Friday, March 2, 2012

Day 4 at TED

Today only had two sessions of talks, but that was about all my brain could handle.  The first one was about education.  The talks in that session were shorter and at least aimed somewhat at the 300 high school kids they had in the auditorium at Long Beach.  The second session was more of hodgepodge, but contained a couple striking talks.  One was by Brene Brown on the topic of vulnerability and shame.  When that one is available, it is worth watching.  (By the way, some of the talks from this TED are already on the Web site.  It is worth checking periodically.) 

The other talk was by Henrik Scharfe.  He also did a short talk earlier in the week in Palm Springs, and some of the most interesting points were in that one.  Scharfe brought with him a robot (call a Geminoid, from Japan) that looked just like him.  (His talk was delayed a couple days because he had trouble getting it through customs.)  The robot blinked, made breathing motions, moved its head, and could move its mouth to match speech.  When Scharfe was in Palm Springs, I was able to go stand just a few feet from the two of them.  It was very disconcerting, especially up close. 

He raised a few points, however, that really got me to thinking.  What will happen when the technology gets better and people actually feel emotions, such as love, toward the robot?  This is not far-fetched as Sherry Turkle mentioned seeing an older woman in a nursing home confiding in a robotic seal.  I have seen one of these and they supposedly are effective as a therapeutic tools (  She thought it was sad to watch.  What Scharfe next asked was how will we feel if the robot rejects our love.  He described it as a problem of freewill.  If the robot is programmed to act like it cares and is unable to reject love, how will that feel?  Of course, that is exactly what God faced when he created humans.  Force them to obey or allow them to choose to do so. 

From each of the previous times I’ve attended TED, I have come away with a take away that I wanted to implement.  One year, Mark and I decided to create a sabbatical program at our company where every seven years a person is entitled to seven weeks paid time off.  And, if the person will do something good in the world during that time, the company will contribute $5,000 toward that effort.  I went to work in an orphanage in Bolivia and another person worked at a camp for abused children. 

Two years ago, I became a weekday vegetarian where I only eat meat on weekends, or at least try to only eat meat then.  My goal is to lessen the impact on the environment and to contribute less to the horrible conditions under which most food animals are raised. 

So, what to do this year?  Here are some ideas and the talks they are based on from my notes:
  • Check into ways to make solitude possible at my company (Susan Cain’s talk on introverts)
  • Investigate energy self-sufficiency by using solar panels, batteries, etc. (Paul Gilding’s talk on sustainable economy and Donald Sadoway’s talk on new grid-level electricity storage)
  • Figure out what drives me (Andrew Stanton’s talk on storytelling)
  • Write a blog about my back issues and the pit crew approach to medicine (Atul Gawande’s talk on fixing healthcare)
  • Take night time photos of the sky in Bolivia (Karen Bass’ talk on photographing exotic natural locations)

None of those, however, seem like an appropriate TED resolution.  I’m leaning toward finally doing the business book that Mark and I have long discussed.  I need to think some more about the right TED resolution.  One thing I am sure about—I want to come back again next year!  

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