Posts Tagged ‘ted’

My Top 10 Favorite TED Talks

TED conference

TED conference

I’ve been systematically going through the TED video podcasts ever since I got my iPod Nano in late October, 2007. I’ve finally achieved my goal of being up-to-date with the podcast, sitting through some 180 episodes.

TED for those who are unfamiliar, is handful of annual events, the heart of which is a conference hosted in Monterey, California. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and the events brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

The next TED conference is Feb 27 – March 1, 2008 and is completely sold out, except for a few tickets that show up on eBay for $33,000

Most of the presentation are amazing, but a couple really stand out for me. Here’s my personal top 10 list and my reasons why. They are listed in order of ones that have inspired me and I find myself recalling most often.

  1. Ken Robinson Humor aside (this is one of the funniest presentations), Ken Robinson makes a compelling case for creativity in education. He makes the point that current education has a strong bias towards the languages and math (which is good for training college professors) whereas in order to tackle the complexity of the problems facing us today and in the future, we’ll need to educate the next generation to be more creative than we’ve ever been.
  2. Evelyn Glennie is world-renowed, and incidentally, the first ever professional percussion soloist. She is also deaf. This provides her with a whole new perspective that most of us miss: Music as experience, and not just a series of notes to be played.
  3. Cameron Sinclair is one of the founders of Architecture for Humanity, which explores sustainable housing solutions for impoverished nations. It’s action-oriented mottos is “Design like you give a damn”. In his talk, he advocates an open-sourcing of design ideas where local solutions can be shared and refined globally, while being protected through a Creative Commons Developing Nations License.
  4. Malcolm Gladwell is just an amazing storyteller. He takes the example of the common pasta sauce to illustrate that often in marketing there is no platonic idea of perfection, but many points of perfection. “There is no perfect Pepsi; There are only perfect Pepsis.” Different people will be drawn to different ideas of perfection, though the may never admit it overtly. Hence the creation of the “Extra Chunky” pasta sauce. A perfect example of uncommon wisdom.
  5. Barry Schwartz is the author of “The Paradox of Choice” and explains that we often confuse freedom with limitless choices. More choice can often be paralyzing and leads to misery.
  6. Vilayanur Ramachandran‘s presentation show how parts of the brain are linked and function in a integrated manner, and how emotion plays an important part of how we process information.
  7. Hans Rosling analyzes global health data, but uses a tool to adds the dimension of time which illuminates trends and relationships that are harder to grasp as static charts. He takes what seems to be boring statistics and animates them not only through software but through his humorous commentary. He goes even a step further by swallowing a sword in his sequel presentation.
  8. Charles Leadbeater advocates an approach to design that takes it outside corpoarte walls and start harnassing and incorporating the power of passionate non-professionals and communities into the design process.
  9. Janine Benyus Biomimicry is something we all need to know more about. Period.
  10. Thomas Barnett outlines a post-Cold War solution for the foundering US military. Dead serious pill, dispensed with a healthy dose of humor.

There were also some close runners-up:

  • John Meada talks about, you guessed it, Simplicity
  • William Macdonough is working with cities in China to create sustainable urban planning solutions. He explains his philosophy of “cradle to cradle” design, which bridge the needs of ecology and economics.
  • Jimmy Wales is the founder and the philopher king of Wikipedia. He explains how Wikipedia is not an idealized democratic society where everyone contributes anything but one that has formed an aristocracy out of social necessity for maintaining quality of content.
  • Chris Bangle provides a rare inside look at how BMW designs its cars.
  • Stefan Sagmeister talks about what makes for happy design :-)
  • Jonathan Harris is the creator of the We Feel Fine project, the epitome of Web 2.0 atomization and regrouping of information.
  • Stephen Petranek talks about 10 way the world could end and what we can do about it. Amusing in a morbid kind of way.
  • Larry Lessig is the founder of Creative Commons and a board memeber of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He makes us think about digital rights in an age where lines are increasingly being blurred.
  • Vik Muniz How can you resist an artist that makes art from spaghetti on plate?

After all those podcasts, I’ve found that the teeny screen Nano isn’t really sufficient or satisfying, user experience-wise. The iPod Touch looks so much more appealing now.

Geospatial Info + 3D Space + Web 2.0 + Mobile = ?

Geoblogging: The Gombe Chimpanzee Blog

Geoblogging: The Gombe Chimpanzee Blog

We all remember ooh’ed and aah’ed at Google Earth when it was first available in 2005. For the first time history, services such as Google Earth offer us a readily available, zoomable, navigable visualization of our physical world, the detail of which are ever increasing with new technologies being developed as showcased by Microsoft’s Virtual Earth and Photosynth projects.

But it’s not just a static representation of information, as maps have classically been. The convergence of the internet, mobile technology and geospatial representation of our physical world, presents an interesting intersection of technologies.

The internet contains an ever-expanding universe of knowledge and information, and with web 2.0 technologies, users are even more empowered to directly participate in that growth, and to share, aggregate, and find creative ways to seeks value in this information.

When information available on the web is combined with geospatial data what emerges is Geoweb. Geoweb presents yet another layer that information can be mapped or grounded to. It gives people an opportunity of assigning information, be it historical, commercial, social or existential to a given location.

Mobile technology has the two-fold function of being able to retrieve that information in real time at the location to which the information was associated to, as well as being able to record yet more information through text, photographic or motion input about the location.

The pressing issue now is not the availability of information but how to filter it to be meaningful?

Map have always been a filtered reprentation of selective information. A road map only maps roads for the purpose of guiding a user from point A to point B. So the challenge facing Geoweb is no longer one of technology, but one of selectivity and value. What does information presented in this way allow us to do?

It allows us to associate information on a scale and perspective that we were unable to do before. Classical maps show border, terrain, economic, or conflict information. Now we can map, aggregate, slice-and-dice all the atomized miscellaneous pieces of information geospatially. It allows us to associate information that was not possible or hard to do before. Oh joy.

We already see some examples of innovative use:

  • CARMA (Carbon Emissions Monitoring for Action): this s a project by Center for Global Development I was involved in at my old firm, Forum One Communications. It maps publicly available CO2 emission data of power plants and other polluting agents on to Google Maps, and encourages users to submit more data about polluter in their neighborhood.
  • Geoblogging: Jane Goodall Institute created the first geoblog: The Gombe Chimpanzee blog. It follows the activities and blog posts by Emily Wroblewski, a field researcher who is studying the Gombe Chimpanzees to coordinates on Google Earth.
  • Search for archeological sites: Scott Madry, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been pinpointing possible archaeological sites in France with the popular desktop program Google Earth.
  • Cannonball Run: Alex Roy, set a new record for driving across the American continent of under 32 hours, in the fall of 2006. He planned and practiced his run using Google Earth.
  • Metaverse Roadmap also shows us exciting possibilities of how 3D representation and the web may converge.

Other as yet unrealized examples are:

  • An amazing project Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, We Feel Fine aggregates and visualizes th state of people’s emotions around the world. We may be able to map geospatially, in real time, the emotions around how a community reacts to tragedy or jubilation.
  • We could map the impossible path that Ernest Shackleton took to save the lives of the ill-fated crew of the Endurance in 1900. (UPDATE: It has already been done)
  • We can map the path of my UPS package as it travels from Amazon’s warehouse in Kentucky to my doorstep in real time, so we are not held hostage to the UPS man’s schedule.

* * *

Umberto Eco has a nice essay in How to Travel with a Salmon named “On the Impossibility of Drawing a Map of the Empire on a Scale of 1 to 1.” He quotes from Jorge Luis Borges who is in turn quoting Suarex Miranda:

…In that Empire, the craft of Cartography attained such Perfection that the Map of a Single province covered the space of an entire City, and the Map of the Empire itself an entire Province. In the course of Time, these Extensive maps were found somehow wanting, and so the College of Cartographers evolved a Map of the Empire that was of the same Scale as the Empire and that coincided with it point for point. Less attentive to the Study of Cartography, succeeding Generations came to judge a map of such Magnitude cumbersome, and, not without Irreverence, they abandoned it to the Rigours of sun and Rain. In the western Deserts, tattered Fragments of the Map are still to be found, Sheltering an occasional Beast or beggar; in the whole Nation, no other relic is left of the Discipline of Geography.

From Travels of Praiseworthy Men (1658) by J. A. Suarez Miranda

What we see Google Earth and Virtual Earth is the creation of such a map, mapping reality on to a mirrored world. We may actually be seeing something even more profound. A map that contains more information than even the 1-to-1 map.

[Update] Worldprocessor is a pre-Google Earth visualization of data on a globe. Very interesting nonetheless.

Data Visualization of Global Health Statistics

Hans Rosling is a professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. He has one of the most amazing presentations on the TED conference video list. He analyzes global health data, but uses a tool to adds the dimension of time which illuminates trends and relationships that are harder to grasp as static charts. He also cautions against lumping regions together, and shows that each region embodies a whole range of conditions.

What’s more you can play around with the tool he presents, called Gapminder. Pretty cool stuff.

Visualizing global health development with Gapminder

Visualizing global health development with Gapminder

Open-Sourcing Design Ideas

If you haven’t already, subscribe to the podcast of TED‘s inspirational presentations on iTunes. I’ve long lamented the fact that their podcasts were video podcasts that you can’t use on a 2nd gen iPod nano. I’ve been lusting for a new video playing iPod nano. But I just discovered the other day that they have an audio only version. I can’t believe I overlooked that. Duh.

My commute is just over an hour each way so that gives me time to fit about 3 of the 15-20 minute presentations. I just listened to the presentation given by Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity at the 2006 TED Conference.

What is amazing is not so much the projects he showed (which are brilliant in and of themselves) but the framework and the community for collaboration that Sinclair has set up: Open-sourcing design is such a great idea. It allows designers to come up with local solutions with local materials and the ideas to be shared, collaborated and applied globally. He talks about using the Creative Common‘s Developing Nations License for design, so that designers’ right are protected in developed countries while their ideas can be used freely in developing countries. See for yourself below or on TED’s website.