2005/02/25

TED Day 2 Afternoon Session Grade Out

SESSION 5: RISK TAKING overall grade: ****

Elon Musk: **
I have a lot of respect for Elon. When you go through a transaction of the scale he did on the sale of Paypal, there are few advisors around you who are truly equipped to think in the scale of what that kind of money can accomplish. There is a pressure to settle into a defensive management mode. For him to decide to do something audacious and truly worthy of the scale of his windfall is admirable. That being said, I was a little disappointed in the actual presentation. The question asked at the end was telling “What did you do better than what NASA and its suppliers are doing?” Afterall, if we’re 25 years or more since the last fresh design work in aerospace; we’re dealing with new materials for construction, possibly propulsion. If he’s working on a 100% re-usable rocket, then there’s got to be an interesting design/materials story there alone. Perhaps too much of his work has to be protected as trade secrets, but if so, he didn’t say so. What I wanted to see was what happens when a true entrepreneur enters the dusty staid world of the current aerospace industry and challenges their assumptions.

Anna Deavere Smith: *****
Anna gave us one of those profoundly human moments at TED where we realize how inspiring, tragic, and touching stories are bound up in the lives of every last one of us on the earth – the shopkeeper, the cowboy, the convict. The depth to which she assumed the characters she re-created was wonderful. When she portrays people of other races, genders, and dialects, it just drives home how connected we are. That a series of monologues built from the answers to deep questions of ordinary people could be so engaging and powerful is one of those surprising ideas that I’ve come to count on TED to provide.

Ze Frank: ****
Ze came out of the gates strong, scoring with one gag after another to where his haikus on neutered dogs was actually cramping my abs from laughing so hard (not that they’re used to working hard normally). He is so creative, its just impossible to tell where he’s going next. Ze also has a project downstairs that must be seen – he and a colleague have developed a robot “scribbler” that is drawing portraits of TEDsters using one continuous scribbled line. The portraits take about 15 minutes to draw and are fascinating to watch.

Ben Saunders: ***
TED is full of people with pretty unique claims. Another thing I look for from TED is to show me people with experiences and accomplishments that I’m unlikely to encounter anywhere and anytime else in my life. Ben is one of four people who have EVER made a solo trip to the North pole. His pictures and story were very interesting. When I reflect on it, the two most memorable parts were his description of being utterly alone when the helicopter left him, and him try in vain to phone someone when he’d met his goal of reaching the pole. I wish I got more insights into what it felt like to be him during this adventure and what makes someone like this tick.

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