Ze Frank: Are you human?

Speaker

Ze Frank is an American online performance artist, composer, humorist and public speaker. He is an influential pioneer of the vlogging format.

Summary

A funny and emotional talk where Ze Frank plays music and asks hypothetical questions about humanity. Many are silly “have you ever eaten a booger long past your childhood”, but the talk builds into an emotional display of love and loss.

You won’t learn anything, but you will be entertained and touched.

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Michael Norton: How to buy happiness

Speaker

Michael Norton is an Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harbard business school.

Summary

If you believe “Money Can’t buy happiness”, then you’re not spending it correctly. When people think about winning the lottery – they think it will make them happy. However they spend it all, go into debt, and all their friends ask for money – their instinct is to get more antisocial and closed off. Winning the lottery ruins people’s lives – but is this because they only spend it on themselves?

Michael ran a test at university of British Columbia – giving students either $5 or $20 and asking them to spend it on either themselves or someone else by the end of the day. The ones who gave their money away were happier, but those who spent on themselves felt the same. Also, the amount of money spent or given away didn’t make a difference. A similar experiment showed the same result in Uganda – a completely different culture to Canada. The magnitude of the gift wasn’t too significant – a girl who bought a gift for her mother felt as happy as a Ugandan who bought life-saving malaria treatment for a stranger.

Michael extended this to the workplace – giving a team $15 each to spend on themselves or an experience for the team. The team ‘pro-social’ events were sometimes silly bonding exercises – like buying a pinata and smashing it together. However, the company got a 72c return in productivity on every 15c spent on team bonding. The productivity return for people spending on themselves is far less – only 4.2c per 15c spent.

The same experiment was carried out with dodgeball teams – and the ones who spent on each other became much better teams. They dominated the league. The teams that spent on themselves stayed the same.

To make yourself happier, don’t think about which product to buy. Find a way to spend it on someone else, or to charity.

 

Anant Agarwal: Why massively open online courses (still) matter

Speaker

Anant Agarwal is president of edX, a partnership of MIT and Harvard to provide MOOCs. He is also a professor of MIT with background in electrical engineering and computer science.

Summary

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are taking off, able to teach millions of people at a time using online interactive technologies. 155,000 people enrolled in edX’s first MOOC, with 7,157 students passing. But in this course, Anant looks at what we can learn from MOOCs to apply in more conventional university courses.

University lectures have not changed significantly in the last 50 years. Anant claims the last big leap in education was textbooks and the printing press, hundreds of years ago. Modern teenagers interact and learn very differently to how they learnt decades ago – they are more comfortable in the online world. Education needs to embrace technology to better engage students.

  • Online Lecture, blended physical approach – let them watch videos at their own pace, wherever they are most comfortable. They can pause, rewind, skip, mute – letting them control the information flow better. Then they can meet physically to interact, discuss their learning, and do practical exercises in a classroom with other students. By adopting a blended approach in this way, San Jose university’s circuits and electronics course went from a 41% fail rate to 9%.
  • Active Learning – instead of traditional lectures, they are replaced with online ‘lessons’. A lesson includes an 8 minute video and then some exercises – and this lets people interact with the material more.
  • Instant feedback – exercises can be marked instantly, rather than submitting work and getting feedback weeks later. This lets people instantly know whether they are correct.
  • Gamification – Use computer simulations to build online labs – for example building a circuit using an online lab.
  • Peer learning – using forums and discussions to let students talk about the subject matter. Originally Anant was going to answer all questions himself, but after a while he realised that students would respond to each other. They could talk and get to the answer without any input from himself – the students were learning by teaching each other.

 

Joi Ito: Want to innovate? Become a “now-ist”

Speaker

Joi Ito is a Japanese-American activist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and Director of the MIT Media Lab.

Summary

When an earthquake struck Japan and caused an explosion in a nuclear reactor, Joi was worried about his family and a lack of government transparency. He formed a group online ‘Safecast’ to design simple geiger counters and share results. After 3 years he has 16 million data points and an app to track radiation levels all over the world.

How was he able to form this group (who didn’t know much about radiation measurement), and give them such success? Before the internet, the world was simple and predictable. Now people are operating under a different set of principles – things are cheaper to develop, people don’t have to get ‘permission’ to do anything. The pre-internet business model was to find an MBA, get millions of dollars from investors to hire engineers and designers, then build it. Now you can collaborate for free, build something, then raise the money, then start to hire MBAs and come up with a business plan. This has pushed power towards the ‘dorm room startups’ and away from big companies. The new model is ‘deploy or die’ – you must get something out there to succeed.

3D printers and ‘factory in a box’ systems are starting to make hardware innovation cheaper as well – also pushing the cheap, iterative software development model into startups. Even genetic engineering is getting cheaper – with desktop gene sequencers available and automatic gene assemblers being developed.

‘Pull over Push’ – is an important principle. Don’t hold resources (help or expert advice), just seek them out when you need them.

‘Learning over Education’ – learning is teaching yourself, using the internet / Wikipedia to learn as you go. Education is about someone else teaching you, and tends to be statically absorbing everything you might need to know. Nowadays we don’t need to memorise encyclopedias, what is more important is knowing how to find what you need.

‘compass over maps’ – You can’t plan and map out everything in your plan. But if you know where you’re going, you can keep moving towards it.

So nowadays to innovate you don’t need to plan everything but you need to stay connected, always learning, and always present. You can’t be a futurist, you need to be a now-ist.

Markham Nolan: How to separate fact and fiction online

Speaker

Markham Nolan – managing editor of Storyful.com, Markham Nolan has watched journalism evolve from the pursuit of finding facts to the act of verifying those floating in the ether.

Summary

Markham has been a journalist since he was 17, but the way people access news is changing, and the people who write news is changing. In the modern age, readers access news in real-time, with journalists playing catchup to collect news from their readers. For example an earthquake in Costa Rica was reported by a citizen on Twitter within 30seconds of it occurring – meaning anyone in the world could know about it within 30 seconds. However, massive amounts of data are uploaded to the internet every second so how do you filter it and work out what is true?

During Hurricane Sandy real photos were posted alongside jokes and fakes, leaving journalists to filter through to find the truth. Instead of the old model of finding the story, their job was to hold back the untrue stories. One tool to identify truth was to identify who was telling it. They followed a conversation by looking at re-tweets, and identified the most influential people. These could then be investigated further to build up a contact directory of genuine sources.

Markham discusses a Youtube video of a violent storm and an unseen woman filming it. It was an amazing clip – journalistic gold, but it needed verification first. The username was Rita Krill, with only a single video uploaded. First they used free tools to identify Rita Krills in a number of cities, then cross-checked with wolfram-alpha to find which cities had violent weather on the day of uploading. Then White pages for addresses, and Google maps to find a swimming pool featured in the video. They could then call her and verified it was true.

Sometimes verifying truth in Youtube videos is extremely important – when they depict war crimes. A video allegedly of Muslim Brotherhood members tossing bloodied bodies off a bridge near Hamah for example. To verify, they looked for details of the bridge itself – the shape of railings or direction of shadows (to identify it is an East-West bridge). They used Google Maps to find East-West bridges around Hamah, then photos of the bridge to check the railings and other features from the video, successfully identifying a bridge near Hamah that matched the one in the video. They verified the location a video was filmed using free tools within 20minutes, from an office in Dublin thousands of kilometers away from the video’s origin.

Although the web is a torrent of information, with a few clues you can work out amazing things. We have amazing tools and algorithms to filter the info, but these tend to be binary (in or out). However truth is not binary, it is a variable, it is emotional and fluid. No matter how good computers get, humans cannot be removed from the truth-finding, because truth is such a human trait.

Simon Sinek: Why good leaders make you feel safe

Speaker

Simon Sinek – Simon is author of “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”

Summary

Simon starts by discussing a medal of honour recipient – a military man who charged into fire to pull wounded soldiers into a helicopter. In the military we give medals to people willing to sacrifice themselves to help others. However, in business we give bonuses to people who sacrifice others to help ourselves. In talking to heroic soldiers about why they made a sacrifice for someone else, they all said that the other guy would have done the same thing – there is a deep trust in the military. It is hard to build this trust in the office environment.

In humanity’s ancient history, danger was everywhere and the tribe needed to trust each other to stay safe. In modern times, a business has dangers – competitors cutting their market share, new technology that will make the business model obsolete. However, if individual employees do not trust their leadership, they end up spending their own time fighting each other or fighting their leaders for safety and security. For example – enforcing arbitrary and confusing rules at an airline check in counter because if they don’t do this, they think they will lose their job. If people feel safe, they can focus on actually tackling external threats and delivering good customer service.

In business, we need to think of leaders as parents. To discipline, nurture, educate, and challenge their employees to build their confidence, take risks and allow them to achieve on their own. In return, they need to trust that a leader will not lay them off when times are tough – you would not lay off a child because the economy changes. This is what offends people about exorbitant CEO salaries in underperforming companies – the feeling that they have sacrificed people to protect their company’s numbers (and their own salary).

An example of alternative leadership – a manufacturing company suffered 30% loss of sales during 2008 and their labour pool was overspending by $10million. When the board asked for layoffs, the CEO refused and instead gave every employee (including himself) 4 weeks of compulsory unpaid leave to be taken any time they chose over the year. He told the employees it was better for everyone to suffer a little, rather than a few suffer a lot. They saved $20million, and morale was up. As they trusted each other, some employees started trading leave – taking 5 so another would take only 3.

Leaders should take the risks first, they should eat last, they should sacrifice so their people feel safe, and so that their people can gain. When they do this, the natural response of their people is that they trust, and are willing to sacrifice for the good of the leader’s vision. And then they can say that they did what they did because their leader would have done the same for them.

Chris Kluwe: How augmented reality will change sports … and build empathy

Speaker

Chris Kluwe is a retired American football punter.

Summary

Augmented reality will happen in our lives, and will change the world as much as the internet. Google glass is the first step in this, and we can use the vision from this to experience what other people see – for example on a football field. We can start to feel what it is like to be tackled by seeing from the perspective of a footballer. People want to feel this – to know what it is like to be their favourite footballer during a game.

The next step from Google Glass is Oculus Rift – virtual reality. (note: this gives separate images to each eye – effectively 3D images) This will increase our immersion, and allow us to experience sports with the next level again from a single static video.

After that is augmented reality – the first example is to display information about the next play on the players’ helmet visor. This will help teams to win – they don’t need to memorise their role in a play, and can simply execute it and react to the play around them. Another way to use it is to give the players real time tactical information – to scan the field and tell the quarterback there is an open player blitzing just outside his field of vision. If the ball flies wide, the receiver can see where it will land and react faster than if he had to estimate. The IT department’s ability to process this data and display it to the players in a useful way will become as powerful as the scouts and managers hiring the players themselves.

In addition to making the plays more precise, the fans will see the game from every perspective. People want this, it is just too profitable and powerful not to happen.

But can augmented reality be used for more than sports? Can it build empathy – by letting us walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Teachers could use it to show a bully what his victims feel, a persecuted minority can show what their life is like. Augmented reality is coming, but the questions we ask, the choices we make and the challenges we take are up to us.