TED Take 3. Today, we’re at the Sydney Harmon Hall in downtown Washington DC for TEDxMidAtlantic. As I’ve experienced in the past, I’m filled with anticipation to hear the inspiration and success of so many distinguished speakers. The TEDx crowd is mixed, I’m surrounded by young and old, government workers and accupuncturists — if there is one thing I love about TED it’s that there is never a shortage of diversity in the crowd. The speakers today are just as diverse. Everyone from Steve Case, AOL co-founder, to Sam Shelton, local DC design icon from KINETIK will be presenting. Needless to say, I’m ready.
The first session is actually already over and I know I’ve been remiss is blogging throughout, but third row center is not the ideal place to blog from. For act two, Ive secured a balcony seat so, stay tuned. In the meantime let’s use this break to get caught up. Due to a last minute cancellation Steve Case (@stevecase) was actually our first speaker of the day and started off by taking a picture of the audience — check his Twitter feed- it may be there. Steve talked to about the change he’s seen over the past 25 years in the Internet, DC as an innovative city, and politics. Most interesting of Steve’s points was the second wave of the Internet revolution which ne sees coming — a revolution where we transform the Internet into a useful tool in our everyday lifemand use it in areas such as healthcare.
Next up, Matt Mountain, a telescope scientist. Matt spoke to us about science outer space and the possibilities of other Earths, and other life. Much like Galileo did when he first turned his telescope to the sky, if we innovate, we can find new things.
UVA professor Saras Sarasvathy was up next. Saris spoke about the entrepreneurship that has revolutionized brands. BFI, the waste management giant, was started by an individual as a way to solve his HOAs trash problem. he saw a need, found a solution, and eventually made it his livelihood. In Saras’ research, she has found that entrepreneurs resist the idea of predicting the future, and instead finds that entrepreneurs succeed when they co-create. Changing “what I know” and “what can I do” into “what we know” and “what we can do” is when new things are created.
Our fourth presenter was Otis Rolley, a Baltimore city planner. He spoke of the relationships that exist in neighborhoods, and how humans and relationships build neighborhoods, not city planners.
Our final presenter before our artistic performance was Esther Dyson. Esther spoke about genes and predicting death and how based on our current situation, our predictions of death changes. Esther works with a company called 23andMe.com which takes you genes and predicts your likelihood of contracting certain illnesses.
Break one is almost over, so I’m going to secure my blog-friendly seat and will be back in a few.
Susan Shaw is kicking off our second session. Susan was a speaker at TEDxOilSpill, and is showing the lessons learned since the Gulf Oil – corporate negligence and lying. So what are we doing about the oil and the oil spill? We’ve formed a DOI Working Group. That working group has pointed out the impacts on a number of areas – including health impacts. The health impacts are many, and range from skin reactions to internal bleeding and liver and kidney problems. Susan asks, what if corporate culture integrated public health into accountability?
Francis Beland, another TEDxOilspill speaker, points out that we have had the same oil spill cleanup technology that we had when the Exxon Valdez spill. To motivate advancements in this area, a competition has been formed to challenge teams to create this new technology: www.iprizecleanoceans.org.
Cesar Harada, developer of Protei, is developing a boat which can pick up more of the oil then the typical surface collection will (3%). By creating a fleet of ocean blimps and allowing crowd sourced control over the skimmers, we can pick up more of the oil. Adam Pruden, is also developing oil skimming technology — SeaSwarm. Using a self-controlled robot with an oil absorbent cloth, a swarm of robots can skim more of oil off the water surface.
Christoph Gielen is a photographer who takes shots from above to show land use and infrastructure to show the sameness of development. Christoph chooses his locations based on foreclosure rates to identify patterned communities — something he defines as proof that developments are not just visually unappealing, but also financially unsustainable. Additional environmental issues can be spotted from above near planned developments; something that has caused Florida to reversed some of its planned land use from development zones to development-free zones.
Jackie Savitz from Oceana, is dedicated to saving oceans and ocean life. As a result, she works with Oceana to move from drilling to find fossil fuels to ocean wind power. From their findings, wind creates more energy and jobs, and powers more homes. She wants to change our national chant from “drill baby drill” to “turn baby turn.”
Microbiologist Dickson Despommier asks what if cities behaved like ecosystems? Currently, cities are an unsustainable entity. Can we change that? Yes, if create an ecosystem for our cities using urban farming – no runoff, no crop seasonality, no weather related crop loss, minimal controlled chemicals, fresh foods, creates jobs. One indoor acre is equivalent to ten outdoor acres. Dickson wants to see a federal interest in vertical urban farming.
If we can move a ton of goods at 423 miles per gallon why do we move a person at 18? Bill James wants to know the answer to that. He has developed the JPods, which look like a ski lift pod on a monorail, but is powered by a small motor and solar connectors. By switching to this technology the average family will increase their disposable income by more than $5000/family.
Yash Gupta shows how through lessons from business, we can learn the skills of resilience, rhythm and renewal; all things that our society — and our children — need to achieve.
Back from lunch, Iyeoka, who actually performed earlier in the day, is now on stage. Iyeoka is a poet, performer and pharmacist. Her poetry is stories of her life, her experiences and her memories.
Paula Kerger of PBS, a visionary in arts and media, believes that artists are the keys to the future. We must transform our classroom into places where creativity in the classroom. Why are students starting businesses outside of the classroom in their garages in their spare time and not in the classroom? Our classrooms are designed for the industrial age, not the modern innovative culture we are in.
Diana Laufenberg, a Philadelphia teacher, leads with the title “Embrace Failure.” When you give kids the tools to learn, you have to give them the opportunity to fail. Learning has to include a certain amount of failure, because without failure you can’t learn. If we continue to look at school as a place to get information we will miss the mark — we need to make it an experiential place that moves beyond the right or wrong of the standardized test.
Full disclosure, I’ve skipped blogging about the last two speakers and am skipping ahead to Sam Shelton, who I mentioned previously. In addition to being a partner at Kinetik, Sam is an adjunct professor at the Corcoran and asked students to come up with a real problem within the community that the students could solve. The first problem students identified was the commuter problem in DC and created breakthejam.com. Pedestrian safety was the second problem identified. They researched intersections with the highest fatality rates. They drew chalk outlines and handed out information about pedestrian safety. The students took the skills they learned and encouraged change.
With that, our tired fingers are signing off. The event is still going on for a few more speakers, so catch all of the action here: