Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

Speaker: Ken Robinson

Length: 20:03


Ken thinks that creativity is as important in education as Literacy. However, children are being taught how not to be wrong. Ken argues that being creative means that you have to be willing to be wrong, and the education system treats being wrong as the worst thing possible. In doing this, education teaches away children’s natural urge to ‘give it a go’.

All education systems globally have a ‘hierarchy’, with math and language at the top, social sciences in the middle and arts at the bottom. This is because the childhood education system was developed to satisfy the industrial revolution of the 19th century, where math and science was essential for jobs, but times have changed. While once people just needed school for a good job, then a bachelor degree, and now that alone is no guarantee for a job. Degrees have had a form of inflation over time, and this shows it is shifting too quickly. Having children go to school just to attend university is not really equipping them to work any more.

We know 3 things about intelligence

  • It is diverse – we think in many ways – visually, in sound, movement, abstract
  • it is dynamic – original ideas come about from the interaction of many different ways of seeing things.
  • it is distinct – people have their way of doing things – Ken’s example is a ‘problem student’ who couldn’t sit still at school, but when moved to a dance school fit in fine – she needed to move to think. Her dance skills went on to give her immense fame and fortune, bringing value to millions of people. In modern times, she would probably have been given ADHD medication and been put told to calm down.

We need to redefine our education system – our current way is one of ‘strip mining’ our children for the most desired properties, in the same way we mined the Earth for ore. We now need to use our imaginations and creativity wisely, to face an uncertain and problematic future. We may not see this future, but need to equip our children to conquer it.

Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days

Speaker: Matt Cutts

Length: 3:27


Matt Cutts wants you to try something new for 30 days! It is something he has been doing for a while and come to the conclusion that 30 days is the perfect amount of time to add a new habit or remove an old one. Some of the things he has done include writing a novel (NaNoWriMo), biking to work, and not eating any sugar. It has been a life changing experience for him and he says each month has become much more memorable. His advice on creating sustainable habits is to stick to small changes that you are able to continue afterwards (although big ones can be rewarding too).

The next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not so why not try something you’ve always wanted to do?

Ray Anderson: The business logic of sustainability

Speaker: Ray Anderson

Length: 16:39


In 1973, Ray read from “The Ecology of Commerce” that business and industry is

  1. the major culprit of the decline of the biosphere, and
  2. the only institution large and powerful enough to fix the problem.

The environmental impact equation is Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology. Ray’s focus as CEO of a carpet manufacturer was on the ‘Technology” side – his goal was to use technology to improve the environment, turning impact into Impact = Population x Affluence / Technology. Since embracing this goal, his greenhouse gas has dropped by 82%, while sales have risen by 2/3rds and profits doubled. His goal is still zero impact – mission zero, which is even better for business, as an important market differentiator.

His achievements so far have shown the following benefits, and mission zero is going to increase profits considerably by the same action

  • Decreased costs: $400million savings and zero waste – this alone has paid for the project, and products have continued to be produced at similar high quality
  • Design for sustainability has attracted high quality candidates and galvanised them around the shared goal for zero impact
  • Goodwill of the market: the drive for zero waste has given them much more sales than pure marketing.

If Ray’s carpet company- a petroleum intensive manufacturer, can achieve these goals and recognise the benefits, then any business can do the same. His idea is to further extend the Environmental Impact equation, decreasing affluence to be less reflective of pure wealth and more what is necessary to stay happy.

The New Way to Work: Charlie Hoehn

Speaker: Charlie Hoehn

Length: 16:44


Charlie Hoehn gives on a talk on the method he used to find meaningful work after struggling to find a satisfying job after college. The new way to work he introduces is called Free Work. While an internship involves competing with other applicants and usually doing menial work from 9 to 5, Free Work is just the opposite. You can work with anyone in the world, at anytime you want. Free work forces to choose work that you would do even if you weren’t being paid – because you’re not.

Charlie lays out the 7 steps to becoming a recession proof graduate (where the economy does not dictate what kind work you have).

  1. Stop being entitled.
  • College degrees are becoming commodities.
  1. Choose an area you’d like to work in
  1. Get some skills
  • Specifically ones that are in high demand and difficult to learn.
  1. Build your online presence
  • Realize that people will Google your name
  1. Pay the bills and cut your costs
  • Find a way to survive while you’re not getting paid
  1. Contact targets and prove your worth
  • Allude to the research you’ve done on them
  • Offer 3 examples of free work related to your skills
  • Give a call to action
  1. Transition to paid work
  • If you do everything correctly it should be easier for someone to pay you than find someone else

Charlie says the only thing that separates him from anyone else is that he adapted and took a new strategy. He urges everyone to ask himself the question he asked himself year ago, “what is the worst that could happen?”

The Discipline of Finishing: Conor Neill

Speaker: Conor Neill

Length: 23:41


Imagine you are in a room with 200 of the people you know best. You’re given a deal: In exchange for 1000 pounds you will receive 10% of one person’s income every month for the rest of their lives. Who would you pick? Warren Buffet asked the same question to Conor Neill 7 years ago. Buffet has spent his whole career making this decision of who to invest in and has obviously had some success (he has a net worth of $60 billion).

Conor talks through some potential decision making criteria with the audience. Would you choose rank everyone’s grades from school and pick the best one? Definitely not. What you pick your best friend? Probably not. Although, it doesn’t work for adults, there is a psychology test that has proven to be the best indicator of future success. Its known as the Marshmallow Test and given to children usually aged 4 or 5. The child is given a marshmallow and told that if they can wait 5 minutes without eating it, they will get another one. The kids that can last the 5 minutes end up living lives that are qualitatively and quantitatively better.

Warren Buffet has his own criteria that he uses to make this prediction:

  1. Energy
  • Is this person in overall good health and wellbeing?
  • Does this person have a tendency to take action over thinking about action?
  1. Adaptive Intelligence
  • How quickly does this person notice the lamp post that is in their path?
  1. Integrity
  • How aligned are what this person means to do and what they actually do?

So if these are 3 criteria you can use to make your decision, who would you chose? The obvious answer is yourself. Not only do you get 100% of the income you earn, but you have control over your own energy, intelligence, and integrity.

Conor concludes the talk by leaving the audience with some tools to develop each of these traits.

The easiest way to improve your intelligence is to write stuff down, something he has done for the past 14 years. By documenting your life, you will have the accumulated knowledge of everything you’ve experienced. To learn how to improve energy, Conor tried to find out how endurance athletes manage to run for seemingly inhuman distances. By being present, he says, and focusing on the steps instead of the big picture. A horse has no concept of the finish; they will run until they collapse. Likewise, whenever you are running a metaphorical (or literal) marathon, ask yourself, “can I take one more step?” And if you can, take it, and then ask the same question again. The key takeaway to improve your integrity is to practice resisting temptation. Don’t stare at the marshmallow in front of you, ignore it. Success is a result of repeated good habits and it’s important to understand this. We overestimate what we can achieve in a day and underestimate what we can achieve in a year.

Alex Wissner-Gross: A new equation for intelligence

Speaker: Alex Wissner-Gross

Length: 11:48


“The question of whether machines can think is about as relevant as the question of whether submarines can swim” – Computer scientist Djikstra criticising early computer scientists obsessions with machines ‘thinking’.

Alex looked at developing a universal equation of intelligence. Many of the recent intelligent computer programs made actions to maximise future options – not to be ‘trapped’.

His equation is  F = T ∇ Sτ

  • F is Force of intelligence
  • T is strength to maintain future actions
  • With diversity of future options S over time horizon τ

Universes with more entropy are more conducive to intelligence. Alex discussed Entropica, a program that seems to make it’s own goals by maximising long term entropy. This naturally allows it to balance a pole upright, tool use, social networking, play the stock market – even without being instructed to do so. All these inherently human traits can be encouraged by this one equation.

From this experiment, the following conclusions can be drawn

  • The ability to take control of our universe is not a result of intelligence, but a requirement for intelligence.
  • Goal seeking is important to maximise future actions, even at the cost of today’s action
  • Intelligence is a physical process that maximises future freedom, and resists future confinement

A fascinating talk, with important implications in philosophy of intelligence and computer science in addition to the fields mentioned during the experiments. Strongly recommended.

David Pogue: 10 top time-saving tech tips

Speaker: David Pogue

Length: 5:44


David Pogue shares “10 things you think everybody knows, but it turns out they dont.”

  1. Tap “space” to scroll down a page and “shift space” to scroll up.
  2. The “tab” key allows to skip between boxes in a form you are filling out.
  3. “Ctrl +” will zoom in on a web page and “ctrl -” will zoom out.
  4. On a smartphone press “space” twice at the end of a sentence and it will enter the period and capitalize the beginning of your next sentence.
  5. To redial someone on a smartphone, press the call button and it will bring up the last number you called.
  6. To skip the voicemail message press:
    • * for Verizon
    • # for AT&T and T-Mobile
    • 1 for Sprint
  7. On Google type “define” and the word you are trying to define to bring up the definition.
  8. Double click to highlight a word instead of clicking and dragging.
  9. On a camera half press the shutter button to prefocus to eliminate shutter lag.
  10. On a powerpoint presentation press “B” to black out and “W” to white out.

Cameron Russell: Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model

Speaker: Cameron Russell

Length: 9:38


Cameron changes her outfit on stage, to show how quickly she can change people’s opinions of her. Despite your beauty being superficial and meaningless, it has a big impact on how you are seen.

To become a model, Cameron is feminine, white and tall. She describes this as a genetic lottery – less than 4% of models are non white. Cameron looks at modelling as extremely fake and shallow – the skills learnt are minimal. Most of the shots are heavily directed – and unrelated to who she is.

She gets free things because of how she looks – a store owner gives her a dress for free, or a policeman lets het get away with “Sorry, officer”. On the flipside, she sees others also penalised because of how they look – 86% of people frisked by police in New York are black or latino. 78% of 17 year old girls are unhappy with how they look – hoping that if they look like underwear models they will be happier. However, Cameron says models are the most insecure people around – their whole life revolves around how they look.

Cameron’s takeaway is that everyone should be more comfortable acknowledging the power of image in our perceived successes and perceived failures.

Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

Speaker: Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

Length: 9:05


There is an invisible shift in how information is flowing and Eli Pariser wants us to be aware of it. The web now adapts depending on the specific user. Eli first noticed this automatic filtering in his own Facebook news feed. He is politically progressive and noticed that he was starting to see less and less of the conservative links posted by his Facebook friends. Facebook had worked out that Eli had been clicking more liberal links than conservative links and hid them. This invisible, algorithmic editing is used by nearly all major sources of news and information. Google now uses 57 different signals to determine your search results. Ranging from your geographic location to your age and ethnicity. Yahoo News and Huffington Post have also begun to personalize their information. The information I get is no longer the information you get.

The problem with this, Eli says, is that while the Internet is showing what we want to see – its not necessarily what we need to see. A filter bubble is what he calls it. It’s a bubble of your own unique information, but you can’t see what doesn’t get into it. When the Internet was created it was seen as a release from the control of the people that were controlling and editing what information you saw. However, the reality is that these human gatekeepers have been just replaced with algorithmic ones.

These algorithms have been feeding us a steady diet of relevant information. But what we need is a balanced diet that also include information that is uncomfortable, challenging, and important. Eli wants this to change. He wants algorithms that have encoded in a sense of public life and a sense of civic responsibility. Algorithms that allow us to see what doesn’t get through. This is the key to unlock the full potential of the Internet. The Internet should be something that introduces us to new ideas, new people, and different perspectives.