Hundreds attend TEDx event


The annual TEDx conference of “ideas worth sharing” drew a crowd of one thousand to learn of new horizons in technology, entertainment and design this weekend.

Now in its fifth year, Saturday’s independently organised event packed the Fairmont Southampton’s auditorium.

“Think about what you see, do and hear,” urged TEDx organiser John Narraway at the conference’s close. “More than anything else, act on what you’re seeing here today.”

Aimed at stimulating new conversations and partnerships, as well as bringing “knowledge tourism” to the Island, TEDx combined an array of innovations with stark warnings of the cost of complacency.

The symposium opened with a performance from auditor and self-professed non-dancer Ishrat Yakub, spinning within hula-hoops.

“I invite you to find the dance in yourself,” she said. “If I can find it in a plastic circle, you can probably find it anywhere.”

Anthropologist Carl Lipo upended conventional assumptions on the collapsed civilisation of Easter Island, which left behind a thousand giant statues known as moai.

Outsiders assumed that the native peoples’ “monument mania” degraded their environment, leading to “a downward spiral of cultural regression”, Dr Lipo said — but his own research on the island revealed that European contact, starting in 1722, led to the islanders’ downfall.

Maths expert and technological entrepreneur Charles Hoskinson predicted a decentralised future for financial services, bringing banking and insurance to third-world citizens using mobile technology. Currently, only 40 percent of the Earth’s population is online.

Weldon Wade, founder of the group Bermuda Ocean Explorers, took the stage to call on residents to experience the ocean and take up the cause of preserving it.

Calling the lionfish incursion “probably the biggest catastrophe the Atlantic has ever experienced”, Mr Wade called for an “army” of divers to keep their numbers in check. The invasive fish were served as food during the break in the five-hour conference.

UK actor Adjoa Andoh spoke on the topic of her transgendered son, born a girl, and his quest for acceptance.

Calling on people to judge one another by character and not by outward appearances, Ms Andoh drew applause as she added: “This is not a utopian dream — it is a lived reality.”

Chemist and designer Lauren Bowker, who embarked on her fashion career ten years ago, presented textiles that change colour in response to environmental factors such as wind, pollution and ultraviolet radiation.

“I went against the traditional catwalk,” she said, unveiling a headpiece of laboratory-grown gemstones that fluctuated in colour in response to the wearer’s brain activity.

Bermuda’s own Daniel Frith, also known as reggae artist Uzimon, appeared in character — beginning as the fictional physicist Yuri Tedeskovitz, to illustrate how performance infuses every aspect of daily life.

His trademark facial hair is “a $14.99 beard from Bangladesh”, Mr Frith revealed, adding: “It is my clown nose, the window on my subconscious — this is my cape.”

Cybersecurity expert and former White House policy director Jason Healey addressed the threats to a free internet posed by crime, espionage, warfare and malicious hacking, telling the audience they were living at “the tipping point for the future of the free internet”.

Conservation analyst Elizabeth Stokoe of the UK’s Loughborough University delved into the minute pauses and verbal cues that determine successful versus unsuccessful communication.

Computer developer Jerome Pesenti, who has worked with artificial intelligence for the past 16 years, described the use of neural nets that mimic the brain to develop computers exhibiting “deep learning” capabilities. Theoretically, he said, the industry is 25 years away from developing computers with the 100 trillion connections necessary to match that of the human mind.

Local poet and graphic designer Stephan Johnstone described uncovering the Bermudian identity implicit in his accent during performances before Toronto audiences.

“Poetry is a very hard sell, especially in Bermuda — I feel like most Bermudians think poetry smells funny,” he said. “But poetry can truly change lives.”

Ocean explorer Oliver Steeds closed the conference, urging the audience to experience the oceans — and warning that “the next ten years will determine the next ten thousand”.

“We need a people-powered NASA for the oceans,” Mr Steeds said, ending his 18-minute segment by declaring his dream of becoming a submersible pilot.

The event was filmed, and will be broadcast on YouTube in several week’s time. To learn more, go to www.tedxbermuda.com.

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Published Oct 6, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 6, 2014 at 1:03 pm)

Hundreds attend TEDx event

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