TED 2016 which concluded this past Friday was themed “Dreams”.
My takeaway was that we should watch the inter-connectedness of the 4 C’s of Computation, Communication, Connections and Creativity which are increasingly intertwining and re-inventing, re-energizing each other, taking quantum leaps to a different level.
This will change society in ways we can barely comprehend.
And mostly for the better!
Here are where the combination of 4C’s have already got us…
A.The Final Mediums?
Three of the most compelling demos at the conference were about Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.
Chris Milk took 1200 folks through the largest collective viewing of virtual reality. A segment of us can be seen in the picture above.
Chris noted that most visual media requires a suspension of disbelief, but virtual reality will have our minds be the medium. Today music is the medium that leverages our minds best, but virtual reality soon will do so. Even though it is in the very early days, Virtual reality has an amazing ability to make you feel you are in an environment creating an amazing feeling of empathy. Chris has called Virtual Reality the “empathy machine” and it is true.
It is very easy for you to experience virtual reality even without Oculus or even Google Glass. All you need is a smart phone and a pair of headphones and download the free VRSE app from Apple or Android stores.
Here is a collection of movies and how to see them so you can experience VR right now. I would suggest “Clouds of Sidra” and “The Displaced”.
There are at least three companies today working feverishly on Augmented Reality which is different than virtual reality in that it fuses the analog and digital worlds by superimposing one on the other. The three firms are Magic Leap, Meta and Microsoft. Both Meta and Microsoft demonstrated their product. The Microsoft HoloLens demonstration allowed us to see what Alex Kipman the driving force behind the project saw in his HoloLens. He saw amazing gardens (picture below) , brought an astronaut onto the stage and then brought in and had a conversation with someone in another room! This shit is for real!
Unfortunately, HoloLens is not yet a consumer product since Alex Kipman who was behind Kinect wants to make sure that there are enough useful cases before introducing the head set for the rest of us.
One can safely predict that communication, the ability to connect with folks and story telling creativity is at the cusp of a mind boggling leap and within the next couple of years.
B. The Dance of Drones
Along with Alex Kipman’s amazing HoloLens demo was a live in-theater demo of what is possible today with Drones. The most modern drones use sophisticated location computing technology to “see” each other without any cameras and they can even “dance”. Here is a video of the talk that is a must see. Imagine drones shooting virtual reality movies….yes….coming soon…
C. Computational Data Re-Inventing Art
Who says big data and brute computing has to end up with a scientific output. Can we not use it for Art. If Art eventually lets us better understand ourselves cannot data infuse art in ways that reveal new connections and make us feel and think in new ways.
R Luke Dubois is a computational artist who finds a way to fuse technology and creativity into making data art. The picture below are eye charts of the most used words by different presidents in the State of the Union addresses over the years. The more the word is used the higher/bigger it is in the eye chart. The word most used by George Washington was “Gentlemen” and by Nixon ironically was “Truly”. Looking at these are revealing indeed. Can you imagine what President Trump’s most used word will be…Fear?
This is just one of many different ways Dubois converts data into art. To see more visit this collection.
D. “Inception” was not a Fictional Movie. The Cutting Edge of Brain Science.
Modern Brain science is now making it possible to show how one can virally influence communication and record and influence dreams! Yes right now.
But now Brain Hackers (yes a real title) like Moran Cerf a professor at Northwestern who used to be a computer hacker are learning how to influence your dreams and you, while you sleep…
In recent years, Cerf says, neuroscientists have discovered that the brain is susceptible to external influence while people sleep.
“In those moments, your brain actually listens and rehearses,” Cerf says. “When your brain rehearses memories during sleep, you can intervene using sounds and smells and things that the body responds to without waking. This process can help navigate the brain towards certain thoughts and memories.”
The result, Cerf says, is that, “you can actually change behavior.” Cerf cited a recent study where people were able to significantly decrease the desire to smoke cigarettes after being subjected to external stimuli while asleep and dreaming.
“During this small window of time when the brain can rethink what it wants, you can make it find the choice of smoking less rewarding, by creating an association in the brain between smoking and bad experiences,” Cerf says. “And when you wake up, you suddenly don’t want to smoke as much.”
But there is more…we can brainwash people…
When you see a television show your brain patterns respond in a particular way. Surprisingly anybody else who sees the same show responds with the same brain patterns. When you recall the show your brain patterns replay in the same way. But here is what is extra-ordinary…when you tell the story of the show to somebody who has not seen the show their brain patterns respond as if they were seeing the show! Communication is truly viral and which explains why sometimes get so deeply influenced or almost brainwashed
Read more about Uri Hasson and his understanding of how we communicate
E. Are We Gods Now? Genetic Coding and Where its Going.
Two speakers spoke about the powers and perils of genetic modification which modern computing power is making increasingly powerful.
Riccardo Sabatani shows how the DNA of a single human takes up 175 volumes of the size of an Encyclopedia Brittanica. We now are understanding at such a level that we can predict and adapt humans by predicting just with a pinch of blood what a person looks like. And therefore we can tell what they can look like so we can choose what our Children look like. While that is scary the same technology can attack cancers and much more…
But while some of this is distance a word processor for gene editing is already here.
It is a reality in that we will soon be able to design specifics of our offspring and using “CRISPR” which is a word processor for Genetics which just like Microsoft Word allows us to cut and paste genes.
This allows us to undertake “Gene Drives” eradicate species such as the mosquito that transmits malaria!
F. Connecting Conundrums. Opportunities/Implications from AirBnB and Uber
Uber existed 100 years ago in San Francisco ! Folks saw long lines at Street Cars and decided to put a sign on their motor cars offering to take folks to where they wanted for 5 cents. A nickel was known as a Jitney and so this gave launch to the Jitney service in 1914 which by 1915 was being used to transport 150,000 people a day…in places like Kansas City and New York
What happened? By 1918 the Street cars and other legacy firms got Jitneys regulated out of existence. If that had not happened we may not have had the personal cars, massive highways and parking lots, pollution, OPEC..
It is clear that as we move to the current legislation ( see latest news on Apple encryption) has not been built for a connected age.
What made AirBnb succeed when previous efforts did not? Some of it was luck. Some of it was timing but the Founders believe it was “design” of the reputation system that allowed renters and guests to rate each other in ways that were not too comprehensive but useful.
This ability to rate attacked the stranger=danger reality and got guests to understand that AirBnB is about sharing which is a combination of renting a place and involving oneself.
123 million room nights have been made possible by AirBnB and tonight 785,000 people in 191 countries will AirBnB to “connect” in ways that the computational math or reputation systems , the communication learning of how much data is enough and the creativity of a connected idea.
A summary of their talks are available at Wired
G. Inspiring Creativity and Story Telling That Modern Democratized Tech Computing Makes Possible
Between each session of speakers TED curators share strangely compelling videos that they have found. Some are by amateurs and others by professionals using simple low cost capture and editing tools. Here is a fun piece which makes you wonder how they did it..
You can experience the entire collection of amazing videos at this TED microsite. Strongly recommend you look at the “Human” movies and for fun see “Kyoto”
H. The Importance of Original Voices and Visions
While the visual stimuli of seeing different realities, amazing computation, flying drones and inspiring thinking we were reminded that behind all these breakthroughs in approaches and thinking were humans with original voices and unique visions.
Adam Grant’s new book Originals which I have recently read and which he summarized in a talk shows that all of us can be unique and these originals are a) not early movers but copiers, b) they fret and are anxious and hedge risks like crazy and c) they strike out a lot having many many bad ideas along with the original great idea. You can read more or buy the book at Amazon.
Authentic! Passion! Big Idea!
The single most compelling talk for me was by Adam Foss,an Assistant District Attorney in Massachusetts. It was a talk without a single visual delivered without notes with deep passion.
Why did it work so well? Because what we heard was a) a unique authentic voice b) a breathtaking insight that the best way to defend people and offer justice is to be an prosecutor since prosecutors have all the power to determine what they will arraign a person for and c) addressing of a massive problem ( the US spends 80 billion a year imprisoning 2.3 million people who often then are ostracized from society) by thinking upside down. When his speech is online listen to it and you will be moved and recognize that a voice, a unique idea and passion is the flame that will drive all the new technology too. Till then here is a summary of his speech.
Many of these original thinkers also were procrastinators. Do you procrastinate? Tim Urban explained why we do so and what we can do about it in the big areas that matter where we do not have deadlines to wake us up. A simple exercise is to realize that we all have about 900 months of life and by mid life you only have 400 left so what are you waiting for? You should definitely read the piece or get the pdf.
So in the end the most important insight is the fifth C. Carbon Based Humans!
Finally Bill Gross of IdeaLab whom I am lucky to have worked with always does a great re-cap of TED which you should read.
And do not forget to experience past TED talks and monitor the new ones released all the time at TED.Com….