Why Eyewitnesses Fail – Thomas Albright at TEDxSanDiego 2016

From NPR’s “Serial” podcast to the Netflix series “Making a Murderer,” faulty eyewitness testimony has become a recent hot topic in pop culture chatter. While this issue has been around for a long time, recent advances in technology – especially DNA evidence – have resulted in more convictions being overturned.

Along with these shows, which are based on actual cases and include examples of eyewitness testimonies being called into question, the Innocence Project has reported nearly 350 DNA-based exonerations, with 3/4 of those cases counting on eyewitness identification for significant evidence that lead to a conviction.

So why do eyewitnesses identify the wrong people?

“There are insurmountable limits to visual perception and memory that are imposed by our biological nature and the properties of the world that we inhabit,” said Thomas Albright, professor and Conrad T. Prebys chair at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

According to Albright, and various research studies conducted over the past few decades, there are three factors that affect the usefulness of reported experience:

  • Uncertainty
  • Bias
  • Confidence

“Vision in general is far from perfect,” he said.

So, are eyewitnesses who testify in court not telling the truth? Not necessarily, according to Albright. In fact, when witnesses testify in court with confidence their description of the event – which they believe to be true – it’s difficult for the jury to discount their version of what happened.

Organizations, such as the National Academy of Sciences, are starting to take note of the limitations of human perceptions and memories, especially in the area of eyewitness accounts.

As the old saying goes, “Seeing is believing, but neither seeing nor believing is equivalent to truth.”

Wings Are Just a Detail – Lex Gillette at TEDxSanDiego 2016

With your eyes closed, imagine your highest potential. What does that look like? But more importantly, how do you get there?

“Sometimes in life, we’re afraid to take that shot in the dark,” says Lex Gillette.

For Gillette, dark has a different meaning than most. As a young boy he began losing his eyesight at the age of eight, which he eventually lost completely.

Despite this lack of sight, Gillette imagines himself “running, jumping, flying.” He’s holding an American flag on a medal stand where he’s winning gold, silver and bronze medals. He imagines himself “flying as far as (his) mind would carry (him).”

And that’s just what he has done. Gillette is now a four-time Paralympian and medalist who has four silver medals for the long jump, and is the only totally blind athlete to soar more than 22 feet in the long jump.

Gillette regaled the audience with stories of his triumphs at both the Paralympics and World Championships, which he said were a direct result of taking shots in the dark.

“Even in the blackest of blackest nights … never be afraid to take a shot in the dark.”

Lex Gillette Website

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Innovation Beyond Borders – Regina Bernal at TEDxSanDiego 2016

There has been a lot of recent attention on borders and building walls.

But the border area separating San Diego and Baja California, also known as the CaliBaja Mega-Region, deserves attention for a very different reason.

According to Regina Bernal, the number of people now crossing the border on a weekly basis between San Diego and Tijuana is more than double the population of the city of Miami. The combined GDP of the Mega-Region amounts to more than $200 billion, which would place the area in the top 50 economies in the world.

Looking beyond border lines on a map, the connection extends far beyond geography and economics. Bernal sites longtime San Diego company Taylor Guitars’ decision – 20 year ago – to design a new product production facility in Tecate as a game changer. This move required cross-border collaboration and employees on both sides work together as one company – they even play softball on Fridays.

As Bernal explains, “Entrepreneurs such as Taylor Guitars start their lives as pioneers.” And in similar fashion, the University of San Diego decided to launch the first bi-national student pitch competition, Venture Vetting (V2), in 2013.

In three years, Bernal, who is the Entrepreneurship Manager at the University of San Diego, said that the number of companies from Baja California who participated in the V2 competition increased 10 fold.

“It is our vision that one day we will not have a separate bi-national track,” said Bernal. “Instead we will have entrepreneurs from San Diego and Baja California working together to build and scale successful companies … we continue to demonstrate that by coming together we become globally relevant.”

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