I am already back home from an amazing experience, the TED conference. It is one of the two best conferences I have been with Davos and as many speakers joked all week long, I agee, “it does something to your brain”. Here are a few ideas and notes I will keep in mind from the conference.
The world is getting flat and smaller. We’re all citizens of the world and borders and nations matter less.
More and more of us
The facts. 6.5 billion, growing at 77 million a year, 2.4 people every second, in 2050 10 billion people in the world. Population is aging and by 2050 the number of old people will exceed the number of young people for the first time in history.
We have limited resources in food, water and energy and population growth means increasing needs, for example, we need to double the food production to satisfy demand
Globalization is good
Globalization means increased wealth around the world, the gap reduces fast: the chinese economy is already the 4th largest economy. 4 countries will get most of the growth: Brazil, Russia, India and China will create a deep shift. These countries will by 2025 create 50% of the G6 Countries, overtake the G6 by 2040.
Hans Rosling gave his amazing speech on how countries evolve with globalization and how the Internet helps. Again, check it if you don’t know these animations, it is very straightforward, it has been designed to be understood by kids !
Key challenges we talked about
Environment. Al Gore gave a mind blowing speech I had already heard in Davos. I podcasted it but unfortunately the TED organisers asked me to take it down for copyright reasons. I understand and apologized to them for my podcast, I regret not being able to help spread the word faster on such an important topic and trust TED or Al Gore will share it online soon with the non-TEDizens.
Al Gore suggested also that we all started to help now, here are a few suggestions:
-reduce emissions in your home
-reduce emissions from your car
-buy the most energy efficient appliances and other products: be a green consumer
-live a carbon neutral life: you can calculate your own carbon production level at http://www.climatrecrisis.net
-make your business carbon neutral (it’s not as hard as you think)
-invest sustainably in companies and funds that are part of the solution
-become a catalyst change in your community
-help raising awareness by promoting an inconvenient truth
let’s rebrand global warming: climate crisis and planetary emergency
Al Gore updated us on the last day as January 2005 was the record-high ever month in human’s history in temperature showing that the global warming trend continues.
Poverty. The 225 richest people in the world have accumulated the wealth of 2.7 billion individuals at the bottom of the pyramid.
Larry Brilliant, a public health visionary who did an extraordinary job at eradicating smallpox in the world and who was just appointed head of Google’s philantropy, http://www.Google.org. Larry described world’s health challenges, how smallpox was eradicated and the importance of “early detection early prevention“. It took 4 million people going door to door in affected countries to come to grip with polio. He explained pandemic bird flu and the scary fact that we will not have a vaccine if it occurs in the next three years. Larry explained that bird flu is already at stage 3 on the WHO scale and if it reaches stage 4 (pandemic) there will be no planes and no traveling anymore, people will stay home and avoid any contact whatsoever with others, avoid movie theatres, it would be a total disorder and disaster. Larry pointed us to a survey they have conducted amongst the top specialists of bird flu in the world and asked them a very simple question: what is the likelihood ? 15% said a pandemic will happen in the near future and 90% said it will happen within their children’s life. Up to 650 million to 2.8 billion people will be sick, there will be $1 to 3$ trillion in costs and 25 million to 165 Million deaths.
Larry explained as well the epidemic curve and how any virus can touch the entire world within three weeks. SARS did not occur because it was found 3 months before WHO announced it thanks to web crawling !!! (GPHIN). Up do now the WHO would learn about a virus from the governments sending reports but it takes ages to identify the viruses. GPHIN crawled the web and especially the local press of all countries and searched reports about children deaths, sudden illnesses appearing, etc and these reports were way faster to identify the viruses. Very quickly these reports were treated as very important by the WHO and now they account for 75% of the reports sent to WHO with a budget close to 0 (in the past 100% of the reports came from the states at high cost of production). Nobody would have every thought before that you can find diseases early by crawling the web ! Larry made an interesting point about the fact that the search should be totally multilingual: “these bad viruses really don’t have an intention to show up in english, spanish, french or in the other main spoken languages in the world, they just show up in any language and we need to adapt”.
Larry concluded his speech with a wish to help “early detection early prevention”: build an early warning system to protect us agains humanities worst nightmares, that he would call INSTEDD. He got a standing ovation by the TEDizens in the room and let’s hope he reaches his goal, I bet his new role at the Google fundation will help and that’s good.
Creative ideas and projects
Burt Rutan was very insipiring as he explained his company’s program to develop and produce a commercial suborbital spaceship system, intended for routine flights outside the earth’s atmosphere. These are being structured for a high level of safety and with operating costs intended to support flying a large number of the public. Burt explained how the military would be outpaced by the civilians in suborbital flight.
Design. There were many design projects presented, it is very difficult to just write about them so I’ll pass, but it was very inspiring.
Richard Baraniuk – Connexions wants to set knowledge free by launching a platform for authors around the world to get the books they write for free and in as many languages as possible. Very interesting, I have to check it again.
Animal Copyright. One of the craziest idea of TED was Gregory Colbert’s speech. His analysis is that animals’ image is constantly used in advertising and else through in pictures and videos. When we always recognize the importance of copyright for brands, artists and the like, we don’t for animals because they have no means to claim and defend them. His idea is to create a Animal Copyright that would be devoted to preserve animal life on earth and funded without charity each time a photo or video of an animal is used and especially in advertising. The room agreed that it was so crazy it may actually work. Ethan has more.
Aging ! One of the most provocative presentation was given by Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist. Aubrey claims that aging is both ghastly and potentially treatable. He works towards such treatments. Ethan also has much more.
3 minutes speeches from participants. I loved this idea, anybody could have the opportunity to submit a 3 minutes presentation about… anything. Ethan gave us “12 great reasons to learn Mandarin” and was brilliant as always, Peter Skillman gave an amazing presentation on the genius of kindergarten designers, performing better on the same simple design test than business school students or people in corporations. He demonstrated how our mind was losing creativity as we grew up. Scary thought but so impactful and true, how can we get it back ?
Find a purpose for your life
Do we need God ? One of the best moment of TED was “the Jesus guy” just followed by “the anti-Jesus guy”:
Rick Warren, author of the #2 nonfiction selling book in history after the bible, -the purpose driven life- and pastor has become one of the most influential Christian voices worldwide. The Saddleback Church, which began as a small group in his home, now averages over 20,000 in attendance each weekend.
Rick Warren explained that spiritual emptiness was our largest disease: most humans are not living they are just existing and worse, they “feel like a fake” and always have to pretend they are more than they really are. People need to understand what they are betting their lives on. They need to understand their worldview, it determines everything they do, their behaviour, what they become. We all have to test our worldviews and the best way to do that is not in good times, it is how you act the days before your funerals, what you believe makes a big difference. Materialims is all about getting, is all about more.
good life is about looking good, feeling good and having the goods ! The wealthiest people in the world are not the happiest. Look at your shape, what are you wired to do ? What are you doing with what you have been given ? If you are influential it is not by chance, use it to speak-up for others and make the world a better place.
Dan Dennett, philosopher and atheist challenged Rick’s views, it was very interesting. Dan explained we should all (especially the kids at school) study all religions, without influence, the facts, the history, the texts, music, requirements… He says “democracy depends on an informed citizenship”, misinformed consent does not count.
Now about Rick’s book. Dan finds the base goals good: “to bring purpose to the lives of millions is a good deal” and Rick’s book is “a brilliant redesign of traditional religious themes updating them and has excellent insights into human psychology”. However Rick then criticizes strongly Rick’s statements about the necessity of God when he says “if there was no God, we would all be accidents, the result of astronomical random chance in the universe”. Dan claims that “we don’t need a meaning in God to be good”. He also pointed us to http://www.adherents.com
4. wishes and achievements
TED Wishes. I liked to see the achievements of TED wishes last year (Bono’s one.org to fight poverty). We also talked about the http://www.worldchanging.com initiative launched by Jamais Cascio. Worldchanging is a weblog focusing on the intersection of sustainable design, emerging technologies, global development and collaborative networks. Check this year’s wishes as Ethan reported them:
Larry Brilliant Wish
Jehane Noujaim’s Wish
Cameron Sinclair’s Wish
Topics we covered that I did not write about: plenty, including love, sex, war and death ! That’s all for now, more later, congrats again to the TED team for an amazing event that will keep me thinking for a long time.
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