TEDx Sydney: In Conversation with Marc Newson

TEDxSydney 2013 by TEDxSydney, on Flickr

What are 2 swan chairs doing sitting on the stage? How can they be a prop for a Marc Newson TEDx talk? I am skipping ahead in the day now because as I mentioned last week I was quite excited by the prospect of Marc Newson at TEDx as I’m sure you are too. Except unfortunately it was something of a disappointment. Is Marc Newson to important to prepare a talk? That is the only reason I can think of that the format was an interview with Julian Morrow rather than the TED format of a talk with one big idea. I kinda felt this format was a bit disappointing as there wasn’t the take away of a single idea. I really would have liked to have had Julian dig a little more into some of the ideas, Marc mentioned he thinks a lot on scale and I would have been really interested to hear more on what his thoughts were on this. Julian also asked him if there was a difference between art and design, and while Marc said he thought there was, we didn’t actually find out much about what it was. Oh well, plenty more fantastic speakers to more than make up for my slight disappointment here.

Bill Pritchard spoke about food security and the fight against world hunger. Food security is not about scarcity, it is about livelihoods and access to food. Food scarcity is a vicious circle for those without the capability to benefit – even in countries with increasing prosperity such as India. Lack of food leads to poor health and educational outcomes which in turn lead to lack of access to food throughout life.

Joost Bakker is passionate about plants, food, buildings and sustainability – and combining them all together. If you know the Greenhouse in Perth – that’s an example of his work. Joost spoke about a number of his projects and how we can aim for zero waste (urine harvesting make you feel uncomfortable?) and producing food in our own cities. Joost’s latest project will combine restaurant, greenhouse, fish farm and garden. I really enjoyed is talk, as someone whose work I had admired at the Greenhouse, but not known much about.

‘Without eyes – color does not exist’, Andrew Parker brings scientific study of nature into commercial applications of producing colour, in particular luminescence. Apparently before there were creatures with eyes there was no colour, because there was no reason for it to exist. This talk was quite scientific but essentially within nature there are many nano scale structures that create refractions of light to crate colour. One example is the architecture of butterfly wings, which look amazing when photographed at this nanoscale.

Marita Cheng founded Robogirls, a program to encourage girls into engineering, and was 2012 young Australian of the year. She spoke about the importance of engineering – creating all kinds of things – and the shortage of engineers of both genders in Australia.

David Sinclair spoke about the process of ageing and his research into the genetics of ageing. The aim of his research is not that we would live forever but that we would live longer, and more importantly live more of our lives in good health without suffering effects of ageing such as Alzheimers. His research has lead to discovery of a longetivety gene and the development of a pill (now under trial) to turn off these genes which get turned on as we age.

Damien Mander is a former special operations sniper who did 12 tours of duty in Iraq. He is now a warrior fighting on behalf of animal rights. He spoke of his journey discovering the fight for wildlife in Zimbabwe and founding the International Anti Poaching Foundation, through to the realization of the speciesism of all forms of animal cruelty.

As a social commentator, Rebecca Huntley has realised that people don’t really embrace labeling – no one thinks of themselves as wealthy or a battler, and no one identifies with the term consumers. As Australians, she has found we are more similar than we think. We need to embrace the word w, and the concept of connections that it embraces.

George Khut is an artist with an interest in the question ‘what can we discover in ourselves in the moment?’ His work encompasses art, technogy, the body and the link to the mind. The works are a beautiful mix of interactive visuals and sound and are being trialled within healthcare environments.

Paul Pholeros spoke about designing housing for health. I’m actually familiar with his work from when I was a uni student. It’s an early example of what is today talked about as evidence based design. Simple things like access to water for washing and working toilets improve health outcomes particularly for children. Housing for health trains local indigenous teams to undertake repairs and vastly improve the quality of the housing stock. Many of his really simple examples of designing out poor health earnt applause from the audience.

Justine Rogers is a comedian and academic who runs the ‘competing’ ideas event, Nerd night. She was very disappointed in today’s TED talks and gave speakers 6 points essential to a good TED talk. I like that a prop is essential – regardless of if it relates to your talk and even if you never explain it.

One thing all the presenters have in common is great presentation techniques. These are stories supported by meaningful slides. At first I thought that they were so well practiced they didn’t even look at their slides – but then I realised they had prompt screens in the floor – not that most of the presenters seemed to even glance at them. A shame the organizers didn’t seem to get the screen ratio/size out to the speakers – most slides wer cut off at the sides.

My one negative comment on what was a fantastic day. And I didn’t even talk about the food! Crowd sourced by Grow it Local and prepared by Aria it was amazing. I actually joined in a few days before the TEDx event in a jam and picking workshop, the produce of which was on the charcuterie Buffett on the day. Yum.

All in all a great day, I’d highly recommend you sign up to the TEDx Sydney community to try and get along next year. I certainly will.

By the time you read this post I will be on my way to Auckland for the Revit Technology Conference – look forward to seeing some of you there. News from RTC next week.

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