TED Talks: TEDx Telluride Live

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Tuesday TEDx simulcast sessions of the TED Conference. TED, “Technology, Education, and Design”, brings together a whole lot of ideas to be shared and discussed. TED talks have become really popular because they have a maximum length of 18 minutes, which means pretty much anything can be an interesting topic. TEDx events let those of us who aren’t able to go to Vancouver join in on the fun.

I was really impressed with the event in Telluride. (I was also very thankful to have a town like Telluride close enough so that I could attend a TEDx event!) There were snacks and refreshments at each break as well as smart attendees ready to talk about the sessions.

The theme of the 2016 TED Conference was “Dream.” (I swear the themes are general enough that they’re all but irrelevant.) The sessions I attended included “Radical Repatterning,” “Imagination. Invention. Ingenuity,””Life Hacks,” and “Deep Memory.”

I’m so glad that I went to the simulcast. I had a lot of fun and got the opportunity to listen to a lot of wonderful ideas: some of the things I’ve heard have already made their way into my classroom (Tim Urban’s Panic Monster is one of them) and others have just percolated in my mind, especially those with which I disagreed.

Feeling inspired about government?

I really really wish Haley Van Dyck’s presentation about the United States Digital Service was available on TED.com. I actually left her presentation inspired about the potential for government to improve and enter the modern era. Van Dyck talked about how USDS is revolutionizing government websites with a small team dedicated to making things work without bloated taskforces that spend billions of dollars without getting things done. She was also amazing, awesome and I immediately walked out of the theater and followed her on Twitter. (In lieu of the awesome talk, check out this Medium Backstory interview with Van Dyck.)

The importance of really caring

Franz Frudenthal’s presentation about the invention of a non-surgical method to treat infants with patent ductus arteriosus, a hole in their heart caused when the blood vessel connecting mother to fetus does not heal properly after birth, was really moving. Frudenthal is from Bolivia, a country where PDA is particularly prevalent (there is a correlation between altitude and PDA and also between infant mortality and poverty). Frudenthal spoke in broken English about the device that he invented to close the hole in the hearts of infants—a device knitted by Bolivian women. It was clear that Frudenthal truly cared about the problem at hand and I totally got emotional listening to him speak.

How does the sharing economy impact me and my community?

In two of thes sessions there were talks that were sort of “paired” to either give two sides of the coin or two approaches to the same problem. The first pair was Joe Gebbia, founder of Airbnb, and Travis Kalanick, found of Uber. Both Uber and Airbnb have been the focus of some interesting discussions surrounding the fairness of the “sharing” economy. Gebbia focused on the importance of creating trust between individuals, especially with something as intimate as a home. I found his thoughts about sharing of space really compelling; especially because I have had several great experiences with Airbnb (sadly, only one was not for the whole house so I haven’t had too many interactions with hosts). The rise of short term rentals has been partially blamed for housing issues in some Colorado mountain towns so it was interesting to really ponder the positives of Airbnb; I’m reticent to rent a private space with it as a matter of social responsibility but it might be really interesting to meet people staying in an extra bedroom. Kalanick’s talk focused on the use of data to streamline transportation of people building from the jitney in 1914 to discussion of UberPool, a service to match riders heading in the same direction. Similarly to Airbnb, I saw UberPool as raising issues for mountain towns (mostly, are we dodging the important discussion of affordable housing that leads to really long commutes) but also as having the possibility of immediate applications—what if there was an easy way for people commuting from Montrose to Telluride to find each other and share driving responsibilities?

Worth every bit of time

I have pages in my notebook scribbled full of ideas and thoughts raised by the talks. Cédric Villani saying that mathematics is responsible for “replacing a beautiful coincidence with a beautiful explanation” spoke volumes about what I love about science and math. Adam Savage discussing costuming, creating, and becoming was lovely and inspired me to think creatively. Brian Little has me pondering, nearly two weeks later, “Am I an extroverted introvert or an introverted extrovert? Am I being my true self?” I hope to be able to attend TEDx Telluride again next year, it was truly time well spent.


*Airbnb has come under fire for safety concerns and for turning long term rentals into more profitable short term rentals (an issue in my home county here in Colorado). Uber has been criticized for putting risk on the shoulders of drivers instead of absorbing it as a company.

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