I am sitting in the auditorium of the Museum of Natural History in Geneva as I'm writing this. Today sees the first installment of a TED conference in Switzerland. TED X Geneva is one of a string of independently organized conferences which comprise what one would expect from a real TED conference: (mostly) fresh and inspiring talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design. All of the speakers are somehow related to some Swiss scene, business or institution.
In my eyes, the conference is well-balanced, some techie stuff (which still was interesting for the clueless guy that I am), and some ideas from the "social" sector (sustainability, humanity, that sort of stuff). On the Tech side, I was especially awed by Jan-Mathieu Donnier and his presentation about his business: 360° 3D video imagery (please check out his Streetview site, an alternative take on Google's project). Pretty mindboggling input, just like the gesture-based computer interface Frederic Kaplan introduced. Quite complementary was the talk by François Bugnion about the birth of the Red Cross and the Geneva Convention.
My favorite talk so far, however, was Louis Palmer's tale of his trip around the Globe in the Solar Taxi. He talked about the reaction to his voyage in different countries: China was very welcoming and interested in solar energy while Australia didn't really seem to bother. And in Japan he wasn't even allowed on the road: Swiss license plates are obviously not compatible with Japanese traffic rules. But his trip around the World was a huge success and now he is putting together a global race – for solar-powered vehicles, of course. I filmed the talk, you can watch it here. The visual side isn't so high-quality, but the sound is good.
These are just some of the talks held here today, the live presentations are rounded off with all-time faves from the TED archives like this classic Hans Rosling presentation (be sure to watch it till the end, it's well worth it). My intermediate conclusion: TED X Geneva is well-organized and well-executed, with a lot of interesting people attending. A lot of output will be coming from it (judging from the sheer mass of Tweets during the conference) and I would really like to see another TED X session being held in Zurich.
The day after: The rest of the story after I have slept it over. The afternoon in Geneva went down in similar fashion with more talks on sport and its rehabilitatory power for refugees, matter and anti-matter (of which I understood only about half (probably the matter part)), motorbike travels through Asia and TED itself. Last up was Xavier Rosset who talked about his 300 days alone on a remote island in the Tonga archipelago. And this talked summed up pretty well what TED is all about: Without the people surrounding us, we are nothing. Life is about interaction, not about sheer survival.
One of the really cool things about this TED conference was meeting all the different people, everybody with a very distinct background, often completely different from my own. Talking to these people with their goals and ideas can be quite inspiring, since they offer new scopes and angles on things.
So, what can be improved? All in all, I though TED X Geneva was pretty well organized. For the next conference, however, I would include less videos (max. two), or maybe TED should offer videos which have not yet been shown on the TED site to conference organizers. Also, some of the talks were limited in quality by the visual presentation. Either it was completely missing where there should've been some illustration or it was all bullet points and little visuals. And some talks could've been shorter for what the speakers had to say. Apart from that, chapeau to Yves Bennaïm and his team of organizers.
What are your thoughts on TED X Geneva? What are you taking out of it? What did you like especially, what could you do without?
During the afternoon, Peter Hogenkamp of Blogwerk announced that there will be a TED X Conference in Zurich on March, 2nd, 2010 (see also in the commentaries). Put a big red X into your calendars!
Whenever pressing social issues are at hand, musicians aren't too far away. Superhuman entertainers like Bob Geldof or Bono of U2 have long posed as the music business' clean conscience. Not everybody, however, does the job as well, but they do it anyway. Because there can be no harm in doing something good, right? The Grist website has compiled a quite funny Top Ten of the most gruesome "Heal The World" moments. And the number one spot with all its nerdy goofing around isn't even half bad.
[caption id="attachment_1339" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Shibby rose to the challenge!"][/caption]
Here's a little story that must be told: Swiss Marketing expert Christina Schmid has her Friday off. It wouldn't be a story really, if it weren't for the circumstances of her big day out.
Some while ago, her boss Dirk, as the lady who goes by the nickname of Shibby tells us in the video in this blog post, complained about the little response she was generating in the corporate blog. So he challenged her to a race to a hundred commentaries in a blog post until twelve o'clock on a given date. So she posted said post today at 6 a.m. with the short video explaining the mission and asking for people to comment. Furthermore she called out for support via her Twitter account. And, what can I say, her work day was over by nine o'clock. Along the way she even got an invitation to talk about her (Self-)Marketing coup at a college class right this afternoon! A fine example in Social Collaboration, well done, Shibby!
Edit: For the rest of the day she is visiting people who helped her achieve her goal and does random stuff for them. She will be coming by our office as well, and all the while, she is filming her own version of "Run Lola Run". Nice!
Have you heard of the Fun Theory? If you read blogs, you might have come across the video of the Piano Staircase already. This is only one of three viral spots which are promoting a contest of ideas called The Fun Theory Award. All these ideas are both funny and a true improvement to our lives and our environment. While the piano staircase enhances our willingness to use stairs instead of escalators, the World's Deepest Waste Bin and the Bottle Bank Arcade Machine try to persuade us to adopt a more ecologically correct behavior by, well, having fun. All this is an initiative by Volkswagen, but nevertheless, a good idea, and possibly a good alley to take. Their findings is: "Fun can obviously change our behaviour for the better."
Do you know this uber cute animal?
Image: Phillie Casablanca, some rights reserved
It's a wombat (vombatus ursinus) and it's found in South-Eastern Australia and in Tasmania. But as I learned today wombat is not only the name of a marsupial but also the acronym for Waste Of Money, Brains And Time.
You might ask yourself now what this has to do with Amazee. Here 's the answer: Our very appreciated technician Danny, who has started his bachelor studies in Information Technology some weeks ago, just told us they had to learn how to use Skype. Really!
So now you might know why today I learned that wombats are not only animals.
The "Did you know?" short animation about the use and spread of Social Media has been around the blogosphere earlier this year. Now its creator, Karl Fisch has done an update. With ever more so enlightening details and numbers about our brave new online world. Enjoy, and prepare for some fast reading!
Okay, part-time mobsters and wanna-be thugs, here's a lesson in Social Media risk from West Virginia. As The Journal reports, a 19 year old burglar broke into the house of a woman at the beginning of this week in Martinsburg, WV, and stole two diamond rings from her. Obviously feeling secure in her home, he decided to check his Facebook account on her computer – and forgot to log out. It was easy for law enforcement after that. He is in custody and faces anything between one and ten years in prison. And hopefully some extra time for sheer stupidity.
Although the headline might suggest it, I have not gone mad, no. But I would like to draw your attention towards the utterly extravagant project of Ola Helland or Stavanger, Norway. He and his friend Jørgen have a little bet going on: Jørgen insists that Ola will fail at collecting 1,000,000 hand-made giraffes. And Ola, naturally, wants to prove his pal wrong. The deal is this: Anyone can submit giraffes in any form, given they are hand-made (i.e. hand-drawn, hand-molded). You can not submit photographs of real life giraffes or any computer-assisted giraffe incarnation. Because the important part of the excercise is this: "The whole point of this project is to give the digital world a break and let humans be humans for just a little while." So, get out your crafty weapon of choice and get giraffing (you'll find all the info on how to submit on the website)!
First genes, then memes, now what? There’s a new type of evolution going on and it might not be to our liking, says Susan Blackmore in the New Scientist, 1 August 2009. Let me give you a summary of her interesting train of thought.
The first replicator (= information that is copied, varied and selected) we let loose on our planet was the gene – the basis of biological evolution. Genes are copied, mutated and selected all over and over again.
The second replicator to evolve was the memes – the basis of cultural evolution. The idea of memes as a cultural analogue off genes has been much maligned, and most biologists still reject it.
Yes memetics has much to offer in explaining human nature, Susan Blackmore wrights. Once memes were proliferating, individuals benefited from copying the latest and most successful ones, and then passed on any genes that helped them do so. This “memetic drive” forced their brains to get bigger and bigger, and to become adept at copying the most successful memes, eventually leading to language, art, music, ritual and religion – the successful design of human culture. In other words memes are a new kind of information – behaviors rather than DNA – copied by a new kind of machinery – our brains rather than chemical inside cells.
Now what? There is a relatively new kind of information: Electronically processed binary information rather than memes. There also is a new kind of copying machinery: Computers and servers rather than brains. But are all three critical stages – copying, varying and selection – carried out by that machinery? We’re close says Susan Blackmore. We might even be right on the cusp. Programs that store information about your shopping preferences and suggest books or programs that write original poetry might still be limited in scope, dependent on human input and send their output to human brains, but they already copy, select and recombine the information they handle.
The temptation is to think that since we designed search engines and other technologies for our own use that it must remain subservient to us. But if a new replicator is involved we must think again. We humans were vehicles for the first replicator and copying machinery for the second. What will be for the third? For now we seem to have handed over most of the storage and copying duties to our new machines, but we still do much of the selection, which is why the web is so full of sex, drugs, food, music and entertainment. But the balance is shifting Susan Blackmore claims.
Billions of years ago, free-living bacteria are thought to have become incorporated into living cells as energy providing mitochondria. Both sides benefited from the deal. Perhaps the same is happening to us now. Gadgets like phones and PCs are already using 15% of household power and raising (New Scientist, 23 May, page 17); the web is using over 5% off the world’s entire power and is rising. The growing web of machineries we have let loose needs us to run the power stations and repair things when they go wrong. In return we get entertainment, facts at the click of a mouse and as much communications we can ask for.
So, it’s possible that we have kick-started a machine driven evolutionary process that is greedy, selfish and utterly blind to the consequences of its own expansion, just as we are. With the only difference that in this version we are going to be bacteria to be integrated as “energy-providing” mitochondria. Just like in Matrix.