Here are the top 10 Things I learned at Day 1 of TED 2013:
Day 1 of TED 2013 is already complete, and it has been a whirlwind, to say the least. If Day 1 alone had been the entire conference (and there’s 3 more days to go!) it would have already exceeded many conferences in the world in terms of impact on my thinking.
Here are some of the things I learned on this first day:
1. Tylar Skibbets of MIT spoke about the amazing possibility of bringing the ideas of self-organized assembly that have been advanced with micro-devices up to the macro scale. Not just to toys and to hand-held sized devices, but even up to the size of buildings and architectural scale. It’s an amazing concept – and one that I had never heard about – and it opens up incredible possibilities to “shape” the world around us in more useful and interesting ways.
2. Susan Kish spoke about the importance of learning to code. As Marc Andreessen says, “software is eating the world,” and Susan had an interesting proposition that maybe learning to code is the new learning to speak Chinese.
3. Helen Fisher gave a very interesting talk on why people fall in love with one another, and what does the “chemistry” mean in relationships. She also talked about whether each of us prioritizes “loyalty” or “interestingness” in our friends. She brought up the idea of a new “Platinum” rule, to supersede the Golden Rule, of treating others like you would like to be treated. Her Platinum rule is treat others the way THEY would like to be treated.
4. Juan Enriquez talked about how our new “digital tattoos,” i.e. the things we say and do online, are keeping us around forever. He proposed that maybe Andy Warhol had it backwards, and that possibly in the future, we’ll each just be anonymous for 15 minutes.
5. Robert Gordon and Erik Brynjolfsson had a very interesting debate on the future of growth. Robert argues that growth was slowing, for structural, productivity, and demographic reasons, and Erik argued the opposite, that technological and productivity advances were continuing at an unabated or even accelerated pace. The TED audience agreed with Erik almost 9 to 1, but I feel that some of Robert’s arguments were very strong. Erik pointed out that a child’s Playstation today is more powerful than the most powerful Military SuperComputer in 1996, and also that 15 years ago the best supercomputer best Gary Kasparov at Chess. Today, a cellphone can beat a Grand Master at Chess. When pressed about progress, he said, “the goal of progress should be to make people happier, not to produce more.” Robert Gordon, on the other hand, said, “what good is a world with snazzy machines and great music for free, if we don’t have gainful employment for people?” It certainly is a very interesting conundrum – trying to explain the current productivity/employment gap.
6. Bono gave a tour-de-force talk on the progress we have made on our goals to reduce poverty, but how we cannot let up, and his views on the things we need to continue to do to accelerate that progress. He shared some powerful facts. First, if we continue on our current trajectory, we can reduce the number of people living on less than $1 per day to ZERO by 2030. His biggest point – we can’t take this continuation for granted – we must use every tool we have invented, and new ones.
7. Artist Phil Hansen talked about how he used the “limits” of his neurological disease of his shaking arm to actually create limitless art, pushing boundaries beyond belief. It was extremely inspirational to see how he used limits to DRIVE creativity.
8. Professor Stuart Firestein gave a short course on “ignorance” to make his point that science and life work differently than we sometimes expect. He showed how in his view, each piece of knowledge we gain exposes new “layers” of ignorance. In his view, it’s not like an onion, where as we peel away each layer we always get closer to the kernel of truth. He says that sometimes – in fact usually – there is no kernel.
9. President of University of Maryland – Freeman Hrabowski gave an extremely passionate talk about setting high expectations for EVERY child. He gave many examples about how high expectations can give students a sense of self, and closed with, “If a student has a sense of self, it’s amazing how their dreams and values can make all the difference in the world.”
10. And finally, a perfect segue from the preceding speakers, was the awarding of the $1 million dollar TED prize to Sugata Mitra. Sugata has an amazing dream for what he calls S.O.L.E., or self-organized learning environment. He believes you can step back and create a global, scalable environment for kids to teach other kids. He believes that kids making discoveries with their peers is not only the most powerful, but also the most scalable method of teaching children. He shows experiments that he has done to prove this success – and they were extremely impressive – and now this prize will allow him to scale his efforts. It was a remarkable vision, and talk, and it’s online here: http://blog.ted.com/2013/02/26/a-school-in-the-cloud-sugata-mitra-accepts-the-ted-prize-at-ted2013/
All in all, this was an amazing Day 1, and Day 2 starts in ½ and hour. Can’t wait to expand my mind some more!