November 19, 2012
Thought Leaders, Technologists & Academics Re-Imagine Global Health
I'm a huge supporter of TEDx events given their goal to make the world a better place and because I know how much time and effort goes into each one since I'm a co-curator myself of the annual TEDxBerkeley event.
Organizers need all the help they can get since the success is based on the work, effort and love from volunteers...in other words, everyone works around the clock without getting paid.
TEDxSF (San Francisco) recently had their event in conjunction with UCSF, around health, a critical topic on everyone's mind in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Their theme was 7 Billion Well: Re-imagining Global Health."
They brought together thought leaders and emerging pioneers in academia and technology to discuss the latest multidisciplinary ideas around the most pressing health issues of our world today.
Christine Mason McCaull, Kunal Sood and their team did a smashing job with an incredible line-up of speakers, which included more women across the board than any other event I can think of outside of BlogHer. Hear hear. It's also Christine's last year curating the event, a huge loss for the TEDxSF team.
Speaker's topics included the Bay Area as a Global Health Hub by Jaime Sepulveda, issues around bleeding from Suellen Miller, embracing your children from Dr. Shefali Tsabary, investing in health markets from Yasmina Zaidman and corporate games for change from Adam Bosworth. (below)
Dean Ornish (below) always has such a wonderful presence on stage. He shared his take on Dis-Ease and how lifestyle, diet and mental attitude is critical to avoiding disease and reversing problematic issues in order to bring the body back to its natural state.
Ankur Jain and Vinod Khosla took on investing to expand health globally, Sam Hamner talked about 1000 knees, Piya Sorcar addressed the tough issues around HIV education, and Patrick Lee explored primary care and what the U.S. can learn from Liberia. Yes, Liberia.
Then there was Kumaré, a film which also played at the recent SAND Conference (nonduality - where spiritualty and science meet) which I attended recently.
Director Vikram Gandhi (above), who grew up consuming equal parts ancient Indian mythology and American movies, was incredibly amusing on stage as he uses satire to talk about his journey as a 'false prophet' to shoot the movie.
We then dove into the mobile world with Sandeep Sood, Montana Cherney, Michael Blum and Jeff Tangney and heard from David Bolinsky, an all time favorite, who never falls short of presenting beautiful information in a way that is both compelling and moving. (below)
Then there was a treat...a very special treat. Lebohang "Levo M" Morake from South Africa flew over to sing a song he arranged for the infamous Lion King: He Lives in Me.
This song is not a favorite of mine, but for anyone who has lost someone in their life, the words will resonate with the pain you felt when you first realized the moment that you called upon your deceased loved one for guidance and comfort.
In other words, the spirits of our ancestors watch over us, protect and guide us on our life journey. Did I cry? Yes. It was truly beautiful as was meeting Lebo after his performance.
June 11, 2012
When a Friend is Diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer...
Roughly three months ago, I learned that a dear friend was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. He's Chinese American, in his early fifties, fit, in great physical shape and doesn't smoke. If you track cancer stats, personal quantifiers are important. I keep asking myself, how can someone who doesn't smoke, has never smoked and has never been the victim of second-hand smoke be given such a potential death sentence?
I went to visit him for the first time this past week. He is local to the San Francisco Bay Area but I met him back East when I lived in Boston where he was teaching and our connection was pretty much immediate.
He was teaching a dance class, I was taking it and while the cultures I most gravitate to tend to be in Europe, Southern Africa and parts of South America, not necessarily in that order, his 'very Chinese' way of teaching made so much more sense to me that anyone else I had taken lessons from, which was well over a dozen at the time.
He was a very effective teacher though many people in the class would struggle at first to understand the less traditional analogies he'd throw into the mix. He would say things like: "imagine your partner is a grocery shopping cart that you're pushing up and down the aisles" OR, "think of a rock or a boulder you've had to hold 'up' when you were ten. How did you hold it up? With force and struggle or could you imagine another way?"
OR, if you've ever waited on tables, how did you hold a large tray to get the maximum connection so you knew the plates and glasses on top of it were secure?" OR, "imagine a chicken in your backyard who's fast and yet you need to build rapport with him, what would you do? Fast or slow and why?"
He just had that way. AND, he taught with such passion and humor. To dance with him was and is nothing less than pure joy. When you're done dancing with him, what's left in your immediate and long term memory bank is gratitude.
And now, at such a young age, he has lung cancer. He's not my partner, my son, or my father but like so many others he has touched along the way, he has brought an incredible amount of joy into my life. Everytime we get together, I learn something from him.
Like me, he's an intuitive, so he reads people quickly although sometimes people can tell he's reading them. I love knowing that someone is taking the time to figure my shit out on the fly -- it means they're taking the time and that you're interesting enough to figure out -- yet, it can make some people uncomfortable.
Ever notice that sometimes when you're most uncomfortable with a situation or person, you might be on the brink of learning something deeper about yourself or the world around you?
Don't read this post as a tribute to someone who is on his way out, but one that is throwing out a strong intention and statement that says, regardless of what labels are put on us, by ourselves or by others, we have the option to change them....even when we've been given a severe warning about our health and well being.
If there's anyone who can beat Stage 4, it's my friend. It doesn't mean that the odds are not against him, but what it does mean is that intention and attitude matters, from others around him and from himself, which he thankfully seems to have. He spoke of gratitude and the fact that he doesn't expect the universe to grant him a free ticket if he doesn't step up to the plate and do the work. In other words, he's doing everything that he can in his power to increase his odds of survival, of bouncing back, and becoming strong enough again to participate in the world again in a more present and vibrant way than ever before.
A double Scorpio, he thinks about the world in a different way. As a friend assessed fairly quickly, "you just look at people carefully, spend a lot of time and analyze them and then quietly think, "that's an interesting unusual way of being a human being." I had to laugh because there was so much truth to it. He laughed too and said, "can I use that?"
When we lived back east, I remember that he slept on my couch for nearly a week after showing up a house party and helping with the dishes. We were both going through relationship break-ups at the time and while we were both 15 pounds lighter because of it, he reminded me every day that the universe has a plan, not to fight it, but to embrace it and when we come out on the other side, we'll be ten times stronger and smarter than we were before.
Years later, he worked at Esalen, a holistic retreat center on the west coast, so I visited him there for a week. Everyone walked around naked and ate nothing but tofu and broccoli. Classes were freeform, hot tubs at night were overflowing with people and conversation and the stars spoke their peace in the wee hours of the morning while the moon shone bright.
Because he had a roommate and space was tight, we slept on a thin mat outside under the stars every night. While we gazed up at the stars, we shared our life intentions and our pains and fears, and whenever something didn't feel aligned even if it was slight, he threw it back to me letting me know where it was 'off.'
By aligned, I'm referring to a decision we make in our lives that isn't aligned with who we truly are. It's in this place we get into trouble, both in our personal and professional lives.
Working with clients, I often see a company start to go south when I sense a misalignment with the CEO or senior executive, and then, it's only a matter of time before a major pivot needs to happen, they run out of money or have a dramatic management change.
There in the dark night with the mystical light from the moon, I probably asked him, "what do you mean by that?" a hundred times, digging deeper into each explanation until the 'meaning' was pure, with all the onions peeled back. In that place, the truth was unveiled.
During our recent visit, he talked about the first thing that went through his mind when the doctors told him he had Stage 4 Lung Cancer. They said they were shocked at how composed he was and he laughed when he told us the story saying that they didn't see the flying glass hit the walls when they left the room. Of course that didn't happen; his positive outlook is incredible as he talked about living in a reality world versus a fantasy one and how important it is when you do hear bad news, since it forces you to do everything in your power with all the facts at hand, to turn things around. In other words, there's no point hiding behind the truth. Isn't that the case for everything we do in our lives?
He said, "I knew I needed to get my life together, figure out a plan even though I had no idea where to start." After our 3+ hour visit, we were standing by the car and he said, "a close friend emailed my brother and told him to find a good Hospice unit quickly to make him comfortable for the rest of his short life." He said he felt offended (the word he used) but then later realized it wasn't that she wanted him to die but it was the best way she knew how to deal with her own internal pain.
Most of us have a hard time with sickness and death. You hear a friend has stage 4 cancer and then what? The first thing is often denial. My immediate thought when I heard the news was #1) NO, this can't be true. This can't possibly be true. I don't want this to be true. How can it be true? Why is it true? It's not fair that its true. WTF that its true? Then, #2) who do I know in my circles with the most knowledge in this area who can increase his likelihood of survival? What do I need to do to mobilize things?
He didn't tell anyone the news for two days although he realized he needed to act quickly. He also knew that whatever he did in life moving forward, he couldn't harm a thing or do a wrongful thing. He used very granular examples: "I can't even harm a beetle, fly or spider." It was an odd analogy but I get it. How could you not be more present than you've ever been in your life when you're cherishing every moment of every day?
He spends his days cutting up recycled paper and getting creative with bottles that have been thrown away. Collages and origami. He also slaps his body to wake it up and move the chi, anything and everything that has become stagnant. Behind the knees, between the forearm and shoulder where the arm bends, the back of the feet, the bottom of feet and the top of feet, the top of the hand, then the legs and upper arms.
He never said woe is me during our visit. He laughed, was grateful and is taking an active approach to his illness. I left feeling sad knowing that he's in this place and going through so much pain, yet I also left feeling inspired, knowing that he feels that whatever happens, there's a reason for it, a reason beyond what he can see today. He has hope and talks about sleeping on my couch again and hanging out in a garden or by the ocean in a future time, where we explore the sun, the moon, the solar system and our intentions all at the same time.
And as I made my way home, tears coming down my face, I also smiled thinking about all the joy he continues to bring to the world. And, every day since seeing him, I send intentions out to the universe that those days will be longer than the number of days we think there "should be" with a Stage 4 label. Intention can't cure a disease, but it can help healing and bring a sense of peace as someone makes their way towards recovery.
So, when a friend gets a diagnosis and the news reaches your ears, go to a place of hope, not fear and despair, go to a place of love and gratitude not hate and bitterness, go to a place of intention and abundance, not deprivation and loss, for it is in those unspoken walls of intention and love that our friends stand the best possible chance.
Photo Credits: candle: Alternate Economy blog, Stars at night from Babblefrommyhead Blog, Beam of light from Global Intelligencer Blog,
May 23, 2012
American Academy of Environmental Medicine Warns People About Smart Meters
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has released its latest position paper on electromagnetic field (EMF) and radiofrequency (RF) health effects calling for immediate caution regarding smart meter installations. Citing several peer-reviewed scientific studies, the AAEM concludes that “significant harmful biological effects occur from non-thermal RF exposure” showing causality.
As an article over at The Blaze says of smart meters impact: headaches, insomnia, tinnitus, DNA breakdown are all just a few of the myriad problems mentioned when people talk about the constant bombardment of EMFs or electromagnetic frequencies, a huge by-product of the new Smart Meters being installed by public utilities around the country.
“A more thorough review of technological options to achieve society’s worthwhile communications and business objectives must be conducted to protect human health and wellbeing” stated Dr. William J. Rea, a member of the AAEM and former thoracic surgeon. “By continuing to layer more and more wireless communication within our communities, we are setting the stage for widespread disease.”The AAEM also expresses concern regarding significant, but poorly understood quantum field health effects of EMF and RF. “More independent research is needed to assess the safety of ‘Smart Meter’ technology,” said Dr. Amy Dean, board certified internist and President-Elect of the AAEM. “Patients are reporting to physicians the development of symptoms and adverse health effects after smart meters are installed on their homes. Immediate action is necessary to protect the public’s health. Our research shows that chronic RF and EMF exposure can be very harmful.”
Dr. William J. Rea, past president of AAEM, and a long time researcher on the effects of EMFs on the human body, says “Technological advances must be assessed for harmful effects in order to protect society from the ravages of end-stage disease like cancer, heart disease, brain dysfunction, respiratory distress, and fibromyalgia. EMF and wireless technology are the latest innovations to challenge the physician whose goal is to help patients and prevent disease.”
The AAEM Calls For:
- Immediate caution regarding “Smart Meter” installation due to potentially harmful RF exposure
- Accommodation for health considerations regarding EMF and RF exposure, including exposure to wireless “Smart Meter” technology
- Independent studies to further understand health effects from EMF and RF exposure
- Use of safer technology, including for “Smart Meters”, such as hard-wiring, fiber optics or other non-harmful methods of data transmission
- Independent studies to further understand the health effects from EMF and RF exposures
- Recognition that electromagnetic hypersensitivity is a growing problem worldwide
- Consideration and independent research regarding the quantum effects of EMF and RF on human health
- Understanding and control of this electrical environmental bombardment for the protection of society
Information on the effect of installing millions of Smart Meters, all equipped with wireless transmitters that are constantly filling the environment with EMFs, is just starting to trickle in. An electrical engineer named Rob States has been looking into this problem:
“Since individuals with no history of RF disease are experiencing symptoms the first day the meter is installed, we can assume the meter’s RF emissions are not the only problem. The RF network is activated months after initial meter installation. Extensive measurements have demonstrated that all of the meters measured so far, including ABB, GE, and Landis Gyr, emit noise on the customer’s electric wiring in the form of high frequency voltage spikes, typically with an amplitude of 2 volts, but a frequency any ware from 4,000 Hertz, up to 60,000 Hz. The actual frequency of the phenomena is influenced by the devices that are plugged into the customer’s power. Some houses are much worse than others, and this observation has been confirmed by PG&E installers that have talked to us.”
The AAEM’s position paper on electromagnetic and radiofrequency fields can be found here. AAEM is an international association of physicians and other professionals dedicated to addressing the clinical aspects of environmental health.
April 29, 2012
TEDxSummit in Qatar's Doha Brings Together Nearly 100 Cultures to Accelerate Change & Meaning
I recently came back from Doha Qatar, where I attended a week-long event exclusively for TEDx organizers.
The first TEDxSummit was hosted by the Doha Film Institute at the Katara Cultural Center aka the Katara Valley of Cultures. The "village" is a bit like a sprawling outdoor convention center that houses an ampitheatre, tents and domes where you can see live concerts and events.
Katara was born out of a long held vision to position the State of Qatar as a cultural lighthouse of art if you will, highlighting the best of theatre, literature, music and visual art in the Middle East. It sits along the water, so you can watch boats sail by and a sunrise in the early evening off in the distance while you take in your event, whether it be performing arts or meetings, or in our case, a mishmash of both.
Before arriving, I wasn't sure what to expect, from the kinds of content they'd choose to why Qatar and what is Qatar? Refer to my numerous posts on Qatar including a write-up on the Arab Museum of Modern Art, images of the impressive Museum of Islamic Art, a display of work from renowned Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang and the over-the-top Murakami Ego exhibit.
What is Qatar is probably the most mind blowing takeaway from the event as you'll see from my write-ups. At first, it didn't make sense why we were having an event in such a remote place, a country barely known to so many and yet, after returning from the Summit, the location makes perfect sense.
Given that the Summit attracted TEDsters from nearly a hundred countries around the world, it is in fact a fairly central location, though obviously a longer haul for those of us on the American west coast. And, given the diversity of the attendees, Qatar, which rather than having hundreds of years of history and cultural references, really only started to make its marks a few decades ago.
In other words, its a country in search of an identity as demonstrated by the volume of new immigrants pouring in to tap into Qatar's exploding economic growth...less a land of local Qataris and more a land of transplants from Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Lebanon, the list goes on.
And, let's not forget other stats: 75% of those living in Doha and surrounding area are expats/foreign nationals. Doha is preparing for its growing global interest; the city is about as modern as it gets with highrises going up faster than Las Vegas hotels in its prime.
The other reason Qatar makes sense as a location, is that so few of us in the west know "enough" about the Middle East, particularly the complexities of Islam and the culture that goes along with it. Understanding Qatar helps you understand the rest of the region.
Through greater understanding comes compassion, empathy, tolerance, gratitude and a willingness to not just expand your horizons and knowledge base, but reach out and help in whatever way makes sense. This, by the way, is integral to what TED at its core is about.
And so, we all embarked on soil that is new, yet old, to discuss ways we can help each other, sharing best practices, what works and what doesn't.
Some of the sessions included: How to Write About Your Speakers, Sponsorships, Keeping Your Event Sustainable, Social Media Strategies, Building Salons, Blogging, Making Change with Corporate Events, Capturing Great Photo Content, Planning, Stage & Production Tips, Branding, Livestreaming, Working with Tight Budgets and more.
Clearly it made sense for teams from specific regions to pow-wow with each other. Wwe had breakout sessions in large tents in the middle of the desert broken out by parts of the world, i.e., Eastern Europe, Australia, Central America and in the states, it was broken down even further (northern California, Midwest and so on).
Below are ketchnotes of one of the TEDxSummit sessions from C. Todd Lombardo, organizer of TEDxSomerville in the greater Boston area.
While meeting by region helps each group share resources, and even space for meetings, its amazing how much you can learn from organizers in parts of the world that have nothing in common with your own. This is separate of course from what you learned from locals who happened to be hanging out or 'working the event' -- in the middle of the desert.
For example, storytelling on stage is very different at a small event in West Africa, yet what is so natural in a village is often missing from a large TEDx stage that may resort to Powerpoint and a speaker's 20 years of experience and knowledge. The opposite applies too of course; there are clearly things from larger events that small towns can use to expand their presence and brand awareness. In other words: borrow from the formal for the informal and take the informal into the formal and make magic happen by blending the best of both together.
The other surprise for me was the whole concept of "you don't know what you don't know and you don't know who you don't know." I didn't even know all the organizers in my own region (greater Bay Area), nor did I know the depth of where TEDx events had spread.
For example, while the events are largely by geography, there are a few that are connected to brands/companies, universities and other institutions. Did you know that there's a TEDxHouses of Parliament? This isn't just fascinating data - this is revolutionary. Consider the kinds of conversations they have already had and will evolve as a result of this kind of "new" organization and collaboration.
Bringing everyone together to share, collaborate and execute on ideas around the world is brilliant. Let's not forget the 'healing' and compassion that comes as a result of greater understanding, which inevitably comes from bringing such a global audience together in one place.
Well done and hats off to Bruno Giussani, Chris Anderson, Lara Stein, and the NY & Doha teams for turning another great idea into a reality.
Some of the Speaker and Presentation Highlights include:
- 'The Human Arabesque' opening night video sourced inspiration from Doha's Museum of Islamic Art. The team researched traditional arabesque patterns in a quest to incorporate regional culture to create a moving, human sculpture representing the transformative power of x.
- Futurist Juan Enriquez has always been a long time favorite of mine. He contends that science and technology are leading us rapidly towards the next "human species." See excelvm.com.
- Vinay Venkatraman, who is a founding partner at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, has developed an alternative vision to creating a more inclusive world through a design concept he refers to as 'Frugal Digital.'
- TED Senior Fellow Cesar Harada demonstrated a bold new design for a sailing craft with a flexible rudder -- on both ends. Called 'Protei,' the robot is designed to sense and clean up oceans.
- I loved Shereen El Fedi's talk on how bad laws fuel and good laws fight HIV. Chart after chart, example after example, she demonstrated her point. Check out their work at HIV Law Commission.
- Amit Sood wowed the crowd with an incredibly impressive demo of the Google Art Project. They have collected and curated the world's greatest art, from museums and beyond, onto the web, making it as easy to access your favorite piece of work or view art you've never heard of or are likely never to see in person. You can even search by sub-category, by typing in for example, red and Picasso for everything that Picasso did in red. There are other filters as well that could keep you glued to this site for hours if not days.
- Rives, who many of us know as a renowned poet, has given awe-inspiring performances on the TED stage before. In Doha, he took us a journey of factoids using his poetic tongue. Bouncing from site to site, we learned about some of the most trivial and not so trivial knowledge on the web, ranging from culture and politics to insects and sex.
- With passion and energy, Indian artist Raghava KK argued why everyone should have a 200-year plan.
- Rare book scholar William Noel fascinated the audience with his research. Using a particle accelerator to read ancient works, he took us on a journey from start to finish. He's a huge believer in open-source and open-data and he and his team are making their work open to others (aka the web of ancient manuscripts).
- Comedian Maz Jobrani intertwined humor with local culture and events. You have depth as a comedian when you can stand on a stage in Qatar and have Americans, Lebanese, Saudi Arabians, Qataris, Scandinavians, Japanese and Aussies all laughing at the same time. He's known for his work on the 'Axis of Evil Comedy Tour,' which traveled around the world, including the Middle East.
- National Food Security Programme chairman Fahad Bin Mohammed Al-Attiya educated me most about where Qatar was a hundred years ago versus where it is today and where's its heading. They're working on a Master Plan, using Qatar, which only has two days of water supply, as a model for sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture in arid regions.
- Yahay Alabdeli who curates TEDxBaghdad created a lot of teary eyed attendees with his story about how he traveled back to Iraq after 34 years to create an event that pulled not just locals but others who had left Iraq but returned specifically for his event. As you can imagine, it was much more than a reunion. He went through a number of obstacles to make it happen, so it seems perfect that his event theme was: "Making the Impossible Possible."
- One of my old time favorites Hans Rosling returned to the TED stage, bringing humor to sex, religion and data once again. What was even more fascinating was having his global trends in health and economics from every country in the world presented in a place where we had representation by nearly every region in the world. All of his talks exude one of his sweetest talents - his dry humor and quirkiness. Beyond the quirkiness he shows in his professional life, which adds to the power of his talks, let's not forget that the man swallows swords for kicks in his spare time. What's not to adore about Hans? (see a video interview with Hans at the Summit here - he uses legos, rocks and humor that reveals deep insight in typical Hans-style).
Because the event was an International Summit where best practices and learning beyond "talks" were a big part of the agenda, the highlights that will inevitably be glued to people's minds and hearts include the experiencial activities.
Below is a brainstorming session in a tent set up in the desert dunes, roughly an hour and a half south of Doha.
There was dune bashing, also in the south of the country.
And, kayacking among mangroves in the north, after which we were guests in the home of a local man, who fed us well and shared some of his photos and life experiences:
A visit to the Al-Zubara Fort:
A boat tour along the water:
The incredibly breathtaking Islam Museum of Art:
Education City has representation from some of the top schools, including Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical College, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Northwestern University, and others, with a goal to grow Qatar's knowledge base, making it an attractive place to visit and work in the future.
Below, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar Weill Cornell.
Below is a shot taken at one of the cafes in the Souq Waqif one night (we ended up in the Souq several evenings). Despite the fact that the Souq doesn't serve alcohol, it was a great place to hang out, socialize, shop, drink coffee and eat fabulous local food.
Desert Day in the South. Of course, it wouldn't be desert day without an opportunity to catch a ride on a camel:
A casual shot of TEDx organizers in the desert...
Then there was the late afternoon drumming session, which frankly, I can never get 'enough of...'.
A music jam session in one of the main tents - small but intimate and full of great TEDx talent:
18-year old Jordanian pianist Sima Sirriyeh, who composes her own pieces played for us on the main stage.
Opening night, they danced and sang. And then, danced and sang some more.
We took in the best of the local culture and greater Doha through visits to Souq Faqif, the Arab Museum of Modern Art, and the Cai Guo Qiang and Murakami Ego exhibitions. Also check out Doha's Centre for Media Freedom.Late nights were spent in the hotel bars where we stayed: The W and Kempinski Hotels.
- Katara Village, Fort, Boat, Landscape City Shots, Brainstorm session, Hands, Anderson, Dunes, TedxStage Shot1: Javier Junes
- Yahay Alabdeli, Cesar Harada, Inside Museum of Islamic Art: Duncan Davidson
- Group shot in dunes: taken on my camera by a TEDx-er
- North site visit for lunch, middle of desert scene, Hans sword shot from a previous event, casual desert day shot, camel close up, Souq, Maz Jobrani, opening night, drumming circle, jam session in tent after hours, Sima Sirriyeh: Renee Blodgett
- Education City Weill Cornell University shot - website.
April 29, 2012 in Arts & Creative Stuff, Books, Events, On Africa, On Education, On Health, On India, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Robotics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, Travel, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
February 22, 2012
TEDxBerkeley 2012's Inspiring Innovation Merges Magic, BioData & Technology With Film, Oceans & Plants
Most people in my circles know what a TEDx event is but for those of you who don't, it is a local, self organized event that bring people together to share a TED-like experience, in the spirit of ideas worth spreading.
This video gives you an idea of what these non-profit events are like, which extend far beyond Berkeley. Cities around the world are organizing TEDx events, with a goal to teach, share, collaborate, educate, faciliate and grow. Ideas worth spreading means that some of these ideas can revolutionize (and have revolutionized) the world because of a new relationship or partnership that has evolved as a result of the wider distribution of these ideas and the courage and dedication of people behind making the 'magic' happen.
It's the second year I've been involved as co-curator of TEDxBerkeley, an event held at Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall every February. In attendance were well over 1,000 people from a broad range of disciplines and minds - from academic, music and science to medicine, technology and the arts.
15 ground-breaking thinkers, leaders and performers entertained and educated the audience through storytelling, performance and anecdotes from their life experiences.
Given that UC Berkeley is involved, so were some of the professors and students, including the opening act by DeCadence (pronounced dee-KAY-dence, with a capital ‘C’), a vocalist group that sports eye-catching blue and gold capes and creative dance moves at nearly every performance.
The musician in me couldn't help but call out music brilliance first and while we're on the topic of incredible voices, Charles Holt stole the stage with his storytelling and singing of "He Lives in You," my favorite Lion King number.
He had me at "go" is an understatement, largely because of his intuitive nature, the fact that he lives his life through that intuitive lense and his witty and incredibly honest stories of his mother and grandmother from the south, which will leave you crying and laughing at the same time.
From music to dance, Jodi Lomask then awed us through her dance troupe. Known for her work with an organization she founded called Capacitor 15 years ago, she works with world-renowned research scientists to create original dance works that draw attention to critical environmental issues.
I think about people I know who spend their life committed to understanding oceans and I think about the moment it was for me that I got one step closer: deep sea diving off the coast of Australia some 60 or so feet below the surface. In that world, that remarkable world, you truly understand the beauty of a world we need to cherish and preserve.
Her dancers showed us that beauty through a combination of violin, dance movements in and outside of rings in somewhat of a Cirque du Soleil style and environmental videos, all creating an outer world exerience for us to share.
One of my favorite moments of the performance is below...the intertwining of minds, hearts and bodies.
Also involved in conservation and the environment was Dr. Maria Fadiman who I had the pleasure of setting up with a new Twitter account (social media will get us all, the deep hidden voice says, lurking in the background), is a fascinating combination of geologist, comedian, nature lover and ethnobotanist, her work focuses on the relationship between people and plants.
From South Florida, her style was very informal for an academic crowd yet had people laughing as she pounced onto the stage with a machete in hand, telling one humorous story after another of her time in the jungle, the majority of her time spent in the rainforests of Latin America.
She has worked with Tibetan children in teaching them to record their own ethnobotanical traditions and is currently working on a global scale cross cultural study of people’s use of a cultural keystone species (the flora and fauna that are deemed important to the survival of a culture), and how these plants can act as larger ecosystem preservation incentives.
Digital fabrication is where you change the rules about how things are made, referencing 3D printers, showing us examples of various things which can be printed into a variety of materials, including rubber, plastic and metal.
It's amazing what can be printed on a 3D printer now...I ran into BitTorrent's Bram Cohen at SF Music Tech who showed me a very interesting 3D ring he was wearing on his finger. Additionally, imagine 3D buildings and even a 3D-printed human kidney.
We also heard about the rise of information, aka the wisdom of the crowds and the wisdom of the 'cloud.' Not only are we all becoming creators in our own way on our own personal platforms, but we're becoming curators as well.
Then, ARZU's Connie Duckworth, who took the stage in vibrant red, focused on international development sharing things learned from her work in Afghanistan. She says of the current state of international development:
- The international development industry is dysfunctional.
- Big money brings big unintended consequences.
- Hope can’t thrive in the world’s worse places.
She believes that we have an urgent call to change the structure of the international development industry, which holds in its hands the lives of billions of people at the bottom of the pyramid.
Their thinking is that somehow inherently flawed short term thinking will move into sustainable systems. Big money when not hosed in the right direction can create a lot of chaos. She asserts that its a key reason that so many people lose so much faith in their government.
She refers to another unintended consequence of big money going to the wrong places: Brain Tilt, which is when the most highly educated local people (engineers, professors, doctors), all end up working for expats in low level positions. Local smart people are working as drivers and clerks rather than working in higher level positions because they can get paid so much more in the other positions.
Connie defines the quest for peace as security. “We all see the world through our own lens of experience, so for me, success all starts with a job. This is how people start with a way to solve those basic level needs, such as the ability to eat and feed their family.” She encouraged the audience not to just sit back and want peace, but believe in it and take action.
Rather than focus on money, we wanted to focus on giving, in other words, the idea of unleashing the power of compassion capital. “Once you unleash compassion,” he says, it’s amazing what happens. “Stay focused on adding value and discovered untapped capital.”
When small acts of giftivism get connected and activated, it rekindles a gift economy. A gift culture, he says, is marked by four key shifts:
- Shift from Consumption to Contribution – Instead of asking “what can I get,” open with “What can I give?” He says if you open each door with a different question, about what can you give, it changes the entire dynamics.
- Shift from Transaction to Trust: Build synergy. He refers to Karma Kitchen, a restaurant in Berkeley, where you pay for the people ahead of you or behind you rather than for your own bill. 26,000 meals so far and people continue to pay it forward.
- Shift from Isolation to Community: it is not enough that we connect, but rather how we connect. When you serve other people together, you create a network of ‘gift ties.’
- Shift from Scarcity to Abundance: Cultivate inner transformation to arrive at enough. “There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.”
Hear hear Nipun. From gift economies, we shifted to Gopi Kallayil from Google who talked about the power of social and a connected world, particularly during the 18 days of the Egyptian protests, showing us a video where Desmond Tutu is talking to the Dalai Lama on Google+, a clip which has now been watched 2 million times. This is a great example of how social media is driving innovation around the world.
We saw examples from Libya and Kenya to South Africa and Egypt, where during the protests, they were able to express how they really felt and more importantly, people were able to listen to those words on YouTube and other platforms. They sang, “the most important thing is our right and writing our history with our blood – if you were one of us, better not blabber and tell us to go away and leave our dream and stop saying the word “I”. In every street in my country, the sound of freedom is calling. In every street in my country, the sound of freedom is calling.” Powerful stuff.
From the vantage point of healthcare, intuition and communications, Dr. Neha Sangwan encourages everyone to be proud of yourself for "listening to yourself." Often, listening to ourself comes second to listening to opinions of others, whether they be friends and family or a doctor we're seeing for a particular issue.
She asks, "what if communication is the cure that we're missing? What is the way we talk to ourselves & whether we choose to lean into our discomfort & show up in the world? What is this is the prescription for health long before I need to write you a prescription?"
Her talk was highly emotional as she brought us a journey around the world to the Middle East, where she spoke to women, sharing with us insights she learned about their world, their pride and in turn, what we can learn from them in the western world.
A professor at Berkeley, Ken Goldberg who closed the talks, on nothing other than robots. Yes, robots...and what we can learn from them. As someone who worked in speech recognition for years and did a project for the Willow Garage guys (I love PR2 and even danced with one), I was eager to hear his insights.
Ken thinks robots can inspire us and that we have a lot to learn from them. Some of those insights from various projects over the years include: always question assumptions. It's amazing how quick we are to turn to other people's assumptions and make decisions based on them without digging deeper. Secondly, when in doubt, improvise.
I couldn't help but smile but when i realized that both of these recommendations btw are great ones for start-ups as well as for children. So is tihs one: When your path is blocked, pivot. In start-up culture, we learn to pivot a lot, something that Fortune 500 companies should pay more attention to...
Author and thought leader David Ewing Duncan focused on DATA and how do we make sense of it all?', something he thinks is an awesome achievement of humanity, for 'better or worse.'
Because of his background, he centered his talk around bio-data. He points out that today, we can get a micro-analysis of our blood work, which can tell us how just whether we have a high chance of cancer and chronic diseases, but how empathetic we are as human beings. He notes "more experiences, more tests leads to more data."
But, as so many of us know, we have so much data, that its often overwhelming, so much so we can't make sense of the data we have at our fingertips. This is David's point.
Whats needed, he asserts is a new mindset in every occupation. "Enough of all this data, what does this data actually mean?" he says. "We need a revolution in interpreting the tools and the data as well as a radical shift in resources. In other words, how do we go about testing 42,000 genetic traits?"
Clearly, we need a radical shift in resources. There's only 4% invested on translational medicine and he thinks there needs to be a reversal in resource allocation. He also pointed to trends in the future for all the students sitting in the hall: "we're going to need 500 million analysts in 6 years and we only have 100 million today." Clearly, these are the people who are going to be well versed at making sense of all that data and transforming it into something usable and most importantly, actionable by individuals.
Tapan Parikh, a Berkeley University professor brought us back into traditional technology and current trends. Tapan’s research interests include human-computer interaction (HCI), mobile computing, speech UIs and information systems for microfinance, smallholder agriculture and global health.
He showed us photographs and results of some of his work in rural areas. Of his latest projects, Tapan has been designing, developing and deploying information systems in the rural developing world – initially in India, and now also in Latin America and Africa.
Tapan and his students have started several technology companies serving rural communities and the development sector. It was inspirational to see what they have accomplished so far and to see what is possible with resources, tearing down silos, sharing among communities and better access.
What he hopes to represent is the notion of showing respect for where you come from. He says, "Pick a challenge that is important to you" (for him, it was setting up real-time video conferencing, knowledge sharing and instant messaging in India), "and stick to it." He adds, "Don't assume you know what people need for their development - let them speak up, don't act for them."
I was thrilled that Tiffany Shlain was able to join us this year as I've always been a fan of her work. She has been making films for 20 years, and some of them have hit Sundance, Tribeca, Rotterdam and others and her films have won over 36 film festival awards.
Tiffany says, "each time we were able to change the way we recorded film and show reality, we were able to change reality itself."
She showed us snippets from her most recent film: Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death & Technology, A Declaration of Interdependence.” Connected had its U.S. theatrical tour this past fall and is now available for people to host their own screenings.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) announced earlier this month the 29 films selected for the American Film Showcase, an international cultural diplomacy initiative that brings people together worldwide through film and Connected made the list.
The movie is enlightening and sad at the same time, taking us deep into what is happening around us in a connected world and how technology is shaping and reshaping us. Bravo!! I have a love/hate relationship with technology myself -- the timing of this film couldn't be more perfect.
"Do something radical and true," she says. "We as humans should declare our human interdependence." Film projects they're working on for others are centered on life's most emotional topics: engagement, power, money, wisdom, death, inspiration, the brain and others.
Now that we're back to Entertainment, the E in TED, the last two speakers this year were performers: magician Robert Strong and violinist Lindsey Stirling.
Robert Strong is known as 'The Comedy Magician' and in watching him, it's so clear that magic is his life passion. He has performed on every major television network, in more than 40 different countries, in all 50 states, and twice at the White House.
I never paid much attention to the word magic until I renamed my own consultancy with Magic in the name. Now, I see 'magic' everywhere and am a true believer that perception is reality and that we can create any outcome we want through our own belief systems.
Lindsey Stirling, who I first saw play at Idea Festival in Kentucky last fall, is often referred to as the Hip Hop Violinist. Her passion, energy, and presence is magnetic, so much so, that you can't help but want to get up on stage and dance as she jumps around, violin and all, around you. Here's some background on her work. Let's just say that I'm a huge fan.
Check out last year's (2011) TEDxBerkeley talks on video. And a few talks from last year to get you inspired were Chip Conley on remembering that we're human in business, Anat Baniel on flexibility and vitality, Lopas Brunjes on carbon reduction, Bryan Alvarez on living organisms in our body, and Shore Slocum on spiritual awakening and awareness and how this can transform your everyday life.
February 22, 2012 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Conference Highlights, Entertainment/Media, Europe, Events, Magic Sauce Media, Music, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Poems, Literature & Stuff, On Robotics, On Technology, On the Future, San Francisco, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
February 18, 2012
Is What I Crave Connected to My Heritage, Where I Live or Both?
It always seems to take over a month for those post holidays sugar and fatty food cravings to disappear. I’ve noticed that those cravings are often more prevalent during certain times of the year and when I visit certain parts of the world, and it’s not just because those “cravings” are the only things that locals eat.
I currently live in northern California and have lived in 10 countries, including more than my fair share of cold-weathered cities. There’s no question that colder climates can make you crave heartier dishes and hotter temperature foods, even though Brits argued that soups and curries helped them cool down in India during the colonial years.
Since living on the west coast, I crave more sushi than when I lived in Boston. When I visit northern European cities, I crave more red meat even if there’s fish or chicken on the menu and the weather is warm.
Culture contributes to those cravings and may explain why my Italian-born friends prefer a crisp Sauvignon Blanc over a buttery Chardonnay and how I developed such a tight bond with South African biltong that it’s hard to convince natives that I wasn’t raised there.
That said, there are some dishes I crave that feel like they’re “part” of who I am, such as squash, kobasa, duck, and toast for starters. Call it comfort food but I wonder, is it a craving for “comfort” or is it connected to heritage, where generations of eating certain things gets passed on, embedded in our DNA if you will?
When my grandfather sat down for lunch, his staple to-go plate included cold meats, pickles and onions. My grandmother would add a bowl of onions to the table since he added onions to more dishes than I’d care to admit.
Observing this behavior was subliminal at best, yet here I am years later craving many of the same things my grandfather ate, and have noticed a “craving” increase of some of his favorite dishes as I get older.
There are examples of this across the globe, such as the thousands of banana varieties in Africa alone, not to mention vegetables and fruits not that plentiful in the west like guava and okra. Whatever we have an abundance of, we eat, another reason I’m thrilled the holidays are over.
When we lived in Florida, oranges were a regular sighting in our kitchen as was coconut juice when I hung my hat in Kenya. I lived on curries in London and ate French fries with peanut butter sauce in Amsterdam.
But, how much of our cravings are connected to other factors such as our body chemistry and general health?
Rest assured, there are lots of foods that make me feel better, such as fruits and vegetables. And, when I eat healthier, my body chemistry changes as do my cravings. When I used to juice regularly, I’d find alcohol and low-alkaline foods hard to stomach. Our bodies adapt just as our ancestor’s bodies adapted to different kinds of foods as a result of changes in climate, food availability and the economy. (Think The Depression).
Many doctors and health experts may argue that our cravings have nothing to do with heritage whatsoever. There’s certainly no shortage of doctor-blessed diets that promise to reduce your cravings, decrease your “bad” cholesterol and add years to your life.
D'Adamo suggests that the human blood type is key to the body's ability to differentiate self from non-self. Lectins in foods, he asserts, react differently with each ABO blood type and to a lesser extent with an individual's secretor status.
One source suggests that orange juice is bad for my blood type whereas grapefruit juice and I should shine. The truth is that while I like both, I prefer grapefruit juice and “feel” healthier drinking it.
One of the noted symptoms of adrenal fatigue, a condition where your adrenal glands become “tired”, is a craving of salty, fatty, and high protein food such as meat and cheese. Some blood type diets observe that Type O’s don’t find dairy products and grains as ‘body-friendly.” It makes you wonder what percentage of people from northern Europe are Type O’s versus those who hail from Africa or Asia?
Chinese Medicine for Maximum Immunity by Elias & Kethum suggest that I should add more “cool foods” to my diet and avoid red vegetables such as tomatoes and red peppers which can make you feel more “irritable & off-balance” and bitter foods and beverages, which are considered more ‘healing.’ They focus on five elemental types: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. After doing a questionnaire, they recommend certain foods based on your results and tell you to avoid others, with the goal of getting your body into balance and harmony.
Albeit not new, Dr. Barnet Meltzer has written about something he refers to as “food swings”, the reactions in your mind and body to what you eat, a link between your diet and your emotional and physical well-being. Female friends have admitted that they may eat more at times when they knowingly don’t want to attract men into their lives.
Those who have tried the Atkins Diet know that it makes you forget about carbs after the first week and soon, its promise to drop the pounds becomes a reality, for a price that is and not necessarily a healthy one.
A highly alkaline and juice diet made me enjoy raw foods in a way I never thought was possible. Being a vegetarian for awhile made me despise the smell of meat for a few years and Rosedale’s diet argues that Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, tells the brain when to eat, how much to eat and when to stop eating.
The time of day you eat is also a factor. When I returned from Italy several years ago, I craved pasta in the mornings and it wasn’t until I avoided carbs until late afternoon that those sharp cravings disappeared.
The Telegraph’s Science Correspondent Richard Alleyne unveiled research in 2009 that examined how the time of day you eat affects how much weight you put on; eating high fat foods during the day led to a 20 per cent weight gain.
This is just the beginning of an exploration of how cravings are connected to heritage, location, time and health. If you have ever documented your cravings and have insights to share, let’s evolve the conversation. Over to you, health afficiandos, doctors, researchers, experts and those who are as genuinely curious as I am about this topic, to offer your opinions and data.
October 05, 2011
Georgia Tech's Rosa Arriaga on the Power of Human Censors
Georgia Tech Psychologist Rosa Arriaga talked to the Idea Festival audience about the importance of human censors to not only empower patients to take better control of their diseases, particularly chronic diseases, but improve self reliance overall.
She notes that individuals of chronic conditions aren’t even aware of their own symptoms. She brought up SocialMirror, which is a targeted social network for individuals with autism. Tools like this for patients can help them stay motivated about making their regime a priority, including medicine.
Through his network, the app can provide feedback about what an autism patient should do or not do in a particular social situation, such as what to wear at a particular event, what to say, what to bring to a meeting or party, certain behaviors and so on. The social network combined with caregiver and doctor feedback can be a powerful tool to help patients become so much more self reliant than they could ever have imagined in the past.
This would obviously work for so many other conditions and chronic diseases. She ends with this parting thought and prediction. "The future of health and well-being will be done with social computing and social/human censors.”
The Future of Medicine is the Engaged Patient Who Makes Their Own Decisions
John Moore who is currently a PhD candidate in the New Media Medicine group at the MIT Media Lab, is working to fundamentally change the role that patients can play in their care by empowering them with knowledge, understanding, confidence, and channels for communication.
He is studying the effect that new technology-mediated paradigms for doctor-patient collaboration can have on education, adherence, and behavior change.
In the future of medicine, his goal is to design systems to make the patient help decide what medicine to take, where the doctor acts as the “guide.”
He gives us in the Idea Festival audience a few sad facts. People retain only 15-20% of what they hear from doctors after they leave the office. Very few actually follow through and take their medicine even after picking up the prescription. He says that the reason that the stats look so grim is because the system we have today has been designed so poorly.
As a result, Moore and his team are working on transforming systems and creating programs that are more integrative and effective. For example, with Parkinsons disease, they can monitor patient’s activity by wearing a device and matching that back to the medicine they’re taking. Patients can also correlate their behavior as well so they can take their medicine in a timely manner. This is being done through online video conferencing and games.
Games are being developed so patients can set goals with their physical therapist in real time and then have the game results and feedback sent back to the clinician while they’re playing at home. This feedback can help adjust and re-adjust exercises and medicine that they do so improvement is more dramatic. Much of this can be monitored at home so a lot can be diagnosed without the patient having to come into the doctor's office, saving both time and money.
Moore wants to empower patients to change how they view their own conditions through experience not through reading or simply doing what a doctor tells them to do. He believes that patients should be able to get interactive feedback in real time.
“The future of medicine is the engaged patient, where they participate in their own ‘care’ program”, ends Moore.
October 04, 2011
Aubrey De Grey Talks Regenerative Medicine, Aging & Rational Denial of Aging Process
In an effort to ignite regenerative medicine and transform the way we think about health and aging, Aubrey de Grey spends his time on airplanes between England and Silicon Valley, as well as to conferences and events where he can evangelize his message to those who help accelerate his mission.
How should we go about developing medicine in the near future? he asks a large group who showed up in Louisville for Idea Festival, who committed their time to be there because they're interested in innovation, advanced learning and making the world a better place.
He encouraged people to think about aging and dying differently. Death from aging is not only “natural causes, it’s anything that mainly kills older people.”
A few stats: about 150,000 people die per day worldwide, two thirds of them die of aging which equates to 100,000 per day. In the USA, the proportion is over 90%.
None of us are getting any younger and those of us who live in the United States know how broken our healthcare system is...we don't like to think what that means while we're still under 50 because frankly it's too painful to go there. It's only when we see our aging parents go through the system, where things don't work, their live savings are wiped out within months, service is inefficient and disagnoses happen more than they should but because traditional doctors aren't thinking holistically rather than incompetence.
Aging is considered ghastly but also inevitable. It is rational to put ghastly but inevitable things out of our minds, even if we have to be amazingly irrational in order to do so. He calls this rational denial.
"But what if that inevitability became unclear?" he asks. The focus of his talk revolved around the following issues and how we can make a difference:
- Repair versus retardation.
- Specifics: the seven types of damage
- Intracellular junk/medical bioremediation
- Longevity: escape velocity: the concept
- Some evidence that LEV is realistic
De Grey made it clear that his focus is centered around health not longevity which is where regenerative medicine comes in, which he defines as any intervention that seeks to restore a tissue/organ to its state before it suffered damage.
Aging is essentially when metabolism ongoingly causes damage and damage eventually causes pathology over time. Options for intervention divide into two different approaches: the gerontology and the geriatrics approach.
Damage can be slowed down to some degree and other things along the way can be repaired. He asserts that there are seven deadly things that make up damage in our bodies:
- Junk – inside cells
- Junk – outside cells
- Cells – too few
- Cells – too many
- Mutations – chromosomes
- Mutations – mitochondria
- Protein Crosslinks
If we can develop bioremediation in a way that is sustainable, we can tackle aging diseases that cause damage and eventually lead to our death. Robust human rejuvenation he says, can give the middle-aged 30 years of extra healthy life.
Repairing damage periodically can buy us time. In other words, you can slow aging down.
First generation therapies should be likely to transform the health quality of a 60 year old into a 90 year old body. If you start early, you benefit from buying time and putting off some of the damage from aging by 20-30 years.
Then, 20-30 years later, you can do another therapy that has decades of research and improvement.
Essentially therapies double efficacy only every 42 years. The result is that you can add decades to your life, particularly if you start the therapies early enough.
In Aubrey’s words: “we have a humanitarian duty to fix aging.” Hear hear Aubrey. Hear hear!
Maverick Aubrey de Grey is the editor-in-chief of the journal Rejuvenation Science and co-author of the 2007 book Ending Aging. He challenges the most basic assumption underlying the human condition —that aging is inevitable. He argues instead that aging is a disease --one that can be cured if it's approached as "an engineering problem." His plan calls for identifying all the components that cause human tissue to age, and designing remedies for each of them —forestalling disease and eventually pushing back death…providing for an indefinite lifespan. He calls this approach Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS).
October 03, 2011
Wanna Shed a Few Extra Pounds? Meet Autom, the Dieting Robot & Weight-Loss Coach!
I met Cory Kidd in Kentucky recently at the annual Idea Festival, who flew south from New England to show off Autom, a robot designed to help people with their diets. It is up to the user to enter in the details of their diet, such has their fitness level and then Autom uses its databank to interact with the user, engage in conversation and give you feedback.
Along with keeping a record of what you have been eating throughout the day, Autom inspires you to look good and remain in shape. She comes complete with an artificial female voice for commands and has a touchscreen belly for all kinds of input. Describes one site: "it is harmless, and like a human it won't rebuke you for eating one extra dessert but would surely keep account of the same." The selling price being estimated is around $600 or $500.
Think of it as a weight-loss coach, but a robotic one, one who knows how much you've been exercising, and a whole lot about your diet. With a touch of your finger, she knows if you're in a good mood or not as well. Below is a video I shot of Cory explaining how she works: