2005/02/25

Ted Day 2 Morning Session Grade Out

THURSDAY MORNING

Session 3) ELEMENTS overall grade: ****

Shacht/Kaplan *****
One of the things I look for from TED is the opportunity to see and think about new technologies and inventions. This team was made for TED. Their combination of new technologies with design ideas and entertainment possibilities were a great fit and a great start to the day. The freebie of Squishy magnets for a handout was a great idea as well. I would love to see them be a regular feature at TED, and I think many would look forward to their session. A workshop with one of their kits on a Pre-Ted Wednesday session to design a product and present in a 5-minute slot later in the conference would probably go over well too. My third wish would be for Chris to annually include one of their kits in his book mailings like he did this year.

Greg Lynn ****
When I first learned of TED, I was sold on the T and E, but was skeptical about the D. Designers lived in a different world and I wasn’t sure how much they had to offer me. After my first TED, it was clear how the designers can lend a sense of gravitas and form to the talks and give the whole a better sense of balance and depth. Greg’s talk was this kind of ingredient. His discussion of classical ratios being driven by the lack of decimal math was enlightening and unexpected. I liked how he quickly transitioned to a discussion of how calculus opens up design to a world of curves and organic forms. His samples were visually interesting and illustrated his points well. I just wish his tea and coffee sets were in use at the breaks. I would have loved to see them in person.

Brian Farrell ***
There have been several talks where I felt I was hearing two 10-minute talks jammed together. Dr. Farrell’s was one of them. His discussion of how the mystery of the ants was solved was interesting, but seemed more like his colleague’s story. I think he could have spent the whole time on his database. Chris’ introduction about how beauty isn’t just in man’s scale, but can be found “all the way down” was a wonderful statement; but in the actual talk, the beauty took a back seat to some more prosaic aspects of Dr. Farrell’s work. I would have loved to have heard someone with his expertise tell us about unique and exquisite insects that were native to Hispaniola. Not only would it have underscored Chris’ point about scaleable beauty, but it would have tied nicely with Craig Venter’s discussion of biodiversity.

Terry Moore ****
Again, the 5-minute TED talk comes through. His useful and whimsical presentation on how to tie shoes correctly was an easy way to return home from Monterey a better and wiser person.

Craig Venter ****
Another thing a look for from TED is the chance to learn about something from someone who’s ridiculously over-qualified to do so. The idea that the person that history will likely identify as one of the key players in driving our understanding of DNA would be explaining what he’s learning to us is what gets me looking forward to TED months in advance. Craig’s observation that for every 200 Miles he’s traveled across our oceans he’s found almost a completely new set of species changes the way we look at oceans. Instead of being just a big soup of life forms, there appears to be many distinct neighborhoods of life. I’m hopeful he will return next year to share more of his findings with us.

SESSION 4: ASTONISHMENTS overall grade: ****

Kevin Kelly *****
There’ve been several speakers I’ve been tempted to give 5 stars to; but I’ve been holding back because there are certain talks you hear that you know you will still be thinking about and talking about months from now. Kevin’s talk was one of those BIG TED TALKS. Kevin asked the big question “What does technology want?” His comparison of technology to the families of life and what they trend toward was a big and meaty connection to make. Whether or not Technology deserves to be placed as a peer with Man and other life forms as a fellow traveler on our journey through time, it is a thought that I know will stick with me for some time to come.

Irene Pepperberg ***
Sometimes a talk doesn’t go as you planned. For a parrot to be astonishing after a long trip in front of a strange audience was maybe a little too much to expect, but a risk worth taking. Irene did a super job -- laryngitis and all -- of explaining why what Alex has learned is so impressive. Again, life teaches us not to underestimate it.

Arthur Benjamin *****
Another way to make a TED moment is to blow our minds by doing something that seems impossible. Arthur did that in his first few minutes, and then continued to go over the top again and again. If he does write an explanation of how he does it, I hope it makes the book club.

Lennart Green ***
Lennart had an original and entertaining act. Even when you knew what he was doing, you still couldn’t make your eyes see it.