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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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: 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 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

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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.