TED 2017: from Me to We

I sit in San Francisco, antisocially staring into a handheld screen, furiously typing to share words surging through my brain before total exhaustion descends and I awake in the morning back in the real world, not TED wonderland. It’s Friday night, ending the last day of a mega week of a TED conference that closed with an interview from the extraordinary and peculiar mind of Elon Musk. Impossible seems nothing.

I think back to Monday, just five days ago feels like ancient history. 15 hour days of absolute bombardment from brilliant brains. It’s mega. It’s meta. You’re walking around and Oh! There is an art installation made of spider webs and to the left there’s a cellist playing Bach on a Stradivarius while outside a dude is literally flying around with jetpacks strapped to his arms while Adam Savage and Jeff Bezos look on (this is all shown in one live 15 min video on my Facebook). Fueled by oddities like coconut ash cream puffs and cricket flour power bars, TED catapults beyond a spectacular sensory experience into a strangely simultaneous marathon and spa for the mind.

Legendary chess player Garry Kasparov opened, followed shortly by Tim Ferris in the early evening hours on that magical first day of TED. Together they set the mood for the week to come, lighting our minds with ideas of shared humanity connected by the curiosities of empathy and reason. Thus began what I see as the thread of TED 2017: a quest to return to We from Me; to pull Us from Other with overwhelmingly evidenced hope for the possibile.

That We includes not just humans but also our future Artificially Intelligent brethren, who it seems will team up with us to build better futures. And after all, the success of AI is not success of only AI but also the humans who created it. There is always the possibility that AI will destroy the world. But total destruction seems unlikely. Rather, prepare for total disruption. 

We’re well on our way to eradicating extreme poverty, optimizing personalized precision medicine, and paving the way for clean energy. We understand our brains and bodies and this planet we call home like never before. In our numerous unknowns, I see great opportunities for discoveries and tremendous responsibility to ensure the wows of wealthy countries are more equally distributed both within and beyond borders. Perhaps our greatest challenge as a species is rebuilding – or establishing for the first time – bonds among disparate peoples and setting new foundations as a species that pulls ALL forward. We must take the hard steps, make brave moves, collaborate to beat humanity’s greatest foes. 

I feel compelled to share this unbridled amazement and wonder and above all hope for our fine world. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to experience TED and learn and explore and interact with seemingly innumerable stellar people. I’m humbled and grateful and damn stoked for what’s to come. If I may give you one action item, one Challenge of sorts, it’s to seek out someone with a background starkly different than your own and ask them to share their story. Listen, ask questions, and see if it doesn’t just change something for you. Perspective, if used well, can be our most powerful tool.

(Token Pope pic)

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