February 23, 2011
Bryan Alvarez on the Living Organisms In Our Body: Both a Landscape & a Symphony
Bryan Alvarez's TEDxBerkeley talk on Saturday was on celebrating the beauty of living systems. He started his talk by sharing a dream with us: "my story begins with a dream that I started to have when I was four and having fevers.
It kept repeating itself - it happened night after night and went on for years. A presence would appear before me, it was familiar and it was alive, there was a conversation taking place and was very alive.....
Then one night, I became lucid in the deam and woke up, and as the waves swelled up, I jumped into it and drowned. It was the first time I had an opportunity to experience a living system. I learned that I can let these living organisms go and have a conversation with them."
Whoahh Nelly, what a "wow" way to start a talk. Since then, Bryan has spent a significant amount of his life getting involved in living systems. We learn that of all the cells in our body, only 10% are actually human and 90% of our cells are actually other species. He says, "it turns out that most of the cells in our body are having a conversation in our body." It made him realize that we are part of a vast ecosystem and our cells inside our bodies are the symphony of that ecosystem.
He reminds us that our bodies are thousands of species all working together, talking together. When our cells are not working together, not talking, not connecting, then we suffer.
Disconnection is Suffering!
He asks, "if the cells from all of these species inside our body can work so well together, why can't we model that to work well with the environment?" Good question.
His latest initiative is called the Human Atlas Project, which is about bringing all of these together. Essentially, it will be a fully 3D interactive atlas of the human body that scales from organs to atoms and shows the dynamic LIVING processes of the human body.
The mission of this project is to celebrate the beauty of living systems. Imagine exploring a version of Google Earth where you could see all of Earth's animals roaming the planet, oceans and weather moving in real time, and travel deep into the Earth's center.
Says Bryan, "Imagine that you are watching a documentary about the planet. Imagine that you have this impulse to go see a handful of beautiful landscapes every day. Well, we are those landscapes; they are inside us. You are this living ecosystem, having a conversation. You -- your bodies -- are both the players and the symphony." Beautifully said Bryan. Beautifully said.
Check out this video for another variation of a dream that depicts our living organisms as a magical journey of sorts.
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