Brain Food: TEDxMidAtlantic 2011

TEDxMidAtlantic 2011 was held on October 29 – the same day as a freak snow storm hit the region – at the Sidney Harman Hall in Washington DC. The 2011 theme of this interdisciplinary event was A SENSE OF  PLACE. The day was jammed packed with talks and wrapped with a session featuring the cast of the television drama The Wire.

TEDx MidAtlantic 2011 The first speaker was Jay Parkinson who described the challenges of developing his innovative healthcare practice HelloHealth in a field that is at its core anti-creative. Other highlights included photographer & TED Fellow John Lowenstein who shared his experience photographing life in the south side of Chicago. Computer security expert Avi Rubin discussed an experiment hacking into automobile computer systems. NOTE: It was scary – be concerned!

Phil Salesses of MIT Media Lab challenged the audience to rethink perceptions of their surroundings with Place Pulse.  A charming early speaker was Luis von Ahn, who regaled the audience with interesting experiences developing CAPTCHA, but then introduced his upcoming project, Duolingo, a crowd-sourcing technology for translating the web.

NASA was represented by the show-stopping astrophysicist, Jane Rigby, who wowed the crowd with terrific visualizations of the James Web Telescope and got us all thinking about how much we don’t really know about what’s out there. Josés Andrés, Chef of the Year and Chef/Owner of ThinkFoodGroup delighted and instructed everyone right before lunch with delectable sights, but also innovative ways to promote nutritious food for all.

There were also a number of sociology talks.  Duncan Watts, a Yahoo Researcher who wrote the book Everything is Obvious Once You Know the Answer discussed our misconceptions about common sense. Eldar Shafir, a Behavioral Economists at Princeton gave a powerful presentation about the psychology of scarcity and his work into decision-making in the context of poverty.

Stowe Boyd, one of the final speakers of the day, blew me away.  He spoke about social density, how our tools shape us, and swift trust which allows temporary work teams to come together quickly, form units and execute tasks.

The artist and award winning theatre director Ping Chong discussed his career, including the project Undesirable Elements/Secret History which explores the idea that “there is no single history.

There were so many fascinating moments, people and ideas flowing around this event. You can learn more about the speakers at the TEDxMidAtlantic 2011 speaker page.  Finally, watch for the videos of the talks online soon.

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