TED Global 2012 was another fantastic feast of ideas from teaching to collaborative consumption and genetech to makers. The notes below are my highlights from the five days.

Daphne Koller gave a really interesting insight into her new venture coursera.org – a platform for educators to share lectures based on her experiences in the Stanford AI course (100k people joined the Machine Learning course!) The stats she presented were facinating and her talk is well worth 18 minutes of your life if you work in education (I will add a link when talk is available). Most interesting to me were the comments on personalised learning, the median response time between students getting a response to a question (outside of lecture time) being 22 minutes and the approach they have adopted for peer to peer and self grading. This is changing education.

Daphne Koller - coursera - 3

On the theme of education Beau Lotto gave an excellent presentation on engaging kids in science and getting a scientific paper published that starts with “Once upon a time…”. But his co-presenter 12 year old Amy O’Toole stole the show with a fantastic presentation of her experience. Very inspirational and worth a watch. And the TED Ed event introduced the really interesting http://ed.ted.com/ platform for sharing education talks – but most of all I loved the idea of Flip Teaching – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_teaching – why don’t all schools use this technique?


James Stavridis (NATO Supreme Commander) on open source security said “we need to build bridges not walls” and described how teaching how to read and write is fundamental to educating the Afghan soldiers – “when you can read and write you typically wear a pen in your pocket”. Plus, some great stories like the $10 billion credit card fraud by a couple of hackers “who were probably at TED last year” and an incredible homemade semi submersible caught trafficing 6 tonnes of cocaine.

Home made sub

The Shell lunch on Urban Mobility (challenges, issues and opportunities) was made really interesting by the mix of 16 or so participants from the founder of zipcar (now founder of buzzcar.com) to a marketing guy from Audi to a Chemistry Professor. Interesting memes for me were; the desire for linked data to support the search for “journey options”; no single supplier is going to be the central node in the urban mobility infrastructure; how can we use the internet as a model for structuring services. I wish we had an extra hour or two to really dig into some of the ideas being presented.

Susan Solomon presented some mind blowing work on creating a “genetically diverse global stem cell array” to enable the growing of “diseases in a petri dish” based on human tissue. We are on the cusp of a transformation of the pharma industry from one where big drug companies produce for the masses to one which is much more personalised, precise and community based. On a similar theme, John Wilbanks arguments around the “unintended consequences of informed consent” were fascinating. He is campaigning for creating a “health commons” where individuals can share personal data for the greater benefit of science discovery. http://www.healthcommons.net/

Susan Solomon - NY Stem Cell Foundation

Rachel Botsmans insight into collaborative consumption, micro-preneurs and “reputational capital” should be interesting to anyone thinking about how to support city systems that engage citizens. I really liked the notions of “connecting trust worthy strangers” and the fact that reputation is contextual – if I am trusted on e-bay should I be trusted on stackoverflow? Should reputation be transferable? Reputational Capital: power, trust, influence.

Rachel Botsman - 2

On the theme of collaborative consumption I really liked Robin Chase’s ideas around “Peer Inc” – the notion that combining the benefits of a community based context with industrial models of business organisation provides a best of both worlds scenario – watch how this strategy develops with her new venture http://www.buzzcar.com/ Beth Noveck hinted at a similar scenario in her call for more linkage between open data and institutions that help it flow for the purpose of collaboration (“transparency of data is not by itself the answer”).

And finally, Massimo Banzi did a great intro to Arduino, Matternet, and was the first video to be posted on-line – go and take a look at the really nice projects he mentioned…


Other great talks that I will watch again include: Dan Tapscott on “networked intelligence” and 4 principles of open worlds: collaboration, transparency, sharing, empowerment; Kirby Ferguson from Everything is a Remix on patents and ownership of ideas; and Clay Shirky on the printing press, github and school dinners.


other highlights worth searching out:

monotaskers – 3D printable covers for your smartphone to reduce its functionality – timely for me given the current 3D print project at Arup.
Manu Prakash on foldscope – a 50 cent microscope for disease diagnostics
Shyam Sankar on IA not AI (Linklighter vs Minsky) – Intelligence Augmentation and human computer symbiosis as seen in Foldy, a protein folding game.
JenSpace in Brooklyn – a DIY Bio Hackspace
Caterina Mota on http://openmaterials.org/ and the kit of not parts project http://web.media.mit.edu/~plusea/
Matt Mills on an interesting AR kit called Aura http://www.aurasma.com/
Shimon Shocken on Nand2Tetris – building a computer from nothing
Eddie Obeng for a great presentation on http://worldaftermidnight.com/
Neil Harbisson on “hearing colour” and his cyborg foundation
Robert Legato on visual effects for Apollo B, Titanic and Hugo films
Jonathan Trent, NASA, on the pretty impressive looking OMEGA microalgae fuel system
Amy Cuddy on how our nonverbals govern how we feel about ourselves (the toilets of TED were full of people standing like Wonder Woman…)
Jane McGonigal fantastic talk, watch it and go to superbetter.com and showmethescience.com
Heather Brooke on MP expenses data FOI and the alaveteli freedom of information platform
Marc Goodman does a great, scary presentation on how “Radicals use Openness” a great warning about the “other” things people do with technology.
John Maeda showed some great projects from the 90’s and spoke about his new challenges of leadership in the context of Design, Art and Technology.
Boaz Almog demoed quantum locking – really cool science.
Mozilla Popcorn – a semantic approach to videos on the web
http://www.arkive.org/ – an archive of natural history videos and photos

Amazing music by:

Raghu Dixit – rockstar
Natasha Pavenski – pianist
Usman Riaz – Percussive Guitarist
Preston Reed – Revolutionary Guitarist
Sarah Slean – pianist

And did you know that the word scientist was only coined in 1833 by William Whewell