Average Jane

I’d like you to meet TED

I wish TED was a real person. Because if TED was a person, I could shake TED’s hand. Or give TED a hug. Thank TED for all TED has done for me.

But TED is not a person, but a convention of the world’s visionaries. Each year, over 1000 people gather in Monterrey for four days. The conferences which cost $6,000 (the annual TED membership fee), sell out a year in advance. As a matter of fact, if you can’t get into the TED@Monterrey conference, you can go to the TED@Aspen conference – a simulcast event of the Monterrey conference sent via satellite to Colorado. According to their website, ted.com:

The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

18 minutes. The great equalizer. From the theremin player to Al Gore. From Richard Dawkins to They Might Be Giants. That’s all every speaker gets to share their accomplishments, their goals, their dreams. They share laughter and joy. They share tragedy and sorrow. They share stories of hope and ideas that will change the world as we know it.

I was introduced to TED about a year ago sitting in my apartment. Someone sent me a video on happiness. Growing up, my dream was to go to Princeton, but I knew deep down I was never smart enough. It was after watching this video that I realized what I was missing — engaging professors. Passionate mentors. And that is when I got hooked on TED.

It is absolutely no surprise to anyone who has ever met me that I think I’m kind of an idiot. Now, please, please do not take that as a fishing expedition for compliments. I know I’m smart. I’m smart-ish. But I happen to surround myself with people who are smarter than me. And while they push me to be smarter and think harder about big things, they often leave me in the intellectual dust. My humor compensates for my lack of comprehension, education, accomplishment. I am never bored. We do word games at dinner. We discuss politics at brunch. We do crossword puzzles at donut shops. But mostly I follow along. It is only in the safety and security of my womb-like, sterile, suburban apartment, away from the imagined, falsified, only-exists-in-my-mind-and-I-know-that “judgment” of my peers that I educate myself. It’s where I feel smart.

The TED talks have introduced me to concepts that I have never been exposed to, and have shown me solutions to problems I never knew existed.

There have been a few talks that have truly stood out to me. One is Clifford Stoll. If you ever wanted to see inside the mind of a genius – completely stripped of its skin and bone and social norms – you should look no further than this video on everything. His frenetic talk speaks directly to the matter of the future. That possibilities are limitless if you put your time and trust into the youth.

The second talk that has truly stood at to me was Dave Eggers talk on his “Once Upon a School” project. Here, he talks about the idea that “at risk” kids who are given 1-on-1 attention from an adult every single week thrive academically. They like the challenge. They want to succeed. It’s the adults that seem to thwart their efforts. So he set up a tutoring center in a store front and started changing lives…

And tonight I watched a short video – just 5 minutes – that opened my eyes just before I cast them shut for my night of sleep… or at least what has been passing for sleep lately. What struck me most about the talk Dean Kamen gave was the humility he exhibited while discussing what could be one of the most profound technologies of my generation. Dean Kamen, a man you may never have heard of, was approached by the military to create a prosthetic arm that can function exactly as a human arm – pinching, twisting, turning, sensing heat, sensing pressure… 21 degrees of freedom from shoulder to finger tips. The technology didn’t exist when he was approached in 2006. In 2007 he went to Walter Reed to show the arm, conceived when the technology didn’t exist by a man who had enough world-saving projects on his plate, to a number of vets, young vets, “kids”, who had come back to the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, with a few arms less than they had left with. Dean Kamen who has created a piece of machinery that will revolutionize prosthetics for generations to come spent the majority of his talk discussing the soldiers, not his accomplishment. He told the story of a soldier who he showed the arm to who said, ‘I’m lucky.’ You see, he was right handed and lost his left arm. Lucky, he said, because he kept his dominant arm. And as he pushed back from the table, he revealed that he had lost both legs.

I guess with all the pain and suffering I saw in Boston this weekend, it reminds me that there is always hope. There is hope out there. And there are people, humble people, the smartest people in the world, making great strides every day to ensure that those of us who are willing to make the changes we want to see in the world have the technology and the support to see them through.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. TED Talks: What are some must-see TED talks? - Quora pingbacked on 7 years, 2 months ago


  1. thanks, for ruining my studying week, I owe you one. Which you will be rewarded with right now. (rewarded with?). The whole talking part is in french, but there’s a written translation on the side. And basically, it’s an animated movie exploring the whole idea of inner space, ignored by most of us able-bodied ungrateful scums (I said scums, didn’t I? :$:$) And the speech is given by the departed father of one of the creator of this movie who spent a part of his adult life in a wheelchair, ’cause life’s a bitch sometimes. Apart from the brain poking part of it, it just looks awesome, keep looking till 4:20 if you’re not convinced by the what’s before. Oh, and to push the awesome further, it’s been done by 2 people and their 4 assistants.

    Here’s the reward: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDHfx9nde14

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 1 month ago
  2. * Ibid says:

    Kamen was on base and I missed it!?!?

    [stream of obscenities omitted due to space limitations]

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 1 month ago
  3. * Joey says:

    If you were a fan of How I Met Your Mother, the subject for this post would’ve been “Haaaave you met TED?”

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 1 month ago
  4. * ivan says:

    Seeeee?? I suggested it, but apparently our jane was not yet touched by barney’s grace, and other… parts… of barney. n_n

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 1 month ago
  5. * K says:

    I was all set to make my “Did TED give you a good ride?” joke when I found out, not that TED. 🙂

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 1 month ago
  6. * K says:

    On another note – How I Met Your Mother is the best!

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 1 month ago

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