A week after returning home from TED2006, I find myself returning to ideas, experiences and people more than any past year. I don't know why. Maybe because I haven't yet completed my summaries. Here's the next in line, Dreams: the TED Prize Session.
The session began with a recap of the wishes made by last year's winners, Bono, Ed Burtynsky and Robert Fischell. The vast majority of these received the "Wish Granted" stamp (which came across a tad overly self-congratulatory?) Maybe I experienced it this way because each recipient was granted three wishes last year...a lot. This year's winners received one each. Focus is a good thing.
Cameron Sinclair received his Prize first. Sinclair is the founder of Architecture for Humanity, "a 501(c)(3) charitable organization founded in 1999 to promote architectural and design solutions to global, social and humanitarian crises." Their motto: "design like you give a damn." I saw him speak movingly at Pop!Tech 2005, where he earned the dubious distinction of being called a "motherfucker" by Pop!Tech founder, Bob Metcalf (it was a political thing). Sinclair is a strong advocate for "open source architecture," a radically inclusive approach to problem-solving, so his wish was not surprise:
I wish to create a community that actively embraces open source design to generate innovative and sustainable living standards for all.
He showed a dizzying array of work done to solve a wide range of catastrophic problems for people from Sri Lanka to New Orleans. I'm sure the Prize will enable his group to do even more this coming year.
Next up, documentary filmmaker Jehane Noujaim. Noujaim directed, "Control Room," the widely-acclaimed behind-the-scenes look at Al Jazeera's coverage of the run-up and initial stages of the Iraq War. Noujaim spoke passionately today about her desire to connect people through film. Her wish:
I wish to bring the world together for one day a year through the power of film.
"Pangea Cinema Day" would be an occasion for presenting films that, "nudge the world" in the direction of world peace. Cynics scoff; visionaries imagine.
Finally, Larry Brilliant, recently-named head of Google's philanthropic foundation, and tireless worker for the eradication of infectious diseases. I posted a photo of him receiving his Prize on Friday. His wish:
I wish that you would help build a powerful new early warning system to protect our world from some of its worst nightmares.
In particular, Brilliant is very concerned about avian flu. The key to preventing a pandemic is early detection and rapid early response. Brilliant said this worked in the case of SARS and can work again. His wish focuses on the development of a bottom-up network of early reporters, using cell phones, and continual monitors, using specialized search technology. At lunch the following day, Brilliant described this network in greater detail, giving the 200 or so attendees a glimpse of what will almost certainly be a model-breaking approach to detection and response to infection.
All in all, the TED Prize session left me humbled by the work of these three remarkable individuals and proud to be a part of a community that is supporting their work. As the years go by, the TED Prize will undoubtedly become a powerful factor in global philanthropy.