A late morning/early afternoon canoe ride and no, we saw no bear. A few TEDx’ers saw an elk swimming across the river, and a snake slide by their canoe, but our canoe had no such luck. The closest we got to a beast was the roast beef in our sandwich. We did, however, have a sighting of a Canadian Mountie in his brilliant uniform. The mountains are stunning.
Session 1: I,human
Now I really feel at a TED conference. Here is who we listened to:
Bruno Giussani, TED European Director and host
Ed Boyden, neuroscientist at MIT: We had a simple lesson and demonstration of the future of synthetic neurobiology and how baby diapers are helping to advance biomedicine by the very substance that makes them swell when they are full of urine: polymer. By injecting polymer into the brain, the neurons will swell and enlarge, allowing neurobiologists to study how brain circuits are configured. This could mean new drugs, new cures, and new treatments for brain disorders and other genetic diseases. They’re making the invisible visible, and his own TED talk explains it well.
Lesley Hazleton, religion writer: I’ve read a few of Hazleton’s books, including two on the Bible’s major female figures (Mary and Jezebel), and one on Muhammad (The First Muslim). She has written a new book called Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto. Her writing is stylish and elegant, and her speaking equals that elegance. On stage tonight, she questioned the soul–what it is, what it isn’t, and how liberating it from religious dogma will enable us to take an agnostic approach and give it room to breath. A recording of her talk that we had is here.
Juan Enriquez, academic, business man, speaker: Is it ethical to evolve the human body? This talk was a mind blower. Because of the probability of extinction, we will have to radically redesign life in order to adapt to life on other planets. Humans may be unrecognizable by necessity. Call it Life 3.0. The talk was fascinating and impossible to condense into a few sentences here, so watch his TED talk using the link with his name above. At any rate, the question at the end was, is it ethical to resist evolving the human body?
Isaac Lidsky, author & entrepreneur: Lidsky used his huge stage presence to show us how losing his sight later in life gave him one thing he hadn’t had before: vision. Sight is so powerful in the 21st century. We allow it to shape our reality. But when we lose it, what feeds that reality? Often fear does. Lidsky shared how he overcame his fear to become an empowered entrepreneur.
Abigail Marsh, psychologist: Are human inherently cruel? How can you explain extreme acts of altruism, like the anonymous stranger who ran over four lanes of interstate traffic to save her from a car accident, and then disappeared? Marsh shared her surprising research results of brain scans by comparing the two extreme: psychopaths and radical altruists, and gave us a hopeful message for humanity–that altruism is not on its way out and that it is something that can be attained.
James Veitch, comedian: Who responds to spam email? The gullible, and James Veitch, who took on the spammers with mischievous fun, and drove them mad with his own hilarious spam until they begged him to STOP EMAILING THEM. We rolled with laughter.
After that 2 hour session, we were wined and dined out on the lush grass with a gourmet picnic while the sun was setting behind the mountain peaks. A concert held in the outdoor Greek-style amphitheater followed with new and edgy music by talented TED Fellow musicians. You just keep meeting amazing people at these things. We shared our picnic blankets with Jimmy Lin, who is “curing cancer” and predicts that in our lifetime we will see cancer eradicated–he is part of the genomic research team working on an annual injection for early detection of any kind of cancer. In this TED talk, he explains helping children with rare forms of cancer and how technology and bottom-up crowd-funding will have a major role to play. I also shared my picnic blanket with Alexander Betts, a professor at Oxford (UK, not Europe…) who recently presented at TED Vancouver in February on the worldwide refugee crisis. Fascinating Folks here!
Tomorrow starts early and it’s already midnight.