But I can’t tell you what a futuristic joy it is to watch TED on my laptop, with friends at viewing parties and even on my iPhone at the gym as I did this morning at level 12 on the treadmill. I’ve reported on TED for Forbes and elsewhere in previous years. Here are five ideas emerging at TED2013.
1. Embrace the Shake
Over and over, speakers at this year’s TED, titled “The Young, The Wise and The Undiscovered,” are talking up the virtues of limitation. Instead of complaining about what’s lacking, get creative with what you’ve got. Nobody expresses that better than artist Phil Hansen, who developed a shake in his hand in art school and thought his career was done. “This was the destruction of my dream of becoming an artist,” he said. Except, it was actually the beginning. When he was diagnosed with permanent nerve damage, Hansen’s neurologist told him to “embrace the shake,” which prompted him to experiment with new forms. He made a portrait on a stack of Starbucks cups, a painting done with karate chops, a Mona Lisa made with hamburger grease. He arrayed thousands of matches into a visage of Jimi Hendrix before setting the whole thing on fire. “Embracing the limitation can actually drive creativity,” Hansen said on his way to a standing ovation. “We need to first be limited in order to become limitless.”
2. Walk the Talk
Chances are, you’re sitting as you read this. That’s a problem, says Nilofer Merchant, former CEO and now Corporate Director of Nasdaq-traded EPAX. “Sitting has become the smoking of our generation,” she told the crowd. As she noted recently in the Harvard Business Review, we average 9.3 hours of sitting a day, compared to only 7.7 hours of sleeping. “After an hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat declines by as much as 90 percent,” she says. “Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism affecting things like the good cholesterol HDL levels in our bodies. Research shows that this lack of physical activity is directly tied to 6% of the impact for heart diseases, 7% for type 2 diabetes, and 10% for breast cancer, or colon cancer.” Her creative solution: walking meetings. Instead of coffee or lunch, ask people to go for walk talks. She now walks the talk to the tune of 25 miles a week. “There’s something about getting out of the box that leads to out-of-the-box thinking,” she said. “You’ll be surprised how fresh air drives fresh thinking.”
3. The Droids Are Taking Our Jobs. Deal With It.
Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for Digital Business, joined others in predicting a future work force of drones. You can watch a previous TED Talk on the subject here. He says the coming technology explosion will drive out factory workers, low-skilled laborers, customer-service operators and even truck and taxi drivers (thank you Google Driverless Car). But all is not lost. Although “our machines have started to demonstrate skills that they have never, ever had before” — cough, cough, Siri — we can fight back by getting creative. Here’s what McAfee says: “The droids are taking our jobs, but focusing on that fact misses the point entirely. The point is that then we are freed up to do other things, and what we’re going to do, I am very confident, is reduce poverty, and drudgery and misery around the world. I’m very confident we’re going to learn to live more lightly on the planet and I am extremely confident that what we’re going to do with our new digital tools is going to be so profound, and so beneficial, that it’s going to make a mockery of everything that came before.” Drone on, Siri!
4. Make Your 20s Matter.
University of Virginia clinical psychologist Meg Jay will get a ton of views once this Ted talk goes live. Her message to young professionals is simple: Don’t waste your 20s. Without a doubt, one’s 20s is “the most defining decade of adulthood,” a time when the brain is growing and the course of future work, income, relationships and happiness are set. Our 20s is when we find our careers, our life partners, our patterns for living. About two-thirds of lifetime wage growth is charted in the first 10 years of a career, she said. So what’s a 20something to do? Take the 20s seriously. “Invest in identity capital” — grad school, finding mentors, moving cross country for important jobs — that add value to career, friendship and family. Look beyond the “urban tribe” of friends and commiserating co-workers to a wider social network of opportunity-makers. As Jay so eloquently put it, “Twenty-somethings are like airplanes, just taking off from LAX heading for somewhere west. A slight change in course on takeoff is the difference between landing in Alaska or Fiji.”
5. Wiki Your House
Why leave architecture to the professionals when we have all the tools we amateurs need to start building? That’s the question architect and designer Alastair Parvin put to the crowd in a goosebumps-worthy talk about WikiHouse, a stunning project that lets everyday citizens with a CNC machine and standard building material like plywood to “print” and then build an entire house. In about two days! Home construction now is in the hands of the 1 percent, Parvin estimates. But by making wiki-sourced blueprints and production tools available to small-scale builders around the world, it could open the architectural landscape to self-made cities. Think Levittown by way of Ikea.
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