Happening now at TEDxEldersburgLive

Since 1984, TED has been building a reputation as the place where the most brilliant and creative minds in the world share their ideas and innovations with the public. The carefully curated TED Talks are meant to be easily digestible and the best ones seem to build to an awe-inspiring revelation.

The 30th Anniversary TED conference is taking place this week in Vancouver with a line up of TED "all stars," including Bill and Melinda Gates, Nicholas Negroponte, Sting and other internationally renowned names in technology, entertainment and design.

Today's speakers are being simulcast live in Carroll County at TEDxEldersburgLive, courtesy of the Carroll Technology Council, at Cre-a-tv Studios in Eldersburg, and the Carroll County Times was there to share insights from the event live as it happened.

11:30 a.m. - Bran Ferren, technology designer

TED starts it's 30th anniversary conference by looking back in the past to understand the world we live in today.

The first speaker was Bran Ferren, co-founder of Applied Minds and son of modern artists.

"Radical ideas require no new technology, just fresh thinking," he said.

The most profound moment of his young life took place when he was 9 years old. He went to Rome and visited the Pantheon. He was astounded to find what appeared to be a high-tech, modern roof on the building and other technological advances that amazed him.

"That moment changed my life," said Ferren. "To build this took some miracles."

Ferren said game changers like this take miracles; "you need five miracles to make a Pantheon."

The internet is not a Pantheon, it's more like the concrete. It's critical for creation, he said, but it's more part of our continuum of knowledge.

The next Panetheon, he said, is autonomous vehicles.

Much of our world has been designed around roads and transportation, he said. Today, these roads that interconnect our world are dominated by cars and trucks unchanged for 100 years. Autonomous vehicles will be the key technology that allows us to redesign our cities and thereby our lives. Energy consumption and pollution will be cut dramatically, congestion will disappear and society will recapture vast amounts of lost productivity.


Writer and physicist Brian Greene presents the history of world.

12:08 p.m. - Marc Kushner, architect

Marc Kushner, architect, spoke about the history of architecture and how that history is no longer relevant.

Architect is not about math or zoning; it's about the way we feel about the places we occupy, he said. Americans spend 90 percent of our time indoors. Architecture is shaping us in ways we do not even realize.

Building things is terrifying, said Kushner. It takes a long time and it's complicated. The people who build things are afraid of innovation.

In 1997, Frank Gehry fundamentally changed the world's relationship to architecture with Bilbao. People loved it. Everyone wanted a building like this because media successfully galvanized around the architectural movement.

The brutalism movement in architecture went on for 20 years because architects didn't know how much the public hated it, said Kushner. With instantaneous communication, we can tell each other what we think about architecture. Digital media has changed the relationship between us and buildings.

"This is the end of architectural history," said Kushner.

We don't need to look back to see what we want and need out of architecture, he said, because people are able communicate those needs immediately. The buildings of tomorrow will look a lot different from the buildings of today, he said.

12:35 p.m. - Yoruba Richen, documentary filmmaker

When an African-American was elected president in 2008, Richen said in many ways it was the climax of the black civil rights movement in the United States. On the same night Barack Obama won his historic presidency, however, the gay and lesbian community suffered a severe defeat with Proposition 8.

Two minority groups of which I am both a part of seemed to be competing with each other instead of supporting each other, said Richen.

"I was torn in half," she said.

But there was more to the story, she said. After the election the march toward gay equality accelerated, she said. Richen detailed the history of the civil rights movement, focusing on strategies.

Richen showed a clip from her documentary filmed in Baltimore. She spoke about the black civil rights and women's rights movements as blueprints for gay rights.

Not only are the struggles interconnected, but they must support and enhance each other for us to be truly victorious, said Richen.

12:55 - Edward Snowden via video robot

Question posed - are you a traitor or a hero?

"Who I am really doesn't matter at all," said Snowden. "What really matters here are the issues - the kind of government we want - the kind of internet we want."

I saw a lot of things in intelligence that disturbed me, he said. We do a lot of good things in intelligence, but there are a lot of things done in secret without consent, he said.

I thought about what I could do, said Snowden. There was a risk I would be buried along with the information if I brought it forward, he said. By working with journalist, he said, I gave the information to the American people to decide what to do with it.

The legality of the PRISM program was never tried in a public court, only in secret courts, said Snowden.

Technology companies denied collaborating with NSA on data collection. Snowden said the data is directly from company servers, even those companies who push back.

The best way companies can defend public privacy is to switch to SSL encrypted browsing by default, said Snowden.

"Your rights matter because you never know when you are going to need them," said Snowden.

Trusting any government authority with the entirety of human communication - is simply too great a risk to be ignored, he said.

People who have seen and enjoyed a free and open internet have a responsibility to protect it, said Snowden. If we don't stand up to make the changes we need to do to make the internet safe, we are going to lose that, he said.

Founder of the world wide web Tim Berners-Lee joined Snowden robot on stage to call for a Magna Carta for the Internet.

"We need to encode our values not just in writing, but in the structures of the internet," said Snowden.

Snowden said he wants to come back to the United States but does not want to compromise the public interest to do so.

"The last year has been a reminder that democracy may die behind closed doors," said Snowden.


2:10 p.m. - Matthew Carter - type designer

Matthew Carter discusses constraint and compromise in digital design while creating many of the first screen fonts used.

2:30 p.m. - Bob Greenberg - designer

2:35 p.m. - Amanda Burden - city planner, New York City

Cities are fundamentally about people. More important than buildings in a city are the public spaces between them, said Burden. i believe lively enjoyable public spaces are the key to planning a great city, she said.

Most plazas have been spartan for generations. People avoid spaces like this. Architects love them. Developers love them. This is a waste, said Burden.

For public spaces to be successful, someone has to think very hard about every detail. She spoke about building Battery Park in Manhattan.

"Design is not just how something looks, it's how your body feels in that seat in that space," said Burden.

As planner for New York City, she rezoned 124 neighborhoods and 40 percent of the city. She said 90 percent of all new development is within a 10 minute walk of a subway stop.

In the areas zoned for significant development, I was determined to create spaces that made a difference in people's lives, she said. She felt an obligation to create magnificent parks on waterfronts. I put everything I studied and learned into those plans, she said. People came from all over the city to be in these parks. They changed New Yorkers whole image of their city.

What's the trick to turn a park into a place people want to be. You don't tap into design expertise, you tap into humanity. Would you want to go there and stay there? Does it seem green and friendly? Can you find your very own seat?

The Highline Park was an elevated railway that ran through three neighborhoods. When I saw it the first time, I fell in love, said Burden. Even though it is widely known now, it was the most contested public space in the city, she said.

Commercial interest will always battle against public space, said Burden. It might mean more money for the city, she said, but a city has to take the long view - the view for the common good.

Public spaces have power. Public space changes how you feel about a city, said Burden.

"A successful city is like a fabulous party," said Burden. "People stay because they are having a great time," she said.

2:54 p.m. David Kwong - magician and New York Times crossword puzzle constructor

"Human beings are wired to solve - to make order out of chaos," said Kwong.

As a cruciverbalist and illusion designer, I test your ability to solve. Solving is as primal as eating and sleeping. This year is 100th anniversary of crossword puzzle. Entertaining demonstration of puzzle solving.

3:08 p.m. - Gavin Schmidt - climate scientist

We live in a very complex environment, said Schmidt. It's a huge challenge to understand.

He discussed 14 orders of magnitude that can be studied, the model influencers and effectiveness of models.

He discussed predicting the influence mitigation might have on climate change.

3:23 p.m. - Peggy Liu

She discussed air quality in her home city of Shanghai.

"China's problem is everybody's problem," said Liu.

Within a decade China's emissions will double the US., said Liu. She said China is the only battlefield in climate change that matters right now. Demand continues to grow very fast. In a 20 year time frame China will have 350 million people move into cities.

"We want to move from survive to thrive," said Liu.

To improve living standards without increasing emissions China will have to run a marathon at a sprinter's pace.

To do this, we must decouple energy from economic growth, said Liu, and decouple emissions from electricity generation.

China is already the largest investor in renewable energy. She spoke about the pathway forward for China and the world.

"China has moved from just being the factory of the world to the cleantech laboratory of the world," said Liu.

China has fewer resources than the U.S., said Liu. There is great motivation for us to tackle climate change.

"Change can happen at gigascale," said Liu.

"If you are frustrated about the slow progress the world is making on climate change," said Liu "Why aren't you in China yet?"

3:40 p.m. - Michel Laberge - plasma physicist

Laberge's company General Fusion is seeking to produce energy from fusion. Fusion is really, really hard to do, he said.

Fusion is criticized for being expensive, said Laberge. He compared it to the development funds needed to produce the cell phone.

"I don't think it's too expensive," he said. "I think it's been shortchanged."

Laberge detailed his efforts.

"Fusion is getting very close," said Laberge. "We are almost there."

The next session begins at 9 p.m. tonight, March 18, at Cre-a-tv Studios, 133 Londowntown Blvd., Eldersburg. The speakers today haven't exactly followed the agenda. But those scheduled include Melinda Gates, Bill Gates, Zak Ebrahim, Sting and the TED Prize winner.

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