Last month I was thrilled to be one of the speakers at TEDxCanberra. For those unfamiliar with the concept of TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design), it is a global series of conferences centred on the philosophy of “ideas worth spreading”. Their website shares over 800 free viewing videos from a panoply of speakers including Bill Clinton, the founders of Google, Richard Dawkins and Jane Goodall.
TEDx is a program created by TED to allow the independent organisation of TED-like events under the provided format. It enables communities all over the world to create a conference in the same spirit of spreading evocative ideas.
Earlier in the year I was contacted by Stephen Collins of acidlabs who had taken on the formidable task of producing TEDxCanberra. My favourite interaction with Stephen over the weekend was post-conference where I asked why he spent hundreds of hours on a non-for-profit event that doesn’t directly benefit his business. As he shrugged his shoulders and said “because I’m just a TED nerd”, I couldn’t think of a more endearing response.
The highlights of the experience for me stretched far beyond what I had imagined. Even just being in Canberra was a worthy experience, where I saw parliamentary buildings stand with prestige and had the opportunity to utilise the brilliant system of Couch Surfing for accommodation.
My most memorable moments where the exchanges I had with the edifying speakers:
I was fortunate enough to spend a bit of time with super science woman, Kristin Alford. Her ideas on the function of technology in society were illuminating. What I learned from her was that the future of technology seems to always be envisioned as producing faster computers or cooler gadgets. What she emphasises is the question of how we can use technology to continue our culture. I now carry the idea that we can use the tools of the future to tell the stories of our history. Plus, Kristin is such an amazing individual, I totally call dibs on being her next husband.
Mark Pesce’s talk has stayed with me above all. He speaks of technology in a way that is both sublime and utterly human. He made me realise that relationships not only use these modern tools of communication, but are also shaped by them.
Ash Donaldson did his presentation on cognitive biases and illusions. He brings a charming, accessible and warm personality to the world of skepticism. Ash, to me, is a white knight of reason in a world full of evil dragons of bad ideas. Legend.
It was hard not to get emotional hearing about Sunny Forsyth ‘s work in Lao. Put it this way, billions of people around the world don’t have clean water; Sunny helps them get it. For a man so heroic, I wish I could bottle his humility. Seeing his work is more than inspiring, it made me feel empowered to make great changes for other people.
Especially after getting to talk with them all personally, I wish they were on my Skype. I look forward to connecting to their wisdom and brilliance as often as possible.
As for me, my talk was on the psychology of magic and the wider implications of it. Writing it allowed me to better understand my personal goals in entertainment and how I relate to people and the world of science. It will apparently be available on the web soon, so I’ll post it up here for discussion then.
Overall, I felt this experience helped build my brain in a way that will greatly benefit me in the future.
Stephen Collins – @trib
Kristin Alford – @kristinalford
Ash Donaldson – @ashdonaldson
Sunny Forsyth – @abundantwater
Mark Pesce – @mpesce