Posted by: Carol | May 10, 2011

TEDxAFC: What’s Possible?

There’s a great deal that was on offer at TEDxAFC, and within a few weeks, they expect to have video of all the talks available for view and use. Here are just a few more summaries of the talks presented at the event. There were many others which I’ve been unable to cover here, given by the following thinkers and innovators: Larry Rosenstock, CEO and founder of High Tech High, Grant Barrett, lexicographer and co-host of Public Radio’s A Way With Words,  Xavier Leonard, an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Activist, designer Thokozani Mabena, Jeffrey Church, social entrepreneur and founder of Nika Water, and Capt. Bernardo Herzer, founder and CEO of LEHR, Inc..  I encourage you to go to TEDxAFC’s website and sign up for email updates, so that when the videos become available, you can check out these talks on your own and share them with your students.

Bill Wesley is a true believer in the power of music to facilitate creative and emotional expression, and that everyone – everyone – is musical. He recognizes that not everyone has the skill or ability to be musical via the more traditional modes of musical expression – musical instruments and singing – he developed the Array Orchestra system, which allows people to play music in an intuitive, harmonious, un-punishing manner (Wesley points out that conventional musical instruments tend to punish those trying to learn to use them for creative expression, by being highly prone to error). His ideas and his machines incorporate math, physics, and study of social-emotional topics and he’s integrated these with technology to help others facilitate their own creative expression.

Bill Wesley at TEDxAFC

Dr. Mimi Guarneri spoke about cardiovascular disease and the economic impact of chronic disease. She pointed out that the health care system in the United States has adopted an “ills to the pills” mentality. Incredibly, North America consumes 47.7% of the pharmaceuticals in the world. There are seven diseases that are completely preventable and we’re spending a whopping $2.5 trillion a year on treating them. We spend twice what the rest of the world spends on chronic disease, but we have a much lower positive outcomes rates. In fact, our problems are getting bigger, not smaller, and problems like obesity and stress are the major contributors. The CDC estimates that one out of three children born in the year 2000 will have diabetes in their lifetime. Stress is a contributor because it causes people to engage in maladaptive behavior (drinking alcohol, over-eating, etc) which in turn can make you fat, lose muscle, develop osteoperosis, increase lipids and cholesterol. Dr. Guarneri realized that all the drugs she gave out were actually blocking stress, and with this realization came the understanding that it wasn’t enough to be part of a disease-driven model. “Let’s treat the whole person,” she urged. “How can we treat the heart without treating what’s underlying that?” Dr. Guarneri says that asking why is key: why is your cholesterol high? Is it stress? Is it genetics? Is it diet? And  70-90% of chronic diseases are associated with lifestyle and environment. Are we breathing clean air? Drinking clean water? Eating foods that are from BPA-lined cans? Solving these problems and changing our health care system to be integrative and preventative rather than reactive will be the major challenge of the next few decades and also a serious economic strategy and policy issue.

Paula Brock is the CFO of the Zoological Society of San Diego. She spoke about looking to nature for inspiration for innovation: a concept known as biomimicry. It’s an interdisciplinary approach where experts come from different domains to work together to solve human challenges. Brock reminds us that nature has been developing for thousands of years and in that time, has developed a living laboratory for functionality and design. She encourages people to turn to the systems used in nature to gain insight and draw analogies to solve problems in a sustainable way. Brock presented a few examples of biomimicry, one of which was how the Kingfisher’s aerodynamic beak was the inspiration for the redesign of the nose of the Japanese bullet train. She suggests that mankind reconnect with its own nature and with nature as a greater whole, when seeking innovation. “We don’t see power plants in nature, but we feel the incredible power of nature,” she said, evoking the wind, the trees, and the currents of the seas. And referring back to her own role as the Chief Financial Officer of the San Diego Zoo, she pointed out that business is always looking for efficiencies and nature is supremely efficient – if we spent more time examining nature, we’d find that there are many lessons that can be learned.

Just another note – many communities are developing youth versions of TEDx conferences – keep your ear to the ground and consider ways your students could contribute with their own project-based learning-related talks. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed today’s live-blogging of TEDxAFC.

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