Julian's blog: TED session 3: Found In Translation

July 14th, 2010
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Here goes for the first of the two full days of TED – four sessions each day, starting at 0830. This is the meat!

Ethan Zuckerman, Blogger, digital visionary (also hear my AudioBoo with Ethan here)

We are prone to silo ourselves in filter bubbles – hence not many Americans know that Twitter is heavily Brazilian and African American. Just search on some unfamiliar words to explore. Digital is actually getting less global – 35% of US news was global in the 1970s, compared with just 12% today, while 95% of online news readership is domestic. We live in imaginary cosmopolitanism, following the wisdom of the flock and missing huge swathes of the wen. For example, who is translating the Chinese content generated by 400m users? We need to engineer serendipity, automate translation and cultivate xenophiles.

Elif Shafak, Novelist (also hear my AudioBoo with Elif here)

This was the standout talk of TED so far for me. Elif is a luminous, powerful and beautiful woman, speaking flawless prose (in a second language!) of great beauty and calm presence. She says: to destroy anything, put it in a circle and it will die. Thus living in communities of like-minded people inevitably leads to stereotyping and decay. Labels endanger our freedom of imagination. Fiction is powerful and can be a force for empathy, but it is itself and not a means to an end: as Chekov said, art’s job is to correctly pose the question, not find the solution. Story is crucial, because changing the narrative changes the reality.

 
David McCandless, Data journalist
 
Three bulls eyes in a row now as McCandless shows the power of simple, well-designed data visualisation (which is becoming a real theme of this TED). Data is the new oil? No, he says: data is the new soil, fertile and versatile. Some brilliant charts – like this billiondollargram. Must buy his book, which contains many more.
 
 
Mor Karbasi, Singer-songwriter

 

Four in a row – could this be a vintage session like last night? Mor has a ravishing voice, combining Israeli, Ladino and Spanish influences into a potent mix heady with Moorish history, flamenco and Spanish passion. Simply superb. Go out and buy her music.
 
 
Iain Hutchison, Facial surgeon
 
This is hard to take after all that beauty and engagement. Health warning when this goes live on TED.com – it includes two pictures of people with their faces shot off. Hutchison reconstructs faces ravaged by tumour or violence. He mentions dysmorphphobia – an unshakeable belief that one’s face looks bad (hence much of cosmetic plastic surgery). From his experience of the way people change after surgery, he says beauty does not equate to goodness – and believes in the five minute rule, where after five minutes we have seen enough from a face to know if we like this person or not. Strong but great respect to him and the brave patients he cites.

 

This was a second classic session. This TED is fabulous so far.

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