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TEDGlobal 2011 Wrap-Up | Ramy Nassar

TEDGlobal 2011 Wrap-Up

This was originally posted on the TEDxWaterloo blog here.

In July, I had a unique opportunity to take part in TEDGlobal 2011: “The Stuff of Life” in Edinburgh. TEDGlobal, a relatively new program from TED has typically taken place in Oxford (for the initial three years), moved this year to the beautiful city of Edinburgh for the first time. It’s difficult to put into words the experience I had, but I’m going to try.

Even before the conference began, I spent about three days in workshops and activities with almost 100 TEDx organizers from around the world. It was incredible and eye-opening. I actually wrote about this experience for the official TED blog and posted my thoughts on this part of the experience hereOnce all of the TEDx action wrapped up, we were ready for TEDGlobal to go into full swing.

And that’s exactly how it began. With a living stage containing a reported 160+ species of plants, we were instantly blown away by the scale of the event. Approximately 850 attendees from countries around the globe gathered as Chris Anderson took the stage for the first time on Tuesday morning. This year’s theme, “The Stuff of Life” took us from “the secrets of the biological processes in our body to the cultural constructs in our society.”

To get an idea of the full program (including 12 sessions, each featuring an average of 5-7 speakers/performers) check out the program online: http://conferences.ted.com/TEDGlobal2011/program/guide.php

TED has been incredible in processing and editing the videos from the program and many of them are already available for viewing online. The program guide above contains active links to those talks that are now available for viewing/download (it is constantly being updated).Personally, there were a few talks that really stood out to me and hit home. Here are a few of those that impacted me along with links to the videos:

  • Geoffrey West: The Surprising Math of Cities and Corporations: http://www.ted.com/talks/geoffrey_west_the_surprising_math_of_cities_and_corporations.html – Definitely in my top 5 for the program. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Geoffrey later in the week and he was an incredible person to debate and knock ideas around with.
  • Nadia Al-Sakkaf: See Yemen through my eyes – http://www.ted.com/talks/nadia_al_sakkaf_see_yemen_through_my_eyes.html – Each of us probably has some pre-conceived idea of a country like Yemen, which is rarely in the news without references to words like terrorism. This talk shatters those notions and really helps us see young, female leadership in a country where it is not expected, making a huge impact.
  • Maajid Nawaz: A global culture to fight extremism – http://www.ted.com/talks/maajid_nawaz_a_global_culture_to_fight_extremism.html – I had the chance to speak to Maajid a few times through the week. In a regular conversation with him, you would never guess that he was at once point a radical, Islamist extremist who eventually was caught and spent a significant time in prison. Now he speaks as someone who has been on the other side about how our culture, globally, must shift in order to fight extremism in all its forms.
  • Harald Haas: Wireless data from every light bulb – http://www.ted.com/talks/harald_haas_wireless_data_from_every_light_bulb.html – TED wouldn’t be complete without some incredible technology. Take the concept of how your TV remote uses IR light to change channels and now apply that to sending HUGE quantities of data through ordinary lightbulbs. What do you get? A lightbulb on stage streaming HD quality video. The future of wireless data?

I could go on, but I’ll leave it to you to discover your favorites from TED.com as you start to explore!

I think what surprised me most about attending TEDGlobal was that it wasn’t the talks that I went home remembering; it was the connections I made. I met inspiring, passionate individuals from around the world. I met a young man from Tunisia who is currently working on the first post-revolution TEDx event for his country. I met a woman who has in just a few short years sparked and created the film industry for an entire country in Qatar (check out the Doha Film Institute).On the fun side, I met someone from Dewar’s who has been a whiskey maker for over 40 years and taught me a whole lot about tasting whiskey (they don’t call it scotch there).

It has taken me a while to write this because the whole experience was so immersive that it was borderline overwhelming. Workshops at 7:30 every morning, a full day of sessions, dinner events and then a party every evening. Needless to say, I spent about a full day sleeping when it was all said and done. Perhaps, however, what is most exciting is all the ideas that I am bringing back to TEDxWaterloo.

I don’t want to give too much away about TEDxWaterloo 2012 just yet, but I can promise you an event of the caliber never seen before in our community! On that note, I just want to again thank everyone in our community to helped make this experience possible. You know who you are! I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to attend this program and I can’t wait until TEDxWaterloo 2012 so that I can give something back!