Last Saturday in the Volkstheater Wien, leading thinkers and doers from all around the world provided the opening spark to local enthusiasts for discussion, connection and action on what they’ve then later determined to be the limits of humanity, society, science and invention.
Outstanding speakers, the best audience in the world, impressive exhibitions, inspiring networking sessions, great laughs, a great team of volunteers and an immersive atmosphere were the main ingredients of an epic day worth talking about long time from now on and definitely worth reviewing in the next paragraphs.
Limits of Humans
First one to break the ice in talking about limits of humans was Mark Kramer, whose personal experience with overcoming a severe health problem led him on the pathway to innovation. Kramer’s research aims at putting back the social and cultural elements into medicine and medical treatments through communication technologies and social media.
While an obvious limit to many of us, time and its consequences on the human body triggered a lot of research. Martha Merrow, expert in circadian clocks, talked about how our cellular rhythmicity is determined by age, genes and light and how do we go about the “social jet lag” as the difference between what our inner clock and the social clock want us to do. Do you still remember whose inner clock changed the history of Europe?
Aubrey de Grey, researcher at SENS, took us back to a basic truth, long forgotten but maybe an anti-aging cure: “Age-related diseases are caused by aging”. Why don’t we focus on fighting back the accumulation of damage that actually causes aging?
If that doesn’t get us to an unlimited life, we should answer Ian Usher‘s questions of the day and taking him as the living proof of everything’s possible: What is that you are meant to be doing? or What is your life mission statement?
Limits of Science
The universe’s limitlessness had two incredible representatives on the TEDxVienna stage: Jocelyn Bell Burnell, President of the British Physics Institute, who beautifully proved that we are all made of star stuff and 16-year old genious Neil Ibata, who revolutionized the way we think about the universe by presenting us his galactic discovery in a mind-blowing talk about the ordered motions of Andromeda’s satellite galaxies: “We must not be afraid of crossing boundaries”, was his advice.
Artificial Intelligence is one of the main ingredients of unlimited development and the future of humanity. There are obviously limits to that, though. Daniel Dewey, researcher in AI has given us insights on the direction that intelligence explosion is going to take and how do we manage it?
Speaking of artificial, Mark Post amazed the audience with the environmental friendly stem cells burgers that not only will get us out of the “schnitzel crisis”, will drastically reduce food processing costs, emissions of CO2 and can be done at home (although for that you need to know what you’re going to have for dinner… 8 months in advance).
Limits of Society
Surprisingly, limits sometimes result from good intentions such as philanthropic behavior. What do you do then? Change the paradigm! Auma Obama, half-sister of the world’s most powerful man, Barack Obama (hello NSA!) spoke about her fight against misconceptions of charity: “Development aid is not sustainable and shouldn’t be done through charity”. She believes in the empowerment of poor people with a voice, self-awareness and skills. Similarly, Samar Jodha is empowering young children from poor countries through art. His workshops aim at enabling slum children to create and discover their own potential. An amazing project you can read more about: http://www.thedhakaproject.org/.
Marc Miletich and Ip Wischin, analog filmmakers and communication consultants, explained how hierarchic organisations cope with the challenge of new structures of information channels alongside social media.
When simple logical processes take the most complex routes, limits appear. Annemieke Hendriks spoke about the European food chain or the labyrinthine way tomatoes follow from production to distribution as a consequence of corporations’ tricky maneuvres.
Carl Djerassi, the inventor of the Pill, introduced us to an ugly truth: The 21st century is the century of A.R.T. – assisted reproductive technologies. Sex as always but reproduction happens under the microscope.
Limits of Technology
Manel Torres mesmerized the audience with his spray-on fabric that not only has impressive applications in art and fashion, but can also serve in medicine (instant casts and bandaids), environment, automotive industry and so on. That’s what we call unlimited technology. Similarly, Elif Bilgin, a 16-year old student from Turkey invented a process of obtaining plastic out of banana peels and shared her inspiring story on the TEDxVienna stage: “It’s not the age, it’s the amount of imagination you have”.
Johannes Bergerhausen‘s talk shed a light on the unicode, the computing industry standard for the representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world’s writing systems and a basic element of our daily lives you will definitely see differently after his talk.
And if we’re talking about basics, there’s nothing more powerful in education, learning, discovery, curiosity, you name it, than a good question. Michael Stevens, also known as Vsauce is the master of questions. At TEDxVienna Unlimited he revealed the secret behind his technique of simply asking the right question and giving the right answer because “the limits of what you can be interested in are unlimited“.
Follow our updates on Facebook, Twitter and the blog to be the first one to watch the Talks as they will be published, tell us what was your favorite Talk and don’t forget to share the experience with your friends!
Intense networking sessions during the breaks were accompanied by creative exhibitions: from computers controlled by the human brain, the electronic drum paper, 3D printers, the TagTool to the MagicShifter, the Flatpup, Vasema and the most inspiring answers to “What limits should humanity overcome?”.
Have a look at the photos slideshow from the event and don’t forget to tag yourself in the Facebook photo album.
The TEDxVienna Unlimited conference 2013 wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our partners: Stroeck, Plus4, Fischertechnik, Podio, Sparkasse Oesterreich, Wirtschaftsblatt, Rockvideos, derStandard.at, Intercontinental, Horizont, Heineken, Redbull, RiskExperts, BrandEins, Adamah, Fisherman’sFriends, TagTool, Nked, KomischeKuenste, Eton Institute, Erste, Erste Stiftung, Ear Books and Illy.
THANK YOU for joining us on a remarkable one-day deep dive exploration of limits and see you at the next TEDxVienna event!