My first TED experience

16 Feb

My first TED experience

I am traveling on a plane home to Buenos Aires, after spending four amazing days in the TED2010 Conference in Long Beach. My blown-away mind is still trying to come around the experience I just had. As Nobel laureate Daniel Kanheman put forward in the first session, there is an experiencing self and memorizing self, and they seem a world apart right now.  Let me try to explain what TED is as I listen to the beautiful Arvo Pärt piece Alina.

TED is a non-profit organization with a simple mission summarized in “Ideas worth spreading”. It’s leader is Business 2.0 magazine founder Chris Anderson, not to be confused by Wired editor Chris Anderson, which I’ve done myself for years. Every year 1500 intellectually hungry, world changing heterogeneous people from all over the world are gathered to listen to lectures from remarkable people. This year, with the theme “What the world needs now…”, we listened to a mathematic giant, to the largest philanthropist in the world, to the best graphic designer, to a innovative musician, to the film director of the biggest films ever, to a prominent reformer of education, and even the next prime minister of the UK, all impressive world leaders in their domain. But we also heard a prodigy 12-year old, a spider scientist, an autistic cow facilities designer, an african environmentalist, to an indian cartoonist/painter and a wonderful man determined to end slavery in the world of today. Did you know there are 27 millions slaves today, in the XXI century? I didn’t.

The format is very interesting and unique. A typical lecture has an 18 minute duration, although there are smaller 3 to 7 minutes talks, and all is well seasoned by fantastic music, dancing and impressive technology demos. Sometimes some of these talks are not exactly in the domain expertise you would expect from the speaker. The space where the talks are held is a theatre but the whole experience is designed for interaction between the participants, including the speakers themselves. Everybody watches every talk. Just to do same gratuitous name dropping I saw and even chatted with the likes of Tim Berners-Lee, Matt Groening, Cameron Diaz, Will Smith, Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Bill Gates, Al Gore, etc.

When the sessions end, there are lunches, cocktail parties and dinners to continue the conversation. Big name tags allow for immediate engagement and there is warm sense of belonging and openness that is truly unique. TEDsters want to be engaged by others, they want to know who you are, what do you do and why are you there. They want to have your contact information to be able to follow-up and keep connected. It is a wonderful feeling to weave a real social network, instead of looking at a computer screen, actually be talking to real breathing people.

In the following days I will be trying to write more articles and reflections. Meanwhile, you may start feasting on this talk by 2010 TED Prize Winner Jamie Oliver. Or, if you are a more technically oriented person (I guess is the politically correct way to refer to a geek) you might enjoy this awesome demo by Blaise Aguera y Arcas. Or simply go to ted.com and navigate the impressive number of talks available from past year conferences, since it’s been going on like this for many years.

When I arrived and I explained other participants that it was my first time they called me, appropriately, a TED virgin. That is a term I haven’t heard in a long while. After having survived the experience which many people regard as life changing, I can attest to the intelectual and emotional shock received. I don’t know if there will be a permanent effect on my world view but I suspect that is very hard to go through it and remain unchanged. I am definitely ready for more and TED2011 already awaits for me.

Life After Ted begins today and this made me start a blog, so I guess a tiny change has already occurred.

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