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TEDGlobal 2011

This last week I was in Edinburgh, Scotland at the TEDGlobal conference. As always, it was filled with inspiring talks, great conversations and I went away with a brain full of new ideas. (TEDGlobal picture sets)

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I’m one of the TED Senior Fellows, and I should add that there is one more week open for applications to this program. Every class of new TED Fellows seems to get better, where their talent, ability to speak and communicate their ideas grows stronger. In fact, I think this year’s TED Fellows talks were at a higher quality on average than TED U talks.

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Not all of my favorite talks are up yet, but two of them are, embedded below.

A Magna Carta for the Networked World

One of my favorite people in the world is Ethan Zuckerman, who gave a talk at TEDGlobal last year in Oxford. He co-founded Global Voices, and his colleague on that was Rebecca MacKinnon, who spoke at this one. Here’s her talk on why we need a Magna Cart for the networked world:

Trial and Error

As knowledgeable as we are in whatever our chosen field is, there are things that we shouldn’t jump to assumptions on. Instead, economist Tim Harford makes a case for the use of trial and error in order to come up with the right decision.

TED Thoughts: Where Gaming is Taking Us

TED is the type of conference where you’re drinking from the fire hose and, with the 18-minute talks marching onward every few minutes, you have little time to reflect on what you’ve heard before you’re onto the next. It’s been two days now, much of it spent in travel, reading and reflection and I’m starting to string a couple of thoughts together that I find at the very least interesting. At the most disturbing.

On the technology side, there were three talks that made me sit back and consider their repercussions, especially as I think of their tracks vectoring in on each other.

It’s a pretty interesting time that we live in; where giant databases are learning about us by applying Myers-Briggs testing to millions of people through a game, where both software and hardware can self-replicate, and where you can control virtual actions and physical items with your mind.

Gaming

I’ve been playing computer games since I was about 8 years old, when a friend in Nairobi got a Commodore-64 and I learned how to use those dastardly cassette tapes to bring fantastical new realities to life. What happens when a gaming generation looks at the tools and devices being built? I don’t think any of us know quite yet, but sometimes, in the minds of sci-fi writers that we see a future that could be.

On the flight back I read the book Daemon, by Daniel Suarez. It’s a mixture of hacker and gaming culture set in a fantasy world of techno-pessimism and a doomsday scenario that will get a geeks blood flowing. Well worth the read, a perfect airplane book.

Now I’m on to Fun, Inc, a book about “gaming being the 21st century’s most serious business”. It’s a $40+ billion dollar industry, and it’s not slowing down. Virtual worlds and currency are here to stay.

In Milo, I saw what looked like a fairly unimpressive game, but one with a very impressive gaming and AI-training engine. It’s next iteration will be significant indeed.

I talked to Tan Le about the Emotiv device and how I thought that her ideas of it being used for practical purposes like closing shades and turning on lights, though sounding less juvenile, would likely be overshadowed by its use in the gaming world. In fact, I can’t wait to see the first big gaming companies using the Emotiv SDK to create new user interactions, HUDs and options in popular games.

All of these vectors of technology are, at once, both exciting and scary. I don’t know where gaming is taking us. What I can’t help but think is that gaming, and possibly the culture behind it, will be the vehicle that drives mainstream technology use and growth of the talks and demos that I saw at TED.

TED 2009 and the New TED Fellows Program

TED 2009 starts this week, and I’m heading to California early as part of the new TED Fellows program. As expected, there is an amazing line-up of speakers, but what I’m really excited about is the other attendees and the other TED Fellows. (A quick warning as well, there will be an inordinate number of posts here this week during TED, then back to normal.)

TED Fellows 2009

Interestingly enough, this whole program started in Africa – with the fellows at TED Global 2007 in Arusha, Tanzania:

“Because TEDAfrica’s success in 2007 was due in no small part to the boundless energy and remarkable ideas of our fellows, we decided to create a permanent program to bring more amazing leaders into the TED Community. TED will help them communicate their ‘ideas worth spreading’ to a much larger audience,” said Tom Rielly, TED Community Director, who is responsible for the program.

This is true. Anyone who was there will agree that there was an electricity in the air that was palpable. Talks from Andrew Mwenda, Chris Abani and George Ayittey set the tone. Conversations were started, lasting relationships built and future leaders inspired. It helped remind us that Africa can be greater, and that we need look no further than ourselves to catalyze that change.

As testament to this, 4 of the 5 full-time members of Ushahidi were TED Fellows in Arusha: Henry Addo, Juliana Rotich, Ory Okolloh and myself.

The New TED Fellows Program

Each year TED plans to bring on 50 Fellows to attend TED and TED Global (this year there are more, as there will be another 100 Fellows at TED India). An international selection committee representing the target regions will then choose 20 Senior Fellows, who can take part in the next 3 years of TED conferences, at which point they become TED Alumni.

TED Fellows Program - flowchart

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