 400 sqm in area, 14 m long, with 500 million nerve cells, 20 types of neurone in the gut wall. The gut brain is autonomous, manages chemical/mechanical sensing, is responsible for feelings of satiation and hunger, and controls muscle movements.

Stefano Mancuso, Plant neurobiologist
Why were there no plants on the ark?! Plants are undervalued: they have intelligence - they sleep, they even play. Their intelligence is in their neural networks, in their roots. Each root has a few hundred cells that act like neurones, and a simple plant like rye has 14 million roots... so under the plant is a sophisticated neural network like the Internet. In future we should build plant robots (so we have androids, animaloids and plantoids) where we want to do the things plants do well.

Sebastian Seung, Computational neuroscientist
A true rockstar scientist! Each of us is a connectome - the map of all the connections between all our neurones. We have 100 billion neurones. Are memories, personality, identity held in the complexity of the connectome? Neurones look like trees, and where they touch is a synapse. The map of synapses changes all the time: just thinking probably changes your connectome. The length of the wiring in our brain is millions of miles!

Fascinating session.

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16 July, 2010

Prof Dimitar Sasselov at #TED: small planets are abundant

TED session 8: Adventures in Fairness

Tim Jackson, Sustainability Scholar
A terrific talk. We can be prosperous without growth, the endless pursuit of novelty. Driven by anxiety (Adam Smith's 'life without shame' is what we seek) we spend money we don't have on things we don't need to create impressions that won't last on people we don't care about! But there is another way - like the Ecosia search engine, which saves rain forest (please use or install this!) - business built on common citizenship. A new definition of prosperity is: 'flourishing as human beings within the ecological limitations of a finite planet.'

Jessica Jackley, Microlender
This slip of a girl went to Africa, realised people needed loans to kick start their businesses, came back and launched a website called Kiva to connect Western lenders with third world entrepreneurs. That was five years ago. Last year the site flowed $150 million in loans from 200 countries, crucially connecting the lenders with the businesses - they get monthly updates - and creating dialogue and relationship. Moving, inspiring and humbling. A standing ovation for this one.

Auret van Heerden, Labour Rights Activist
This man has been imprisoned and tortured for his principles, and his integrity shines through. Chocolate needs some image therapy after this TED: not only is it full of bugs, but 80% of the cocoa using child labour in Cote d'Ivoire. Worse example: the Uzbek government shockingly closes all the schools for the cotton harvest each year and the children a forced wot work in the fields. Regulatory systems don't work: the only thing that does is the contract with the Western customer company, with checking. Auret is making this happen: 4,000 companies have signed up to be part of his Fair Labor Association.

Peter Eigen, Founder - Transparency International
A great man, responsible for turning back the tide of corruption (western companies bribing corrupt third world officials). $1 trillion was paid each year in bribes, until he perdsuaded the companies in Germany to stop bribing all at the same time. (It was tax deductible until then.) He has created the Corruption Perceptions Index, which reveals the worst offenders. Transparency International is taking on oil, gas, mining - and creatin real openness.

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TED session 7: Creatures Great And Small

Bleary eyed but game we queue from 0800 and this is what we get to enjoy...

Adrian Dolby, Organic Farmer
I breakfasted with Adrian yesterday and what a charming man - he runs a huge organic farm in the Malvern Hills called Barrington Park Estate Farms. His talk is excellent.  Half a kilo of healthy soil ("the ecstatic skin of the Earth") contains 300,000 million bacteria and 10km of fungus. Organic farming works if skilled rotation is used, based on clover (naturally created nitrates). What about weeds? "We stopped calling them weeds and started calling them biodiversity" - and they found that unweakened by chemicals the crops were able to defend themselves against attacks. Very hopeful.

A brilliant TED talk. CM followed one pig through the whole process to see if it was all used after slaughter and if so how. We meet pig early in the morning in soap and toothpaste, then frequently through the day in low fat spread, concrete, train brakes, desserts, fine bone china, paint, sandpaper, beer, wine, fruit juice, collagen and bullets. Altogether 185 products, and it is all used up. Christien says we should be treating pigs like kings.

Thomas Dolby, Electronic Music Pioneer (see my AudioBoo with Thomas here and here)
A superb set from Thomas and hid band featuring three songs from his forthcoming album Amerikana, all in American roots style but with a British twist. I was beaming all the way through, especially in Toad Lickers (!). Great playing and a supreme merger between wide-eyed roots and ironic humour. Good to have him back.

Toni Frohoff, Wildlife Biologist
I totally support the content (whale and dolphin conservation) but this was not very well written or well read, so I have to admit I zoned out. Tired after too little sleep.

Marcel Dicke, Ecological Entomologist
Awake again for this one though. 80% of the world eat insects: over 1,000 species are eaten. You may go eurgh! (we all did) until a classic TED moment - Marcel reveals that you and I already eat 500g of insects every year in tomato soup, peanut butter, chocolate etc - because bits are permitted in most packaged foods. There will simply not be enough meat to supply the demand in 10 years, so we should switch to insect meat. Locust meat can be textured, and is very efficient: 10 kg of feed will produce 1 kg of meat or 9 kg of locust. He kindly supplied us with bug cookies at the break - they were delicious!

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15 July, 2010

Marcel Dicke at #TED on eating insects!

Sound of Music at TED! (power cut so impromptu fun)

Ed Stolman interview at #TED

Thomas Dolby interview at #TED part 2

Thomas Dolby interview at TED

TED session 6: Different By Design

Last session of a packed day and we're off again...

Miwa Matreyek, Multimedia Artist (and hear my AudioBoo with Miwa here)
One of the most extraordinary things I've ever seen. I'm not sure the web will do Miwa justice, but click the link on her name to take a look. Her performance on the TED stage combines shadow play with computer graphics, art and music in a wonderful phantasmagoria which really takes the breath away. Stunning.

Neil Gershenfeld, Physicist, Fabrication Pioneer
Some of this one goes right over my head but here's what I get... the universe runs at the same speed regardless of how much of it you have, unlike computers. NG is working on programs that become evolving shapes like biology and ultimately real materials. He distinguishes four stages of technology:
1 computers make machines
2 machines make machines
3 codes make materials
4 programs make materials - at which stage we are growing our technology. This will be the Star Trek replicator, where we can create any material. Anybody will be able to make anything anywhere. Blimey. There was more here but if you want to understand it you'll have to wait for it on TED.com because my brain fried at this point.

Tan Le, Enterpreneur
This one is massive. The best demo since wireless electricity last year. We actually see my mate Evan Grant controlling a computer by thought alone! Tan Le's simple 14-node wireless brain-scanning headset called Emotiv and powerful algorithm that 'unfolds' the brain to locate neuro impulses make so much possible: Evan and I have been discussing the implications ever since... how about composing and modulating music with thought alone? Or altering your house environment automatically to ameliorate mood (eg for depressives or those with anger issues). Wow. I now believe we will be controlling our technology via thoughts within ten years. Incidentally, a fact to remember: we have 170km of axons in our heads! 

Eben Bayer, Green designer
One cubic metre of styrofoam (filthy stuff) uses the energy equivalent of 1.5 litres of petrol. 25% of the world's landfill is this one material and it will take thousands of years to disappear. Eben has come up with a mushroom-based alternative: he grows this stuff into moulds and in fuve days it's formed perfect styrofoam replacements for packaging - which you just throw onto the garden when you unpack the TV or whatever. They improve your soil as they are absorbed - and they cost little to make as they grow themselves. Absolutely brilliant, and possibly the most important thing so far at TED.

David Bismark
Election can be verifiable and still secret using his ingenious form and a web-based system. Nobody else can know your vote and yet you can check it was recorded so it can't get 'lost'. Let's get this installed right now world wide.

Emily Pilloton, Humanitarian design activist
A pleasing story of reclaiming Bertie County through design.

This session contains some key talks - and the TED miasma has started. I did manage to AudioBoo Bill Liao, who is running a tree-planting programme called Weforest that just might save the planet. Listen here.

Tonight was dinner with TEDx organisers and Fellows - great fun but very noisy! May not remember who I am in the next blog. And so to bed for five hours before the next day...

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TED session 5: Healthier Together

Inge Missmahl, Analytical psychologist
In a tour de force of compassionate activism, Inge shows how she has single-handedly made a massive difference in Afghanistan by introducing psychosocial counselling for a population of whom up to 80% are clinically depressed. The average age in the country is 17, and everyone has been damaged by war: they need to feel heard. Inge's clinics are now part of the public health strategy and they are transforming thousands of lives a year. Humbling.

Annie Lennox, Singer
Yesterday Annie was completely expressed in her singing. Today she's speaking and the light is not on in the same way, though the cause is just, noble and needs all of our support: her Sing initiative is supporting Treatment Action Campaign, which aims to eliminate mother-child AIDS transmission by 2015.

Mitchell Besser, AIDS fighter
There are 300,000 HIV-positive mothers, the vast majority in Sub-Saharan Africa. Untreated, 40% will give birth to HIV+ve babies. But with Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT), 98% of babies will be healthy. Africa has 24% of thew world's AIDS cases, but just 3% of the medical professionals, so a new model is being used - based on Western 12-step recovery as I found when I spoke to Mitchell. It uses 'mother mentors' - HIV positive women who are living full lives and have given birth to healthy babies - as examples of success and guides who take the strain off the overworked nurses. With 1,600 mentor mothers this system is now treating 230,000 women a month! Fantastic.

Another excellent southern Mediterranean woman singer, this time from Turkey (via Netherlands) and very young. A strong voice and a rousing Turkish folk tune to close.

Aims to reduce waste in restaurants ("the most wasteful industry on earth - every calorie of food consumed uses 10 calories to create"). His London restaurants are zero carbon, and have their own ecosystem with all waste recycled and used in the garden. New supermarket 'The People's Supermarket' is in the same vein. Worthy, but looking at the photos  I wouldn't be able to spend more than five minutes in his Acorn House restaurant because it must be unbearably loud - no sound absorbing surface at all in sight.

John Hardy, Designer, Educator
Built the Green School in Bali. I was not alone in not getting this one... 160 children from 25 countries pay $10,000 a year and have a great education in a lovely place which was built with great passion (and presumably at great cost) from bamboo. I get his joy and commitment but how is this scaleable to East LA, Detroit or Brixton?

There's always one session that doesn't click for me and this was it... but without valleys you can't have mountains, and we have already had two classics.

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TED session 4: Irrational Choices

Sheena Iyengar Psycho-economist
The practice of choice is very different depending on culture. The American model (have it your way) is not necessarily best, though Americans blithely assume that everyone in the world only needs to adopt it to be happy. Three underlying assumptions, each of which can be challenged.
1 - we should make our own choices (but it can be better to defer to family or community)
2 - more options lead to better choices (but Eastern Europeans don't see Coke v Pepsi as a choice - both are just soda - and they see lots of choices as stress-inducing and wasteful)
3 - never say no to choice (but US parents who are given the choice to switch off life support for their baby suffer guilt and depression for years, whereas French parents (where the doctor makes the choice) recovery and assimilate much faster).
The benefits of choice are culturally and situationally sensitive.

Laurie Santos Cognitive psychologist
We make repeating mistakes in markets because we think relatively and we are loss-averse - hence we hang on in bear markets. Monkeys in tests do the same. We need to recognise this flaw in our design and consciously compensate, because these errors are predictable and immune to feedback.

Short talk from Mark Elliott, pastor - look for miracles and life is richer. Quotes Einstein: there are two ways to live: either as if nothing is a miracle, or as if everything is a miracle. I know which I prefer.

Lewis Pugh Coldwater Swimmer
Lewis is back to update us. Not content with his awe-inspiring 1km swim at the North Pole, he climbed half way up Everest and swam at 5,300m altitude in a lake that shouldn't be there - it was left behind by retreating glaciers. "There is nothing more powerful than a made up mind." Clearly true as he survives near death and completes the swim, learning that past experience is no reliable guide to the present as he has to swim very slowly due to lack of oxygen. Respect.

Jamil Abu-Wardeh Comedy Impresario
The man who birthed Muslim stand up comedy tells us how he did it - and what it is achieving. With Axis of Evil - an Iranian, a Palestinian and an Egyptian - touring the world (including the Arab world), comedy festivals in Saudi Arabia and even a women-only comedy festival, comedy is changing the narrative and 'righting writing wrongs'. Inspiring.

Maz Jobrani Comedian
We get a taste of the real thing as Maz (of the Axis of Evil) runs through some outstanding material that so clearly makes nonsense of stereotypes and creates empathy, as well as being downright hilarious.

A solid session. And so to lunch.

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14 July, 2010

TED session 3: Found In Translation

Here goes for the first of the two full days of TED - four sessions each day, starting at 0830. This is the meat!

Ethan Zuckerman, Blogger, digital visionary (also hear my AudioBoo with Ethan here)

We are prone to silo ourselves in filter bubbles - hence not many Americans know that Twitter is heavily Brazilian and African American. Just search on some unfamiliar words to explore. Digital is actually getting less global - 35% of US news was global in the 1970s, compared with just 12% today, while 95% of online news readership is domestic. We live in imaginary cosmopolitanism, following the wisdom of the flock and missing huge swathes of the wen. For example, who is translating the Chinese content generated by 400m users? We need to engineer serendipity, automate translation and cultivate xenophiles.

Elif Shafak, Novelist (also hear my AudioBoo with Elif here)
This was the standout talk of TED so far for me. Elif is a luminous, powerful and beautiful woman, speaking flawless prose (in a second language!) of great beauty and calm presence. She says: to destroy anything, put it in a circle and it will die. Thus living in communities of like-minded people inevitably leads to stereotyping and decay. Labels endanger our freedom of imagination. Fiction is powerful and can be a force for empathy, but it is itself and not a means to an end: as Chekov said, art's job is to correctly pose the question, not find the solution. Story is crucial, because changing the narrative changes the reality.

David McCandless, Data journalist
Three bulls eyes in a row now as McCandless shows the power of simple, well-designed data visualisation (which is becoming a real theme of this TED). Data is the new oil? No, he says: data is the new soil, fertile and versatile. Some brilliant charts - like this billiondollargram. Must buy his book, which contains many more.

Mor Karbasi, Singer-songwriter

Four in a row - could this be a vintage session like last night? Mor has a ravishing voice, combining Israeli, Ladino and Spanish influences into a potent mix heady with Moorish history, flamenco and Spanish passion. Simply superb. Go out and buy her music.

Iain Hutchison, Facial surgeon
This is hard to take after all that beauty and engagement. Health warning when this goes live on TED.com - it includes two pictures of people with their faces shot off. Hutchison reconstructs faces ravaged by tumour or violence. He mentions dysmorphphobia - an unshakeable belief that one's face looks bad (hence much of cosmetic plastic surgery). From his experience of the way people change after surgery, he says beauty does not equate to goodness - and believes in the five minute rule, where after five minutes we have seen enough from a face to know if we like this person or not. Strong but great respect to him and the brave patients he cites.

This was a second classic session. This TED is fabulous so far.

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Miwa Matreyek interview at #TED

Bill Liao interview at TED - listen and save the planet!

Elif Shafak interview at #TED

Ethan Zuckerman interview at TED

TED session 2: Human Systems

This was a classic session!

First Matt Ridley, giving a tour de force talk on how ideas have sex... the process is exchange, which is probably what cause homo sapiens to displace the neanderthals and what distinguishes us from tool-using animals. When we trade (which we've been doing for 100,000 years) we make room for specialisation, and thus we create a 'collective brain', which knows how to make everything - no one person knows how to make anything from beginning to end, but as a collective we can make things no individual understands. Brilliant.

Second, and the perfect complement, is Steven Johnson, author of upcoming book 'Where Good Ideas Come From'. Coffee shops were fundamental for the Enlightenment because the thinkers switched from alcohol all day (depressant) to tea and coffee (stimulant) and sobered up! Ideas are networks: most are mashups from previous ideas. They are very rarely single moments of inspiration - more common is the 'slow hunch'. Open systems are vital because chance favours the connected mind. Outstanding.

Next was Chris Wild, self-proclaimed 'retronaut'. A charmingly British (ie reserved, self-deprecating and wryly amusing) presentation contains one really big reframe: instead of looking back at the past (dark and boring and behind us) why not conceive of time like light radiating out from the sun, an expanding sphere, so that we look out at the time scape, and the further out we go, the earlier we are looking. Wild shows some photographic 'wormholes' from the retroscope, though I am not convinced the thing actually exists yet - only resource on the web appears to be this.

Fourth up is legendary game designer Peter Molyneaux. Books, films, TV - 'Rubbish!" he says, not one to mince his words, "because they don't include me." He demos a game which is controlled by Kinect (so no control device, just natural gesture and voice), includes an AI avatar of an 11 year old boy called Milo, and lets the player develop a relationship with Milo, eventually becoming his invisible friend, holding real conversations with this cloud-based AI brain, which will learn from all players simultaneously. Amazing, yet rather spooky to me. Not scheduled for release yet, this will doubtless be the shape of computer entertainment to come. But what's the point?

Finally, joyfully, we had Annie Lennox. I saw her on Later a while back and thought her voice had gone - but it so hasn't! She lit the whole theatre up with her radiant energy. Her face is so beautifully animated it's mesmerising, and she is so clearly completely expressed in her song when you see her in the flesh. And the voice... powerful, pitch perfect, many-faceted, leaping from falsetto to alto in a trice, it was a visceral thrill to be in the room when she cut loose on classics like You Have Placed A Chill In My Heart, Love Is A Stranger and of course Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This. What a treat!

Time to reflect on a fine first day, with a  top class TED-U session this morning (seems like a week ago now) which starred the wonderful Lee Hotz, talking in near-poetry about the team drilling ice cores in deep Antarctica, a hurdy-gurdy tour de force by Basque-domiciled Caroline Phillips, and a brilliant talk on risk management by Ron Dembo: if the risk is deterministic (it's probably going to happen, you just don't know when) then you execute action; if it's stochastic (any outcome is possible) then you hedge - so GM scrapping its electric car was dumb, as was Bush not sending the National Guard to New Orleans, both of which would have been wise hedges, where the cost of being wrong is moderate if you go for the hedge and massive if you don't. Then we had for the first time a TED-U partners session, where TED sponsors got the chance to pitch a talk (not a sales pitch) under the same rules as TED-U. Results were fair - Gasche Joost was excellent on gender tech, Giles Corbett faschinating on mobile futures, and Nick Allen convincing on the need for behaviour change now to avert climate disaster (new technology will not arrive in time). An experiment worth repeating I think.

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13 July, 2010

TED Session 1: Global Century

2pm and Chris says the magic words: "It's time for TED!" Bruno Giussani enjoys a huge welcome and hosts session 1 - and we're off!

First up legendary statesman Joseph Nye describes two shifts in power: transition (from west to east) and diffusion (from top to bottom). He distinguishes three ways nations (and individuals) can get their way: coercion, payment or what he calls 'soft power', aka enrolment. It's no longer about armies; it's about whose narrative wins - and this is a bumpy road: "History is not linear." He coins the phrase 'smart power' (espoused by Hillary Clinton) - combining hard power (force) and soft power (enrolment) as situations require.

Next is Pullitzer Prize winner Sheryl WuDunn. Shocking statistics: there are 60-100 million women missing in the third world (aborted or died through neglect). Men with income less than $2 per day spend 2% on education, 20% on cigarettes/alcohol/prostitutes. There were 80,000 slaves taken each year at peak; 800,000 girls are trafficked into the slavery of prostitution. WuDunn's solution: educate girls - they will have less babies, and the vicious circle will be replaced with a virtuous one as they produce income for their families.

Third is a great talk by Naif Al-Mutawa about The 99. How brilliant to use comic books to propagate the goodness that is in the Koran (each of the 99 embodies an Islamic virtue) and to give muslim children positive role models to replace suicide bombers. The 99 are about to be a major TV series, and there is already a theme park. I had never come across this before and found it truly inspiring - as well as a brilliant presentation. First standing ovation of the week.

Fourth up is Nic Marks, proposing that wealth is no measure of happiness. So why don't we measure happiness instead of GDP (which, as Kennedy said, measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile). Marks has produced a happiness index to help us focus on what really matters (as opposed to more stuff) - and Costa Rica is the happiest place on Earth! Five daily practices to achieve a happy life:
1 connect (with friends, family); 2 be active (exercise); 3 take notice (be conscious); 4 keep learning; 5 give.

Finally Swiss/Lebanese cartoonist Patrick Chappatte, convincing us that cartoons can unite divided peoples as well as fighting oppression - with some very funny examples of his work (my favourite - Jobs showing iPad onstage and saying: "This will simplify a lot of tasks you don't have to do yet.")

A solid first session, not earth-shattering but hey let's not peak too soon!

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