Favorite TED Talks 2010

Great to see Bill Gates taking global energy seriously. In fact, he publicly stated from the TED stage last week what I’ve been saying since 2003:  energy is this century’s greatest structural issue. Fellow TED’ster Richard Branson went public this week with a similar clarion call. Worldchanging founder Alex Steffan, whom I spoke with at length, calls this “the most important climate speech of the year.” Sir Ken Robinson defined once again the highest art of public speaking. TED curator, Chris Anderson, noted after Ken’s talk that he may be the only person who can break all the TEDTalk rules – and we love him for it. Robinson focused on why education needs to change from an industrial model to an agricultural model. I think the same can be said of religion. Echoes of Wendell Berry. Mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot took us through a stunning visualization of design simplicity, in the form of fractals. I had a chance to spend some time with Benoit at TED, discussing emergence theory in light of fractal geometry and the Mandelbrot set. The music at TED this year was stunning: David Byrne (who also gave a TEDTalk), Thomas Dolby, and Natalie Merchant melted us with a brand new suite of songs based on romantic poets from the last 100 years. Cheryl Crow showed up, but probably shouldn’t have. Not much there musically. Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and family, and other musicians were soaking up the TED experience, but not there to perform. Oh, and ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro captivated everyone. I’ve never heard a uke played with such subtlety – a true master of the instrument. I understand he gave impromptu concerts back in the lobby of the TED hotel. Anyone who takes the stage at TED is unpaid, including the invited musicians. Drawing from the field of Behavioral Economics, Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman presented what amounted to an intellectual foundation for our activist social-media site Compathos.com. Dan asks, “when we return from a vacation, do the memories we bring back have intrinsic value?” Compathos (still in beta) seeks to realign the concept of “vacation” as a proactive event in which we aid or assist our destination with skills we possess (medical, engineering, skilled labor, crafts, etc..) and in doing so, we become deeply changed – bringing back to our own communities a new perspective, a new heart, and transformed motivations – far more than a traditional vacation memory. Sam Harris gave a surprisingly engaging talk. Rather than rehashing his views on atheism, Harris focused on finding an objective framework for morality and ethics. I’m reminded of Arthur C. Clarke, who said “one of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion.” Kevin Bales presented a detailed, moving account of global slavery. It’s Kevin’s academic work that gave us the estimate of 27 million slaves worldwide. His work in slavery has effectively paved the way for most of today’s anti-slave efforts. I was honored to have lunch with Kevin after TED ended on Saturday – what a truly amazing man. Game designer Jane McGonigal sees video gaming as a core solution to many of today’s social problems. Don’t laugh – her TEDTalk is a must-watch. Brilliant. Cell biologist Mark Roth is onto something big. He’s discovered a way to put biological systems into suspended animation. Using his techniques, people who would otherwise die from serious trauma on the battlefield, in car accidents, etc.. can be placed into suspension (heart and breathing stopped – effectively dead) for hours without tissue damage while they are transported to a trauma center. Jaw dropping. Entertainer Sarah Silverman reminded me of those shallow and bawdy Las Vegas night club comedians from my parent’s era (Redd Foxx, etc..). With kids sharing the live TED experience both in Long Beach and virtual associates worldwide, this was not a wise choice. Live and learn. But many of the best talks were those that happened between sessions, in the halls, in the social spaces, at the lunches, and dinners, and parties, and spontaneous gatherings that define the TED experience. To elaborate on all the amazing, emotive, high-energy, a-ha! conversations I had this year might sound like name-dropping, so I’ll spare you the details. I go to TED to get energized, inspired, challenged, and awestruck by and with amazing people doing amazing things. I spend a week of my life here to renew a sense of childlike wonder and remind myself that I’m not crazy – that there are others who dare to dream big. ADDED:  Eighteen-year TED veteran Jack Meyers captures the scope and nuance of a TED Conference in his Huffington Post essay ADDED: Scoble’s excellent summary of attending TED ADDED: Overview of Bill Gates’ energy talk, at  


Good to see Compathos getting some attention. The P2P Foundation recently highlighted a great set of social media predictions from Marcia Stepanek, noting that “low-cost social media will be used ever-more widely and creatively by social enterprises and advocacy groups to aggregate new levels of clout, funding, innovation and community support.” Stepanek’s predictions have been picked up by a number of bloggers. She says, One site to keep watching in 2010 is…the Compathos Foundation, which connects volunteers and financial resources with nonprofits through digital storytelling. Last night, we screened a pre-edit of a new documentary film from the Compathos Foundation which highlights the plight of hundreds (maybe thousands) of tribal children who are ritually killed each year via a little-known superstition. Compathos is a leading voice raising awareness to rescue these children from certain death by supporting efforts to convince tribal leaders to allow the children to be placed in orphanages. Post updated 18  

Greek To Me

Chris Anderson’s TED organization continues to amaze me. I just checked on my TED Talk page and see that it has been volunteer-translated into nine languages, including Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Portuguese. Each translator donates their time to the broader TED community (the “TED community” is anyone who contributes to, or benefits from, TED talks, blog, forums, etc.). My Greek translator is Nicholas Koutris, a former paratrooper in the Greek Special Forces and masters graduate in Economics from University of Rotterdam. Says Nicholas about TED, About TED I believe that this knowledge distribution is crucial for the development and the consciousness of the people. In ten minutes of ted presentation, you gain knowledge equivalent to hours of lectures. This is Educational acceleration, Exponential learning… you name it! That is what surprises me and makes me feel committed! Arabic translation was given by Anour Dafa-Alla, the first Sudanese to participate in the IOI — and fellow countryman and technologist, Adel Ibraham. Acceleration in learning is real. It is happening all over the planet as the microprocessor creates previously unthinkable bridges between people. Nine people (so far) have translated a talk by someone they don’t know, whom they may never meet, but in whose ideas they found enough value to invest precious time. This is a very exciting and promising time to be alive. We are interconnecting exponentially. One more thought.. Cynthia and I watched a documentary last night called As We Forgive. This movie won the Student Academy Award for its filmmaker Laura Waters, along with numerous top festival awards. Laura was interviewed recently on the Compathos site. I encourage everyone to view this deeply stirring account of raw humanity at both its most terrible and transcendent extremes. Among the most powerful and important films we’ve ever  

Facebook Hunter-Gatherers

Br. Paulus Terwitte, Franciscan monk and Gestalt therapist takes the stage at TED UK today (at first glance at the picture, I thought it was Steve Jobs). He reminds us that virtual technologies can never replace F2F human engagement, and that Facebook is a form of primitive hunter-gatherer behavior. In some respects, I think he’s spot on. As always, it depends on our intentionality in virtual engagement. I have a great number of thoughts, both inspired and critical, of Br Teriwtte’s TED Talk summary. But I’m out the door today to produce an orchestral recording for NPR in the Napa Valley.  So.. another time. Looking forward to viewing Br. Terwitte’s TEDTalk when it is released on video, and kudos to Chris and Bruno for inviting the meditative theologian to the TED stage. From the TED blog: …………………. Brother Paulus Terwitte takes the stage and immediately confronts the two questions he says everyone always asks. The first is, “Are you a real monk?” When he asked that, his usual reply is “Are you real?” The second is: “What do you do?” His answer to that one is, “Nothing.” He says that he does nothing because he wants to find the answer to the most important question in life, one that you can read on the first page of the Bible. We still don’t know what this question is, so he tells us that there’s a little machine used all over the world to remind us of this question — it’s the cell phone that everybody calls to say “Where are you?” And that was what God asked, “Adam, where are you?” Brother Terwitte asks, “Where are you with your thoughts and your feelings? Are you at home or all over the world?” He says that he was talking to someone the other day, when their phone rang, and the person took his mobile and walked away. It happens all the time, he notes. The phone rings, in the middle of dinner, in the middle of sharing ideas and people go away like the President is calling. Brother Terwitte says he eventually left the area after five minutes of waiting on this person, thinking he must not be so important. He says that he spends three hours of an organized, scheduled doing nothing every day at his monastery. He explains that they want to find the inner voice of their being, and that every man wants to find the inner sense of things. We all want to get the whole world in our hands, he says, and you have to decide how you (read  

Restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider

from Paul Hawken’s commencement speech at the University of Portland: “…This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way… What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past…” Read  


Google is hosting a contest for kids to design their own interpretations of the Google logo. You can vote for your favorite here. My favorite was this simple design by an eight-year-old named Sameek Das from Boulder Colorado. Something tells me that Sameek’s mommy and daddy may have helped just a teency weency bit, but I still think it’s great.  Says Sameek, I wish religious harmony for the world. We all are equal under one God! Our world will be a better place, if we love and respect each other irrespective of our religion. With respectful coexistence of different religions, peace will prevail in the world. Someday, I wish to write with the transparency of my friend Sameek (though when Sameek gets a little older, he will learn that “respectful coexistence of different religions” is not likely to bring world peace by itself. It’s a beautiful thought, and it will help, but the majority of wars have been caused by secular and political strife, not religion.) Sameek’s metaphor of the world’s religious symbols working together to facilitate instantaneous global dialogue is really quite stunning. While the religions of the world may not agree on points of metaphysics and morals, there is one overriding quality to which we must agree:  that of love and good will towards all without regard to one’s religious identity or agenda. That, I believe, is essential  

A Truism for the World

I’m learning many things during this season in Fiji, what I learned today is a truism for the world. Our tribal, socioeconomic, country, and religious lines of discord and division vanish when we’re confronted with a story like Roslyn’s. There’s a place for debate and civil discussion when it comes to our ideas and spiritual understandings, but it can’t divide us. Many of the powers that be, especially those within religion, are at work to remind us of all that we’re not. Reminding us of how different we are, of our divided history, and of the wrongs that have been done to us or to our friends and family. A unifying movement is finding its roots in the world that I’m seeing. Through the dividing lines, tribal wars, and common misunderstandings, deep within our bones there’s a collective goodness that binds our humanity together. It’s in these moments that I’m awakened to this reality often unseen. Reminding ourselves of our intrinsic unity is our continued challenge. A challenge that can start with a seven year old girl who has a brain tumor and continue with erasing poverty or the lack of clean drinking water. It goes beyond ourselves and into our communities and the world surrounding us. This is true not because of where we come from or because of our religiosity. We come together to help one another because it reflects our one humanity.   –  Stephen and Lindsay Mook Stephen and Lindsay Mook are serving at a school for deaf Fijian children. Read Roslyn’s story  

The Blue Sweater (by Jacqueline Novogratz)

I just devoured a book (sent from TED curator Chris Anderson) entitled The Blue Sweater. Written by Chris’ wife and Acumen Fund founder Jacqueline Novogratz, Blue Sweater tells the story of Jacquline’s philanthropic journey via Chase Manhattan Bank, World Bank, Rockefeller Foundation, Stanford University, and ultimately with her own Acumen Fund. I’m not really an emotional guy. But during a TED Conference, I tend to well-up on a regular basis. It’s a combination of gratitude for just being there, a recurring sense of family and shared purpose, and simply being overwhelmed by a stream of profound “a-ha” moments. Reading this book, I kept experiencing waves of that same sense of overwhelming connectedness-to-all-creation and all people. Jacqueline’s story shrinks a very big world into a sense of common family. Her story inspires us to recognize the Other in ourselves – to remember that everything we do impacts “the least of these.” Nothing remains neutral. Some of my favorite passages from the book: Sometimes you have to be a fool or your heart can turn to stone. The big question for me: … how to strike a balance between the quest for order…with the human craving for freedom. My professors and fellow students [at Stanford] were comfortable speaking about power and money. Love and dignity, on the other hand, were words people were often embarrassed to say out loud, or so it felt. There had to be a way to combine the power, rigor, and discipline of the marketplace with the compassion I’d seen in so many of the programs aimed at the very poor. Capitalism’s future, it seemed to me then – and much more so now – rests on how much creativity and room for inclusion it can tolerate. Why do some people stop growing at age 30, just going from work to the couch and television, when others stay vibrant, curious, almost childlike, into their 80’s and 90’s? (John Gardner) When you have everything, you start to think that material things are most important. When you lose them all, at first you think that you have lost yourself, as well. But with faith, you begin to see it is only those things that you build inside – those things that no one can take away from you – that matter. Now we try to live from a place of love. And we understand that you can only have great joy if you also know great pain (Prudence, a Rwandan genocide survivor). There are none more dangerous to extremists than moderates. Our world’s challenge is not simply in determining how we punish, but instead in how we prevent the kinds of atrocities that can come only from a deep-seated fear of the Other in our midst… As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, we need to find better solutions that will include everyone in today’s opportunities. (ital mine) …in any good society, nothing justifies the powerful excluding the powerless from basic opportunities. What we need going forward is a philosophy based on human dignity, which all of us need and crave. We can end poverty if we start by looking at all human beings as part of a single global community that recognizes that everyone deserves a chance to build a life worth living. Jacqueline makes the world a better place “just by being in it.” We so need this kind of thinking, and action, right now – among all people with vision (which is everyone). Because if there’s a truth this book makes crystal clear, it is this: … All people, rich and poor, from all nations, religions, and backgrounds, are our sisters and brothers. From this place, everything else must flow. Which brings to mind a new documentary that Cathleen Falsani brought to my attention. The world is getting smaller, thanks in large part to emerging virtual tools. It’s why I call this personal journal “microclesia.” We can no longer pretend to live as though our world ends at our neighborhood, or our national border. Our very survival is at stake. UPDATE: TED’ster Seth Godin blogs Blue Sweater My friend Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the Acumen Fund, is at the forefront of making the world smaller. She has the unique ability to combine the financial and the spiritual in a way that does justice to both. No matter what you do, the smaller world is coming to your doorstep. No matter how you spend your day, the living, breathing, interacting big world is going to touch your private one. An anonymous donor has put up $75,000 in a matching grant–if you buy the book this week, $15 will be donated to Acumen (for each of the first 5,000 copies sold). I hope you’ll take advantage and order a copy today. Thanks. UPDATE (2): Someone commented privately that the video trailer, while pointing out religion’s downside, seems to promote its own kind of “new religion” of “higher consciousness.” That’s an astute observation. In her cameo, Cathleen defines fundamentalism as “having all the answers inside a tidy little box.” We tend to label those boxes (“Higher Consciousness,” etc.) and then expend a lot of effort promoting and protecting our cherished imagery. This is a great reminder to perhaps spend less time protecting our little religious boxes and focus more on the spirituality of simply loving one’s global neighbor, and perhaps even extending good to one’s  

Rural Dominican

Our Amish friends Troy and Genie have been building an orphanage in the poorest section of the Domincan outback, near the Haitian border. Death threats to them are common, as are devastating hurricanes and the worst of living conditions. They gave up a blossoming music career (over 26 CDs written or produced, over 4 million CDs sold, Nashville farm and studio…) to live simply and help others. Here’s an update I received from them today… . . . With the world economy disintegrating, squatters are coming and camping in little tin shacks around the mountain mission base, not because they want to be separated like us, but because we have a plan, we have work for them, and we have food. It’s like adopting a nation. One 20 year old “Mom”, named Melisa, really a child herself, watched her 4-year old sneak away from the house with another neighbor boy, to a tree. The children pulled down their pants, and started hugging náked against the tree. Melisa screamed, flew to the tree and grabbed her girl, and started beating the girl with a piece of a belt. We heard the cracking like firewood splitting, and the death-screams of the little girl. Over and over again, crack!, bam!, scream! We jumped and ran across the field. We knew two weeks earlier the same thing had happened. Melisa had told us that she had wanted to kill the girl the first time, and that if she caught the girl with her pants down with a boy again she probably would kill the girl. Far across the field, Melisa forced the girl to her knees on a broken concrete coffee-drying pad. Melisa circled the girl, beating her with all her strong farm-servant muscle. “STOP! ENOUGH! YOU’RE KILLING HER!” Genie was screaming at Melisa in English, not even realizing what language she was speaking. Genie rushed to Melisa and grabbed the belt. Melisa kept hitting the girl with her fists. Genie grabbed her arms and Melisa stopped fighting. Bleeding, black, red, purple, fist-size contusions oozed all over the girls body, the girl was sobbing. Melisa started raving, “I don’t want her to have my life. I wanted to kill her. She’s all I have. They took my other child.” Most of Melisa’s children had been born dead, but her other living child had been born at one pound, when Melisa was 17. Another family had cared for the boy while Melisa bled in a ‘hospital’ for 6 months. By that time the family was so bonded with the little preemie boy that they wouldn’t give him back. Melisa said, “When my Father (the man who had impregnated countless women, including Melisa’s Mom) saw the bruises on my baby last week, he tried to have me put in jail, but the police don’t care.” Melisa had started getting pregnant when she was 13. Men have been jumping on her her whole life. She tried birth control pills but they made her sick, so now she’s taking Depo-Provera shots, but they’re just as bad. Melisa says, “I want her to go to school and have a career, not be a farm-worker like me.” The little girl cannot take these beatigs; she’s frail, like a 2 year old; what little calcium she gets from the powdered milk she can’t assimilate, and the sugar water she drinks every day just robs more calcium. This is not because of their extreme poverty: they milk the cow, and they can find and raise food. It’s because they think the white rice and the powdered milk and the sugar water and the injections at the public clinic are good for them. They believe the propaganda. They look at our organic gardens and cream-cheese and fresh greens and say just what the Americans say, “That’s nice for YOU.” What we’re doing here is trying to provide a better example of living in harmony with nature and going away from the commercial emptiness of the world. And maybe we get to keep a little girl alive every once in a while. This happens all the time in richer countries, behind closed doors where insulated walls muffle the screams. In poor countries you hear the screams. And not just in your