Thursday, April 18, 2019

TED 2019 – Day 3

TED is a strange place, a place where extraordinary things are commonplace. A place where you can sneak to the other end of the lunch line to quickly grab a second dessert and look embarrassed because Al Gore saw you do it. A place where a young woman strikes up a lunch conversation with you and when you look her up later, you learn she was on last year’s Forbes list of the World’s Top 50 Women in Tech. A place where they can put up a graphic showing that they are half way to raising their fundraising goal of $568M, which they announced two hours earlier. And, a place where after an interview covering what to do about about hate speech on the Internet, questions from the audience come from a member of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Council, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, and Bill Joy. Welcome to another day at the strange place called TED!
The day was very full, as is my head! There were too many good talks and interviews and not enough time to write, so I'm going to try and restrict myself to ones I thought were worth noting. I'm also going to write about them in no particular order. 

Chris Anderson interviewing Roger McNamee
After lunch, Chris Anderson interviewed Roger McNamee, an early investor in Facebook who recently wrote the book, Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe. Though the interview was not part of the main stage talks, it was one of best discussions so far. Definitely look for the podcast of this when it becomes available wherever you get your podcasts as it covered a lot of ground and is hard to summarize. 

McNamee told of his increased concern during 2016 that something was going wrong with Facebook and its algorithms. He relayed his concerns to Facebook leadership, but got no good answers. That whole story is told in his book. He spent a lot of the time talking about how Facebook's (and Google's and others') business model was the core of the problem, not the leadership or the algorithms. McNamee argued that we may need some sort of antitrust action or consent degree to resolve this problem. 

This was the interview I mentioned earlier where an incredible array of people asking questions/comments afterwards. The final comment was by someone from Africa who thought it was amusing for the West to be concerned about having their elections hijacked when they had done the same to African nations for decades. That got a hearty round of applause.

Rick Doblin discussed his work with using drugs like MDMA (Ecstasy) for the treatment of mental illnesses and his efforts to get FDA approval for their usage. It is not a long-term dosage like with anti-depressants, but is part of a limited-time treatment in conjunction with psychotherapy. His results for the treatment of PTSD with MDMA was impressive, with over 50% cured from PTSD. He claimed they were cured, not just being treated. If that is true, that would be a real breakthrough. I was less impressed by his desire to broaden the use of psychedelics for all manner of things like increased creativity and spiritual insight. 
The conference center looks over the bay and mountains

Elizabeth Dunn, a happiness researcher, talked about how her research showing that being generous leads to happiness. Unfortunately, she realized that she was not all generous in her own life. By helping to support a Syrian refugee family that moved to her town, she came to understand that the key is to be able to envision your donation's direct effect via some sort of personal connection rather than just giving money. I'll have to think about that for charities like the Amistad Mission that I'm apart of. 

The highlight of the day, however, was Michael Tubbs, the 28-year-old mayor of Stockton, CA. It is a troubled city with lots of problems. He grew up there and while in college, his cousin was murdered. Tubbs decided to do something about it. He was elected to the Council while still in college and recently  became mayor. I can't do his talk justice by describing it, so please watch it when it becomes available. 

One thing from his talk that stood out to me was his use of the parable of the Good Samaritan as an illustration of who was his neighbor. He did a really good job of telling that parable, though managed to do so without mentioning God. Regardless, it was good to hear the Word correctly used on stage. 

Jonny Sun and one of his social media cartoons
Rahul Mehrotra talked about his studies of a 7M-person temporary city that is built (and taken down) every 12 years for a religious festival in India. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy told how her Oscar-winning film about honor killings in Pakistan was changing rural villages in her country. Jonny Sun spoke about the positive impact of work with humor, cartoons, and self-revelation on social media. Nick Bostrom spent quite a bit of time explaining that we are all going to die in one of a whole array of catastrophes, but he did really know what we should do about it. 

Hannah Gatsby gave a funny and moving comedy/not comedy act. Katie Hood spoke about educating people to understand true love from abusive love. Her talk is well worth watching when the video version comes out, especially if you think you or someone in your life might be going through this. Bjarke Ingels spoke on designing things like modular, floating cities to deal with rising sea levels. 

Alvin Ailey Dance American Dance Theater performance
There was a moving dance performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater done to gospel music and using baptism as its inspiration. Judith Jamison spoke afterwards about Ailey's creation of the dance and the dance company, as well as her experiences as one of its early dancers. Her thoughts and wit made her talk an enjoyable one.

Basically, it was another, crazy busy, moving, and normal day at TED. Need to get more sleep for tomorrow! 

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