TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) is a nonprofit devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” TED hosts two annual five-day conferences, traditionally one in California and the other in Scotland. Each conference features 18 minute lectures (TEDTalks) by 50 innovative thinkers from all over the world. Some speakers are established celebrities – for example, Bono discussed progress made in eradicating extreme poverty this year – while others are previously unrecognized geniuses discovered through an auditing process (TED’s Worldwide Talent Search). Lectures are intermixed with shorter presentations of music, theater, and comedy.
TED conferences are attended by 2000+ lucky guests including many industry moguls, and are consistently sold out a year in advance. Lucky for us, Bill is our in! Bill is a part of TED’s Open Translation Project. The goal of the project is to provide access to TEDTalks beyond the english-speaking world. Bill Hsiung translates TEDTalks by adding Traditional Chinese subtitles. TED has thanked Bill by inviting him to attend TED conferences (in-person or by live stream) for free. He’s taken full advantage of this privilege since it was bestowed upon him in 2009.
This year, Bill live streamed TED’s west coast Feb 25-March 1 conference from Akron, Ohio and invited Daphne, me, and a few professors to join (MANY THANKS BILL!) as he is permitted to share his access with a limited number of people. The speakers this year were phenomenal. My favorites:
1. Phil Hansen, “The Art of the Imperfect”
This is a MUST SEE. Phil Hansen is an artist who has embraced his limitation – a hand that shakes violently as a result of nerve damage – as a driver of creativity. Biomimicry practitioners share a similar ethic, acknowledging that by respecting our limits, we can learn to manufacture in life-friendly temperatures, power our machines with sunlight, and make the most of local resources. As Benyus wrote in her 1997 book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, we can learn from Nature, which “unfurls her colors with virtuosity, using limits as a source of power, a focusing mechanism.” Addressing our earthly limits will empower us to find biomimetic solutions to the environmental problems we have brought upon ourselves.
2. John McWhorter, “The Linguistic Miracle of Texting”
Another favorite, McWhorter’s TEDTalk is about the emergent complexity of texting, which he refers to a “fingered speech.” Text messaging software initiated an expansion of human’s linguistic repertoire to include a language of writing-like-speaking. (In the context of biomimicry, this sounds to me like self-organization in action) In a text, “slash” serves the same purpose a pause would in spoken conversation, indicating a topic change. Research shows that being bilingual or bidialectic gives a person a cognitive advantage, so who’s to say texting isn’t making us smarter?
3. Mark Shaw, Ultra-Ever Dry Demo
Super cool demo of a new nanoparticle coating called Ultra-Ever Dry® which results in superhydrophobicity of the surface to which it is applied (160-170 degree contact angle!). See how it works in the “inspiring videos” section of our blog.