Live Blogging TEDx Georgetown


I've been enamored of TED ever since I started watching online videos of theirs last semester, so it was felt more than appropriate for me to attend the first independently-organized TED event held at Georgetown University. As it seems to me, TED is an organization that collects ideas, doing so primarily through holding events where speakers present innovative ideas on a wide range of topics. Today at Georgetown, the theme of the event is the internet - not the internet's frequently-discussed effects on business or children or other things, but the internet's influence in areas we rarely think of. I'm waiting to see whether the many people speaking here today will actually live up to this theme, or whether what they say will indeed be the same hackneyed expectations of web technology that we hear all the time. Over the next few hours, I'll be letting you know what happens, and once the videos come out on TED's website, you should be able to see it all for yourself.

Right now it's about four minutes before we start, and I have to say the event is much less well-attended than I expected. I'm sitting in Lohrfink Auditorium, in Georgetown's fancy new Rafik B. Hariri Building, exclusive home of the McDonough School of Business. The auditorium looks nowhere near to even being halfway full. Likely the four-hour length of the event scared a lot of students off, not to mention the start time that precedes many class times. Things appealing to a wide audience here at the university really shouldn't start before 5:30 Monday through Thursday, since if they do, a lot of people are left out - or make the choice to skip.

Now it's 4:00 and time to start.

(Image: the fancy façade of the Rafik B. Hariri Building, courtesy of my iPhone camera)

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Alright, the first session of TEDx Georgetown is over and it's been almost an hour and a half since we started. To sum up, our presenters engaged with ideas on nation states, rare diseases, sports teams and New Years' resolutions. Of course, these topics brought to the fore many other important concepts. In particular I was most interested by the first presenter, Mike Nelson, who detailed the reasons for his "cyber utopian" vision of the future: As people interact and share stories more, across borders and around the world, previous allegiances to the nation-state are changing and new identities are arising. Governments will necessarily have to respond, and no longer will diplomats be the sole gatekeepers between countries. Instead, global citizens will interact with each other and pressure their governments from below, leading to a less divided, more peaceful and more understanding world. I have to say I agree with this vision, but as Professor Nelson stated, there are many things we have to do to preserve the possibility of this future, among them greater engagement with the internet, and of course, keeping the internet free.

(Image: I saw Mohammed Yunus in Lohrfink Auditorium last year, one of the few other times I've been in the venue.)

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The time is now 7:11 and I'm sorry to say I bailed on the third and final session of TEDx Georgetown. Meal plan food and good grades are the things a college student survives on, and considering I had to access one before 8:00 and the other requires me to write a paper for tomorrow, I thought it would be wise to opt out of the last hour of speaking.

I will, however, talk about what I heard in the second session: I heard speakers talk about slam poetry, citizen science, digital farming and time zones. I have to say that, unlike the first group, these four presentations really encouraged me to act: After listening to Michael Wang, I felt I should be more creative and write some poetry of my own, using basic technology of paper and pencil to really feel the process. After Bob Corrigan's talk, I feel I can really be a participant in scientific research, though I know full well that I'm not a very science-oriented person. Rahul Singh's talk challenged me to think about how I might be able to interact with the ever-growing internet economy: I do have ads at the moment on this blog, though apparently they've earned me only seventy cents. Though he touched on it in no great amount of detail, I share his opinion that working through the internet may serve to strengthen family ties and break down some of the negative effects of modern commutes and heavily transport-reliant occupations.

Lastly, Erran Carmel's discussion of time zones was most relevant in my daily life: one hour ahead of my girlfriend and four ahead of my family, I realize every day the burdens that come with coordinating time around the globe. I somewhat expected Professor Carmel to end with some science fiction-esque vision, saying that we need a global time zone, with all humanity working on the same clock without regard for the sun. Instead, after detailing studies done on businesses spread between time zones and findings on the resultant problems, he concluded that there are no easy answers. We all have a natural, inescapable 24-hour circadian rhythm, and time zones will continue to pose problems for us in the future. Though not what I wanted to hear, I realize the truth in this, and I know I'm going to have to work extra hard to fight time next fall in France.

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Though I didn't exactly live blog TEDx Georgetown, instead closing my laptop for the speakers and only blogging during the first break, as well as after I left, I feel I am still following some of the ideas I heard presented today: With this blog, I'm sharing myself, becoming more accountable to myself, and maybe making a small addition to our growing, interconnected human community.

Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading your entry. It sounds like it was a thought provoking event. I'm still curious about what TEDx might mean. I hope you had a good meal and got your paper done at a reasonable time...within your time zone, not ours. Stay well, son.

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