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


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.


Written by Regina Saphier, June 18, 2013 (

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 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. 🙂

Regina Saphier TED Global 2013 Day 3

Thursday, June 13, 2013

11:00 – 12:45pm Session 8: State of the Nations

The ideology of free individual choice is denying the massive social changes that have huge impact on our choices, freedoms and on individual lives in general. This leads to the feeling of failure on a massive scale by individuals (note: in turn a social influence in itself: you are surrounded by highly frustrated people). Paradoxically, in the age of abundant information, ignorance and denial is on the rise (I totally agree, I can see that in my own environment, and that again is a social influence, being surrounded by ignorant people when you seek out knowledge all the time and try to share it). Most people have passion for ignorance, not for knowledge, she says. People are living longer with ignorance…? It is what she stated, that research shows that people who seek out adequate health services live shorter… Why? Are you sure? Where is that research? Anyway, she decided not to take choices so seriously, because most of our choices are unconscious and irrational. She finished with: We have choices regarding the kinds of societies we want to live in… Not sure she managed to explain her point… So, do we have choices, or not? I think our individual choices are limited by our powerful, unacknowledged unconscious, by misleading social and personal narratives, and by ignorant and frustrated societies made of confused individuals (eg: researchers and TED speakers unable to make a coherent point on stage…).

  • Eric X. Li Investor and political scientist, Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute

I developed my notes of Eric X. Li’s talk into a full independent blog entry: The United States of China


Excellent speaker. She spoke about sexuality wrapped into religion and influencing politics in the Arab world. The sexual revolution is still ahead in the Arab world. She is advocating freedom of choice, open debate, the refusal of double standards for men and women, for a healthier social climate, and in fact for physically and emotionally healthier societies.

Economy, society and environment must be considered as a coherent system.

He says, majors usually know what they are doing, because they are from the neighborhood. Ours is not the world of states and borders, our world is cities plus border-less issues, like illness, war, education, transportation and international travel. Nation states are unable to solve global problems democratically. Democracy (from the Greek word “demos”…) was born in the ancient Greek “Poleis”. (But tell me, does democracy work? And stop telling me that there is nothing better yet, rather start creating what is better.) “Thank you so much my fellow citizens”, – were his last words on stage. Well, the right last word indeed… “citizens”… Democratic people of cities need to make their own policies… instead of being lost in rotten party political narratives of nation states. He made his point, most definitely.

2:15 – 4:00pm Session 9: Forces of Change

She is from Zambia. A highly educated and elegant woman with a “China will solve Africa’s problems” narrative. (No, it won’t.) Your democracy will only go on forever if the per capita income is above 6,000 USD, she told us. A new kind of economic system is needed for many countries. No middle class, no democracy. Keep an open mind, different countries need different solutions.

Historically all of the global regions are growing, including Africa. Every poor country is struggling with corruption. Well to do countries have little corruption. Charles told us, that there is huge growth and democratization going on in Africa and he also showed us his optimistic predictions.

Africa is the cradle of innovation that grew out of necessity and scarcity. At this point my internet stopped working… I had to wait, and I was thinking, this is such an interesting talk… I am going to have to review it from the Archive in a few hours. At the end of the talk my internet came back. Did you know, Toby asked us, that even humanity was created in Africa? I am wondering, will I see an era when it won’t matter where you are from? Will we ever talk about our origins like this?: “I am from Earth.” I am sure we will…

After the music, between the two talks a really funny video was shown! Africans collecting radiators for freezing people in Norway. 😉 Excellent, well executed mirror, with humor and music to show how some of these campaigns must feel to people in African countries… Because lets face it, Aid Campaigns are framed as if people in Africa were helpless children… in other words, these are patronizing projects. Stop this patronizing narrative and start dealing with the capable adult humans of Africa. (Because yes, it is cold up north, but Norway has a lot of oil… obviously no need for radiators from Africa. Right? The same way, yes, African countries are often poor, but there are many human and natural resources there, those need to be used in a smart ways for them to prosper, instead of sending aid.)

Well, when he told the story of the really old lady voting and having no clue who she voted for… he did say this as a positive story of the spirit there… but come on, she has no idea? What is the point of having the power to vote if you have no knowledge of what you are voting for? Should the right of voting not come with the obligation to know what the hell you are doing????

He was an orphan on his own as a teenager. He had to escape North Korea because he was starving. First he went to China and stayed in an underground shelter for NK refugees. Later, in the US his foster father shared his food with him, and this gesture motivated him to start studying really hard. At the end of his talk the host told him he could send a message to his sister and mother (in case they are somehow watching his TED talk) and he did speak to them but he was shaken so badly at this point, he could hardly speak. I felt like my heart was breaking apart, it was so painful to watch. I was crying and crying, I could feel how hard this was on him. I wish a better life for people in North Korea. This suffering must be stopped!

This just can not be solved from the inside. North Korea is held hostage by its own leaders, who rule with terror. The only inside job: the collapse of the ruling class. Until that happens, people will suffer. And international sanctions will only cause more suffering to those who already suffer (hunger, brainwashing, fear of the other, trauma, lack of valid information, isolation, enormous vulnerability). Other nations must be involved. Understand: those people are held hostage by their own people in a highly homogeneous society, artificially divided into the “trusted” and the “untrusted”. So, therefore diplomacy with a totalitarian regime looks like ongoing (apparently endless) hostage and crisis negotiation. This must be sustained. The exhausted hostages, millions of fellow human beings: need help.

5:00 – 6:45pm Session 10: Imagined Beauty

This was fun. 🙂

I love clouds! 🙂 I am too a cloud spotter. I am going to send Gavin some of my cloud photos later (perhaps).

How to get from the known to the unknown in your research… talking about the process, creatively… using improvisational theater. Changing the frozen culture of science. Telling scientists to stop being cold and rational, and start feeling, use improvisation, intuition, music and at this point he starts singing. So funny, I am actually laughing as I am writing this. 🙂

Instead of painting on canvas in 2D, she started painting on people in 3D and took photos of the outcome. Very interesting actually. I could feel that she enjoys the process very much.

Well, you have to listen to this. This is like explaining music…

Forgács András (with his obviously Hungarian name and MIT background) growing meat and leather, making both processes more cultured (no need to kill any animals in the future). I think this is a good idea for the leather… not yet convinced of the meat… can you make sure that the meat has the biological properties of healthy meat?

Hmm, he is actually a good singer and musician, uninhibited on stage and also entertaining. Interesting voice. This is the first time at this TED conference that I like the music.

Where do you come from? This is a very complicated question to answer today. More important however: Where are you going? This is a talk about the home being inside of you. I think he was talking about something I wrote about a few days ago on my facebook page: “After a really hard and long day (stressful due to the lack of sensitivity, empathy and humanity in the community), I walked out onto my balcony into the cool and dark evening to relax and contemplate, and suddenly I see the International Space Station silently flying by like a bright star from right to left, right in front of my home, high up in the sky. And this brought a smile onto my face. The ISS for me is the technological symbol of human introspection. Looking back on humanity. Looking back into yourself. Exploring the landscapes. (Regina Saphier, June 06, 2013, Budapest, Hungary)”

This blog entry was last updated on June 19, 2013.

Regina Saphier TED Global 2013 Day 2

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

8:45 – 10:15am Session 4: Money Talks

Living during the time of a new economic revolution, we need a new: New Deal! She spoke about the problem that the rich are getting richer and the middle class is going down really… The industrial revolution showed us what it means to change a system, and she listed the wars, systems changes and financial crisis that societies and people had to suffer through to get to an era when we are healthier, living longer, and even are taller because of better nutrition, etc. Meanwhile today is the era of the plutocrats who are in fact not creating enough jobs, but are really professional when it comes to tax optimization, and this is why a New Deal is imminent, because we are already in a second revolution (also related to technology) and one financial crisis is already ruining our lives. This topic also came up at the TED Long Beach event earlier this year and it is a very important one. Governments are already contemplating giving basic income to every citizen who is not able to obtain work, because 1. There are not enough jobs, 2. People become desperate in such situation in masses, 3. That means upheaval, fighting, attacks, wars… and that needs to be prevented… At the same time educated citizens need to work out a New Deal so that people are not only silenced, but also get to live a normal, sustainable life with dignity.

Modeling economic crisis and predicting them by looking at natural or systemic signs of crisis, like a birth, a land slide, or a rocket engine starting. Economic and market crisis can be predicted scientifically. Didier told us how. He also told us how his valid predictions were initially not taken seriously by so called market experts. “Gouverner, c’est prevoir”. Governing is about the ability of foresight. I wrote many years ago on another blog of mine that the Hungarian government was asleep while the economic crisis was approaching… I could not understand how that bunch of people could be called “government” when those idiots (we learned yesterday that political idiots are the ones acting alone without any coordination) had no foresight of something so visible that even I could see it coming and overwhelming Hungary. It was all over the international news that something was wrong with the markets internationally, it was clear it will reach us, yet the Hungarian “government” was surprised, and the opposition was no more skilled, made no predictions, suggested no protective measures. It was shocking to me.

She says a new, independent, transparent, self sustaining and nonprofit rating agency needs to be created and she is of course right. Rating agencies of today are intentionally distorting the international markets based on invisible background economic interests. This must change for more realistic valuation.

Where are the European Googles? She shows an image, on the left: Zuckerberg, the US, on the right: Kafka (bureaucracy), the EU. The public sector suffocates the EU, we know this slogan. However, most of the key technology in a smart phone was funded by DARPA and other government agencies in the US. Just think about that! So the EU needs to become a better government-like investor in order for the European Google to be created. Mariana is a pleasantly crazy smart speaker, I hope to see more of her at TED.

It is all about attention… a very skilled performer picking a spectator’s pocket on stage. Really entertaining. 🙂 However, I do not think the credit card was meant to fly off from the performer’s hand behind the subjects back… that was a mistake right there. But still a very funny performance that should make you think: What would you do if you could control people’s attention to that extent?

Introducing the social impact bond. Invest in social programs to prevent re-offending by criminals. Save money for governments this way, and finally investors get their money back when offenders don’t relapse and become working citizens (less prisons are needed). Win-win-win.13 social interest bond programs in the UK already. Flexibility is needed too for these to work. Public, private, social, civic, all need to be involved in a partnership to bring on social change this way.

11:00 – 12:45pm Session 5: Listening to Nature

Measuring biodiversity by measuring how it sounds. Knowing that birds are gone by playing the sounds that were recorded in a park year by year…

Mono-cultures and pesticides are killing bees. Bees are flying greater distances to find diverse flowers, are hungry and when they finally find pollen, it is full of toxic pesticide and this complex situation kills them. You can help! Plant local bee friendly flowers everywhere and do not use pesticides. Flowering weeds are also very important to bees.

Why malaria nets are not used inside malaria societies where malaria is viewed as a fact of life (and the nets are also uncomfortable). And in other more developed countries there is no malaria because of better and healthier infrastructure… So, we need a new malaria attitude against this otherwise amazingly resilient and interesting parasite. Nets are not the long term solution against malaria. So, why is Bill Gates shipping nets to those people? It is true that Europeans are also not wearing masks during the influenza season… even if it is a good idea, people just don’t like to do that…

Introducing the robotic cockroach… or the robo roach… for teaching purposes and for brain simulation.

Real time composition on the TED stage. (I assumed this is what improvisation was about.) I think it is an intuitive ambiance and introspection based composing style, real time, based on solid performance skills and practice. It is what I used to do whenever I set down at a piano when I was younger, with the tiny difference that I had no clue about piano playing. 😉 Yaron says he turns off his conscious mind and lets his unconscious play in flow.

Suzana is a smart primate on Earth eating cooked food. Like all of us humans. It is basically what she was saying. She counted that the human brain has 86 billion neurons and our primate specific brains need the energy in “predigested” or cooked food. Raw food eating primates have less neurons and smaller brains. So, what made us so smart is: cooking!

Chris announced that TED Global goes to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in October 2014! We already knew that TED Long Beach becomes TED Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada in 2014. For me it only means that there will be two major TED events to blog about in the evening and by night… (not during the morning and the afternoon, like now, during TED Global… the really hard ones were/are TED events on the west coast of the US and Canada… that means 9 hours of time difference and writing until the morning each time…).

Hilarious examples of sexual (anatomical and behavioral) diversity in the animal kingdom. Very good talk.

2:15 – 4:00pm Session 6: World on Its Head

Talked about the crisis of institutions and how disadvantaged groups need to learn the code of these institutions to be able to successfully fight back for their own wellbeing.

She introduced us to the Babushkas (senior ladies who refused to move) still living in the dead zone of Chernobyl in Ukraine.

Telling us about the development of Latin America.

We learn about the Middle Eastern conflicts.

Making political art. Being critical about politics.

Humanizing Muhammad.

  • May El-Khalil Founder of the Beirut Marathon

    May El-Khalil

    May El-Khalil (TED Global 2013)

Peacemaking is a marathon… May told her story of training as an athlete, being hit by a bus, having had 36 surgeries to be able to walk again and meanwhile organizing the Beirut Marathon to unite people of her nation and to create leaders for the future.

5:00 – 6:45pm Session 7: Regeneration

Growing bone tissue in vivo (within the human body) and also using her special technique to regenerate heart tissue.

Regenerating the damaged brain. The brain has its own regenerative capacity even in MS (we see images about this). There are stem cells that are responsible for those slow and minor regenerative processes. This slow process needs to be promoted to make it more efficient. Healing and drug discovery… using brain stem cells of the patient.

  • Grégoire Courtine Spinal cord researcher

    Grégoire Courtine Spinal cord researcher

    Grégoire Courtine Spinal cord researcher (TED 2013)

On his way to heal spinal cord injury in people. He can do it in rats already. And he is sexy with this cute French accent in English. Especially like his upper lips. 😉 I love that he showed his team too and told us it was a community effort and he is “only” the maestro. (Still I am sorry for the rats…)

Introducing the Nanopatch for safer and pain free vaccination. Because it injects into the right skin surface (we see a brilliant microscopic image of the skin with the Nanopatch in it), the immune response is much better at much lower doses. Also, the vaccines used in the Nanopatch are dry, so no need for refrigeration.

Taking pictures of sound waves, magnetic fluids and burning whiskey in a bottle. Not exactly sure how this last talk fits in with this mega powerful session of game changing scientists. Nice images, but not scientific enough… so I take it as art. But for art it was not as powerful… Still an amazing session it was!

Bruno tells us: TEDx-ers are watching online from 53 countries. A truly global event.

Three brothers playing the same instrument at the same time… looks a bit bizarre on the TED stage… I mean, it really looks like a “foursome”… if you know what I mean… 😉


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Regina Saphier TED Global 2013 Day 1

Natasha Bedingfield


I am as usual in Hungary, more specifically in Budapest, and watching TED Global 2013 plus live blogging about it. Meanwhile in my district in Buda we have major flooding along the Danube, we also had several powerful storms like the one yesterday, we had two earthquakes during the last two months between 4.2 and 4.8, and Hungary is struggling economically (also in social terms and professionals are leaving by the thousands to find jobs abroad). My life too was full of hardship for the last few years. TED conferences gave me perspective, hope and intellectual resources. It was at a TED conference last year that I discovered Coursera and started another blog about it. Next year I am probably going to phase out my TED live conference blog after we celebrate 30 years of TED in 2014, and I am going to focus more on Coursera. I am still thinking about the future of my blogging… Let me know if you would like me to continue both blogs. By now I have solid experience in global blogging in English (as opposed to more limited local blogging in Hungarian) and I am thinking about new blog topics…

Coursera was anyway what I was really looking for in the first place when I stumbled upon TED many years ago… I had something to watch until Coursera finally manifested itself… Thank you Richard! Thank you Chris! Thank you TED speakers!

Lets see what is happening at TED Global this year. These are Edinburgh, Scotland times below, please look up your own local time relative to the program.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

11:00 – 12:45pm Session 1: Moments of Truth

Generally I detest when politicians speak at TED. Still, this appeared to be a humble talk about democracy in crisis internationally. There was even some review of democracy’s history. Papandreou envisions the EU as a citizens’ “Agora”. Give immigrants a European citizenship, he says. Lets not be “Idiots” standing on our own, lets examine our issues together.

Talked about the sustainability strategy of IKEA and other major corporations.

He asked during his passionate talk: Why shouldn’t we all have a Serengeti on our doorsteps? Well, I am thinking: I am ok with the lions in Africa… And yes, whales are important for the existence of planktons… not only the other way round… but as the speaker himself pointed out: who are we to decide what kinds of animals get to live in our neighborhoods… Why would I want to let him decide?

From a land where driving a car by a woman is punished by direct harassment to her family… It happened to her, she was sent to jail, therefore she became an activist for the right to drive. Saudi Arabia was the last place where women could not drive and were punished for even attempting to drive once. It turns our, there was no law, this was some unwritten custom. There was her land and there was the rest of the world. She succeeded because others joined her protest and women are now driving in Saudi Arabia.

Saying no to the old school feminist narrative of putting your job first. Bread-winning and care-giving are equally important and governments should invest in both like Sweden and Norway does. Make care-giving cool for men. She is basically talking about humanizing society, accepting differences, and let people be who they want to be, the way they want to live. Finally she pointed out that she grew up in a time when her parents were smoking, and when racial segregation was the norm. She pointed out that change is happening, but how fast, that depends on us.

2:15 – 4:00pm Session 2: Those Flying Things

Amazing demo of drones in flight indoors. Balancing a glass of water in the air by a drone? No problem.

Explaining the flexibility of conservation drones. Low cost tools to survey huge areas.

Using drones in logistics. Getting supplies, like medication to areas that are unreachable on roads. The cost is low, the speed is high. The beginning of a new paradigm in transportation? (Get your sushi by a drone in no time and make all delivery people jobless…hmm…? I always have this dilemma…) Engage in social fiction to make it happen: lift people out of poverty… (but do it so that you do not push others into poverty).

Weaponized drones are still controlled by humans but human control for them to work as tools of killing: no longer a technical requirement. Autonomous operation is part of them. The capability is there already. Drones today are able to make the decision to kill a human on their own! Is this the future we want? Robots killing people? Pushing responsibility away from humans…? Anonymous war? Will you know your enemy? How can you protect yourself from such faceless attackers hiding behind robotic weapons…? Advanced nations are data driven and opinion leaders are easily identified by their data and social network usage. Easy targets. This could suffocate free speech. We need a treaty on robotic weapons. No robot privacy in public places!

3D panorama imaging demonstrated by one of my favorite TED speakers, Blaise (such a nice man). As you walk your camera takes photos and stitches them into a flow of images.

Looking at  the forest and landscapes with bio sensors from the air. Greg shows us how he is able to deeply analyze the forest with his spectrometer, showing the biodiversity, living and dead trees, their growth rate, the impact of animals and human activity (like illegal gold-mining). Brilliant technology.

5:00 – 6:45pm Session 3: Exquisite Enigmatic Us

Sleep is vital! The quality of your sleep impacts your mental health.

Our minds are able to mislead us when it comes to memories. Memories can even be artificially planted into human minds.

Mixing culture, language and media heroes.

Speaking to us about the brain’s thermostat when it comes to weight gain or weight loss. It feels like Sandra experienced a lot of trauma and her anxiety level is very high to tolerate the stress of the TED stage. Remember, have compassion, do not judge, rather ask: What happened to her? And in her TED talk she talks about that… I feel how she is struggling. It took her a lot of courage to go on stage and speak about eating, culture, mind, body and anxiety.

Excellent speaker, just like Jane, her twin sister, who is now a regular TED speaker. Still, I am not entirely convinced Kelly… I think all this sounded way too idealistic: you now believe (after believing the opposite for 10 years) that stress is making us stronger… you are less likely to pass away from stress related causes and are more likely to become successful at the task that is stressful, if you think stress helps you do what you do. Why am I not convinced?

Kelly McGonigal

She told us, if you believe stress is bad for you, your blood vessels contract during stressful events, while if you believe that stress is good for you, your blood vessels relax. This could be, yes, but what if you were traumatized in the past, and no matter what you think, your blood vessels just keep contracting due to neurological or genetic damage? Also, she stated that while financial stress raises your risk factor by some 30%, taking care of someone removes that risk… due to the wonderful impact of a famous stress hormone: oxytocin. This contradicts Christakis’s findings regarding care taking, networks and stress (often killing the caretaker and stressing out friends and family in your network), and also contradicts the Columbia U. research regarding higher status and stress… the higher your status the better you handle stress… So, this new finding of yours needs more examination, perhaps another 10 years.

Still, I am sure what you think of stress and what your attitude is like, that does impact your body via your mind, definitely.

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