Regina Saphier: The Wurman Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where the circles live, close to the Ocean:

The Wurman Home on Google Maps

The Wurman Home on Google Maps:

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

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

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

Regina Saphier TED Long Beach 2011 Day 2

TED photo stream slide show (opens in new window) Day 2

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

8:30 AM – 10:15 AM Session 4: Deep Mystery

At the beginning I spent over 60 minutes trying to figure out why TED live stream chat has not been working at all since yesterday… not at all while watching yesterday’s sessions, and working a bit today, but I could not post. After nothing helped in Mozilla, I went to Chrome… We exchange e-mails with the always helpful TED associates representative: Anjali. After about 12 e-mails she forwards my complaint to the TED tech team… after I ask: “Is it possible that the new TED profile integrated chat has a selective problem that they don’t know about yet?” We try many things, nothing helps… I never had such problems in the past, or if there was a problem, it was always on the TED tech side… (and as it turned out at the next conference, it was…)

What is consciousness? He explains his theory that human self is created by a cooperation between the cortex, the brain stem, and the body map (the body is represented by an acquired map in the brain). We create our brain maps of our bodies as we develop and use that inner map as a reference for all other maps. We learn that there are three levels of self: proto, core and autobiographical self. Animals usually have the first two, but you and even your dog, you both have the latter. The more developed the cortex, the richer the experience of the self and the more conscious and creative the creature, but according to him the cortex is not sufficient to explain the phenomenon of the self and consciousness. If you hurt one part of your brain stem, the result is coma and your self is gone (at least you do not recognize or detect your brain images, etc.). If you damage another part of the brain stem, your self is imprisoned into your paralyzed body. So, for normal functioning of the self, your body, brain stem and cortex must have a fluid feedback system. He also shows us how he first discovered his own retina cyst visually (looking at a matrix with only one eye at a time) and how it was later proven by special retina imaging.

I am unable to concentrate on Damon Horowitz while I am still fighting with the TED chat technology glitch… no idea why it is not working…  Update from march 10.: Guided by instinct that I missed something important, I went back to the TED 2011 Sessions Archive and had a second look at how Damon performed. Yes, in fact he performed. He was brilliant! When I filled out the TED Associate  questionnaire yesterday, I did not yet review his part in the archive… my god, the truth is, he was off the charts as a speaker! He not only spoke about philosophy, but also about a teen in prison who did something really really wrong… and Damon showed us how they started to argue about what is wrong… what it means to be wrong. Damon, I am sorry about not giving you the “off the charts” mark. You deserved the very best! (Damon has a BA in Computer Science from Columbia, an MS from MIT Media Lab, and a PhD from Stanford, according to the vark website. He and his colleagues are behind Aardvark. Here is another talk by him, this time at TEDxSoMa:

I have seen live the NASA stream when Felisa announced her discovery of possible arsenic based life on Earth. She is telling the same story at TED.

Aaron is a young man who is both high on the left and the right hemisphere’s aptitude scale. He has a hunch that all things should be behaving according to quantum mechanics. Unfortunately, he misses the fact that we are not as high on quantum mechanics as he is…

We relax our brains…

The largest home video collection… I start crying when Deb shows the voice sequence from “gaga” to water… as his little boy learned to say the word: water. Amazing: a long word learning process distilled and played within a few seconds! So moving! He is also showing us his home word-scape. The word “water” is mostly living in the kitchen, while “bye” lives close to the door… Amazing visuals! Later he is applying all this to the media. We see the topology of communications.

And my live stream chat word-scape is flat… still not working…

11:00 AM – 12:45 PM Session 5: Worlds Imagined

We are introduced to the visual magic of theater and film.

Rob Parto shows a short video of what World of Warcraft is. I think it is sad… with no real-world meaning… people escaping into this artificial world while contributing nothing… I want that time and energy to go into real world problem solving.

He shows how clueless companies are, while people know their own brands. So lets see what the brand experts say about Morgan’s personality brand: playful-mindful… He says: embrace fear, embrace risk… his film about product placement: “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” finally gets sponsored by product placement…

Bill always felt different in his own adult environment… in his family, his industry and company that is… he knew that the environment must be considered by the car industry. He says, its wonderful and now natural that we have more and more environmentally friendly cars, but a traffic jam at a level of 9 billion people is not something we want to see… we just have to change the way we think about mobility. We need a smart car network for better mobility. Ready for prime time pretty soon… One day your car is going to reserve a parking spot via a smart data system. We need a global and interconnected network. It is a very complex issue, so we all need to get going today, to design this flexible future.

They demo bubbli:

I will never ever think of PepsiCo as an ethical company, no matter how hard Indra is trying to convince us… with her cheerleaders playing nice with the mentally challenged… oh, so American… even if she got to the US at age 23… this is just another CSR (PR) project by a monster company selling sugary drinks to people… come on TED! You should know better!

Did I see PepsiCo in the Sapling portfolio? Hm… Well, no, I did not (at least not in their “2008 Return of Private Foundation, or Section 4947 ( a)(1) Nonexempt Charitable Trust Treated as a Private Foundation” document). But I did my research and I recommend this Foundation Center link, if you want to know more about the Sapling foundation, the owner of the TED project. Their market value was over 33 million dollars in 2008:

2:15 PM – 4:00 PM Session 6: Knowledge Revolution

He appears as the guest curator of this session.

David wants to build a free history teaching platform. He talks about Big History Project. He is the kind of teacher you like to listen to.

TEDnews: “1 in 5 Africans are Nigerian. 150 million people. 17 million in poverty.” “When Nigeria got debt relief in 2005, we asked: What could we do to make sure that money reached the poor?” Amina tells her development story of fighting corruption in the midst of national poverty and making sure development funds are spent well.

Bruce is talking about poliomyelitis. He is really trying to completely eradicate it globally. Yes, it is still a problem in some places in the world. But Bruce looks like someone who won’t stop until it is done!

I have seen the site of this young man a few weeks ago while browsing the net. And I could see that he is changing the future of education. And his talk was brilliant, encouraging and I am so sorry that I am not a school kid of today’s interconnected world. You can go ahead and become a mentor and use Salman’s technology and content to educate anyone, anywhere! Go and try it!

Khan’s TED Long Beach 2011 talk is up already!

5:00 PM – 6:45 PM Session 7: Radical Collaboration

This session is open to anyone who wanted to see what a major TED conference is. :-) By the way, I am also getting free TED Long Beach, TED Global Oxford, and TED Women Washington live streams in return for my TED volunteer activity as a translator and reviewer. I am a TED Associate. TED blogging is an extra volunteer effort I do just for fun.

Wael Ghonim speaks from TEDxCairo about the revolution 2.0 in Egypt he helped start with a memorial facebook page to a victim of the regime. A truly intelligent young man!

WOW! Luminescent deep sea creatures! Wonderful talk. A must see!

Jamie Oliver’s 2010 TED wish update in 2011: the Food Revolution got huge exposure and support in the US! :-) Jamie walks up and down in stage telling his story of saving kids who were let down by adults in the US.

Jill Tarter’s SETI TED wish at risk! White Knight sought to make it possible.

  • JR
  • Street artist

He is using cities as canvases, pasting huge paper posters of all sorts of people, like Face to Face: Palestinian and Israeli faces on the border wall (on both sides, mixed). 4 years later those photos are still there. Another project: Women are heroes. When you look at Kibera now: they look back! Vinyl eyes on roofs protecting people from the rain! If an eye is gone, the person moved from underneeth… More and more people asking for vinyl roof cover photos. lol  French artist wishing: Turn the World Inside out In a Global Art Project. Tell him what you stand for in pictures. Offer a place to paste a huge picture. People in the audience listing their contributions one by one. :-)