TED 2007: Day 3 Highlights

Posted on March 11, 2007 Under Life

I’ve never given this many standing ovations in my life. I think my mind short circuited about 75% of the way through this extraordinary conference. Blogging had to come to a halt and what was being said throughout these presentations needed my complete and full attention. Without further adieu, more conference highlights:

The young economics superstar Emily Oster gave an awesome presentation that basically debunked much of what we think we know about how HIV and sickness spreads in Africa. I’m sure there will be book coming and I’m definitely going to read it.

JJ Abrams, creator and producer of Alias and Lost as well as many films had a fun, compelling and heartfelt presentation. He kicked off a session called Screenovation. When JJ was very young he was totally into magic and that interest led to his infatuation with creating mystery. During his presentation JJ showed a ‘secret’ magic box he was given as a child that he hasn’t opened yet, and not knowing what’s inside continues to inspire him in what he does today. He said “mystery is more important that knowledge.”

Former president of eBay Jeff Skoll had an inspiring talk about how he turned his fortune towards film to make a difference. He’s a leader in the social entrepreneurism and venture philanthropy movement. Super to hear how passionate and successful he was while still remaining pretty humble… “Bet on good people doing good things…”

Film director Deborah Scranton showed clips from her movie The War Tapes and spoke about how consumer created content is changing the world of film, creating change, inspiring people and so on. The room was completely silent, the clips she showed were unexplainably powerful. I look forward to following up and watching the entire DVD.

Will Wright, the creator of The Sims (which happens to be the best selling computer game of all time) showed off his newest game Spore and spoke about how it could help people, children especially imagine their own futures better.

Brazilian architect Jamie Lerner spoke passionately about building ecologically sustainable long lasting cities– he was genuine and informative. He shared plans from Curitiba, one of the worlds most sustainable cities– a place where he is the mayor.

I wrote about both Elizabeth Diller and Paola Antonelli as they were presenting– again, check out the Blur Building, her slides were mystical and fascinating. Don’t mistake design for decoration, it’s not.

Friday’s final session was the The Talest of Passion, and for me was the most important and moving session of the entire week. Unfortunately Henry Louis Gates JR couldn’t make it for family reasons so the session kicked off with Jan Chipchase, a cultural researcher for Nokia. Believe it or not, his presentation is available on his site for download. His job description is great, he goes all around the world studying how people interact with their phones. One of the best parts of his presentation is when he points out that cell phones are actually changing what the ‘center’ of the room is– where your phone is, on the desk, in your jacket, in your bag, etc changes what you feel the center of the room is. Connectedness is a crazy thing.

Eames Demetrios, grandson of Charles and Ray Eames and director of the Eames office shared insights into his families legacy and how closely design was to him growing up. He had one quote where he basically said, design isn’t something his family went to go and buy, it was apart of his daily life. He also said “The role of the designers is about anticipating the needs of the guest and make them feel good.” What an interesting family legacy he continues to carry on with his own design and films.

The speaker that actually moved me most, more than any designer, technologist or innovator was Isabel Allende, author of dozens of books– most famously The House of Spirits, one of my personal favorites. She told vivid and engaging true stories about her life, and said she doesn’t need to come up with characters in her life, they’re all around us. She basically deduced in 18 minutes that not technology, entertainment or design could save the world– that women could, the forgotten 51% of the world. She asked not for a ‘better world’ but just one that was simply good. Thinking about her talk brings goose-bumps to my arms, when this is available online it’s going to be a must watch.