TEDGlobal Day 5: What’s Next from the ‘Things We Make’?

They say that all good things must come to an end. As much as I’m sad that I wrote this entry, I know that my TEDGlobal 2011 adventure doesn’t end here in Edinburgh. It still lives on with numerous other TEDx events held around the world in their respective communities.

As my insatiable appetite for all things TEDx wouldn’t end, many TEDx organizers had earlier requested a session with June Cohen with regards to speaker selection. It was off to the lower levels of the EICC to Club TEDx where other TEDx organizers including myself. The focus was on speaker selection and invitation for one’s TEDx event. Building on what was shared at the TEDx workshop on Day 0, the TEDx team along with June helped to sharpen out the counsel that attending organizers can use as a reference for their events when they return.

Immediately when the meet ended, I rushed up to the top floor hoping that I’ll have the chance to get a seat in the auditorium. Good thing the crowd was still light, and started filling up in about 15 minutes before the doors opened. Next thing you know, the doors open and people flock in. Moments later, Chirs Anderson takes to the stage to open the finale of TEDGlobal 2011.

Session 11 ‘Things We Make’ gave us an introspective into their impact. It was no longer about just the tangible, but also the services.

Neil MacGregor from the British Museum shared a story revolving around an exhibit known as the Cyrus Cylinder and how it’s links to the Persian region’s roots could very well serve to reinforce and continue the human narrative and cultural exchange. A story of how such an ancient relic impacted the legacy of modern day Iran, even though it’s currently at display inside the British Museum. As he talked about how the museum decided to send this relic to Tehran as a sign of gesture, he showed a photo of the current President. You could say that he wanted to revive a bit of the message that these ancient relics carry with them as they stand the test of time.

Ben Kacyra gave a live demonstration of his invention CyArk, an invention that could very well be used to digitally preserve the natural wonders that surround us. In a matter of minutes, it’s able to scan and record every nook and cranny of an edifice regardless of its age and size – even down to the cracks. He even shared a positive use of the system, when a landmark that was scanned was completely destroyed a year late. The owners asked about prospect of using the digital model to physically recreate it, and it proved to be a resounding success. The system itself doesn’t only preserve the geometric curves and lines, but also integrates texturing and light data when they have to be digitally rendered to resemble the actual landmark.

I can think of many places where it can be used. He is already embarking on an ambitious CyArk 500 project, where he hopes to digitally scan and preserve 500 heritage sites scattered around the globe in the next few years. As a final surprise, he had the device on stage and it scanned the entire live audience during his talk. From the seats and walls to the seated audience, Ben even zoomed in on Bruno who was seated on the far side. Talk about getting ‘up close and personal’ down to the details. This already has possibilities beyond just preservation. Maybe we could use it for virtual tours of actual places taht people may not be able to visit, as people’s presence and pollution may just disturb the health of the edifice.
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, a designer who recently graduated from college, chose to talk about the macroscopic view of how we can design nature itself. Though her background stemmed from architecture, she explored things like how colors can be drawn from bacteria. Even the prospect of machining the whole design.
Michael Biddle has been trying to tackle the challenges of recycling plastics for the past years. I  realized that he was also seated in front of me at the Bloggers Alley in one of the previous days along with his wife. He talked about how it has become easy to produce different types of plastics, but much more difficult to sort and reuse them once consumed.
He elaborated on the current but crude ways of sorting and reusing them: visual cues, texture, and ‘burn and sniff’ (latter is used in India). Since the root of plastics comes from the hydrocarbons, or plain simple oil for simplicity, it can be tedious to separate them (reminded me of chemistry when some chemicals would have boiling points close to each other). Looks like he found a way to crack this thorny issue, as he dipped his hand into a bowl to scoop up pellets of recycled plastic.

Senior TED Fellow and violinist Robert Gupta took to the stage and soothed our ears with a little piece of music that could very well have our hearts skip a beat or 2.

Anna Mracek Dietrich turned cartoon fiction and imagination into reality. As if she just took it straight out of The Jetsons animated series but bringing us steps closer to it, she unveiled a flying car. It drives on the road and it can also fly. The wings can retract so that it becomes a complete road transport. It doesn’t even need a full highway like the ones found in major airports. Now I guess it’s the legal hurdle of figuring out how to make this viable for consumers. We might as well see air traffic jams than the ones on the road.
By another popular request, Joe Castillo returns back to the TED stage to tell another story using his skills as a sandartist. From that of a lively landscape to a mother coddling a child, he ended with the word TED.
Closing off this session was none other than TED 2004 speaker and famed author Malcolm Gladwell, who returned to talk about the Norden bomb shelter and how the things we make can really have an impact on our lives. From the days of the WW to its modern descendants, it was evident that not everything we do can positively impact others. He even ended with a brief about his upcoming book, and he’s only finished the first chapter.

With that, everyone filed out of the auditorium. I chose to stay close to the doors for the next 30 minutes as I wanted to grab a good seat for the last session. Good thing they had light snacks and drinks outside the auditorium.

The last session of TEDGlobal 2011, ‘Next Up’, didn’t want to just end on a high note but also continue the discourse beyond the end of the conference program.

Prof. Harold Haas from the University of Edinburgh gave an eye-opening demonstration of a new way to wireless browsing. Taking the average eye-hurting cellphone tower as the reference, he showed the limited viability of radio waves and how they have capped off as people are jumping on board with smartphones. As other wavelengths across the spectrum are harmful and radio waves are reaching saturation, the next alternative lay with visible light. From his discovery, he noted that visible light is 10,000x more broad than radio waves. Multiply that with 1.4M cell phone towers around the world, what do you get? That’s the number of light sources currently present around the world.
He thought about tapping into this, and we were the first to get a live demonstration of using light to transmit data. Just by putting his hands to block the light, the video stopped. Even when the were multiple light sources shining into the receiver, he said that it’s intelligent enough to detect the subtle changes so that it knows which beams have data. Imagine having that in your car headlights, where it could help slow your vehicle down if it detects vehicles further ahead. Sensors use sounds waves but light travels faster.

Markus Fischer and his team have been trying to crack the code behind bird flight. Birds flap so fast that even rapid photography limits the way we can find the secret to flight, so taht one day humans can even soar high in the skies. Using a seagull as a reference and his team of engineers, he crafted a light-weight bird that weighs only around 0.5kg. With a sample in his hands, he explains the intricate systems that would help it fly like a bird using nothing but the action of flapping its wings. The audience were in for a treat when they released it high into the air as it flapped around the auditorium and landed back into the owner’s hands, only for it to be back again for an encore.
David Adjaye, a Ghanian architect based in the UK, has visited every single country in the African continent – that was before the newly annexed South Sudan came into play. He chronicled his trip as he decided to explore the entire continent, and discovered that the best way to understand it is to divide it into 6 different regions. Each region is distinct by its climate and the influence of the architecture to the nations that lie within.
Rory Stewart, member of the British Parliament, had previously embarked on a long and arduous walks as he campaigned to secure a seat while advocating for tropp withdrawals from Iraq and even Afghanistan. From his journey, he shared that the best to resolve much of the conflict that stems on a vicious cycle. Citing how it reduced in Bosnia, he’s been advocating that it’s best to leave it to the local Afghani population to chart their future course without significant influence from the likes of the UK and US.
Musician Jo Hamilton moved her fingers between her straddled guitar and the air piano as she sang. I was beginning to have a bigger craving for music, but this was the last one for the conference. You could say her performance almost reminded me of paying attention to the rising indie scene and upcoming names.

Before the curtains closed on the last speaker, Bruno and Chris shared some insight into this year’s TEDGlobal. They thanked all the partners who have helped to make the inaugural Edinburgh chapter that much more memorable. They even shared some details about the social spaces, especially with regards to the big  In addition, they even played the following stop-motion video that showed the preparations that went into it:

Jeremy Gilley was supposed to speak at Session 2 ‘Everyday Rebellions’ on Day 2 of the conference, but that slot was exchanged with Justin-Hall Tipping.The moment he spoke almost resembled a can of adrenaline not willing to be locked up inside a jar. It was evident that his passion for mutual understanding of peace pushed him to pursue it. From meeting the Queen to even the former SecGen of the UN Kofi Annan, his proposal of Peace One Day on September 21 was adopted by all nations.
Going further, he hoped that this would encourage both sides to lay down their arms. He even showed the letter that the Taliban sent him, stating that they would observe that date. Hoping that even the U.S army would respond in the same way, the result proved beyond measure as he shared one great achievement: Many children were given medical treatment and over 1.6 million vaccines were administered. Talk about moving walls, he moved people’s souls and conscience. What will you do on September 21?


With the conference now coming to a conclusion, attendees did their last minute work around the event spaces.
It was off to Holyrood Park for the farewell picnic. Good thing it didn’t rain, as sunshine and birds took to the skies. Seated nicely on the lush grass with umbrellas to shield the sunlight from our eyes, everyone took to sharing their ideas and chatting about many things from the conference.
After I was done with my lunch, I was off to pick up my cycle as I had signed up for the bik excursion. There were initially 40 but that number had swollen up to 65 people. Chris Anderson came by to say his few words as he bid the cyclers the best on their 8 mile long tour.
I didn’t realize that our first stop would be Arthur’s Seat, as that’s the place where all the TEDx organizers had hiked on Day 0. 
Following that, it was downhill as the entire entourage made their way to a castle on the other side of Edinburgh. Good thing everyone was given a map, as we had to detour onto a cycle track that veered through a park area with a jog trail. The roads aren’t safe for it, as traffic increased.

After we made it to the castle and parked them along the wooden fencing, we made our way in. II nearly hit my head onto the ceiling, as it was quite low. Once inside and after everyone was done exploring, we gathered in a large room that overlooked an old fireplace furnace. It proved to be a nice place to gather up and give a short talk. Even Dean Monroe was present with his wife. What was also quite fortunate was that the Dean of VCU’s School of Arts approached me before we left. That’s a piece of the puzzle that you’ll learn from my next entry.
After our time, we made our way back to Holyrood Park and dropped off our cycles. Everyone else who was present for lunch had already left and place was barren as a ghost town but still sunny and bright. I said my goodbyes to a great bunch of people that I’ve met along with exchanging contact details. We walked it back with a few other TEDsters to the EICC, as we basked in the scenery surrounding us. When we reached the Sheraton, we parted ways and I said my final goodbyes to those on the cycle tour. I realized that those 6 days really brought out something inside, and also fueled my passion and efforts to pursue the very things that have helped justify my journey to TEDGlobal. With this, I bring my Scotland adventure to a close but it’s not the end.
I’d like to personally thank you for taking the effort of reading each of my entries. I hope you found it worth it, especially if you felt that you were present just as you read it. Watch for some surprises this Tuesday 😉

You can see the finale Day 5 in the following story:


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