Posts tagged ‘TED’

I read with interest a story in today’s local paper.  It was all about the latest computer technology advance out of India.  International demand for the Apple iPad has hardly slowed since its initial introduction, despite its hefty price tag.  Unfortunately, the Apple price point is simply out of reach for the vast majority of the Indian population, so the demand for less expensive computers is incredibly high.  When the under-$300 PC was introduced, it was a solid hit, but the Indian tech gurus may have knocked it out the ballpark this time.

If you have read any of my previous blog entries, you know that I am often referring to the TED conferences and the innovations that stem from them.  In 2005, Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, proposed a $100 laptop that would be distributed in developing countries like China and India.  The laptops would be distributed in schools to students as a way to aid the learning process and give them more connectivity to the rest of the world.  He called the program One Laptop Per Child.  Ironically, India rejected OLPC as being “too expensive” and set out to create their own computers that would be even cheaper.

Which brings us to the $35 tablet PC unveiled earlier this week.  Of course, $35 is the high end of the price range.  The development team is hoping that they can get the cost down to $10 per unit once they go into full-steam production next year.  It will have connectivity similar to that of the iPad, but it runs the Linux system and operates with a USB-type storage device instead of an installed hard drive.  All of these factors help with the price reduction, but the developers have also shopped the globe looking for companies willing to produce a portion of the system for a low cost.  By farming out the components and using open-source software, India seems to have done the impossible.  And if that were not enough, the Indian government has also said that they will be willing to help subsidize the cost of the tablet computers for students, so they will run around $20 each.  Functionality might be limited on these machines, but if there was a device that could surf the web, bounce out to YouTube, check email and do basic word processing for 20 bucks, wouldn’t you jump on it?

People in the United States used to joke when India first started “stealing” phone support jobs, but with the advent of a variety of modern technologies being produced at a much lower cost that the rest of the world, India is a player to watch.  I know I could swing $20 for a new computer.  I just have to come up with the money to move to India . . .

To view the entire Associated Press article, click here.

There is a phenomenon known as “Phantom Limb Syndrome”.  Amputees experience it during the first months after having a limb removed, and, in some cases, it can last years.  The brain perceives signals from the nerves in the missing limb, and interprets them as sensation.  An amputee will feel pain in an arm or leg that is no longer there.  (Until recently, no one knew what to do for these poor people to alleviate their excruciating pain.  In a previous blog, I mentioned a contemporary genius,  Vilayanur Ramachandran.  He has come up with a solution and you can learn about it here.)  In my life I have, thankfully, never been in a position to completely understand this phenomenon, but I recently came close.  While I have never lost a limb, about a month ago, I dropped my laptop.

It was early on the second day of E3 – the Electronic Entertainment Expo.  My husband had been religiously following the proceedings on the first day and had asked to borrow my laptop so that he could view the streaming key note presentations.  “Why not?”, I thought.  No harm in letting a geek borrow technology.  It’s not like he can do anything to hurt the laptop.  Of course, I was right on that point, but it was when I “borrowed” my own laptop back to check my email before heading to work.  I picked it up off my husband’s desk, used it, and got ready to put it back on my husband’s desk when I lost my balance and dropped the whole thing.  I watched it, as if in slow motion, spin out of my hand and slide onto the floor.  Not having time to inspect the damage myself, I left a quick note scrawled on a paper towel (don’t ask) and headed off to work.

It wasn’t until later that day I learned of the havoc I had left in my path of destruction.  Not only had I trashed the hard drive in my brand-new two-month-old laptop, but, horror of horrors, my husband could no longer watch the streaming E3 videos!  He tried everything he could think of before finally acknowledging defeat.  Luckily, I was still under my warranty, but the process of filing a warranty claim, getting the new hard drive installed and getting all of my software took FOREVER.  And in the meantime, here I sat, twiddling my thumbs, without a computer of my own to be able to do my “stuff”.

I was still able to check my email on my phone, and I did borrow my husband’s system occasionally, but for the most part I was an involuntary Luddite for several weeks.  Of course, being in a position to NOT be able to write made me all the more anxious to write.  The longer I was without my laptop, the more I began to miss the freedom I felt (and had taken for granted) with my own portal onto the web.

Now that I am back, I am slowly gearing up to where I was before.  I have been posting to Facebook and Twitter, I have been playing my online-time-waster games, and finally, I am writing again.  It almost feels like I am starting all over again, and in a way, I am.  Today is a new beginning in brand new world.  One where I don’t drop my laptop ever again.

A while back, my husband decided it was worth $10 a month for us to have Netflix.  Not because we could have DVDs sent to us in the mail, but because we could watch streaming video through our XBox.  Once we got up and running, my husband took to spending hours at a time (usually after everyone else had gone to sleep) combing through the online catalog of titles available to stream instantly.  Quite soon we had an instant queue with over 200 titles.  That didn’t include the “Suggested Titles” in the various genre categories that we could also choose from.

In looking at the various titles my husband had chosen to add to our queue, I began to notice a penchant for documentaries.  And not just your run of the mill documentaries.  Weird documentaries.  He had one all about how people surgically alter their bodies to extreme extents.  The plot to assassinate Hitler.  The history of stupidity.  The development and use of the Helvetica typeface.  The tiny division of hip-hop known as “nerdcore”.  (For the record, I am NOT making any of these up.  As of this writing, all of these – with the exception of the body mod one – are still currently on our list.)  Anyway, in and amongst these odd documentaries was something called “The Future We Will Create: Inside the world of TED”.  You may be thinking, Who is TED?  TED is not a who, but a what.  It stands for Technology Entertainment Design, and it is an annual invitation-only conference held in California.  Over the course of four days, guest speakers get 18 minutes to present what they are doing or what they would like to do, and why it should interest us.  Speakers include leading scientists, philosophers, entertainment industry leaders, and performers.  At the end of the conference, the TED Prizes are announced.  Each prize winner is allowed to present to the the assembly a wish – what they would like to see happen that will make the world a better place.

On the surface, it all sounds very high-brow, until you take a closer look.  These people are very serious about what they are doing and are presenting simple ideas in a user-friendly format that can make life better for us all.  When the prize winners announce their wishes, the entire group of attendees leave TED with only one goal in mind – make it happen.  Entrepreneurs, scientists, entertainers, designers, with all their contacts and all their venture capital, spend the next year doing what they can to help make the prizewinner’s wish a reality.  Past winners include Bono, Bill Clinton, and Jamie Oliver, among others.  And ideas and innovations presented at TED have changed the world.  In the documentary, you can see the design originator presenting what has since become the CNN Magic Board – the giant touch-screen interactive computer interface that they used quite effectively during our last presidential election.

TED is not only about learning and expanding a person’s mind to be able to “think outside the box.”  TED is a lot of fun, as well.  The further I got into the documentary, the more I found myself thinking, “It would be SO COOL to be able to attend one of these conferences.”  Luckily for all of us, TED thinks the same thing, and they have created a website that you could spend all day in, searching for different talks on any one of a thousand topics.  TED has also expanded since its inception as a small gathering in 1984 to an international organization, hosting conferences here and abroad, and simulcasting conferences to “satellite” conference locations and online.

If you would like to be inspired, educated, amazed, informed, entertained, empowered, or otherwise enlightened, drop by

P.S. Vilayanur Ramachandran is a genius.  Look him up.