While most people buy tickets for TED more than a year in advance, I only learned that I was going two weeks before the start of the event. By winning a ticket in an internal Arup competition, I got the opportunity to experience TED in real time, after seeing many of the presentations online. On Monday 12 July, there was an Arup tour through London that people could sign up to and that lead us the Royal Courts of Justice, the Darwin Centre and the Royal Albert Hall: a great way for a group of international TED visitors to already get to know each other.
When arriving in Oxford the same evening, the TED atmosphere was already present: hundreds of interesting people gathered, dying to get to know each other and share ideas. It was almost impossible to stop for a minute and think (and have some dinner) since there would always be someone who recognized you from the online attendees list, who was secretly trying to read your badge or who just came up to you for a chat. To me, this was really the most impressive part of TED: all these people that are truly interested, who have amazing stories to tell and who are an wonderful source of inspiration. It was, from the beginning on, truly a mind blowing experience. And the presentations didn’t even started yet!
Tuesday began with TEDUniversity, in which people who were not one of the main presenters got the chance to tell their story and share their ideas. Chris Luebkeman was one of them, with a story about context, and it got a lot of positive responses!
The afternoon started off with the first of an enormous amount of TED lectures. The dozens of talks were divided into 12 groups and would continue until Friday afternoon. The sessions were called for example ‘Found in Translation’ featuring data journalist David McCandless, ‘Human System’ featuring Matt Ridley describing what happens When ideas have sex, and the research of Tan Le who can learn a computer what our brainwaves mean (very useful to control for example an electric wheelchair).
All these presentations, and hopefully also the musical performances will be released on the TED website in the coming year.
Even though the TED-blues hit me pretty hard (as predicted by the organisation) I already know this has been a life changing event. The coming months will probably be spend on digesting everything I heard and experienced, which will definitely influence not only my personal life, but also my work at Arup. Take for example the story of Mohammed from Bangladesh: he has been invited as a TEDFellow (people who are doing extraordinary things, often in developing countries) to come to Oxford. He told me that the government has come up with the most horrible urban plan for his home town. It means that there will be too little space for everyone, no place for nature or good public transport. On his own, he’s on a mission to come up with a better plan. He has launched an international design competition and will fight the authorities wherever he can to keep his city liveable. I believe that Arup can help him: not necessarily with money, but maybe with good advice and some local support.
Hopefully I will be able to help Mohammed, not only because his website could use some help from an interaction designer, but also by linking him to people within Arup.
I must admit though that some of my time will also be spend on figuring out how I can be a part of the TED-family again next year.
Many thanks Arup!