NZ Prof Jim Flynn NZ to speak at TED 2013

Today 70+ speakers were announced for TED 2013 to be held at the end of Feb in Long Beach.

“This line-up features the largest number of speakers in TED’s history — more than 70. That’s because many of the talks this year are shorter. Often 12 minutes or less, instead of 18. And nearly half of the program comes from our first-ever global auditions. They were held in 14 countries and attracted thousands of applicants, including some truly astounding youngsters.”

I was in Sydney back in May when some of the auditions were held, so I have seen the 2 Australian speakers on the list.

Jim_Flynn_Political_Studies_University_of_OtagoHowever for New Zealanders the inclusion of Prof Jim Flynn is very welcome. Jim is well known because of his discovery of the Flynn effect, the continued year-after-year increase of IQ scores in all parts of the world. It is a great honour for Jim to be recognised by the TED speaker panel.

I’m guessing that his talk will have something to do with his latest book How To Improve Your Mind: 20 Keys to Unlock the Modern World The book is part of a toolket approach by him to help us make more sense of the vast amount of knowledge that we are inundated with on a daily basis. It is “thinking about thinking” and helps us to explore the insights from that knowledge rather than just the knowledge itself.

Note: I have seen a review of Flynns book which says he misses out any discussion of Bayesian theory which to me seems like a huge area to neglect. I have been reading Nate Silvers signal & noise book and we live in an age when “show me the data” is an important key to understanding most of that. If this is correct then Flynn’s book has a hole in it.

Now that there are some thing like 30,000 TED and TEDx videos out there along with a myriad of other great resources we all need better ways of making sense of all this new knowledge at an applied level.

As Nir Eydal writes in his posted HOW TECHNOLOGY IS LIKE BUG SEX

“Our insatiable curiosity is perhaps humanity’s greatest virtue, but it is also the source of many of our weaknesses…
Our salvation, as Dr. Barrett writes, comes from understanding. “Once we recognize how supernormal stimuli operate, we can craft new approaches to modern predicaments. Humans have one stupendous advantage over Tinbergen’s birds — a giant brain.
This gives us the unique ability to exercise self-control, override instincts that lead us astray, and extricate ourselves from civilization’s gaudy traps.” Indeed, we begin to free ourselves from the pull of supernormal stimulus when we recognize it as such.”

From that group of Australian and a couple of NZ speakers 2 where chosen and they are:

Leyla Acaroglu: Paper or plastic? Debunking an environmental myth
Leyla Acaroglu is the Founder and Director of Eco Innovators and a lecturer at RMIT University in Industrial Design. She is a proponent of systemic and life-cycle-based thinking in sustainability decision making.

Adam Spencer: A lifelong passion for prime numbers
Adam Spencer, a comedian and radio personality with a passion for mathematics, cohosted the Triple J Breakfast Show and is a patron of various science events and programs.

For more background on some of the other speakers the audition videos for the 14 countries are over here.

Some of the other speakers you may have heard of are Bono, Amanda Palmer, Peter Gabriel and Eric Whiteacre from the world of music. From tech – Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and Vint Cerf. Lawrence Lessig also gets to speak.

For me one of the most keenly anticipated speakers will be economist Robert J Gordon. I wrote about his The Six Headwinds slowing Innovation down idea back in June last year.

Generally I agree with his insight on the big bang nature of many key developments but I think he has very much underestimated the ability of new factors to influence wide spread change in our society.

As I wrote in an updated note for that post: After some thought I have identified 2 areas where NZ does have some new innovation drivers currently. The first one is the Kiwisaver superannuation fund. In 2012 it reached $14b but will be at $60b relatively soon and that capital will help more NZ businesses to grow as well as helping some companies to stay locally owned.
The second area is energy from renewables. Germany has benefitted from $US31b of investment in renewable energy as at 2011. That has created more than 300,000 jobs which is a big plus for them. Much of that is solar energy which we in NZ would do well to follow.

I hope that opening session at TED 2013 called Progress Enigma which includes Erik Brynjolfsson, Bono, Peter Thiel, Nilofer Merchant and others challenges Gordons theory because he like the veritable curates egg – he is wrong in parts.

Like the Sydney talent search my overall impression ( apart from the big names) is that many of the speakers are very young and exciting.

At the end of the conference is a special musical treat from Eric Whiteacre. Eric was at TED 2011 when he presented a virtual choir of 2000 voices all patched together on video.

Eric is also right now on Kickstarter half way towards raising $100k to do the virtual choir 4. I love music but sadly in the classical world most times in my experience it is done badly but Eric’s projects inspire me.