Jun 27, 2011

TEDx Alive!

Kim Heilman's picture
Kim Heilman
Director, Visual Design

On June 4th, Hot attended the TEDx event Alive!—Maximum Living as a Human, which took place just blocks away from Hot SF at the wonderful Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

The event examined those parts of the human experience that define us on a most basic level, and how they can be understood and leveraged to improve life. Whether a given talk was technological, societal, or behavioral—and even those that were primarily observational (watch the hilarious Millennials, Who They Are and Why We Hate Them)—they were undertaken with hopeful eyes toward the future and were empowered by knowledge.

A memorable early talk was one given by photographer James Mollison. Through methodologies in typology, he’s succeeded in revealing poignant truths about his unlikely subjects. In one series, he’s positioned countless facial portraits of children from across the globe next to images of their bedrooms. The composite was remarkable in its treatment: by seeing these images as specimens, we can make comparisons cross-culturally and confront these realities as universal—from childhood wonder to overindulgence to poverty. In a separate series, he’s used another systematized form of portraiture on apes (yes, as in chimps) to investigate the effects environment issues have on their appearance. It is a fascinating project, and never before has the likeness of great apes to humans felt more real.

As expected, there were also a number of remarkable talks given on the potential of emerging technologies to improve human life. One centered around the work of Berkeley Bionics and was particularly moving, as it included a personal story and demonstration, from a charismatic paralytic woman whose life, already altered once by traumatic injury, has been altered again, now by breakthrough bionic technologies. Watch the video!

Rosalind Picard of the MIT Media Lab outlined her work in gauging electrodermal response, which can illuminate latent emotional currents in humans and might potentially predict its effects, from seizures to autistic outbursts.

Shereef Bishay, meanwhile, suggested how the successes from the Open Source software community might be applied structurally to a work environment in order to produce freer, “more democratic” companies that make people happier.

Hot has a special history with TEDx, and we’re enlightened every time we participate. It’s a reminder that no matter how ingenious the breakthrough or robust a technology, these improvements are rooted in a deep understanding of people and an excitement for life.

But don’t take our word for it, check it out yourself.

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