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TED conference comes to Seattle with TEDxSEA, and excellent it was

Posted by Leonard on April, 16, 2010

Today I had the pleasure of participating in the Seattle satellite version of the TED conference.  Hosted in the IMAX theater at the Pacific Science Center by the MCDM (Masters in Communication and Digital Media) at UW, the day included 13, 18 minute presentations on a variety of incredible topics from The Evolution of Storytelling to Harnessing the Global Power of the Mobile Phone for good, not just marketing and advertising. From Why More Women Don’t Become Computer Scientists to donating One Day’s Wages.  I loved the inspiration, the variety, the networking, the creativity, the globality, the technology, and the intellectual and community engagement.

Some of my favorite parts included:

An analysis of how much is to much? in reference to the saturation of information.  One of the metaphors that Greg Bear, a science fiction writer who gave the talk used was the bee community metaphor of bees going out into the field on their own and doing their thing,  then coming back to the hive to share, but how in the current mediasphere there is too much resorting to only doing the sharing, and that there’s less and less of the going out into the world part. Today people are posting every breath they take and thought they have.  As a science fiction writer much of his analysis had a hyperbolic techno society vision vibe in which basically the inside of your eyelids if not just the inside of your eyeglasses will eventually be screens, but I appreciated the general comparison.

The ‘Everyone Needs a Safe Place to Save‘ talk was also very impressive, about the lack of access to banking in the poorer parts of the world.  The Gates Foundation is working to harness the power of mobile phones globally, since even many poor people have phones,and their problem is nowhere to put their money, if not in animals, hidden, loaned out, or elsewhere, and that if a mechanism existed for depositing and saving even cents daily, that that savings would lead to actual wealth accrual.  So now people can walk into a rural market or business, give their money to the business, and the business immediately uses the phone #, acct # and pin to deposit the money in their acct and the store takes a small percentage.  Apparently over 40 million mobile phone users have begun using the technology in Kenya only 3 years into the technology existing there. Very cool. There were actually 2 talks about the power of cell phones. The other was with David Edelstein and Fiona Lee, and they argued the mobile phone as a great playing field leveler and tool of overcoming information poverty, as the cell phone transforms as something you use with your ear to something you use equally with your eyes, with applications in health, agriculture, and beyond as online information becomes available to folks based on very elementary search terms.

In Sapna Cheryan’s talk about ‘Stereotypes as Gatekeepers’, where certain professions like computer sciences repel women from entering the field because of the images of who those people are, one of the more powerful points involved the google image results for  ‘nurse’  in pointing out these gender identifications and who we perceive to be capable of or likely to fill a certain role.

Eugene Cho challenged us to consider how we love the ideas of community, compassion, and justice, but where that love goes when that love requires us to act and sacrifices to be made.  His young ngo One Day’s Wages invited people to consider what 1 day of their wages really is and to donate that to the organization in support of the ‘many many small NGOs doing great work out there that you’ve never ever heard of before’.

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