TED X Sydney Saturday 26th May 2012

Being a TED Event virgin, I was excited to be off to my first TED event last weekend. I knew I would get to see some great talks from some smart and switched on people but one of the surprises and highlights was definitely the performances sprinkled throughout the talks.

The most memorable performance for me was the first of the day, the Stiff Gins; 2 Indigenous singers who treated us to two songs in their native languages. They were sweet and uplifting, particularly when joined by the Sydney Children’s Choir. It was a beautiful and soulful opening to a day that was filled with challenging and inventive talks.

The most finely crafted and delivered presentation has to go to Michelle Simmons, a physicist from UNSW who not only managed explained the concept of Quantum computing in a way that everyone could understand but still had time left to present the latest research into atomic-scale devices. Essentially transistors the size of a single atom embedded in a bed of silicon connected by the world’s thinnest conducting wires to make up the next generation of electronic components. The computational power of quantum computers is just phenomenal. Clearly she explained it better than I have here but my ego is still intact – after all, she was voted NSW Scientist of the Year in 2011.

Evan Kidd had a great presentation on the role of play in the early childhood development of children’s language, social and cognitive development. In particular, his extensive research in this area included the positive effect imaginary friends have on children’s social development. He has found that children with imaginary friends show higher results in testing of language skills, social understanding and empathy amongst other things.

I am wondering though – aren’t these kids just cheating? Having an imaginary friend in the room that no one else can see or hear when you are doing a test seems like an unfair advantage to me. Of course some may say I am just jealous – I never had an imaginary friend… but that probably explains why I am not a big fan of Facebook either.

A special mention also goes to Jeremy Heimans, co-founder of Purpose.com and Get-Up – Jeremy talked about the need to change the green debate in order to make a real impact on carbon reduction and climate change. He believes that consumers are the real focus that will enable the shift that is required to make real and substantial changes. We need to remove ‘Green’ from the discussion since it is not a motivating driver for consumers. In order to do get more consumer buy-in we need to look at the other motivating factors that prompt consumers to purchase products and leverage these motivations to direct consumer towards green products, using the green benefits of a product as a bonus secondary benefit, rather than the lead driver.

For my first TED event, I was engage and impressed throughout the day. It definitely won’t be my last.

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