Still summarizing TED2006, we've finally reached Saturday, Day Four.
Session 11 was entitled, Transformation, and the highly original, witty, Ursus Wehrli was up first. Wehrli is the author of Tidying Up Art, an exploration of one of those wonderfully simple ideas that just makes you smile. Wehrli's a stand-up comic and began with a deadpan statement, "We Swiss are only happy when things are neat." That premise is the foundation of his book, which takes the work of artists from Van Gogh to Keith Haring and "tidies them up" by deconstructing the works and re-presenting their components sorted by size, shape, color, frequency, and so on. He also cleans up Van Gogh's bedroom, getting all those messy clothes off the floor, and Brughel's square, moving all the people to a separate page. More than entertaining, thought provoking. Big idea: everything can be looked at differently.
TED2006 Bonus: Here's Wehrli's "before" and "after" treatment of a Haring painting:
I'd seen the next speaker, Aubrey DeGrey at TEDGlobal, and said then that while I found him "slightly mad" and extraordinarily provocative, my problems with the feasibility of his work on longevity had less to do with the soundness of his reasoning than with the limits of my imagination. Since then, he's appeared on 60 Minutes, an experience he told me (in a cocktail party conversation) he enjoyed more than he'd expected, mostly because Morley Safer was a thoughtful and respectful interviewer. His talk was essentially the same as that he gave in Oxford, describing his belief that "humanity's worst problem," aging, can be "fixed" through addressing "seven deadly things": cellular level junk inside and outside cells, too few or too many cells, mutations in chromosomes and mitochondria, and protein crosslinks. Fix these, all of which DeGrey says we know how to fix, and, voilà, eliminate aging. The Mathuselah Mouse Prize,which currently stands at $3,337,021, is DeGrey's vehicle for attracting researchers. Again, this is a highly original thinker who's ideas may some day turn out to be as visionary as Galileo's. Big idea: as Peter Diamondis says, prizes continue to be a significant factor in funding private research.
Sir Ken Robinson then gave what may have been my favorite talk of the conference on "innovation and education." He began by citing three themes he'd heard over the past several days: 1) there is substantial evidence of human creativity; 2) we have no idea what's going to happen in the future; 3) we have a great deal of faith in children, all of whom have a great deal of talent which we squander. Robinson's belief: teaching kids to take advantage of their own creativity is as crucial as teaching literacy. Because kids aren't afraid to be wrong, they will, "give it a go" (love those British phrases!) and learn new things. Over time, however, we, "grow out of our creativity." (Reminds me of a story I heard a while ago about an university art teacher talking with his seven year old daughter. She asked him what he did for a living and he said, "I teach people to draw." To which, she said, "you mean they forget?") Robinson's goal: to reverse the industrial-age-based educational priorities and recognize the diverse/dynamic intelligence needed to succeed today. Big idea: providing education for creativity now falls on corporations because it's been ignored by academics.
Finally, Gregory Colbert presented a 10 minute clip from his amazing film, Ashes and Snow. The film captures images from Colbert's project capturing people from around the world interacting with animals in incredibly intimate sequences. Elephants playing with children, divers swimming with whales, eagles mingling with sleepers. Breathtakingly beautiful. But then Colbert hit us with his blockbuster idea: the Animal Copyright Organization. Under this proposal, all animals used in commercials or films would be payed 1% of proceeds (is that right? I'm not sure), which Colbert estimates at $600 million/year. The proceeds from these payments would go to conservation/environmental organizations. I don't know how practical this idea is, but it certainly is appealing. Big idea: we take more from nature than we pay back and the check is now due.