I am addicted to TED. There is no other conference like it with a mix of amazing women, great conversations and great curation. Last month, I was in Palms Spring attending my fourth TED Women conference where the theme was Showing Up — and did the speakers and attendees show up! I had fascinating conversations on topic as diverse as augmented reality, women leadership, micro lending in Liberia, new material made from bacteria and the need to have 70% women in organizations or politics to really create change.
While my head is still spinning, here are a few topics that stay top of mind:
The Power of Women
Today, more than ever, women have the power to be change agents for girls and other women, by providing the ability to transform their life through education and action. Three talks in particular resonated. Shad Begum described how she has worked relentlessly to improve women’s involvement in politics in northern Pakistan; Ashweetha Sherry shared how she provided access to education for girls in rural India; and Kakenya Ntaiya shared her story about ending genital mutilations and providing education for African Masai women.
Climate change was of course a prime topic with new solutions suggested.
- First, there was the idea of using the principle of circular economy (reuse, repurpose, reborn) described by Kate Brandt and implemented with success at Google for their servers.
- There was also a provocative idea that improving gender equity will impact farming efficiency (since women are often the primary farmers), and help educate and limit population growth (as education and family planning are connected).
- Focusing more on mitigation, Kotchakorn Voraakhom, a landscape architect, share her design for creating Chulalongkorn Centennial Park in Bangkok which is a park but with an integrated reservoir that can absorb water in times of flood, acknowledging the new reality of the city.
Innovative Ideas Impacting Change
Innovative ideas about impacting on everyday lives was also a prime topic at TED.
- Recreating a village type community for people with memory loss when they live in small groups with people with similar interest (craftsmen, travelers, classical…). This helps by providing them with an environment that resonate with their past memories rather than the sterile and one size fit all of standard memory loss units (a fascinating talk by Yvonne Van Amerongen-Heijer)
- Using ashes and rumbles (the only material readily available in Gaza) to help create bricks and rebuild destroyed houses by Majd Mashhawari
- Using a seismograph to detect panic in elephants likely to be created by the presence of poachers (as elephants rarely run unless they are in danger), allowing faster reaction from locals
Augmented Reality for Connecting the World
Galit Ariel made me rethink my understanding of Augmented Reality (AR) when she highlighted how it can “connect the world in a whole new way.” By transforming the way you interact with your real environment through AR, one can expand their experience (rather than transporting you in a world disconnected from your physical space with Virtual Reality).
There was a funny yet meaningful talk where Lucy Cooke showed how the sloth’s slow pace has huge benefits and highlighted lessons we can learn from challenging our assumptions that slowness is a handicap.
Challenges Around Social Justice and Pain
- Eldorado Johnson III spent 25 years in prison and explain how he turned his life around by realizing the impact of “toxic masculinity“ and now works on “eradicating the cycle of emotional illiteracy” in men
- In a provocative talk, Helen Marriage explained her work in Ireland using art to help heal groups that have been at war with each other for years through building, then burning, a temple full of the words that described the pain of loss and fighting
- Jane Rader, a chief firefighter and nurse, discussed how changing the role of first responders has had a significant impact to reduce death by overdose in Virginia by going beyond the “cavalry ”approach of resuscitating people in overdose to becoming part of the aftercare solution.
Of course, a TED conference has to have some fascinating science. In a workshop we learned how Biofabrication can use biology (bacteria, mushroom, yeast) to create products (think shoes, furniture) and solve key problems. Finally in her talk, Karrissa Sanbonmatsun she explained how DNA remembers trauma and rebuilds itself everyday via Ribosomes. So yes, we can modify our DNA.
This conference was definitely an invitation to reflect and consider new ways to show up. As Stacy Abraham said in the closing talk of the conference, “we have to go forward, because backwards is not an option and standing still is not enough”.
In what new ways can we all show up and move forward in for 2019?