TEDSummit 2016 – Hope, Wisdom, Insight, Inspiration


Banff Kinnear Centre for Creativity and Innovation

It was an experiment of sorts, unlike recent TED Conferences in Vancouver, or the companion TEDActive conference which used to be held during the same time in Whistler. Instead of the daily dose of TED Talks (live at TED, simulcast at TEDActive) in two locations, TEDSummit 2016 combined some 50 live talks with a choice of 90+ workshops at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity from June 24th to 30th.

This was also the first time that every aspect of TED was fully represented. From TED/TEDx staff, to past TED and TEDx attendees and speakers, TEDx organizers, TED-Ed Innovative Educators, TED Fellows and TED Translators. Nearly 1,000 people, representing 70 different countries, were in attendance, and as you might imagine, the conversations were rich with varying cultural, gender and age perspectives, yet all focused on the notion of Ideas Worth Spreading, and how those ideas could change society.

Juan Enriquez at TEDSummit 2016

Jen Brea at TEDSummit 2016

The live talks were held inside the Eric Harvie Theatre, and the speaker lineup was, in general, outstanding. Veterans of the TED stage (TED Speaker Juan Enriquez) were combined with many first time presenters (TED Fellow Jen Brea) in a series of 6 sessions, detailed in the TEDSummit program.

Lunch Discussion at TEDSummit 2016

Post-it Notes at TEDSummit 2016

Conversations happened everywhere, from communal lunches to the breakout sessions where ideas were made manifest by way of Post-it Notes spread across the exterior windows. The only downside was the fact that so many engaging topics were held at the same time. A sampling of diverse workshop topics:

  • The art of engaging conversation
  • More than one way to solve a social problem
  • Restorative communities
  • Confronting the refugee crisis
  • Discovering your signature story

The magic that occurred during the 6 days (4 days of TEDSummit plus 2 day of TEDx Global Forum) is hard to describe, but very much based on the combination of attendees from multiple TED factions, the many thought-provoking talks, and the numerous breakout sessions that provided a forum for discussing issues that affect society on a global basis. This was far more meaningful than just watching talks, and the conversations were much deeper and challenging as a result.

After 30+ years of TED, and 8  years of TEDx, it’s apparent that the goal is to use these platforms to affect social change in a more direct way, not just spread ideas that hopefully will cause such changes to occur. This is a tall order, despite the fact that TED videos are viewed over a billion times per year, and that the TEDx infrastructure now spans 3,000+ events each year. The point is, while millions of people are touched, the ability to move ideas to action has been out of TED’s hands. In the end, changing the world is up to us!

Mountain View in Banff

Bridge Across River in Banff

Catch all the visuals in the TEDSummit Flickr albums.

Using Modern Technology to Legitimize Elections – Lori Steele Contorer at TEDxSanDiego 2015

“If there’s a problem, and you aren’t part of the solution, you are in fact, part of the problem.” Lori Steele Contorer, the top expert in election modernization, identifies a problem with one of the most important social processes in the world: voting.

Lori recalls the U.S. election of 2000 when ballot voting issues caused the Supreme Court to elect the President, rather than the people. She also discusses worse incidences that occurred in other countries, such as ballot box stuffing, the stealing or burning of entire ballot boxes, violence and massacres at voting booths, and other dangerous election manipulations. Consequently, Contorer asserts that voting manually, using only paper ballots, remains a serious problem.

Contorer points to examples of self-driving cars, personal drones, DNA sampling, and extraterrestrial robots to illustrate how we live in extraordinarily innovative times. Due to these impressive accomplishments, you would think that every mission-critical industry in the world would use technology to ensure the best possible execution of their goals.

Unfortunately, the same people who say that paper ballots are secure, accurate, and reliable ways of voting, also claim that modern technology cannot be used for managing elections, because elections are far too important.

However, Contorer has experimented with integrating technology and voting in state elections, with the military, and in reputable institutions like the Oscars, and she has demonstrated proven success, showing how technology increases accuracy and security in elections, while increasing voter participation. Lori Steele Contorer believes that the technology revolution needs to be part of the election process so that people know they can make very important decisions, that their voice will be heard, and that they can trust the results.

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Does Music Change a Child’s Brain? – John Iversen at TEDxSanDiego 2015

How does a person’s individuality, their likes and dislikes, skills and talents, depend on their particular brain growth? Neuroscientist John Iversen envisions a future where a person’s education is based on their specific brain development to help each person meet their highest individual potential.

Iversen imagines that when children go to the doctor and receive their height and weight measurements, their growth chart will also include brain growth measurements. Neurological mapping technologies can already show us measurements of the average growth in certain areas of the brain. So children will see how certain areas of their brain development compares to their age’s average, and which areas need more stimulation.

So what does music have to do with measuring brain development or influencing brain development? Neurological researchers often look for connections between behavioral measures and brain measures, but a less popular area of neurological studies is music cognition research.

We know that music evokes memories and has many positive academic and social benefits. Through neurological mapping technology we know that the brain is touched, activated and deactivated, by music, and this technology can show us exactly which areas of the brain are stimulated by music. Iversen wants to use music as a tool to help understand and influence the brain.

As a researcher for the SYMPHONY Study at UCSD, Iversen currently conducts a study in schools to examine correlations between music students and improved rhythm perception, rhythm perception and improved language tests, and finally beat perception tests and larger areas of the brain’s cortex. Iversen wonders whether music enlarges certain important areas of the brain and whether music can target the development of certain areas of the brain. Based on the suggestions of his profound research, Iversen makes a progressive claim about who can benefit the most from musical training.

John Iversen Website


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