It’s human nature to want to explore

I have mad respect for RedBull, an energy drink company turned powerhouse of epic. RedBull supports adventure. They embrace risk. They empower people to break bones and boundaries. Here’s their latest video, which is awesome.

I hear you like the wild ones, honey, is that true? Yes, yes it is.  I curate amazing, wild things from Red Bull on a new Facebook page called Be More Epic.

Transcript:

“I think it’s human nature to want to explore.

Find your line and go beyond it.

The only limit is the one you set yourself.”

Images brought to you by RedBull:

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A bit of what I’ve been up to at MIT

I recently moved to Cambridge, MA to take the best job of all time helping Sebastian Seung’s Computational Neuroscience Lab at MIT build a game to map the human brain. Yea. It’s called EyeWire and you should check it out.

Best job in the world for several reasons. For someone obsessed with thinking about thinking, this life is positively dreamy.  I think I live one solid series of awesome moments. I love the people in my lab. I got to move to Cambridge and live one mile from Harvard and one mile from MIT. I love walking to work. I love work! It doesn’t feel like a job. I love going to hackathons. I love hanging out with geniuses. I love MIT Media Lab. I love working with neuroscientists. I love learning new things. I love being around curious people ready to share their passion for creating game-changing technologies. I love going to intellectual events at MIT and Harvard. I love connecting with so many TEDxers on the east coast! I love snow (though we haven’t had much yet). I love great food and even greater company. I love talking about molecules and python and infographics and chilling with scientists every day. Bascially, I love life. I love life very much.

I’m aslo helping a group at the Media Lab (which I’m not really supposed to talk about), developing a new app for TEDx music (also not supposed to talk about..but no one reads this blog 😉 and building an anonymized open-source database of health and lifestyle data with WIkiLife. Other things too..but it’s late and I want to read Nietzsche.

Below is a post I just wrote for the EyeWire blog. I blog at MIT now. Rad. Life is amazing. I hope you, dear reader, are following you passion and pursuing diligently the ideas that strike you most curious.  Reality will exceed your wildest expectations if you let it.

Cheers, much love.

Amy

It may come as a surprise that although we know much about how the eye works, neuroscience researchers do not fully understand how visual signals translate into perception.

We’ve landed on Mars, can grow organs, and even skydive from space, yet when it comes to a thorough understanding of the territory so close to home that it is home, much is missing. Neuroscientists don’t even know precisely how many different types of cells are in the brain. Here at Sebastian Seung‘s Computational Neuroscience Lab at MIT, we’re taking a different approach: crowd-sourcing. In order to solve the mind’s great mysteries, we need you.

Why don’t we know how the mind works? One reason is that your mind is massive. Researchers estimate that there are 100 billion neurons in your brain with about one million miles of connectivity. A million miles is equivalent to driving around Earth 40 times. You can infer that in order for such great length of neurons to fit into your three micron scale image by FSUpound brain these structures must be very tiny. A large neuron is about 100 microns in diameter while the contact area of a synapse is about 400 nm in length.

In order to see neurons and the tiny structures called dendrites through which they function, researchers utilize a new imaging technique. “Fix whole brain tissue, slice off layers just a few microns thick, image each slice with an electron microscope, and trace the path of each neuron,” explains David Zhou, Masters Student at Carnegie Mellon, on Quora. These gamechanging techniques generate terabytes of data for even a cubic milimeter of brain tissue. Now that we can see the brain at the synaptic scale, we have to analyze the images. How?

neuron cell reconstruction Seung Lab

The image above shows the process of layering image slices to render 3D reconstructions. Like most neuroscience labs, the Seung Lab uses a combination of AI algorithms and tracing (3D reconstruction) performed by humans. Why not just use algorithms? Images can be challenging to identify, particularly for a computer. Pure algorithms make many mistakes, such as slicing a single cell into thousands of pieces and merging multiple cells into one monstrously massive neuron. See below image for an example of AI missing a chunk of a neuron.

correcting a computer's mistake, Seung Lab

We hope to one day train computers to map neurons on their own; however, that day will be far in the future and we need to accelerate neuroscience discovery now. To achieve this, we need something more intelligent than even the most powerful supercomputer— you.

It takes an MIT-trained neuroscientist anywhere from 15 to 80 hours to reconstruct a single neuron. At that rate, it would take about 570,000,000 years to map the connectivity of an enture human brain, known as aconnectome. This is why we need your help.

Rather than mapping and entire brain, we’re starting with a retina. Our goal is to map the connections of a specific type of cell: J-Cells. These neurons are responsible for perception of upward motion. We plan to publish the outcome in a scientific journal and list EyeWire users as co-authors.

By playing the 3D game Eyewire, you become part of the Seung Lab at MIT by helping to map the connections of a neural network.

Scientific American writes that “no specialized knowledge of neuroscience is required [to play EyeWire]; citizen scientists need only be curious, intelligent and observant. Your input will help scientists understand how the retina functions. It will also be used by engineers to improve the underlying computational technology, eventually making it powerful enough to detect “miswirings” of the brain that are hypothesized to underlie disorders like autism and schizophrenia.”

We hope that you will help us trace the wires of perception through EyeWire. Play EyeWire and let us know what you think on Facebook.

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A Bucket List

US Presidential Elections 2012 have me thinking about awesomeness.   Ironically, the time of year that America divides decisively into two halves, seemingly uniting only in declaring their unfettered hate of each another, makes me think about how much I love it when these sentiments don’t dominate conversation. Remember that time when we landed Curiosity on Mars?  Remember how awesome that was?  Yes, you do.  Humanity rocks.

Tonight seems appropriate, then, to dig up and publish the old Bucket List.  That’s right – I have one. It’s in Google Docs. I keep it real(time updated).

The magna carta of Amyian wonderfuel:

 

Amy’s Bucket List

 

  • Go to space
  • Wild Life:
    • swim with pink river dolphins in Amazon (more info. note: attract these curious creatures with music and splashing)
    • climb the inside of a strangler fig (more info)
    • new: see (annndmaybe play with) fairy penguins in Australia (tiniest penguins on earth at 14”, bay near Pearson islands northern coast)
    • run through fields of: blooming lavender, dutch tulips, a blooming south african meadow
    • play with tiny monkeys (Miami, FL..wherever)
    • Apoka via Karl
    • hike to the boiling lake on Dominica via Karl
  • Speak at TED (done-ish..but do more solidly 🙂
  • Own a ridiculously fast, energy efficient convertible (all our patents are belong to you)
  • live in Asia
  • learn Mandarin
  • become good at Javascript
  • skydive in a wingsuit somewhere with beautiful scenery
  • have sex in space
  • be able to balance a handstand for one minute (as of June 2014: 10 seconds haha. Sept 2016: ~10 seconds)
  • EXPLORE/Adventure
    • see Indonesian blue lava by helicopter or something
    • Ko Tapu (James Bond Island)
    • Torres del Paine (Chile)
    • Great Blue Hole, Belize
    • Baiyang Waterfall Trail in Taiwan info
    • New Years on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
    • Machu Picchu
    • Mendenhall Glacier, alaska (vid)
    • Slickrock Trail, Moab
    • night dive in waters inhabited by bioluminescent creatures (more info)
    • visit a living bridge in rural indian jungles (more info)
    • The Beach of the Cathedrals, Ribadeo, Spain
    • The Moeraki Boulders (Dragon Eggs) In Koekohe Beach, New Zealand
    • Giants Causeway Beach, Ireland
    • Panjin China – red beach (go in Autumn)
    • Arrecife Alacran http://www.gulfbase.org/reef/view.php?rid=arrecife14
  • become proficient in advanced maths
  • jump off the roof of a building into:
    • a pile of snow
    • a swimming pool
  • ride a giraffe
  • become a National Geographic Explorer
  • Beethoven’s 9th challenge
  • figure out consciousness
  • Visit every country on Earth.
  • visualize global air quality data
  • film some time Lapses (macro and hyper)
    • more to come… (as of June 2014)

Bucketed!

    • skydive (done!)

    • run through a field of flowers (done!)

    • learn to surf (done!)

    • play with penguins (done! in Dubai)

    • speak at the white house (April 2014, EyeWire)

    • Run through field of sunflowers (2016)

 

  • So far I’ve been to:

    1. Aruba

    2. Bahamas

    3. Belgium

    4. Canada

    5. Costa Rica

    6. Dubai/UAE

    7. England

    8. Egypt

    9. France

    10. Germany

    11. Greece

    12. Mexico

    13. Netherlands

    14. Nicaragua

    15. Panama

    16. Qatar

    17. Spain

    18. Switzerland

    19. Turkey

    20. UAE

    21. ..USA + PR

 

No time like the present, as Tibolt says, to “take action on your ideas.  Action generates inspiration!”

First, four Bucket List Accomplishments:

1. Learn to Surf

Completed: August 2009

One summer I happened upon a housesitting gig in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Thanks to a nicely timed Facebook status update from an old high school friend (these were the days when we weren’t constantly fbing) and a spontaneous me, I decided that if I did not take this opportunity to live in Hawaii, I would probably regret it in five years. On two weeks notice, I hauled out. A month later I checked surfing off the bucket list.

A sensible bucket lister would include things like summiting a volcano or cliff jumping..but no, the only thing that counted towards bucket lis mastery on that excursion was in fact learning to surf.  Shaka and mahalo to my lovely local friends who patiently waited as I battled swell after swell before finally hanging ten. Below: Brent Nakano, little sister Sara who came out to visit, and yours truly.

2. Run through a field of flowers

Completed: April 2011

It was so great that I didn’t just run through them, I sprawled out and basked in the awesomeness of 360 degree pink-tipped clover. And then I added more flower sprints to my Bucket List futures.

3. Skydive

Completed: Summer 2004

The summer after high school, I decided to jump out of a plane. This is the decision process that goes into most of my bucket list feat completions, or life in general.  I want to X. I do X. There is a video of this dive..somewhere.  The guys who made it liked heavy metal and as I recall it’s set to limp bizkit. Rock on, 2009 bro.

4. Play with penguins

Completed: April 2012

Because who doesn’t want to hug a penguin? They’re fucking awesome. Tiny feathered tuxedoed demolishers of fish with winds apparently strong enough to break an adult’s femur yet the little buggers still can’t get airborne. This shenanigan actually got me published in the Huffington Post via Quora (a most amazing social network).

That’s it.  In 26 long years I’ve completed four Bucket List items. A whopping one item every 6.5 years. Better step it up if I want to finish in my one and only lifetime.

Next, Future adventures:

  • Go to space
  • Have sex in space
  • new: run through fields of: blooming lavender, dutch tulips and a blooming south african meadow
  • Visit Machu Picchu
  • Speak at TED
  • Own a ridiculously fast, energy efficient convertible sports car
  • live in Asia
  • new: skydive in a wingsuit somewhere with beautiful scenery
  • be able to balance a handstand for one minute
  • New Years on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
  • become proficient in the most advanced mathematics
  • jump off the roof of a building into: a pile of snow; a swimming pool
  • ride a giraffe
  • scuba dive in waters inhabited by bioluminescent creatures

That’s my entire bucket list. I also want to understand consciousness but that doesn’t really feel appropriate next to “live in Asia,” it’s not really a bucket list item so much as the purpose of my life.

Now, thanks in part to US elections, my bucket list is public. You should make yours public, too. Inspire people!  Make a google doc of your bucket list and publish it on the web. Share a link in the comments or post it on Quora.

Finally, the point of this post is to overcome partisanship and remember human awesomeness. I’ll leave you with a #lifebonus video from my friend John Boswell, the beautiful mind behind Symphony of Science:

 

 

 


 

Want to tackle one? Talk up!

I blogged about this once.

Consider answering “What is on your bucket list?” on Quora.

don't take life too seriously

*remember not to take life too seriously*

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Quantified Curiosity

I’m speaking today at Quantified Self Conference 2012 about Quantified Curiosity.  Below are my slides as well as some videos referenced in my talk. [UPDATE: presentation video now included]

Amy Robinson – QS Conference 2012 – Quantified Curiosity from Steven Dean on Vimeo.

Beautiful, scientific technological videos:






XVIVO Making the Complex Simple.

Want to play with the data?  Email me amyleerobinson at gmail dot com.

Gephi Graph of Ideas PDF.

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Healthy Mind (and what is a mind, anyway?) Presentation

Yesterday’s presentation at Redstone Federal Arsenal about building a healthy mind also touched on how a mind comes about from matter.  The slides below have been reformatted with added text to be more slideshare friendly.

Presentation opened with a video by XVIVO Scientific Animation used with permission.  Copyright prevents embedding but you can watch it here.

Slides:

Presentation ended with Jason Silva’s The Biological Benefits of Being Awestruck:

The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck – by @Jason_Silva from Jason Silva on Vimeo.

Enjoy!

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Possibilism and the Power of TEDx

Originally written for the TEDx Blog:

TED is an epicenter of the extraordinary and TEDx is one of many examples why.  This is how organizing a TEDx changed my life.  This is the power of ideas worth spreading.

To quote Hans Rosling, “I am a possibilist.”  Endless innovations are possible.  I am inspired by the notion that great discoveries coalesce from within a dense matrix of curiosity, collaboration, determination and inspiration.

TED brings fourth the subtle intricacies of an individual.  The details of one’s passion and the content that harmonizes with wonder are fascinating to explore, both in one’s self and in others.

A leaping sense of curiosity emerges when life is enhanced by TED-like content.  One remembers to regularly experience ‘Wow!’  Prolonged exposure to TED results in a deep and peculiar effect:  curiosity evolves.

Ideas worth spreading feed back into their recipient and yield an amended manner of thought.  Open, innocent explorations of our beautiful universe and its inhabitants become a regular aspect of life and business.  ‘TEDster’ is a 21st century character attribute of the purveyors of tomorrow’s next big ideas.

This revolution of interaction may help explain why thousands of people around the world spend tens of thousands of hours helping each other put together TEDx events.  Themes like Play BigMind Wide OpenRelentless Curiosity, and Perspectives on Innovation echo the TED brand (see Rediscovery of Wonder) while leaving room for independent expression.

Fellow TEDx hosts are, in my opinion and much like TED itself, legendary in the degree to which they determinedly create a medium for the spread of curiosity and inspiration.  The TEDx network is basically a propagation of TED; a secondary support structure for the dissemination of ideas.  TEDx organizers provide one another with resources, answers, optimism, suggestions, and instant friendships strengthened by a commonality that transcends traditional boundaries.  Whether local (the teams atTEDxAtlanta and TEDxNashville are both friends and mentors) or at a distance (fromTEDxDubai to TEDxMidAtlantic toTEDxLondon) it has been my delightful experience that TEDx organizers diligently uphold TED’s virtue and purpose, together learning from setbacks and sharing successes.

Over the many months involved in planning a TEDx event, its organizer repeatedly explains his or her interpretation of the philosophy of TED and the ideas that underlie TEDx.  This perpetual redescription of ideas worth spreading helps clarify why and how we volunteer to take the idea of TED and turn it into action as TEDx.

TED changes lives by encouraging participants to explore their own.

At TEDGlobal 2010, Matt Ridley aptly shared his concept of ideas having sex:  ideas must be shared if we wish them to evolve “beyond the capacity of the [single] human mind” and reach their full innovative potential.  TED might then be an idea orgy because it exceeds explanation and seems to evolve faster than we can describe it.   It has shared its genes through TEDx and catalyzed a passionate global network of people who have thought in depth and at length about answering the question “What is TED?”   More than an organization, beyond conferences, far surpassing even the phenomenal TEDtalks.. TED is Ideas worth spreading, questions worth asking, curiosity worth pursuing, work worth doing; it represents man achieving his best and then exceeding it.

TED and TEDx events reflect the caliber ambition of creating opportunities from obstacles and thus making life TED-like and an epicenter of wonder.  There are endless discoveries to be made when we look at existing knowledge, ideas, and opinions in a new way.  So said the possibilist.

Human beings are beautiful things when reminded to thrive.   I shared this thought inspired by TEDx with Chris Anderson, who answered that TEDx hosts = heroes.  While I may be no hero, the hundreds of other TEDx hosts around the world certainly are.  And I know few so deserving of my gratitude than they who graciously share ideas worth spreading.   To TED, TEDx organizers, TED and TEDx supporters and attendees:  I sincerely appreciate the opportunity through TEDx to help others share inspiration in pursuit of innovation.

TEDxHuntsville 2012 Presenters

ideation.TopictoTopic

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Ben Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues

Ben Franklin is one of my heroes.  He is industrious, intelligent, experimental, controversial, revolutionary, scientific, social and well-traveled.  He is also the world’s first Quantified Self tracker. Here are his thirteen virtues

1.  TEMPERANCE – Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

2.  SILENCE – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

3.  ORDER – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

4.  RESOLUTION – Resolve to preform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

5.  FRUGALITY – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.

6.  INDUSTRY – Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

7.  SINCERITY – Use no harmful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8.  JUSTICE – Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9.  MODERATION – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries, so much as you think they deserve.

10.  CLEANLINESS – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habituation.

11.  TRANQUILITY – Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12.  CHASTITY.  .  .  .  . [be respectable]

13.  HUMILITY – Imitate Jesus and Socrates”

“Come give us a taste of your quality” – Shakespeare

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TEDxSummit Prezi on TEDx Music

Back in April I had the pleasure of adventuring to Doha, Qatar for TEDxSummit to think with 700 others about how to turn ideas into action  (yes I am one of the people running up the dune).  One of the many ways to do it is by curating TEDx events.  Thousands of them with thousands of ateendees have created over 17,000 TEDxTalks.  Fully 30% of the talks on TED.com are now from TEDx events.

Within this immense number of TEDxTalks is the music of TEDx, which is for the first time being collected and shared on Soundcloud, free like the great ideas on TED.com. More mediums coming soon.  The prezi below accompanies the ~15 min explanation I did at a TEDxSummit workshop.  It  starts and ends with video performances, from TEDxTaipei and TEDxToronto respectively.

What do we have here?

Thousands of passionate music performances.  creative commons license.  global scope. genre defying. currently only on youtube. many with just a few hundred views. Invigorating opportunity to share something awesome with the world.

Opportunities

collect the music, organize it for maximized discovery and sharability

Elegance

Let’s think together and make this happen. Strategize.  We must develop&design a system to collect, remaster and organize many files; we must tag this music; structure the share and discovery.  Finally we should create a how-to guide so that no more performances will be lost to poor audio.

Then we broke into working groups and for the first time, a global gathering got TEDx-ers together in one place.  We started building TEDx Music 2.0.  Excitement is an understatement. Now we’re live on Soundcloud..main site is about to be completely relaunched..

I leave you with this, a camel ride. Why not?  Life is full of surprise opportunities for adventure.  Pair accomplishments with interstitial small joys for epic invigoration.  That’s one way among many.  Live a life you love.

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TEDx Music Project on Soundcloud

Few things make me excited to be working after 10 pm on Saturday.  The TEDx Music Project is one of them.  I’m thrilled to share the next phase and give a quick update on our progress since TEDxSummit.

TEDx Global Music is on Soundcloud!

The first phase includes 17 tracks.  Follow us to be among the first with access to the latest music from TEDx.

Our team is hard at work building the next generation of TEDxMusicProject.com.  It will go live in a few short weeks and feature TED API integration.  The new site will showcase both video and audio versions of the best live TEDx performances.

Listen to the tracks, download them and share with friends. Which track(s) do you like most?

Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who has helped make this happen and supported the TEDx Global Music Project along the way.  Major props to Souncloud for featuring us alongside audio sources such as The Economist and David Guetta.  We managed to gather well over 1,000 followers..in our first 24 hours public (June 22).  It’s only going to get bigger.

Follow the TEDx Music Project on Soundcloud.

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