News Navigation

TED 2013: The young. The wise. The undiscovered.

By Christopher Miller, chief digital officer, Chicago

This year’s theme for TED (the global nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading founded in 1984 as the Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference) was “The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered.”  It turned into one of TED’s best events yet. I’ve been fortunate to be a longtime TED attendee, starting when it was still in Monterey and by invitation only.  Today the myth carries on about being invitation only, but ‘tis not true, I’m told by the TED team. Not everyone gets in but anyone can apply.
TED 2013 began on a Monday in Long Beach, CA, with a meeting of the new class of TED fellows, followed by a great deal of fun as the 2013 Fellows and some current and past Senior Fellows shared their ideas and talks.
Architect, designer and computer scientist Skylar Tibbits showed us a process that through 3D printing creates multi-layered objects that combine standard plastic with layers of “smart” material that will react with water. By adding water to the printed object, the reaction causes the object to self-shape and become a new rigid structure. This structure can bend and twist into a new shape with the water acting as fuel for the material to expand. Think of a “future Ikea” where you can buy a flat chair or object and instead of any assembly, you just add water and the flat pack shapes into the desired chair or object.
Bluebrain’s Ryan Holladay shared his super cool GPS-enabled musical experience of walking through the park at the Washington Monument. As you get closer to the Monument, the song builds layer upon layer and as you move farther away it deconstructs.  This technology has tremendously interesting implications for creating experiences in retail environments, where shoppers are already being tracked on Wi-Fi (whether they know it or not).
Also on tap was Negin Farsad, an Iranian-American stand-up comedian, who used humor and satire to entertain the audience as she discussed how she confronts and counters Islamophobia through comedy. 
And as a scuba instructor, I loved David Lang and his open Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) project. A Kickstarter darling, what was a limited and expensive device has now been open sourced. May have to make one myself.
TED truly excites and inspires me. Draftfcb is fortunate to have enjoyed a long partnership with the TED Fellows that over the past year has seen some Fellows come into our office and work side by side with us. It’s always amazing what these great brains create. If you want to learn more about the current crop of TED Fellows, clickhere.
Every year when I attend TED, I am reminded that while we can all watch the videos individually, it truly is a group experience. As such, we have simulcast the conference — live — in our Chicago office, setting up a large room so that people can drop in and out during the day to catch a talk or perhaps stay for a few hours. The conversations and discussions that come out of these shared viewing experiences is what TED is really all about. The TED speakers, indeed, are thought starters, conversation generators, and idea catalysts.
Some of the talks from this year are being released on, and all will be published there over time. Meanwhile, I’d recommend that you watch Amanda Palmer on “The Art of Asking,” as she ping pongs from life as an eight-foot bride and what it means to really connect with your audience. And, ultimately, what that means for her when it comes to her music revenue.
In the creative world we are constantly putting ourselves and our ideas out there, something that Amanda speaks to with reckless abandon. She made me think about everything – from the feedback that we give to the power of human contact. 
It was her talk that clearly illustrated for me why TED 2013 was clearly branded: “The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered.”