October 19, 2007
Honore Embraces SLOW
Twenty four months later, he is able to tell us that the slow movement is finally taking off and people are making efforts to slow down. Athletes are signing up for yoga and meditation classes to foster an inner calm and an inner slowness.
20% of Americans are now willing to break off lovemaking to take an email or phone call. Yet, people are flocking to Italy to take workshops on slow sex. Apparently there's an official slow sex movement in Italy. Who knew? Yet, I'm not surprised. The Italians love to live slowly in so many aspects of their lives, my favorite of which is EATING.
He notes that large institutions like Harvard and corporations like PriceWaterhouse Coopers are encouraging people to take walks in a park, go on vacation, and get enough sleep.
Some companies have even introduced chill out rooms, napping capsules, siesta suites, and yoga classes. Even children need to know that you are moving at their pace before they willing to open up.
The slow revolution touts that less is more and slow is better. We're starting to see slow architecture, slow research, slow management, slow design, slow food.
It's a movement, but not an extreme fundamentalist movement asserts Carl. "It's about relearning the lost art of shifting gears and not trying to do everything as fast as possible but as well as possible." He claims he is a reformed speedaholic and that he has comes to terms with his inner tortoise. Hmmm, not a bad idea for all of us to spend more time with our inner tortoise.
Why Global Warming Doesn't Hit Our Hearts
The Noah's Ark of Agriculture
Cary Fowler talks to us about biodiversity. He starts his presentation with the analogy between whales and potatoes. They share a need for diversity. And if the one rule is that you adapt or you die, then what governs and determines the fate of biological diversity?
Cary has been an integral player in the establishment of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway—the ultimate agricultural gene bank which will house seed samples of nearly every food crop from every country. Cary says, “In some ways, you could say the gene banks are a Noah’s ark of agriculture."
He shows us a few examples of diversity in agriculture, such as a page full of colored beans in various sizes. He reminds us how many varieties of crops there are, i.e., 120,000 varieties of rice compared to only 400 breeds of dogs.
Crop varieties are becoming distinct, we're losing that diversity through mismanagement, disasters and more. "We're losing our library of life," says Cary.
He then dives into climate change and food security. "We're headed towards a place where our agricultural crops have never been before. Our crops have not seen warm climate like this since neolithic time."
His team has started to put together programs to save these crops as well as research crops to find ways to save them. They're putting together a global system to protect our most important crops, i.e., safety back up for seed banks since we're losing so much in seed banks.
We're shown a large glacier which is melting, photos he took on Monday and Tuesday of this week, so we could see them in their 'current state.' "We need to sustain this diversity, using nature," he says. He shows us a small Norweigan town where they are building a seed vault to protect some of these seeds, which they are getting from around the world.
October 18, 2007
Daniel Pink: Right Brain Now Needs to Win
Daniel Pink was on the PopTech stage this afternoon talking to us about 'empathy.' I met him last night at the opening reception on the waterfront where we talked about his background to-date, largely writing business books and political speech writing.
I learned that he recently finished a book called A Whole New Mind, which he summarized for the small handful of us circled around him, an idea he expanded upon in detail in today's talk.
Says Pink, "there are three things about every great speech: "brevity, levity and repetition." He adds humor to his talk early on, in the middle and at the end although he doesn't note that. He says he finds the saying "an image is worth a thousand words" very annoying. "Perhaps correct," he says, "but annoying."
He goes on, "sometimes," he says, "a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures. My job is to be the connected issue between science and understanding the way our minds function."
His research and notion is this: the abilities that dominated came out of the left hemisphere in the last century. "This is why my parents told me to go to law school," he notes, "it was something to fall back on."
Today, those abilities still matter, but they matter less. "Recognize that this is an argument, one way to look at it," says Pink. As a logical sequential person himself, he decided to study these aspects analytically. "It's a cause and effect argument." he suggests.
Pink has come to the conclusion that the shift has moved from dominance on left brain abilities to right brain abilities because of three things:
He reminds us how abundant our country is today compared to the last generation. "Did our parents and grandparents have an issue with 'too much stuff?'" he asks the audience. "The storage industry is worth $20 billion today."
People have gotten much richer in our society but they are not fulfilled or happier by increased wealth. There were certain kinds of jobs that we were pushed into by the last generation, i.e., if you can write down the steps and it has an answer, it has become routine. Routine means that the role can easily be moved offshore at a quarter of the price or less.
What happens to routine work, like an unattested divorce? "It gets shipped overseas or becomes automated," Pink says. He shows us a number of examples of where this is the case, such as Complete Case.com, and 123Divorceme.com.
There were a million tax returns done in India last year, and more and more Americans are doing their taxes using software programs like TurboTax (once again, what was important in the last generation is now being automated). Left brain abilities are necessary but not sufficient.
He suggests that the more we encourage right brain over left brain abilities, the more likely we are to see a significant impact on humanity and the human condition. Don't you think we need to go there? Then again, I'm a little biased since I am and always have been a right brain.
He ends with an interesting quote on prosperity by Robert William Fogel:
"Propersity has made it possible to extend the quest for self realization from a minute fraction of the population to almost the whole of it."
Celeb Chung on Life Forms
They brought toy inventor Celeb Chung to the PopTech stage this year, best known for his creation of Furby and more recently Pleo, an incredibly life-like dinosaur. He had always wanted to replicate a real dinosaur -- in the form of a toy, using biomimicry.
He feels that all life forms must feel and show emotion and they must be aware of themselves and their environment. The third law is that all life forms must evolve over time: adapt, evolve and change. "Bringing Pleo to life was all about bringing science and art together," says Celeb.
"Science makes it work but what we really react to is the emotion," he says, and adds "you need a dynamic balance of science and art for real innovation. Toys are a good example of where this can happen in a significant way. I've always had love for bringing things to life and really love making dinosaurs."
Caleb Chung began his toy invention career with Mattel in 1985, and since then has consulted to Fisher Price, Brandai, Hasbro, Disney, Tiger Electronics and Microsoft. In addition to Furby and Pleo, he has sculpted innovation around Barbie and games.
Obviously not tired or bored of showing Pleo to audiences over and over again, I saw him quietly chuckle on the right hand side of the stage when Pleo came onto the screen in a promotional video, as if he/Pleo was an old friend. A real life form.
On top of being an incredible inventor, he has a lively and addictive sense of humor. As he finally brings Pleo out for the audience to oooh and ahhh over, he stuffs a $20 in Pleo's mouth who decides that the note is more than delicious.
I've seen Pleo before -- it was either at TED or another event focused on innovation, so have had an opportunity to pet his very life-like skin and see how he responds to human contact. Pleo is worth spending time with. He gives us an update on availability and apparently he will be available this Christmas. Price not yet finalized but somewhere in the $350 range.
On The Female Brain
While we're on cognition, Dr. Louann Brizendine gives us a peak into the female brain, addressing an audience that comprises more than 600 men and women. Her book with the same title - The Female Brain, has apparently been translated into 21 languages. She is also the founder of the Women's Mood and Hormone Clinic.
Brizendine lives and works in my hood - northern California, where she teaches courses at the University of Calfiornia on the brain effects of hormones, mood disorders, anxiety problems and sexual interest changes due to hormonal shifts. Her key interests and expertise revolve around how hormones influence mood, irritability, anxiety, depresion, self-esteem, thinking, sleep, memory, and energy.
She reminds us that 50% of the smartest brains on the planet are female. For the first time in history, women have complete control of their fertility. We are now living for 40-50 years beyond menopause. "There is no unisex brain," says Brizendine.
Her dream for the future is that biology will not be destiny, "because," she hopes, "we will have a deep respect and understanding of the way men and female brains differ. And her other hope is that we put an end to war and focus more of our attention on human kindness in the world."
Connection Between Indirect Speech & Spatial Relationships
We're now moving into the topic of cognition, where Steven Pinker comes onto the PopTech stage in a suit (with bright red tie) and black cowboy boots. I've heard Pinker speak several times over the years. He recently came out with a new book called The Stuff of Thought, which we all received copies of just for showing up.
He talked to us about the various ways to study human nature and language. For example, we can use verbs as a window into the concept of causality and responsibility, and prepositions as a window into conscious space.
Given limited time to explore them all, he decides to focus on the relationship between indirect speech and spacial relationships. He reminds us how often we fall into indirect speech with others.
For example, "if you could pass the guacamole, that would be awesome." We interpret this as a polite request. Or, "we're counting on you to show leadership in our campaign For the Future," and "would you like to come up and see my etchings?"
He asks us, "why are bribes, requests, seductions, solicitations and threats so often veiled when both parties know what they mean. It's a naughty problem."
Solutions come in three parts, one of which is the identification problem in game theory. How do you figure out the rational course of acction when the outcome depends on another intellectual agent?
Imagine you have two options? A plea/bribe to a dishonest police officer and one to an honest officer? If you have an honest officer, he would likely rebuff the bribe but arrest you for bribing an officer. To a dishonest officer, you may get away with it. A veiled bribe would yield a different result, and the question remains: which one is a better option? In this case, the veiled bribe would likely appear to be a wiser choice.
Says Pinker, "language can be conveyed in different ways, i.e., it can be polite or it can be literal. Literal content makes no sense. (an overstatement becomes irrelevant)
He also talks to us about three kinds of relationships:
1. Dominance - "don't mess with me."
2. Communality - i.e., logic is share and share alike, which was developed through mutualism and kin selection.
3. Reciprocity - "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours, which characterizes the typical business exchange of services"
When a relationship is ambiguous, divergent understanding can be costly. Is the relationship one of dominance or friendship? Communality or reciprocity? Dominance or sex?
"This gets sliced to a social identification problem," says Pinker. The emotional costs of awkwardness can duplicate payoff matrix of legal identification, example: bribing a maitre d', which apparently works most of the time or all of the time. One such example based on an article that was written about this very experience, resulted in success all of the time.
One remaining problem is why do we resort to indirectness even when there is no real uncertainty?, i.e., when the speaker knows the listener's values, i.e., that maitre d's are bribable.
Language is obviously a great way to share mutual knowledge. Mutual knowledge IS the basis of relationships, he suggests.
To sum up, he asks us, "what does indirect speech tell us about human social life?" Humans are very very touchy about relationships. People distinguish these relationships sharply. Humans think a lot about what other humans think about them and their relationships are ratified by the mutual knowledge. In order to preserve their relationships, humans often engage in hypocrisy and taboo.
Kiva Makes Loan Impact in the Developing World REAL
In the next PopTech session, it's all about change and innovation from the bottom-up.
We're talking about the power of markets and how we think about helping the 4 billion people in the world who live on $3,000 a year or less.
Does that really equate to half the world's people living on less than $2 a day? It makes me think of anyone I've ever heard complain about not having enough money in my circles, including myself. What on earth are we thinking? and complaining about?
If only we could think of the people who fall under this horrific poverty line as customers rather than aid recipients, we could really make a profound impact in the developing world. And even here at home in the U.S.
We learn that for every $1 tax dollar that makes it out of the country for aid, only 14% makes its way to its ultimate destination.
Founder of Kiva Jessica Flannery talks to us about their service which lets people connect with and loan money to small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on Kiva.org, you can sponsor a business to help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. And if you choose, build a relationship with these people in the process.
This is a woman who always dreamed about getting involved in economic development and micro-finance in the third world. After quitting her day job, she ventured off to East Africa and Kiva.org was born.
Kiva works with lenders and microfinance institutions through an online platform they have created to lend money to the poor. The platform is transparent, meaning you can see where your money goes and flows through the entire cycle. Their lenders range from individuals, funds, such as the Kolb Family Fund, to networks and middle schools.
We see some of the businesses we could help. She shows us a butcher in Afghanistan, a popcorn maker in Samoa, a taxi driver, a produce sales woman from Ghana, a hairdresser in Iraq and so on. Most of the loan requests in these particular cases have ranged anywhere from $500 to $3,000.
Their goal is to change the way borrowers think about the rest of the world. Secondly, it is to change the way lenders think about donating money and interacting with people on the other side of the world. Through this process, people who are receiving these loans feel that they are engaging in a business transaction with a partner who they have to pay back rather than a recipient of aid.
It changes the paradigm completely. Can you imagine what you inspire when a loan is made in this way rather than the more traditional ways we have grown accustomed to? Those traditional ways that end up resulting in only 14% of the money making its way to the right people?
Chris Jordan on Consumerism
Chris Jordan is the first speaker on the PopTech stage this morning. He is one of the more inspiring speakers I have heard in awhile. So much emotion, so much passion, so much inspiration -- all to movitate us as viewers of his photographic work to think dramatically different about consumerism.
When it comes to consumerism and waste, it’s often difficult to comprehend scale. Through images, Chris Jordan gives us a taste of how far we have taken mass consumerism in this country. For example, he has used nine million alphabet blocks to represent the number of uninsured American children.
These images represent the amount of quantities we actually consume on a regular basis. He shows us a photo of 426,000 cell phones, which is the number of cell phones that we discard in the U.S. every day. (click on any of the below images for a larger view). If this isn't painful yet, read on.
His goal with this image and others, is to depict an actual statistic visually. He began to apply this same technique to other statistics about our mass consumption. One project included building a giant stack of 15 million sheets of paper, which we learn is the amount of office paper we use in the U.S. every five minutes. (remember that this is only office paper, which means it excludes newspapers, magazines and all other kinds of paper)
Below is an image he shot of crushed cars
He shows us 60,000 plastic bags, which is the number of bags we use in the U.S. every five seconds. And then we see 106,000 alumimum cans, which is what we use in the U.S. every thirty seconds. Think about it: we waste half that amount of alumimum every year just to drink sugar water and watered down beer. By the time he throws up a visual of 210 billion plastic bottles on the screen, I'm beginning to feel slightly dizzy.
He takes statistics which are normally emotionless, and tries to make people 'feel' their impact. "The way people normally receive information is through statistics," says Jordan. "My concern is that people won't feel it and frankly, the more you learn, the more you don't want to feel it. If we're going to make dramatic changes, we're going to have to feel it. We'll have to feel the pain, the scale of it."
A recycling yard in Seattle
He continues, "I want to take these raw images and translate them from the dry language of numbers to a universal visual feeling in order to invoke change."
He talks to us about the connection between the collective and the individual. The collective is made up of lots of individuals. He says, "it's my way of affirming the role of the individual in today's society. We're learning more and more information about the complexity of our society every day and what is happening is that people are starting to think 'I'm too small and too insignificant to matter.' I want to change that. I want to suggest the opposite."
On the other side, he suggests that there's a needle on the opposite side of this thought process that says "I DO matter." If you feel like you don't mattter, then you'll never feel that your vote will matter or one action that you take will matter. If everyone has that attitude, then behavior won't change -- around the environment, around consumerism, around anything.....
Spent bullet casings
This series I have done is called "Running the Numbers." The response has been much greater than the artistic result of this work. "My work has become a hub of the movement, and what this tells me is how much people crave this level of consciousness and awareness. They're looking for answers."
His take away message to all of us: Going green is not a sacrifice but something that brings us joy, more connection to the earth and to other people. He tells us that there's hope, that there's a deep cultural movement that is dramatically changing the world right now. In other words, we should feel that there will be major strides to counter consumerism in the next ten years. Collective consciousness will take over. Frankly, doesn't it have to?
PopTech Kicks Off in Camden Maine
In other words, while I live and breathe all things Web 2.0, I'm missing the third Summit this year. Guys - can you coordinate with each other next year so both conferences are not happening on the exact same dates on opposite sides of the country?
PopTech's curator Andrew Zolli opens up the first morning's session. "Human Impact is the guiding force that will drive all of our conversations over the next few days," he says. "We'll talk about all aspects of human impact, including oceans, cities, sustainable agriculture, consumerism, the environment, our connections to the deepest parts of the biosphere, efforts to build an environmental back-up system and more."