Getting Social at TEDx SonomaCounty
Last weekend, I attended TEDx SonomaCounty along with Sonoma Sales Summit™ co-founders Anneke Seley and Barry Trailer. The theme was Trending Now. It focused on the impact of our increasingly digital and social media-driven world.
You know about TED and it’s little brother, TEDx, right? TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, and Design.
Here’s the description from the TEDx SonomaCounty website:
“Trending Now screams at us from our computers and smart phones, telling us what to read, what to buy, what celebrity is doing what with whom right now. We’re never far from our apps and our feeds. The digital immigrants watch in awe as the younger generations, the digital natives, seem to accept their devices as a part of them, another limb.
In a relatively brief span of time, we have seemingly embraced a digital life: From the way we communicate to the way we shop. From the way we read and listen to music, to the way we learn and the way we create art. From the way we date, to the way we make war. But how is our humanity being defined by our technology and how are we defining it?”
My summary takeaway is that while AI, machine learning, IoT, BIg Data, 3D fabrication and other exciting technologies are changing every industry, we humans also need this new world to include compassion, wonder, art and music to make life worth celebrating.
Best quote: “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the Universe.” Carl Sagan
What struck me about Mickey McManus’ talk was his assertion that to create something new we must completely change our mindset and begin to ask: How do we put people first in a world of networked matter?
What resonated with me is the notion that no matter how far or quickly technology evolves, our DNA is NOT changing so rapidly (barely at all generation to generation) and, therefore, we still have our human needs for connection and meaning.
Barry’s favorite quote of the event: If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the Universe. Carl Sagan Click To Tweet
The Internet of Things (IoT) was a popular topic. It seems like everything is or will soon be connected. Wearables like the FitBit and iWATCH are old news. More interesting was learning about the Hug Shirt™ – a shirt that lets people send hugs via the Internet. It has Bluetooth controlled sensors that are controlled by a smartphone app so you can squeeze your sweetie from across the globe. The shirt is made by a company called CuteCircuit.
Even more fascinating than sensors in clothing was sensors in our bodies. Medical device and pharmaceutical companies already have pill sensors that people ingest. The pill transmits data about gastrointestinal activity or other body metrics. Soon when a child says, “Mommy, my tummy hurts.”, mom may check her iPhone to determine the cause and she a description of the recommended corrective action. This led to the futuristic discussion of the blending of man and machine and whether machines could end up taking over. Cue the science fiction music!
A cautionary talk about surveillance software for governments to monitor people’s communication shocked many in the audience. It was very “Big Brother”. The revelations struck me as odd given the theme of the event because a fundamental principle of social media is the power if affords any individual to spread a worldwide message and yet this new freedom also can have old-time consequences.
The session ended with an inspiring demonstration by Henry Evans. At age 40, Henry was left mute and quadriplegic after a stroke-like attack caused by a hidden birth defect. Years of therapy helped him learn to move his head and use a finger — which allows him to use a head-tracking device to communicate with a computer using experimental interfaces. Henry appeared virtually via a telepresence robot to show how new robotics help him live his life.
If you get the chance to attend a TED or TEDx conference, do it. Your mind will thank you for it.