How does a country in financial crisis rebound? How does a faltering company rally in the face of disaster? How does an individual spring back from personal tragedy?
In an age marked by volatility of every kind, how do we help people and systems persist, and even thrive, amid disruption? How do we foster greater resilience?
The answers could not be more pressing for companies, communities, individuals, leaders, and the planet as a whole. They’re the central ones we’ll be exploring at PopTech 2012: Toward Resilience, convening this October 17-20 in beautiful Camden, Maine.
We’ll explore the role of creativity, technology, and learning in building resilience, and what might it take to bolster America’s ability to rebound. We’ll explore what new science is revealing about building our personal and organizational resilience in the face of change.
This will be, without question, one of the strongest programs we’ve ever presented, and we're happy to unveil just a few of the remarkable speakers and performers you'll encounter, amid many other surprises and delights.
- C.J. Huff, the superintendent of Joplin Schools since July 2008, led his district of 1,100 employees and 7,700 students through the recovery effort that has followed the devastating May 22, 2011 tornado that ripped through the heart of Joplin, Missouri.
- Dean Karlan is President of Innovations for Poverty Action, a non-profit organization that creates and evaluates solutions to social and development problems, and works to scale-up successful ideas through implementation and dissemination to policymakers, practitioners, investors and donors. He is a Professor of Economics at Yale University.
- Amy J.C. Cuddy is a social psychologist whose latest research illuminates how “faking” body postures that convey competence and power (“power posing”)— even for as little as two minutes—changes our testosterone and cortisol levels, increases our appetite for risk, and configures our brain to cope well in stressful situations.
- David Eagleman is a neuroscientist with joint appointments in the departments of neuroscience and psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. His areas of research include time perception, vision, synesthesia, and the intersection of neuroscience with the legal system.
- Bill Shore is the founder and chief executive officer of Share Our Strength®, a national nonprofit that is working to end childhood hunger in America.
- Amanda Ripley is an investigative journalist who writes about human behavior and public policy. For Time Magazine and the Atlantic, she has chronicled the stories of American kids and teachers alongside groundbreaking new research into education reform.
- Adrian Anantawan, born without a right hand, began the violin at nine, and has since established himself as "a rising star in classical music" (Globe and Mail). He also helped to create the Virtual Chamber Music Initiative at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre—a cross-collaborative project that develops adaptive musical instruments for use by young persons with disabilities within a chamber music setting.
- Asenath Andrews founded and is currently the principal of Catherine Ferguson Academy, an alternative public high school for teen mothers that also provides early education services for the children of those high school moms.
- David B. Agus is one of the world’s leading cancer doctors and an international leader in new technologies and approaches for personalized healthcare.
- Sandro Galea is a physician and an epidemiologist whose research seeks to uncover how determinants at multiple levels of influence—including policies, features of the social environment, molecular, and genetic factors—jointly produce the health of urban populations.
- David DeSteno is currently a professor of psychology at Northeastern University where he directs the Social Emotions Lab. At the broadest level, DeSteno’s lab examines the mechanisms of the mind that shape social behavior.
- Margrét Pála is a renowned Icelandic educator and child care specialist, and the creator of the Hjalli pedagogy that employs such methods as sex-segregated classes, natural play instead of conventional toys and a belief in discipline as a way of training social skills.
- Juan Enriquez is a senior research fellow and director of the Harvard Business School Life Science Project, and is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on the economic and political impacts of life sciences.
- David Bellwood, a marine biologist and an internationally recognized expert in coral reef fishes and systems, combines skills in such disparate fields as ecology, palaeontology, biomechanics and molecular systems to understand the nature of reefs.
- John Doyle is a renowned systems scientist at CalTech and an expert in control and resilience in complex systems. As the John G Braun Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems, Electrical Engineer, and BioEngineering, he has focused his research on the theoretical foundations for complex networks in engineering and biology, and specifically on architecture, and for multiscale physics.
If ever there was a year to come to PopTech, this is it. We hope you’ll join us!
Register here to secure your seat today – this event promises to sell out quickly.
Recently opened at the New Museum in New York is Ghosts in the Machine, an exhibition which surveys the constantly shifting relationship between humans, machines and art. Last year’s trailblazing Talk to Me at the Museum of Modern Art celebrated and explored our brave new world of human-machine interfaces. Here, Massimiliano Gioni, helmsman of next year’s Venice Biennale, and co-curator Gary Carrion-Murayari, offer in response a shadowy prehistory, full of strange fears and visions, from a time not long past when such communication could only be imagined.
Exciting rediscoveries on display include American avant-garde film-maker Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome (1963-66): a dozen projectors emblazon the interior of a hemispherical tent – originally a converted silo – with a kaleidoscopic array of meshed multimedia images that prefigure the immersive experience of the web. Gianni Colombo’s Elastic Space (1968) offers an optimistic vision of what it might feel like to be inside a conscious machine: walking into a dark room, you are surrounded by a glowing three-dimensional matrix of cords, stretched by gently whirring pulleys, that seems to softly breathe.
The roughly 140 works, ranging from the buoyant, like Hans Haacke’s Blue Sail (1964-65), a bright blue chiffon sheet floating in mid-air, to the horrific, like the anonymously-made life-size reproduction of a torture machine from Franz Kafka’s short story, In the Penal Colony, take us on an elliptic journey across the 20th century from the mechanical, to the optical, to the virtual. It’s striking how the artists gathered here do not seem to have imagined that machines might be our way to each other – there is little foreshadowing of social media, and there are only oblique traces of the human to be found in the technological landscapes on display. You find yourself wondering if our design virtuosity has humanized the machine world, or if we are the future the past feared it might become.
Curator Gioni writes, “Men and machines live together in a ‘dream-like life’. It is this oneiric state, this magical union, that we explore in this exhibition."
For some PopTech glimpses of what dreams may come next, check out Desney Tan and Scott Saponas: Our bodies as the interface; Neri Oxman: On designing form; and Kelly Dobson: Machine therapy.
Images: Courtesy of the New Museum, New York. Photo: Benoit Pailley
The U.S. Geologic Survey recently held a competition for their "Earth as Art" collection. Captured by the Landsat series of Earth-observing satellites, the land imagery provides a fresh perspective on the Earth's landscape by highlighting certain geographic features through color. As described by NASA:
During a span of 40 years, since 1972, the Landsat series of Earth observation satellites has become a vital reference worldwide for understanding scientific issues related to land use and natural resources.
Over 14,000 people voted on the images submitted to the competition and winners were recently announced. Two of the top five images can be seen here, but for all five picks, have a look at NASA's "Earth as Art" page.
Images: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS
There's always something brewing in the PopTech community. From the world-changing people, projects and ideas in our network, a handful of this week's highlights follows.
- This week D-Rev: Design Revolution, which is run by 2011 PopTech Social Innovation Fellow Krista Donaldson, was highlighted in Fast Co.Exist. D-Rev bringing state-of-the-art, user-centric products to empower the lives of the four billion people living on less than four dollars a day.
- In food tech news, 2011 Social Innovation Fellow Erica Block's Local Orbit was featured on Xconomy.com. Local Orbit provides one-stop-shopping with an online platform that provides customized websites with e-commerce, management, and marketing tools to help streamline the local food supply chain.
- Earlier this week, Jay Parkinson (PopTech 2009) talked to CBS This Morning about Sherpaa and his ongoing journey to reimagine health care delivery.
- CNN produced a great video on 2011 PopTech Fellow Dominic Muren, his design laboratory Humble Factory, and the makers movement.
- Jad Abumrad (PopTech 2010) wrote a manifesto on how Radiolab was born for Transom.org. For more about Radiolab and sound be sure to watch Abumrad’s 2010 PopTech talk where he shares examples of how sound has been used to make scientific strides as well as convey failure or express error.
- Finally, here’s a free collection of MP3s from Alexi Murdoch, Valgeir Sigurðsson and Nico Muhly that commemorates their collaboration at the PopTech Iceland 2012.
Image: Simon Rankin
We seem to be sticking to an oceanic theme this past couple of weeks, with recent posts on whales and coral reefs. Maybe it's a result of our recent trip to Iceland. Or maybe it's because Shark Week is just around the corner.
The ocean continues to captivate us, this time in the form of a marine-themed film festival and art show, currently traveling down the West Coast of the United States. The project, entitled The Great West Coast Migration, was organized by the Japan-based international non-profit PangeaSeed, who works to raise awareness about the plight of sharks and the destruction of their habitat. PangeaSeed is partnering with the Beneath the Waves film festival, which aims to "encourage, inspire, and educate scientists, advocates, and the general public to produce and promote open-access, engaging marine-issue documentaries."
Here's a little glimpse at what you might see as a very sad shark tries to find his missing friend along the coastal towns and waterways of the West.
The Great West Coast Migration played in Seattle, WA and Portland, OR earlier this month, and continues on the following dates and locations:
Image via PangeaSeed
Today on NPR's Morning Edition, host Ari Shapiro wondered how to interpret the influx of misleading presidential campaign ads, how to weed through quotes taken out of context, and if those ads were truly making an impact on voter opinions. He turned to behavioral economist Dan Ariely (PopTech 2010, 2009), who recently published The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves, for his expert opinion.
Ariely had recently conducted a survey with a few hundred people online who were asked if they thought it was acceptable for their candidates to be dishonest if it furthered the candidate's overall agenda. His study found that both Democrats and Republicans were comfortable with the idea that their own candidates could be dishonest in order to get elected.
The NPR piece continues by describing how much this confirmation bias has pervaded our decision-making, and how that decision-making doesn't necessarily come from a rational place.
On the topic of what prompts our rational and irrational behavior, we're flashing back to Ariely's 2009 PopTech talk where he dissects the impulse to act irrationally. Perhaps it'll provide us with some insight this campaign season.
Recently, PopTech launched its second Edition, Small is beautiful: The micro-everything revolution. Our Editions explore an emerging theme at the edge of change from the perspective of some of the remarkable innovators shaping it. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been highlighting pieces from contributors who are exploring the dynamics of the micro-everything revolution, from design and engineering for radical affordability to overcoming hurdles to distribution.
Today, we’re highlighting talks from the PopTech stage that look at micro-everything from, well, everything--from solar to design to insurance to computing and beyond. We've compiled these talks into one collection so they can be viewed all together or flipped through and watched individually.
PopTech Edition II: Micro-everything video playlist:
- Microsolar: Paul Needham and Simpa Networks (5:06)
- Microdiagnostics: Hayat Sindi and Diagnostics for All (10:14)
- Microdesign: Krista Donaldson and D-Rev (5:38)
- Micromobile: Nigel Waller and Movirtu (5:21)
- Microwater: Sameer Kalwani and Sarvajal (5:26)
- Microhydro: Salinee Tavaranan and BGET (5:31)
- Microcomputing: Derek Lomas and Playpower Foundation (5:21)
- Micromanufacture: Adrian Bowyer and RepRap (18:30)
- Microinsurance: Rose Goslinga and Kilimo Salama (4:46)
Check out the complete Edition .
There's always something brewing in the PopTech community. From the world-changing people, projects and ideas in our network, a handful of this week's highlights follows.
- Tom Darden (PopTech 2010), executive director of Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation, was tasked to oversee building 150 affordable, green, high-design homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Katrina. This week Fast Co.Exist announced the exciting news that Make It Right has completed its first Frank Gehry-designed home.
- 2011 PopTech Science Fellow Iain Couzin was featured on CNN earlier this week for his research using the Xbox to study locust swarms. Through his work on swarm behavior, Couzin attempts to understand how people, animals and even diseases manage to accomplish things in groups that would not be possible as individuals.
- Computational neuroscientist and 2010 PopTech Science Fellow H. Sebastian Seung conducts pioneering research on the wiring of the brain and what it reveals about genetics, personality, and memory. This week Boston.com covered Seung and the launch of EyeWire, an online game that invites volunteer “scientists” to build 3-D maps of the cell networks that are crucial for vision.
- Finally, Princeton University professor Anne-Marie Slaughter (PopTech 2011) made an appearance on The Colbert Report to talk about her Atlantic cover article, "Why Women Can't Have It All." Slaughter stressed that women need better job choices, ones that equally accommodate a family and full career.
What better example of a country's democratic resiliency in the face of financial collapse than the move to toss its constitution and bring on a handful of citizens to rewrite it from scratch? University of Iceland political science professor Silja Ómarsdóttir was one of 25 people asked to revise Iceland’s most important document after the country’s financial meltdown in 2008.
In her PopTech Iceland talk, she explains how the citizens of Iceland reacted to the bank collapse (politely and when no action was taken, loudly) and the eventual response from the government, which included updating the country’s constitution. Ómarsdóttir details the constitution creation process and what it meant to overhaul the document, with considerable public input, in four months. She concluded her talk when she said wryly, “The next time I write a constitution, I would have a little bit of a break in between. By the time we finished, we were so saturated with our own ideas, we couldn’t see the forest for the trees.”
In 2003 Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei quietly dispatched a centuries-old myth, when he said publicly that despite his best efforts, he hadn’t been able to see the Great Wall of China from space. The ancient world’s longest construction, awesome though it is, is the same dusty color as the hills it’s made from, only nine meters wide, and time-weathered. Optometrists have argued that to see the Wall from space with the naked eye, even at low orbits, you would need 20/3 vision, 7.7 times better than ordinary human sight.
The largest construction on the planet is not man-made, and it has no such problems being seen from space. Working in large numbers, and hardly ever taking a break, coral polyps built the Great Barrier Reef in its current form in about 8,000 years. Vast and beautiful, from space it dominates the view of the Pacific east of the Australian coast.
Recently, Roger Bradbury, a respected Australian ecologist, has written an op-ed in the New York Times that the Great Barrier Reef, and all the world’s coral reefs for that matter, are not just threatened, which we all knew, but doomed to destruction, within our lifetimes. He argues that because of rising levels of ocean acidity, overfishing, and water pollution, there is no hope. The only responsible thing is to allocate funds to plan for the aftermath of the reefs’ death and disappearance - not to save them. “It will be a disaster for the hundreds of millions of people in poor, tropical countries like Indonesia and the Philippines who depend on coral reefs for food”, he says. Reefs are home to one quarter of the world’s entire marine life, and perhaps as many as 9 million species.
We checked in with Ann Marie Healy, who has spent time researching the coral reefs of Palau for the book Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back to hear her opinion on the topic. She said:
After seeing the work of the most effective marine scientists and environmentalists, it feels clear that the survival of the reefs is still possible but only with very deep engagement from the people who live on them and use them every day. That means engagement not only at the top of the food chain—national governments and international organizations—but also from people who rely on reefs for their livelihood and cultural identity. Environmental change is inextricably linked with changing behavior and social norms.
Reactions to the piece from oceanologists, ecologists, and other scientists have been collected by Dot Earth. While there is disagreement about the inevitability of disaster, and whether or not this will all be over in the next few decades, the general consensus is that the outlook is grim. Human industry, as represented by such monumental achievements as the Great Wall, may prove, in the Anthropocene, the mightier force after all.
Image: NASA/Wikimedia Commons