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Guest Thinkers

At TED 2011 Science + Art = Wonder


Alan Harrington eloquently wrote in The Immortalist that we should all strive to remain, “uncompromising child-voyagers andretain a child’s eye view of what might be”… And isn’t this what we’ve always been told: to stay open, believe in the impossible, to feed our curiosity?

Perhaps the best way to capture the dance between intellectual reverence and childlike awe that takes place at TED is written in the very first page of this year’s TED handbook. (Simply reading this out loud sends a shudder down my spine):

“A Universe of Possibility.

Grey Infused By Color.

The Invisible Revealed.

The Mundane Blown Away

By Awe.”

The 2011 TED Conference’s theme was, “The Rediscovery of Wonder” and with sessions titled “Majestic”, “Mindblowing”  and more, you knew you were in for something special.

From the vantage of point of TED Active in Palm Springs, The Rediscovery of Wonder was pure intellectual nirvana, braincrackfor the thinking man. It was like spending four days on the high you get from watching Carl Sagan’s magnificent Pale Blue Dot, or 2001: a Space Odyssey.

The week featured a speech beamed directly from an astronaut in space, a human kidney “printed” live on stage, an exoskeleton thatallows the paralyzed to walk, and a professor of “long history” articulating the entire unfolding of the universe from the big banguntil the present in merely eighteen, jaw-dropping minutes–the last of which explained that it was only once we figured out how to encode and record “learned” information in language, that “collective learning” became possible… this quickly accelerated human technological evolution. Whoa!

Suffice it to say that a sense of reverence for the power of ideas permeated the atmosphere at TED and TED Active.

The Imaginary Foundation has an inspiring venn diagram T-shirt that suggests that wonder exists at the intersection of science and art… And it is perhaps at this intersection, this intellectual collision of seemingly disparate bedfellows, that something magical andunexpected happens: new patterns emerge; new connections are forged between previously unconnected ideas and inspirationreigns. Mindblowing scientific and technological advances wow the audience: One man even demonstrated a three-dimensional spacetime rendering showcasing the emergence of speech in a child over time.

Indeed to describe this year’s TED experience as a mind-meld doesn’t do it justice. If inspiring literally means breathing in, then the best way to say what went down here is to translate it to an the act of taking one intense, goose-bump-rendering deep breath.

Jason Silva is a media personality, Singularity enthusiast and a Fellow at the Hybrid Reality Institute.

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