Regina Saphier: Really Big Understanding with Larry Page

Larry Page (co-founder and CEO of Google Inc.) lost his voice due to a viral infection that attacks his thyroid. His left vocal cord paralyzed after he first got ill, and his right vocal cord was paralyzed in 2012. The vocal cords pass the thyroid so his voice loss is almost certainly related to his Hashimoto thyroiditis, but his doctors keep telling him, that the cause of his problem is unknown and there is no cure. (I might add, that in my opinion he got ill after contracting mononucleosis 14 years ago… mono is very common in the US among young people… the virus that causes it remains dormant in nerve tissue, causes the thyroid to slow down, due to inflammation, reduces energy, and can later in life cause severe health issues, including different types of cancers… but he did not mention that in his public statements… I don’t know if he knows how dangerous that type of virus is… especially in people with a particular genetic configuration…)

Ted 2014 Conference, Vancouver Convention Cent...

TED2014 Conference Venue (Photo: L. Lawreszuk)

Imagine if such a smart and rich person is unable to find help and sufficient information in one of the most developed countries, sitting on top of unimaginable amounts of google data: What happens to you and me when an illness disables us… especially in a less developed nation, with a terrible healthcare system and extreme stress day by day…? We are so fragile, even the strongest and healthiest among us can unexpectedly become ill and families suffer! It would definitely help all of us if our anonymous medical records were globally available to the medical community and citizen scientists to find the cause and the cure for our illnesses. Imagine your public data being analysed, compared, and imagine having a medical social network where one day your solution would pop up based on big data, global analysis and (as Richard Saul Wurman, founder of TED likes to say) “big understanding” …

I would definitely join this movement, if the tools were in place. If we all share, we all gain something that has never been seen before. Not only could this help you get healthy, but it could help you prevent illness. Imagine this on a global scale! From tragic events that happen to rich, famous and smart people come amazing changes. I hope he will find his solution for his medical issue and live a long, healthy, satisfied and productive life. I hope this story brings health to millions or even to billions of people globally. Here is his latest public appearance, at TED 2014 in Vancouver, BC, Canada a few days ago. I was fortunate enough to watch live:

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TED Turns 30 in 2014

TED (conference)

Richard Saul Wurman notified me a few weeks ago that he started TED 30 years ago on this day.

The

Technology Entertainment and Design

Conference

is entering it’s fourth decade under the leadership of Chris Anderson and his team.

Happy birthday to the TED idea itself

and

the TED community around the world. 

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Saphier Regina: A TED a Coursera Virtuális Előszobája

Láttam egy frusztrált pasast, amint a TED-et kritizálta egy TEDx eseményen. Szegény eltévedt ember! Szerintem a Guardian cikk írója, Benjamin Bratton eleve túldimenzionálta a TED-et. “Megette” Chris Anderson világmegváltó PR maszlagát… és abban csalódott! Meglepő naivitás egy olyan embertől, aki komolykodó és önreklámozó TEDx előadásában felszínességgel vádolja a TED szervezőit és előadóit, ezáltal magát a közönséget is. Bár mostanában inkább Coursera kurzusokat nézek, és bár mindig is inkább az élő TED konferenciákat preferáltam a videókkal szemben, tehát nem foglalkozom napi szinten a TED kérdéskörével, azért elmondom mégis, hogy mit gondolok… mert megkérdeztek.

Véleményem szerint az, amit ő keres, “a világmegváltásra alkalmas mélyen-szántás” és “tettek”, mindez a TED-ben nincs meg, és nem is ez a valódi célja, bármit is mondjon Chris Anderson a TED jómódú közönségének és a pénzes cégeknek. A TED elsődleges célja önmaga sikeres fönntartása. Mindig is ez volt az elsődleges cél, már Richard Saul Wurman idejében is. Pusztán másodlagos célja az emberek ismeretekkel való ellátása, és szerencsére ebben is sikeres. A mély tudás terjesztése soha nem jelent meg a valódi céljaik között. Amikor én pl. önkéntesként TED előadásokat fordítottam, nekem sem volt olyan illúzióm, hogy mondjuk egy TED előadás a mobil eszközök egészségügyben való felhasználásáról gyökeresen és egycsapásra megváltoztatja majd a magyar egészségügyet. Viszont biztos voltam benne, hogy hozzáadok egy marék szükséges kavicsot a változás épülő ösvényeihez.

Benjamin jobban tenné, ha az egyetemén keresztül adna a világnak egy Coursera kurzust. 100 000 diáknak mondhatná el mély gondolatait, lehetőleg érdekesen és szintén globálisan, két-három hónap alatt. Aztán jöhet a következő TEDx előadás Benjamin-tól, melyben tömören elmondja nekünk, hogy milyen volt a Coursera kurzusa, milyenek voltak a diákok, mit tanult a folyamatból, hogyan változtak meg a közösségek, melyeknek tagjait online és heteken át elérhette… de Benjamin sajnos nem vetett fel semmi ilyesmit, ő csak fel és alá járkált a TEDx színpadon, kicsit magában dohogva, hogy “ejnye már, milyen felszínes ez a TED”. “Talán a gondolatokkal van baj?” Szerintem Benjamin TED értelmezésével van baj.

Aki ismeri Richard Saul Wurman alapítói szándékait, az tudja, hogy a TED eredetileg egy for profit konferencia volt, amit RSW saját kedvtelésére, de üzleti céllal hozott létre. Miután Chris Anderson később, pár millió dollárért megvette a TED jogait, hamarosan jött az IT buborék probléma (korábban összeomlott a for profit média cége, így nem hagyhatta, hogy a non-profit sík is bedőljön), és ki kellett valamit találnia, hogy a már non-profit TED projektet, mely a Sapling Alapítványé, hogyan tartsa fönn konferencia bevételekből (online és offline), illetve adományokból. El kellett adnia a sok ezer dolláros jegyeket és tagságot, illetve az online közvetítést. Ez például egy nagyon fontos narratív réteg, amit én átlátok, de Benjamin egyértelműen nem. Én soha nem vártam világmegváltást a TED-től. Ismeretterjesztést, lelkesítő, inspiráló gondolatokat, teljesítmény vagy cél ismertetést, illetve szórakoztatást vártam, és ebben elég jók még ma is, amikor a verseny hatalmas, ilyen téren is.

Ezt az írásomat tudom ajánlani… arról, hogy mi volt a véleményem (sokrétű tapasztalatokkal a hátam mögött) 2012 elején a TED-ről. Nekem a tartalom eredetiségével volt bajom, ami persze nem csak az ő hibájuk, hiszen az online tartalmak választéka hihetetlen mértékben bővül. Ezt pedig pár héttel később írtam, miután kellemesen elbeszélgettem a TED eredeti alapítójával. A legjobb, ha az ember megvizsgálja azt, amiről ír (beszél), és vagy közvetlenül ismeri azokat, akik létrehozták vagy létrehozzák, vagy minimum alaposan utánuk néz.

Hozzá kell tennem, hogy a Guardian cikk írója azt sem méri fel, hogy a TED fordítások, a TEDx kapcsolatépítések, a TED videó megosztások mekkora hatással vannak az emberekre és a társadalmakra, például konkrétan a TED rajongók kifejező képességére, önérvényesítésére, a motivációikra, vagy a választásaikra. A TED-től világmegváltást várni olyan, mintha valaki Salman Khan-on és a Khan Akadémián kérné számon pl. a világ írástudatlanságát. Salman eredetileg a saját unokahúgának készített tanulást támogató youtube videókat. Időközben mások is elkezdték nézni, majd létrejött egy globális közösség, mely Salman videóival oktat általános iskolásokat. Sőt, gyakran felnőttek hoznak be saját gyerekkori lemaradásokat a Khan Academy videóival, például a matematika területén. Különösen érdekes az értékelési szoftverük, mely az egyéni haladást iskolai csoportban is könnyedén lemenedzseli, saját tempót tesz lehetővé. Mind a TED-nek, mind a Khan Akadémiának, mind pedig a Coursera kurzusoknak megvan a maguk helye az online tudásmegosztási hierarchiában, vagy inkább mátrixban.

Érdekességek: A 2014-ben immár 30 éves TED konferenciát a kétezres évek elején átvállaló Chris Anderson Pakisztánban született, nyilván brit állampolgárként… majd az USA-ba költözött. Szülei még misszionáriusok voltak, ő már Oxfordban végzett ateista üzletember. A Coursera alapítói közül a harmadik generációs PhD Daphne Koller Izraelben, Andrew Ng Angliában született, de sokat időzött Hong Kong-ban és Szingapúrbanma mindketten Kaliforniában élnek, kutatnak és tanítanak. Salman Khan második generációs amerikai, szülei még Indiában és Bangladesben születtek, de ma ő is kaliforniai lakós, és korábban befektetési elemző volt. Ami közös bennük: képesek a világot nem amerikai szemmel is nézni, de mindeközben kiválóan elboldogulnak az amerikai intézményrendszerben és társadalomban, intelligensek, vannak ambícióik és gyakorlatias idealisták.

A TED eredeti alapítója, Richard Saul Wurman anyai ágon első, apai ágon második generációs amerikai (apja New Yorkban született, bevándorolt lengyel szivarkészítő fia, anyja Oroszországban született bevándorló, kóser hentes családból származik), és mindkét ágon Richard az első diplomás. Ma Newport-ban él, Rhode Island államban, az USA keleti partvidékén. Mivel a pontos származási hátterét sehol nem találtam meg online, írtam neki gyorsan a facebook-on, és ő azonnal válaszolt (mivel rendszeres kontaktusban vagyunk), úgyhogy abszolút első kézből származik az információ. Az ő esete azért érdekes, mert az első generációs diplomások általában meglehetősen szakbarbárok, őt azonban minden érdekli, és nagyon sok mindennel foglalkozott életében, az építészettől, az információ dizájnon át, a könyvkiadásig, és a konferencia alapításig. Unta a szokványos, formális konferenciákat, és akart egy másfajta konferenciát, ami az ő kolibri agyának is megfelel. Én az ilyen emberekre azt szoktam mondani, hogy “magához görbíti a teret”, nem szeret alkalmazkodni. Az ilyen erős egyéni gravitációval rendelkező emberek hozzák létre az új dolgokat a világban. Nem könnyű emberek, de számomra nagyon érdekesek. Miközben Richard még látta az édesanyja “idegen tekintetével” az USA-t, ő már vérbeli amerikai, ugyanakkor sokat utazik, és sok emberrel találkozik. Folyton tanulmányoz valamit, most éppen a városokat. Ma is korát meghazudtolóan aktív, pedig közel van a nyolcadik X-hez. Örülhetünk, hogy 30 évvel ezelőtt annyira unatkozott, hogy megszületett a TED konferencia. Richard idejében még minden spontán zajlott a színpadon, családias hangulatban, offline. Chris TED-je már begyakorolt, strukturált, és online.

Ez itt egy csodaszép adat vizualizáció, a TEDx eseményeket, előadásokat, témákat és gondolatokat, ezek komplex globális összefüggéseit mutatja be (Visualizing the TEDx idea network). Mi ez, ha nem a gondolatok hatásos terjedése…?

Szerintem manapság, az igazi változás alapját a Coursera teszi le, minden nap. Évekig azzal nyaggattam a TED vezetőit, hogy legyen a TED.com egy online egyetem… de egyik fülükön be, a másikon ki, még akkor is, ha manapság van olyan zárt konferencia szekció, hogy: “TED University”… de ez valójában nem egyetem. A Coursera azonban egyetemek összessége és még annál is több, ingyen! “Csak” egy online felsőoktatási szolgáltatási iteráció és egy komplex kísérlet. Elég jól haladnak, nemes célokkal, és ki tudja, hogy mi lesz a vége, és ki tudja felmérni a pontos hatásait… de komoly hatásuk van, az első percektől kezdve.

Azt minden értelmes és tájékozott ember tudja, hogy sem a TED, sem a Coursera nem nevezhető hatástalannak. Ha “csak” annyi történt, hogy emberek milliói látták Sir Ken Robinson előadásait világszerte, és rájöttek, hogy más is okkal utálja az ipari jellegű oktatási rendszert, és ha “csak” annyi történt, hogy Daphne Koller és Andrew Ng látta Salman Khan TED előadását, és létrehozták a Coursera-t, melynek egy csapásra több millió diákja van világszerte, akkor máris sikernek könyvelhető el a TED. Ugyanakkor az is tény, hogy ennél sokkal több történt és történik. Minden nap valami új!

Véleményem szerint valójában arról van szó, hogy olyan ember nyilvánított hamis alapokon nyugvó és öncélú kritikát TED ügyben egy TEDx során, aki nem is érti ezeket a felületeket, közösségeket, és folyamatokat. Éppen azt gyomlálná ki a TED-ből, ami a lényege, hogy sok tömören megfogalmazott gondolat és inspiráció jusson el emberek millióihoz, akik remélhetőleg a kíváncsiságuktól vezérelve majd a maguk egyéni módján elmélyednek a felvetésekben, online és a saját közösségeikben egyaránt. Aki ma meghallgat egy érdekes és ingyenes TED előadást mondjuk az informatika témakörében, az holnap felvehet egy releváns és ingyenes kurzust a Coursera rendszerén keresztül, és megismerheti a téma mélységeit, majd pedig szakemberként hatással lehet a közegére (online és offline egyaránt). Ugyanez igaz a táplálkozásra, a környezetvédelemre, a mentális egészségre, a közgazdaságtanra, a történelemre, a politikára, a költészetre, és még hosszan sorolhatnám a lehetőségeket.

Összefoglalvaa TED és a Khan Academy például a Coursera (és más minőségi MOOC programok) egyik színes és virtuális előszobája. A TED a megfelelő kontextusba helyezve kiválóan betölti a szerepét. Mivel a TED tartalmait főleg két újságíró válogatja össze (Chris és Bruno évente kétszer kb. 70 előadót hív meg), érdemes a TED konferenciákra úgy gondolni, hogy: adva van néhány szerkesztő, és ők töméntelen mennyiségű előadót állítanak színpadra, akik magazin terjedelemben, de “szájjal blogolnak” valamiről (ezt most ötlöttem ki, az érthetőség kedvéért), amivel évek vagy évtizedek óta foglalkoznak. Ezek tulajdonképpen “színpadi blog szkeccsek”… ha nagyon beleillenek a TED kurátorainak pseudo-világmegváltó narratívájába, akkor a gondolatok a TED.com-on át, megvágott videók formájában terjednek tovább. Hogy ezek közül mi az értékes vagy érdekes, azt a nézők ízlésére bízzák, hiszen a műfaj populáris és nem szakmai. A TED konferencia egy rendkívül sikeres networking esemény (ma már főleg filmsztároknak, illetve B kategóriás cégvezetőknek, a korábbi A kategóriával szemben), míg a TED.com egy amerikai székhelyű, de nemzetközi tartalmú videó magazin, egy média innováció a maga nemében. Ettől a konstellációtól és közösségtől világmegváltást várni egyenesen butaság. A Scientific American tudományos vagy a Wired technológiai magazinoktól sem várja senki, hogy megoldják az emberiség égető problémáit, és azt sem gondolhatja komolyan senki, hogy a PubMed.gov kutatási cikkeinek alaposságával és szakzsargonjával hozakodnak majd elő, de ettől még nagyon hatásosak, felkeltik az emberek érdeklődését a tudományok, a technológia és más izgalmas szakterületek iránt. Akiben ott van a fogékonyság a PubMed színvonal iránt, az majd beiratkozik egy Coursera kurzusra. Továbbá ne lepődjön meg senki, ha egy Coursera videóban és tananyagban TED előadás linket talál, mert vannak elképesztően jó TED videók, melyek kiválóan használhatóak egyetemi szinten, egy-egy problémakör megvilágítására.

Ha tetszik a cikkem, kérlek, hogy nyomj egy “like”-ot és oszd meg a cikk linkjét a Facebook-on, a LinkedIn-en vagy a Twitter-en! Köszönöm, hogy elolvastad és megosztottad.

Érdekel a téma? Egy másik tematikus blogomon részletesen bemutatom a Coursera-t, kivételesen magyarul: http://mycourserablog.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/digitalis-optimizmus-tanulj-ingyen-ivy-league-szinten

Regina Saphier: TEDMED or Your Gut Feeling and Big Data

Regina Saphier: TEDMED or Your Gut Feeling and Big Data

It is time I posted something about TEDMED, even if (unfortunately) I have no access to live TEDMED events. I however still watch those post production videos on TEDMED and I sometimes post them on my facebook wall with my comments. So, here are two of those posts, their slightly edited and extended blog versions, with added articles for deeper knowledge of the topic at the end of my blog post.

As a young doctor Peter Attia blamed an obese woman with diabetes for her terrible condition (while giving her the best possible medical care he was able to provide). Later he who is knowledgeable, fit and eats right, learned that he too was insulin resistant. In fact there are millions of lean people who are insulin resistant, while also millions who are obese but have no trace of insulin resistance. Peter says that he is very sorry that he let his patient down as a human being and one can see that he is truly ashamed of his mistake. Right now Peter is exploring the possibility that obesity is perhaps not the cause of insulin resistance but rather the result of an underlying, yet undiscovered mechanism that is behind the complex metabolic syndrome that is related to diabetes, insulin resistance and obesity.

I am glad someone finally noticed that. A healthy body does not get fat. A healthy person does not want to sit on the couch all day. If you feel like sitting all the time, and if your diet is healthy and you are still packing it on, something happened to you that should be fixed. The same is true if you are thin, have a slow thyroid, still, no matter how much you eat, you can not put on weight. I suspect one direction to explore is how our microbiome is related to these issues. I am sure that people with metabolic syndrome have a similarly screwed up gut flora, or some other consistent disharmony in their microbiome. Peter could work well with Larry Smarr‘s big data approach.

My kind of hero: Larry Smarr used big data (he compared his medical data to many other people’s medical information, like their lab results and the composition of their gut flora), a supercomputer, genetics, and science to precisely diagnose the dramatic changes in his microbiome that are making him ill. He now knows that his CRP (a marker for inflammation) is high because of a slowly developing intestinal illness (not yet visible with a colonoscopy!), due to a mass extinction of good bacteria and an overgrowth of harmful components. Quantified self at its best, but medicine is not there yet. His out of balance microbiome composition is consistent with one particular illness that shows the same imbalance in other similarly ill people. So, now he knows what is wrong, he also knows that this is a key to the future of medicine, but the knowledge and the methods to treat his illness based on his scientific and extremely precise diagnosis are not in place yet… But I am telling you to watch this field! And watch this video to look into the future of medicine. Below I am also providing relevant articles and citations for further reading.

Update (December 21, 2013):

A very important talk by Jessica Richman of uBiome @ TEDMED 2013  (Thank you Jessica for sending me the link during our AngelList discussion!)

Could a citizen scientist win a Nobel Prize?

“Scott McCollum asks:

What are your thoughts on the gut microbiome and obesity? Where’s the current research at and where is it headed?

Attia responds:

The current body of evidence certainly suggests that the gut biome plays a role not only in obesity, but more importantly insulin resistance and metabolic dysregulation. Perhaps one of the most amazing clinical observations is the amelioration of diabetes in patients undergoing gastric bypass prior to losing any weight post surgery. This at least suggests that the weight loss per se is not the issue in type two diabetes. Rather, something in the gastric bypass may be altering flora in the gut, which may in fact be altering the underlying insulin resistance. The most interesting question form my vantage point is this: Can the benefit of gastric bypass on the insulin resistant patient be achieved through a dietary intervention that also interrupts the gut biome? Stay tuned.”

“We’ve known for a few years that obese mice transplanted with the intestinal community of lean mice lose weight and vice versa. (We don’t know why.) A similar experiment was performed recently on humans by researchers in the Netherlands: when the contents of a lean donor’s microbiota were transferred to the guts of male patients with metabolic syndrome, the researchers found striking improvements in the recipients’ sensitivity to insulin, an important marker for metabolic health. Somehow, the gut microbes were influencing the patients’ metabolisms.” (By MICHAEL POLLAN, Published: May 15, 2013)

Regina Saphier: The United States of China

Regina Saphier: The United States of China

I had my personal opinion, but I did not know that I had anything to say about China until I got an e-mail from Eric X. Li thanking me for my thoughtful writeup of his talk at TED Global 2013. That was the second when I realized that I need to say more, because my quick summary projected the impression that I agree with him. Well, mostly I don’t. I am able to see that he is a talented individual and I think it is true that new leadership models need to be introduced in the world, but I strongly disagree when it comes to the Chinese leadership model, as the right solution for China. Below I explain why. Hereby I present my critical, comparative essay in response to Eric X. Li‘s TED Global 2013 talk (talk published on July 1, 2013). He is an investor from Shanghai and a political scientist, also the Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

Going from communism to capitalism, from groups to individualism… to understand the rotten political narratives of societies we need people like Eric with personal historic and political perspective and analytical insight. According to Eric democracy was also sold to nations as was communism, but China did not buy it this time (not that it is in any way perfect, he added)… China did not go from communism to capitalism, rather created a hybrid system that works in many ways for them and meta narratives are the Cancer that are killing democracies around the world, Eric told us. In his opinion this global meta narrative is boring, that all nations should become democratic. In my opinion witnessing a dictatorship redressing itself is what is boring. It is also just plain sad to see a western educated young man tell the world to promote pluralism and at the same time promoting the tragic fact that pluralism is forbidden in China. Eric! Face it: there is nothing exceptional about Hungarians, nothing exceptional about Americans, and nothing exceptional about Chines people. We are all from Earth. We were all born on Earth. Your economy has powerful spillover effects, for example Hungary’s textile industry is dead. Your pollution is all over the planet. I have seen people like you being enthusiastic about a dictatorship and 40 years later those people try to make people forget what they did, what they supported, what they were saying. 40 years from now your split narrative will be all over the web. Your old self might one day regret the words you repeated again and again today.

Let me add: It is interesting if you compare this with the narrative of a journalist, that Hungary is the Cancer in the EU… Perhaps the EU uses the wrong narrative? Some people in the EU do that, definitely. Also, never generalize. Hungary is full of people who do not agree with the state of things in Hungary and never voted for this government. If the EU can not push the government out of office, with all that international political and economic power, how do you expect the exhausted, severely traumatized citizens of Hungary to do the same? Let plurality of governing styles change the global, social, economic and political narratives. BUT:

In my humble opinion, China’s present leadership is not sustainable as it is in the long run. I come from a thankfully collapsed similar regime (meaning I grew up in Hungary) that attempted to make its citizens “happy” (politically speaking: making sure those people didn’t complain and accepted the state of things… for many people pretending was survival, and many others did not even know that there was anything else, that there were other choices). Among other things that system resulted in the collapse and in huge debt. What I however also see is that Hungary’s right wing nationalist government is now looking at China as a role model… and at Russia… Autocratic government… with 2/3 of the parliament and no inhibitions: happily draining EU money for their string pulling mini oligarchs (the local kleptocracy). Terribly worrisome. At the same time the so called old democracies are unable to handle this new EU member state called Hungary, and those “old” democracies (EU and US equally) are also struggling with huge problems of their own (like joblessness, and technology making more and more people jobless). Meanwhile African nations are more and more looking at China (a capitalist dictatorship where slavery-like conditions are still the norm) instead of the US (a federal presidential constitutional republic, a representative democracy)… Clearly the US has much more GDP per capita and much more per capita income, but China is growing fast economically, while suppressing individual interests in China and building infrastructure in Africa. And the average person in China and in Africa is more interested in having a road, as opposed to having a vote… and having both appears to be an unattainable dream to them.

Corruption Perceptions Index

Corruption Perceptions Index

What is bizarre is that China is regarded as the key economy in the world today, but when you look at the numbers, the US is a developed nation with a strong GDP and GNI per capita per year (despite their democracy), similar to Sweden. Their GNI per capita is around 50,000 USD (note: there is income inequality so remember, this is only an average number, many earn much less, and some earn much more). China on the other hand is only a developing country still below the 6,000 USD per capita income per year level (above which a country is able to sustain democracy indefinitely, according to Dambisa Moyo‘s TED Global 2013 talk… another PR talk supporting China’s activities in Africa… interestingly she did not take any questions after her talk…). And Hungary is above the 12,000 USD margin so it is regarded as a developed country, but come on… democracy in Hungary is fading already (so perhaps Hungary’s budget and statistics are also questionable)… and Greece had twice that per capita income (over 24,000 USD) and it was just removed from the list of developed countries (the birth place of democracy with an imaginary budget)… Nothing that appears to be true based on old school economics is really true.  This is where we agree with Eric: New thinking is required.

However, keeping an open mind about how nations govern themselves does not mean that I would accept Orbán’s attempt to return to the rotten communist populism that Orbán himself (supposedly) hated and publicly protested against as a young democrat and that era was represented by Kádár, the authoritarian “happy-maker” of Hungary before 1989. When the so called “system change” happened, I was a teenager and the first thing I did, I went to Austria to learn German. The twenty something years that passed since were really traumatic on many levels and I don’t want to go backwards in time. At the same time the present situation in Hungary is not a sustainable one. Not politically, not economically and not in social terms. Low pay, high cost of living, enormous bureaucracy, political impotence and arrogance, manipulated state media (not as bad as in China… yet…), corruption, stagnating economy, plus mostly exhausted citizens. The open minded, constructive and independently thinking elite and the middle class is missing…

Meanwhile in Denmark: very low corruption, very high income, high levels of education and health care, low CO2 emission, long and increasing life expectancy. “The Kingdom of Denmark is a unitary constitutional monarchy, organized in a parliamentary democracy.” So, if Eric X. Li is telling us that the western world should look for some other ways instead of the way of democracy, I am asking EXL to consider this: China should urgently look for a way that permits plurality in a huge country with lots of regional diversity instead of the forced centralized dictatorship. Because perhaps there are hidden possibilities for Denmark-like regions in China, but right now you are forcing them too to look like Hungary… Just think about that… I suggest you adopt your own suggestions for your own country before you go out and tell the world how to progress. I suggest when you soon reach the 6,000 USD GNI per capita per year goal (above which China could indefinitely maintain democracy and democracies) you name your country “The United States of China” after turning all the autonomous regions and provinces into independent countries. (If that does not happen soon, some people definitely are artificially holding onto a questionable amount of power…)  Of course with all that growth and development in China, you will be able to be creative and invent the most marvelous technologically supported democracy where everything works like a dream. Right? Well, that is when I will look at China and say: the Chinese system might become the most superior one. How about that? When that happens and you become known as the investor from the USC, people of The West might be more likely to listen to your narrative. But as of today you come from China the land of modern day slavery and oppression (don’t you try to tell me that your polls are reflective of the truth, I know what dictatorships are doing to look good). Look forward, instead of looking backward.

Note: I just discovered thanks to WordPress’s “Recommended Links” that indeed I am not the first one to suggest a United States of China. Very interesting to immediately know that my idea is valid. And perhaps now is the time for the USC to be created. If China’s leaders are as effective as you say, we could celebrate a USC by 2020.

James O’Toole: Leading Change

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Finally, let me quote James O’Toole from a book that I read over ten years ago while studying among other things the subject of Leadership at Columbia University in New York. (O’Toole: Leading Change: Overcoming the Ideology of Comfort and the Tyranny of Custom, p. 10-12): “Clearly, the leadership of change does not depend on circumstances: it depends on the attitudes, values, and actions of leaders.” … “To be effective, leaders must change their attitude about followers forever and under all conditions. Moral leadership, by definition, can not be situational or contingent. The reason is simple: if ever leaders revert to paternalistic behavior…, in doing so they will break trust with followers.” From 1994-1997 James O’Toole was Executive Vice President of the Aspen Institute, where you Eric X. Li are the Henry Crown Fellow.

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Written by Regina Saphier, June 18, 2013 (mytedblog.wordpress.com)

This entry was updated on June 20, 2013

New GNI data for 2012 added on July 10, 2013.

Additional data reported in the Hungarian media on July 09, 2013: The World Bank GNIPC in 2012 for Hungary is 12,390 USD. Most of the regional economies are doing significantly better, while Hungary is obviously going down. Here are the numbers between 2008 and 2011: 12,890 USD, 12,980 USD, 12,860 USD,12,730 USD. Here is what I wrote about this in January of 2013 on My Coursera Blog: “I am not pretending to know enough about developing countries, but in a way I feel that even though Hungary is regarded as a developed country, we have many issues that are similar to developing nations. In fact I strongly believe that statistics are powerfully distorted, because living standards are very different within Hungary, and it still feels like a developing nation.” Before we joined the EU Hungary was forced into pretending that it fits the EU. Well, even before I graduated from Columbia, I warned that Hungary is not ready for the EU, and that even EU officials are willfully blind to this fact. However, nobody was listening to a graduate student, obviously…

Eric X. Li’s TED Global 2013 talk was published on July 1, 2013

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Regina Saphier: The Wurman Project

When I wrote my last blog post discussing Mr. Wurman’s latest plans for a new kind of conference I did actually think in the back of my mind that he might just read it. So, it was not surprising that he in fact sent me a note via facebook very soon after I published my previous blog note. I was rather surprised by my intuition (even after so many intuitive events, you just never get used to knowing what might happen in your extended reality).

Meanwhile, I also thanked “my” government for having the stupid idea of possibly registering Hungarian bloggers. I never used a pseudonym on any of my blogs, I like to stand up for my opinion, but the idea that I would have to register my blog (that I started on a Hungarian server years ago) made me angry and I quickly moved my blog to wordpress in 2011 (I also changed my topic, instead of criticizing Hungary’s so called elite and writing critical essays, I started to focus on TED, mainly the major TED conferences). While all “freebloggers” in Hungary look like they do not exist in the world, when you have a WordPress blog, your global visibility changes (plus there is Facebook, if you have no blog but have an opinion). So, this is why I think that our government kind of scored an own goal, because the migration of Hungarian intellectuals from local servers to global ones made them really visible and that lead to even stronger international criticism. I like that. I think moving my blog abroad (to the US), changing the topic (to TED) and the language (to English) was the best idea (earlier I wrote in Hungarian and in English and about many different topics). I now have a global readership in English (earlier I had an international readership, mostly Hungarians knowing me due to my civic advocacy and media appearances).

But back to the Wurman Project.  I must tell you this: Richard Saul Wurman congratulated me and wrote that my blog is accurate. :-) After RSW expressed that he wishes to talk about my blog we got in touch via skype/phone. When the chat was over, I wrote this on my facebook wall: “I had a long phone chat with Richard Saul Wurman, father of TED, and I am happy. :-) Will be writing about the conversation on myTEDblog as soon as my blog note is completed. Do you know the feeling when a brilliant person e-mails you that he likes your blog (about the very phenomenon that his mind created) and wants to update you regarding some nuances? I have that feeling. :-)”

I am not the kind of person who idolizes people, but I am very enthusiastic about people who work with good ideas and are pleasantly crazy (I know it looks better from a distance, having that kind of crazy in my genes). He passed my crazy test, so to say. While we talk, I realize that I have an easy situation because he is in many ways like my talented father, so I feel like I have read the “manual”, but Richard is much more cooperative. I have no problem imagining his circumstances and the area he is living in, because I have been to Rhode Island (RI) and Newport, several times…

First, when I was 9, my father took my mother and me to visit his sister, who lived right next door to the Nayatt Point Lighthouse, in Barrington, Rhode Island. I had my first fresh oyster in Newport at age 9 (I did not know at that point that the second huge portion of memorable oysters is waiting for me in Paris, when the twenty something version of me gets invited by a Japanese friend… whom I met a few months earlier in Villefranche-sur-Mer… delicious lunch with a marvelous host in a wonderful Parisian restaurant… fond memories). 1981 was a major year in my life … my first time in the US (and my first time outside of Hungary)… two months on the East Coast, plus Canada… The second time in RI: when I studied at Columbia. The third time in RI: when I visited my childhood friend. I lived in New York for a while as a student, therefore I understand the Wurman couple’s decision that they moved to Rhode Island, and I also see why they would still feel isolated. There is a reason why their home turned into a “time and space gate” in the middle of boring and posh Newport. Just look at the garden… as if space aliens have landed several times on those circles that Richard appears to leave everywhere… like the red carpet on the TED stage… even if the carpet is not his design idea (it could be), it somehow reminds me of The Creator.

Richard has no problem with criticism, he goes ahead and criticizes himself, if you don’t. But if you do, he says that you are right, and explains how right you are. He welcomes opinion and he has his own too. He likes to say that he is rich enough, while he failed at many many things, and yes he is elitist, but it is all about the quality of ideas, and yes he is arrogant as many people keep saying, he says, but he is not taking himself too seriously. He apologizes for not being fluent as a skype user at 77. I keep expressing that humanity will probably forgive a talented man at 77 for not being a daily skype user. He is a completely approachable human by the way… so, I immediately start to run my diagnostic mental scan, and I see my inner list: AD(H)D, mild Asperger’s with high verbal aptitude, and some learning differences. But don’t take my diagnosis too seriously, because I think those terms will very soon be outdated when fMRIs and similar devices will become commonplace. Paper and pencil tests and psychologists magically giving you eclectic cocktails of DSM numbers will be a joke to look back on.

We speak about the TED story, that Chris Anderson banned Richard from the TED conferences after RSW announced that “TED is the greatest twentieth century conference”. Richard speaks highly of Chris’s achievements, but says that he feels it was really unnecessary and disrespectful to lock him out. Finally, we agree that as he put it, this is “a cock-fight”, and he is really tired of such things at his age.

In this video, Chris Anderson promises many things in 2002, as he takes over TED, the for profit creation of Richard Saul Wurman. Chris says, he is going to be “the custodian” of the conference. He refers to the Sapling Foundation, because the TED conference was turned into a non profit project under Chris’s leadership. Chris also mentions the global power the TEDsters in the room have… but little did Chris know about the possible global power of TED as an online phenomenon in the future we today live in. Now, that Chris banned Richard for his remark that TED is the greatest conference of the twentieth century, I have to say, I would not have banned Richard for his remarks, because he is probably talking about his own era. Truth is, for us, who witness the latest TED, even as the TED team is struggling with their own humanness and content, style and structure issues, for us who view these talks live online, it is a twenty first century conference in the making. But I noticed one major thing… when you look at the videos before the takeover, there is this sense of intimacy that I no longer feel in the new era… I think it would be a good idea to try to bring back that kind of intimate atmosphere in at least some of the TED conference sessions.

Richard told me, that he is “no do-gooder”… but man, you have no idea how much good you did with your “hummingbird mind” when you created the TED conference and when you decided to let go of it at the right time. In my humble opinion, the father of TED and the custodian of TED should: get a mediator, work out your differences, and revisit the topic of TED as a global human connector, educator and entertainer online, combined with the latest technologies, tools and possibilities. If Richard is able to admit that he was wrong about the TEDx events and in fact those events turned out to be wonderful, who knows perhaps Chris is able to admit that he was wrong about uninviting Richard from TED (and stop telling people not to fund his new conference).

But, if that is not an option, lets see what RSW is planning behind the scenes of The WWW Conference. TED was about short talks, WWW is about indulging in conversation (about one word titles that start with W) as long as Richard is able to pay attention. Nothing egocentric about that… Right? But the thing is, small egos never created anything singlehandedly in human history. Richard is not about pleasing the audience, he celebrates spontaneity and he feels blessed doing whatever he wants to do “since his mother gave him permission to cross the street by himself at the age of 11″. The sessions will be streamed to several locations (just like TEDMED), translated into 10-12 major languages and there will be B&W subtitles, plus an app with extra content. There is nothing yet that the TED conference could not do for you, because you know that Chris could interview people at any time… but here is a major difference: Flipboard and the synergy of information about the WWW guests and topics. There won’t be any press for the first conference but what about people who might live blog like me? I learn that there is no paid WWW conference team, that Richard is alone (as he was alone initially with TED and look what happened). So, if you wish to join Richard (who says that ignorance is his expertise, because he is aware of his ignorance) and help him build the new kind of synergistic mind meeting, just say so! The WWW Conference is still in the making!

Where the circles live, close to the Ocean:

The Wurman Home on Google Maps

The Wurman Home on Google Maps: https://maps.google.com/

After I congratulated upon his weight loss, I learn that his health is good. He also told me that his wife is not Hungarian, but rather she used to be married to a Hungarian man, and that Gloria and Richard have been to Hungary in 1990, right before our first free election. At the end of our conversation Richard offers me his books via mail and promises to give me a free web stream of The WWW Conference as (and if) it happens. I am able to see that he is promising facts and fiction, but lets hope the fiction becomes reality too.

I don’t know about you, but I like Richard Saul Wurman.

A relevant article in Hungarian from my old and eclectic blog:

http://kiblogozom.freeblog.hu/archives/2011/01/13/Prezi__TED/

Regina Saphier: The United States of China (Part 2)

Regina Saphier: The United States of China (Part 2)

 

After Eric X. Li’s TED talk was published, My TED Blog views hit an all time high globally, especially in the US. In addition, a few days after the talk was published, Richard Saul Wurman (the creator of TED) was kind enough to repeatedly post my blog link on his facebook wall and I wrote some extra material in response to two comments by his friends. Here are my comment responses, edited for my blog (remember, these paragraphs below were written by me in response to two comments, so some parts might appear to be out of place, but I did not want to fragment the text by removing those bits):

My comment response #1.: In part I wrote my essay because I noticed the enthusiastically applauding TED audience after EXL’s talk live and I realized that probably not many there witnessed the collapse of a dictatorship from the inside (especially not the collapse of an enormous system of multiple dictatorships under a mega oppressor in the form of the USSR) and not many at TED Global experienced the painful, deep and long lasting social and economic scars such a pathologically delusional system leaves behind. (Even most of those people living in these former socialist and communist countries don’t realize the trauma, the massive PTSD, because of the lack of cultural comparison and due to lack of information.) Hungary (a former “Satellite State”) and the “Eastern Bloc” countries still, after twenty years struggle with those unresolved issues and those issues are not going to be over for a long time.

Of course you should question anything that comes out of China in the suspiciously eloquent form of a propaganda talk or in the form of a superhumanly optimistic survey analysis of growing wellbeing in a developing country. (More in my next comment below.)

My comment response #2.: Anyone can show enormous growth at that scale with really low cost of labor when not having any regard for nature and individual needs, when the only target is growth. However, it is not a sustainable rate of growth, not a sustainable way of development in China. Imagine the income inequality that characterizes less than 6 000 USD GNI per year per capita among over a billion citizens, especially if you consider that the US is criticized for the shocking income inequality in the 50 000 USD GNI per year per capita range among “only” a few hundred million citizens. Are you able to grasp the difference in terms of quality of life? The two systems are not to be compared. One is a developed and established economy, the other is a fragile developing country. Still, both can be criticized endlessly in their own leagues. China at this point is a huge bubble waiting to burst. Naturally: larger, more established and more sustainable economies can not grow at China’s rate. Plus: don’t forget the economic casualties in other countries, the lost jobs, the lost income, the lost social status, the poverty that was created (among other things) by the unfair competition at irrationally low labor costs in China and by the insane target of forever growing consumption globally. In addition, imagine what is going to happen to the Chinese labor force when AI technology makes them completely obsolete in the future. The World is one interdependent system and China’s government has no regard for that, while other countries are also only learning to understand what all this means. If you look at this complex image and if you have some insight and even the ability to maintain the outsider position, it is surreal how EXL was able to lead the attending, highly educated, intellectually and financially influential TED audience by their noses. On top of this EXL also believes what he says. To me he is just another believer in the wrong thing because it appears to work for him. He is a skilled conformist. In a way he is the “other” you should take to lunch to have a conversation about differences in world views. But can you have an open and real dialog with someone who does not believe in freedom for his own countryman?

My comment response #2 continued: Before 1989 I could not travel freely. It was really hard and complicated to get out of Hungary (I could only travel to the US in 1981 as a child with my parents because my father’s sister lived there and she invited us… and because the Hungarian authoritarian regime, on the western edge of the “Eastern Bloc” started to slowly fall apart and a few years later it disintegrated completely, along with the rest of the sick system). After 1989 I was able to attend French school in Villefrance-sur-Mer for example in the nineties, on the hill, right behind you on your facebook profile picture (I recognized the view immediately when I looked at your profile). Later, when I did not have to use a passport on the border traveling from Hungary to Austria… well, I will never forget this new feeling of being a citizen of the EU. Since joining the EU in 2004, Hungary is going downhill economically, but this is not caused by the EU membership. It is caused by the “post-system change syndrome” or “PSCS” as I call it (before and after 1989: people faced very different expectations, but the people on the cellular level and so their attitudes remained the same). Leaders of old EU member states don’t recognize the need to help nations with this national PTSD. If you think about it, an individual with PTSD needs help and can not be forced to perform like people without PTSD. An individual with PTSD is also highly likely to pass on genetic susceptibility to PTSD to the fetus, this is scientific fact since 9/11. Imagine that on a national scale after decades of trauma! This in my humble opinion is a huge problem. Decades of social, psychological and so physiological and in turn biological trauma revealing itself today, and preventing adequate present day adaptation and development on a national scale. Hungarians were part of a closed and planned, surreal “1984” kind of system until 1989. Even most of their children don’t possess the appropriate skills today to navigate the high waves of an open market in the middle of a global economic crisis and during an era of transition in so many arenas of an increasingly globalized, online and mobile life.

When the Hungarian government now turns east, it is because the turning west did not work out for the political “elite” here. It is due to lack of appropriate communications and understanding between the western and the eastern elites, but not the way EXL wants you to believe. Just look at citizens in Germany, so close to each other (not apart like the US and China). People in the eastern part are very different from the people in western Germany. Decades of epigenetic changes due to a long era of suffering, fear, stress, anxiety and lack of resources and lack of freedom don’t disappear from one day to the other. At least two generations have to go before people in Germany start to look similar and indistinguishable again. I am not saying that people in the US and in China must be similar, diversity is important, but in fact many people in China are more and more americanized already and perhaps this is not what those people need.

When I look at my blog statistics, I see the map of the world… I see readers from everywhere. Views of My TED Blog went up by +9,012.50% last week after people watched Li’s talks and read my critical post. Still, there were no readers from China (for obvious reasons). I want that to change.

Dictatorships not only brainwash and isolate people, they also distort people on the cellular level for generations. That is a crime against humanity. Outsiders and even privileged insiders usually “somehow” fail to see that. Change makers in these countries are mostly regarded as strange and are powerfully hindered by the conformist masses and by the rotten status quo even after the dictators are long gone. Anyone who understands this should advocate for appropriate social and political change in China, but not necessarily for the kind that was made in America.

And if you would like to understand how Americans were brainwashed into consumerism during the last century (and at the same time into paradoxical impulse suppression) watch the fantastic BBC documentary: “The Century of the Self“. I wrote about this brilliant documentary in 2009 (in Hungarian, on my first blog). This kind of PR based consumer brainwashing is already happening in China. It also happened in Hungary and it did a lot of harm.

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Regina Saphier TED Global 2013 Day 4

I love this image! Michale Sandel, Harvard Philosopher is so much of a star in South Korea (his online Harvard lectures were translated into Korean), that he was invited there to kick off a major sporting event. This is our future! Brilliant intellectuals as stars and role models with integrity. I am fine with that.

The star philosopher, Michael Sandel in South Korea, as an opening attraction at a sporting event!

Friday, June 14, 2013

My blog dilemma is related to the fact that people are reading both my TED and my Coursera blogs from all over the world, that I can see from the stats, and some people even write to me, especially my Coursera readers, but I need more feedback to make sure my blogs are useful as they are. I mean I like to read the entire 4 days together after each TED event, it is nice to see it as a summarized and personalized stream of ideas… :-) However, due to its seasonality (2×4 days a year), following the two major TED events (for 4 years already), my new Coursera blog‘s readership is larger (after less than 1 year). Coursera that was one year old recently is regularly a hot topic in the media internationally, while TED is not so much… Of course at this point I am thinking: TED becoming 30 next year might cause the media to pay more attention to TED again. I like to write both blogs, but their exposure is different. It is why I am thinking about their future. And it just hit me, during the last 4 years I spent over a month of my life writing about the major TED conferences voluntarily (2x4x4=32 days all together). Until now, I spent half that time on my Coursera blogs, when I only regard the writing days (of course I also need to do research). So, my Coursera blog requires less writing time and gains more exposure on its own. (If I add my TED talk translations in the past, that is in fact a lot of valuable time, so I need to think hard how I allocate my time in the future. There is so much to write about, but I am only one person.)

Bruno opened in several languages (if I remember well, in French, Portuguese, Italian, German, Spanish and finally in English). I am sure he did that because Rives jokingly remarked yesterday that Bruno does not speak English. Not sure if Rives, who is a master of the English language could talk to us in half a dozen languages like Bruno does, so that intermezzo is now settled. I think it was rude of Rives, but I am sure Bruno’s joke that a speaker “stole” his book idea was no less questionable when it comes to being polite on stage while being watched by a global audience…

8:45 – 10:15am Session 11: Tech Impact

She spoke about social media’s protest capacity against the establishment and established beliefs.

Low cost computer for kids to learn coding.

Mr. EDx talking about MOOCs, like Coursera (Massive Open Online Courses). He is never mentioning Coursera, because that is their major competitor, leading the competition. The talk is more about “MOC”, “Massive Online Courses” (not Open) by schools giving degrees (like @ San Jose State University). A really successful and promising project. Licensing is an opportunity for EDx and Coursera equally. I think Coursera is more successful at this point, because their course diversity is huge, including the humanities. You can read more about Coursera and MOOCs on my other blog.

Storm Sandy revealed to her that the digital world is now a key part of our lives, as important as food and shelter. The “digital now” was immediately broken. Interesting to me, that she mentioned “Buda and Pest being divided by the Danube” (that she can find that out easily online now). :-) We live in a series of digital, virtual soap bubbles, and our time is artificially fragmented. Love is attention. Restore the flow of time and love. Take time back.

We need to be aware how technology is invading our privacy and learn to protect our data better. This is the time of big data, and we need to fight for privacy.

11:00 – 12:45pm Session 12: All Together Now

NGOs have the problem of scale. Business can create resources and achieve scale. Creating need at a profit. So, how do you use these profitable resources to solve social problems? Profit makes any project infinitely scalable, he says. Connecting social problems to businesses, based on shared values. Change how business sees itself, and change how others see business. I need more explanation Michael.

Not only can you pay for getting ahead in line, you can pay people to stand in line for you… Are we sure that this is good? Not really. He told the audience about an experiment, where kids were given 2 dollars for each book read to motivate them. It is however obvious to me that this does take away intrinsic motivation. Kids read more books, it turns out, but mainly shorter ones… and he did not say what happen after those kids did not get any more money… Without intrinsic motivation and without the financial incentive, why would those kids keep on reading? Anyway, buying your way ahead of the line is wrong… business should not be involved in everything. How do we want to live together? We need to define boundaries for business and people. Do you want to live in a society where you can get anything for money, or in one where things are important that money can not buy. Nice debate between the two speakers (Michael and Michael) after the two talks. I agree with Michael Sandel, markets should not overwhelm every realm of our lives.

When he was diagnosed with brain cancer he asked for an image of his cancer and could not get one initially! It is his own cancer! Finally, when he got it in a digital form, he could not open it, so needed to play with the data to make it visible. His own cancer! He started a website and open sourced his medical data to find a cure globally. I love this talk. He is fine now! :-)

Investigating (the often global) networks behind corruption. Oh, I wish she started investigating in Hungary at the highest levels! This is very dangerous for her and for the activists, but this is also very important.

He is talking about gratefulness. I know what he is trying to explain. I wish my grateful moments, that I call “the moments of my inner smile” would be continuous. Last night on my balcony between 1:30 and 2:00 am I was watching the stars and the satellites and I was grateful. I spotted 4 satellites within 30 minutes. I felt the night was beautiful and I was grateful for being alive and witnessing this particular night. I might have to move to a convent to sustain these states of my mind, because others are not living gratefully and are not stopping to live mindfully, as David is suggesting. But I hope more and more people will be. :-) I also hope I will be able to sustain those periods longer and longer to become a better person, also when I am with others. I am doing well on my own, in one on one situations. I need more time, as do so many of us. It is a process: making the world a better place by making yourself more grateful more often. :-)

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