I took the day off work last week and attended TEDxWaterloo, the first event of its kind in the area. TED Talks are well known online and a full-fledged TED event must be a real thrill, but even with the small scale of TEDxWaterloo, I found it a fascinating day.
Three sessions of three speakers each plus one video from the TED vaults made up the day. Presenters spoke on diverse topics and really represented well the diverse energy that’s going on in Waterloo Region. It’s an exciting place to live these days.
First Session: Terry O’Reilly, of CBC’s Age of Persuasion, talked about putting friction back into transactions with consumers, citing as an example the cake mixes of the 1950s that stayed on the shelf because housewives wouldn’t be caught dead using something that just required water. Go back a step and require the addition of eggs, and we’ve never looked back. Raymond Laflamme from the Perimeter Institute spoke about quantum mechanics. I’m still none the wiser, but it was fascinating to watch someone so passionate about a subject I know nothing about. Philip Beesley, architect, described responsive structures, though I wouldn’t have described what he showed as structures before I heard his talk. Buildings that reach back to you?? Yikes. We also watched a video from TED.com featuring Aimee Mullins, which was freakin’ amazing. Aimee and Her 12 Pairs of Legs. Really made you think about disability in a different way.
Second Session: Paul Saltzman. Oh, I think this was my favourite session all day. Saltzman is a filmmaker and spoke about and showed us a clip of his latest project, Prom Night in Mississippi, about the first integrated prom in Jackson, Mississipi in 2008. Great stuff. But just as compelling was his tale of spending a week with the Beatles in an Indian ashram when he was 23 as they wrote songs for The White Album. He has a gorgeous book full of photos of the journey. Caroline Disler spoke about Western civilization and how it isn’t exactly Western, tracing developments in language, technology, etc. back to early Eastern civilizations. Our TED video this session was from Wade Davis, renowned anthropologist and this year’s Massey Lecturer. (He will read at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival in Sept 2010, btw, putting my other hat on.) He spoke about language and culture and how indigenous languages are disappearing. He makes a plea not to forsake the old knowledge of ways of doing and being. Madhur Anand, ecologist from the University of Guelph, talked about reforestation, specifically in the Sudbury area and used poetry and eco-poetics to deliver her message. Michael Sacco, chocolatier and social entrepreneur talked about fair trade cacao and chocolate production in Mexico and his co-operative in Toronto. Fascinating speakers all.
Third Session: Darren Wershler talked about technology and culture, including technology that was invented before its time. He had the best slide of the day, riffing on quantum mechanics, Schrodinger’s cat and LOLcats. Brilliant. Marty Avery, business advisor, talked about the power of connection and really seeing each other and hearing each other. Our video this session was of Matthew Childs’ 9 lessons of rock climbing. Funny, but images not for the faint of heart. Amy Krouse Rosenthal, children’s author and creative filmmaker taked about her collaborative YouTube projects and inspiring creation and collaboration in people.
I had to skip the after party, unfortunately, because I had been away from home all day and evening. I’m sure a good time was had, but I needed to get home and tuck the kids in and make lunches. Such is my glamourous life. But what a great day, all in all. I met a ton of people who were friendly and full of good energy and I left feeling that we’ve really got something exciting going in Kitchener-Waterloo, and that I want to be a part of where that goes.