Two TEDx events recently took place at UC San Diego and San Diego State. On April 29, a diverse collection of expert scientists, artists, writers and engineers arrived at UCSD for TEDx Del Mar to address the event’s theme, “Envisioning Transhumanity.” Various speakers gathered at the KPBS Public Broadcasting building last Sunday to answer the ever-important question, “What have you discovered?”
TED is a nonprofit organization that began as a four-day conference in 1984. Its mission was to discuss “Ideas Worth Spreading,” with the TED acronym standing for technology, entertainment and design. Twice a year, TED conferences are held in Long Beach, Palm Springs and once a year in Edinburgh, Scotland as a way to bring together the world’s most fascinating people. Events have included speakers such as Bill Gates, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Virgin Group Ltd. chairman Sir Richard Branson and anthropologist Jane Goodall. Since 2006, TED Talks have been posted daily at TED.com as a way to spread ideas throughout the world.
The “x” in the name signifies these programs were independently organized, allowing TED events to occur worldwide on a community level. Since the establishment of the TEDx program, more than 3,000 events have been organized around the world in the spirit of the TED format.
The several lectures at TEDx Del Mar featured insightful discussions about technology’s current and potential capacity to improve human life. The word “transhuman,” first used by evolutionary biologist and writer Aldous Huxley’s brother, Julian Huxley, refers to the integration of humanity with technology to enhance mental and physical capacities and improve quality of life exponentially.
Among the speakers in attendance was InterAxon CEO Ariel Garten, representing a company that specializes in thought-controlled computing. At the forefront of neuroscience and electronics, Garten and her colleagues have been developing BCIs, or brain-computer interfaces, that would give people the ability to actively engage the physical world with their brains alone. The Zeo Sleep Manager is one example of a BCI already in production. This is an alarm clock that allows users to track and manage their sleep quantity and quality. The human brain runs on electrical energy that can be read by outside devices.
Topics addressed by the various speakers included the use of reproductive science for pregnant mothers to counter genetic predispositions to disease, devices that enhance or augment the five senses and the chemical oxytocin’s ability to increase trust between monogamous lovers. In addition, resource technologies that could address the rapidly increasing human population and microscopic machines that repair cells to slow the effects of aging were also discussed.
While the prospect of such technology sounds like implausible and quixotic science fiction to most, technological advancement is actually accelerating at an astonishing rate. The contrast between the brick-sized cell phones of the ‘90s and the tiny GPS-equipped touchscreen phones of today offers an idea of how inconceivable our world may be in another 20 years.
Hosted by business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, TEDxSDSU covered a different range of topics with no constricting central theme other than what discoveries life may have presented to each speaker. Those in attendance included a variety of musicians, SDSU students and alumni, business directors, writers and activists.
Film and international security and conflict resolution junior Nadir Bouhmouch spoke about the oppressive regime that currently reigns in his home country of Morocco. His documentary, “My Makhzen and Me,” publicizes the corruption long silenced by the Makhzens and draconian censorship. According to Bouhmouch, the Internet worked as an important force during the Arab Spring revolutions by strengthening civil resistance in the face of repression.
“Never have citizen journalists had such an impact until the Arab Spring,” Bouhmouch said. “This film uses many clips uploaded online by average citizens who wanted to show the world things that the mainstream media wouldn’t.”
Avid golfer and SDSU student Jeremy Poincenot inspired the audience to overcome life’s obstacles with his own story. As a 19-year-old sophomore, Poincenot became legally blind because of a rare genetic disease called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. Devastated at first, Poincenot soon learned rather than dwelling on what he lost, he should look forward to the unlimited possibilities of his future. Shortly thereafter, he overcame his hopelessness and went on to win the International Blind Golf Association’s World Championships in Britain, with his dad as his guide.
Ending his speech, Poincenot said, “I’m here with you tonight, telling you my story to empower you. What have you discovered? And how will you face the obstacles in your life?”
Other segments included words from social activist Mikel Samaniego, biographical author Bryna Kranzler, radio host Grant Barrett and graduating Managing Editor at The Daily Aztec Beth Elderkin. Various performances included SDSU a capella group “Sunset Clefs,” musician Tolan Shaw, comedian Becky Robinson and singer Sydney Yien.
A truly insightful series of conferences, these TEDx events stirred up a plethora of important issues and profound ideas. For more information on the TEDx program and upcoming events, visit ted.com/tedx.