Not a vintage TED day as far as I am concerned but one or two highlights.


Ethan Zuckerman kicked off the day and a session called found in translation. Powerful stuff as he addressed the issue that cripples social media and ultimately potential the power of the internet to really connect humanity – the fact that we have increasingly segregated conversations online imprisoned in filter bubbles and what he rather brilliantly called ‘imaginary cosmopolitanism’. He talked about how in reality atoms are more mobile than bits and gave the example that you are far more likely to drink bottled water from Fiji than come across anyone or anything from Fiji online despite it being a relatively engaged intent nation. He calls for a movement of xenophiles to actively build bridges between nations, tribes and communities online to foster greater understanding and help the internet life up to some of the grander claims that were made for it in the early days. Rather pleasingly he talked also of the need to create serendipity in our on demand lives which is something I have been banging on about for ages.
On a similar note Elif Shafak, the most read female novelist in Turkey talked about the power of circles and specifically their ability to destroy everything within them. She quoted a Sufi saying, “Knowledge that takes us not beyond ourselves is worse than ignorance”. That surely is a powerful watchout for all of us and questions exactly how wide our worldwide web is.
I’m a big fan of David McCandless and his book ‘Information is beautiful’ that my brother gave me recently for my birthday. His data visualisations are both powerful and extremely elegant and he talks about the per of visualisation to draw together the language of the eye and the mind to create far greater and faster comprehension of the increasingly complex subjects and data sets we need to wrestle with personally and professionally. It rather made me think that all planners need to go on a data visualisation course and master design software beyond powerpoint – something for the APG or IPA perhaps?
Other people worth following up also might include the green chef Arthur Potts Dawson who is trying to change the environmental impact of the restaurant and food business at places like the Acorn House, the Waterhouse and the People’s Supermarket(where customers have to work in the store for a few hours each month). And you might check out John Hardy’s Green School in Bali.

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