TED 2011: Wondering if I’ll ever recover…

Consider:  We spend 4 billion hours in traffic.  There are 1 billion people in the world with a brain disorder.  For every 400 movies made, another 11,000 porn flicks are produced.  And there are 113 official ways to die in the US.   These are but a few of the interesting bits I absorbed at the 2011 TED: Rediscovery of Wonder conference.  But you don’t go to TED just to learn facts: you go to get immersed.

And indeed I was immersed and energized, inspired, bewildered, exhausted, touched, bedazzled…and more.

We heard about innovations that are enabling paraplegics to walk, the blind to drive, our taste senses to be teased, how cars will drive themselves, algorithms that are stunting democracy, how cyber-attacks are more deadly that weapons of mass destruction, how books can be interactive, that energy can be modular, how pixels can fly and voices merged for a beautiful internet choir. We heard from a sevent whose senses cross-talk, a worldwide famous Chinese artist whose name cannot be found in a Chinese search engine, a woman who finds light at the bottom of the ocean, a family who videotaped years of home life to learn language patterns, and a man who is literally printing organs.

As a result of being immersed in the real (the conference was broadcast from Long Beach from TED) and virtual (I watched from TEDActive in Palm Springs) presence of amazing thinkers, innovators, scientists, designers, activists and more, I decided to share some of the more memorable quotes I managed to catch.  Within each you can get a taste of the individual parts that made up this memorable event.

11 for TED 2011

“They publish photos, not excuses.”

– Phil Nicklen, the National Geographic photographer, on how he had to stay motivated to pursue his mission to swim with and photograph leopard seals, who were previously believed to be deadly to humans.

“The future has arrived, and the future is now.”

– Wadah Khanfa, Al Jazeera’s Director General, on the developments in Egypt, Libya and surrounds.

“When I finish I have the answers.”

– Sarah Marquis response to why she chooses to take 2 year treks, by foot and alone, from places like Siberia to Austrailia.

“One of the hardest things to know is when you don’t know.”

– Futurist Juan Enriquez in introducing one of the speakers he curated.  Interestingly enough, I had no idea who Juan was and it proved to be a delightful experience in listening carefully to his words to understand why I should trust this man I didn’t know.

“All the connections of the things around you define who you are.”

– Aaron O’Connell, relating his breakthrough theories of quantum physics

“People learn from people they love, but that reality is expunged from politics.”

– David Brooks, on the disconnect between politician’s innate ability to be interpersonal with people, but not policy.

(And one more from Brooks’ talk: “They don’t have thighs but elegant calfs on top of one another,” during his riff on the uber-mom).

“Doodling is a pre-emptive measure to help you keep focus.”

– Sunni Brown on why the doodler is under-appreciated in society.

“There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing.”

– David Cameron, as quoted by Bruce Aylward from the WHO, on the pursuit of the eradication, not just control, of Polio.

“Can’t have a functioning democracy without a constant flow of information.”

– Eli Pariser on the scary algorithms that Google (and others) are deploying to narrowcast news to us.

“Chaos happens, make better use of it.”

– Ed Tenner on unintended consequences.

“We will look back on a time when people will say how ridiculous it is that people are driving cars.”

– Sebastian Thrun on the driverless car he’s been developing.

Other thoughts….

I would be remiss not to give kudos to the 50+ speakers for their outstanding performances.  Because giving a TED Talk is hardly just a talk.  While some were obviously more memorable than others, I was impressed with the judicious use of visuals, the arc of each story and true desire to connect with the audience.  Likewise, a huge bravo to the TED staff.  My experience at TED, watching the talks with others, meeting colleagues from across the globe, was a rare and special time.  (Thank you!)

Excuse me now while I go check on the cast that is supporting all the brain muscles I pulled living through, thinking about and reporting back on TED.  It’s a good kind of sore.

(All talks referenced above will be archived on TED.com at some point. To learn more about any of the speakers, start with this page within TED to begin your crawl down their rabbit holes.  Enjoy!).