One continuous mistake: single-minded effort

This came in via Tricycle Magazine’s “Daily Dharma” today:

Several years ago, a sociologist studied students in a neurosurgery program to see what qualities separated those who succeeded from those who failed. He found ultimately that two questions in his interviews pointed to the crucial difference. He would ask the students, “Do you ever make mistakes? If so, what is the worst mistake you’ve ever made?” Those who failed the program would inevitably answer that they rarely made mistakes or else would blame their mistakes on factors beyond their control. Those who succeeded in the program not only admitted to many mistakes but also volunteered information on what they would do not to repeat those mistakes in the future.

Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi has a relevant comment in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:

When we reflect on what are doing in our everyday life, we are always ashamed of ourselves. One of my students wrote to me saying, “You sent me a calendar, and I am trying to follow the good mottoes which appear on each
page. But the year has hardly begun, and already I have failed!” Dogen-zenji said,’ ‘Shoshaku jushaku.” Shaku generally means “mistake” or “wrong.” Shoshaku jushaku means “to succeed wrong with wrong,” or one continuous mistake. According to Dogen, one continuous mistake can also be Zen. A Zen master’s life could be said to be so many years of shoshaku jushaku. This means so many years of one single-minded effort.

Admitting your mistakes is being real. Only by living with and learning from your mistakes can you advance your thinking. How can this play out in daily life? I’ve found that meetings I’m in are more productive if I’m willing to contribute thoughts that might be wrong. By offering unfiltered ideas that might be “mistakes,” I have often advanced the discussion toward productive decisions and solutions.

A mistake can be seen, then, as productive exploration.

Jay Rosen on the state and future of journalism

Jay Rosen has a terrific post about the state of media, beginning with this clip from the film “Network”:

Pretty timely, eh?

Jay analyzes the scene:

… the filmmakers are showing us what the mass audience was: a particular way of arranging and connecting people in space. Viewers are connected “up” to the big spectacle, but they are disconnected from one another. Or to use the term I have favored, they are “atomized.” But Howard Beale does what no television person ever does: he uses television to tell its viewers to stop watching television.

When they disconnect from TV and go to their windows, they are turning away from Big Media and turning toward one another. And as their shouts echo across an empty public square they discover just how many other people had been “out there,” watching television in atomized simultaneity, instead of doing something about the inarticulate rage that Beale put into words. (“I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the streets. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad!”)

He goes on to ask what would happen today in response to a “Howard Beale” event…

Immediately people who happened to be watching would alert their followers on Twitter. Someone would post a clip the same day on YouTube. The social networks would light up before the incident was over. Bloggers would be commenting on it well before professional critics had their chance. The media world today is a shifted space. People are connected horizontally to one another as effectively as they are connected up to Big Media; and they have the powers of production in their hands.

Jay follows with an expansion of his comments, and concludes with a set of recommendations for today’s journalists. (The post is a must-read for journalists and news bloggers.)

There’s been too much hand-wringing over the supposed collapse of journalism as we know it, but journalism’s never been more exciting, never had the kind of tools and channels of information available today. We’re seeing, not collapse, but evolution. I’m wanting to spend more and more time with journalists, and think more and more about the relationship of professional journalism to blogging and other more or less informal information channels.

Knowledge Advocate rules

The very smart Kevin Leahy is has a blog, as Knowledge Advocate, that you should follow. In a recent post, he talks about the “no more than 7 things at once rule.” He reminds me of this whenever we meet, because I tend to throw more information at people than they can process – many of us do that. A skilled communicator understands the rule: if you communicate more than 7 bits of information without time for processing, you lose the audience for your communication.

In a talk he gave a week ago, Kevin talked about a “stop making sense” rule. His point: nobody else makes sense the way you do, so if you give a talk where you try to make sense for others, you’ll fail. Instead of making sense, you should be seeking sense. Instead of expressing how you see the world, ask the others for their sense of it. (This is easier said than done skillfully.)


I’ve been thinking a lot about stewardship as the requisite basis for action in an era of greed and confusion. Stewardship can be defined several ways, but the general sense I get is that it means taking responsibility for something that you don’t “own.” Ownership also needs definition for the sake of clarity, and as a Buddhist I’ve cultivated some depth around the concept of “I” or “self” and the concept of “own.” If the self is an illusion, then ownership is part of that illusion.

But we have to live in the world, and accept consensual hallucinations like the concept of “self.” I can also think of “I” as a bounded awareness, and stewardship as taking responsibility for something beyond that boundary.

The case that came up most recently for me was that of technology stewardship, which I just spent two weeks discussing on the WELL with Nancy White and John D. Smith, authors of Digital Habitats; stewarding technology for communities. We were talking about how people with a community of practice who have relative clue about technology take responsibility for assessing, selecting, and sustaining technology platforms for the community to use, primarily for communication and collaboration. Communities are complex, technology can be complex as well, so there’s much to be discussed in this context. Check out the discussion and the book if you’re interested, but I’m more interested in how the act of stewardship works, especially the attitude behind it.

While stewardship may or may not be through some role that is compensated, it should be inherently unselfish. To effectively take responsibility for something beyond yourself, you have to be prepared to put your “self” aside and think in terms of the best interests relevant to the stewardship role. In technology stewardship for a community, you’re selecting the technology that best serves the interests and capabilities of the community, not necessarily the technologies you would prefer or be most comfortable with.

We also talk about stewardship in the context of The Austin Equation, where I’m involved as a resource on community development, especially online. For that project, a group of volunteers have been defining and mapping scenes local to Austin, with the idea that they will take a stewardship role with the scenes they’ve selected, i.e. help build coherence and effectiveness into a community where the only glue, at the beginning, may be affinity and marginal awareness. How do you step into a community, in a role that the community itself didn’t define or originate, and provide effective stewardship? That’s an issue I keep considering – somehow you have to engage the community and convey the value of your stewardship.

These are some initial thoughts about stewardship; I’d like to have a larger conversation, especially about how to inspire an attitude of stewardship more broadly so that people are generally more focused on helping than “getting.”

Digital Habitats/technology stewardship discussion

Digital HabitatsNancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger have written a thorough, clear and compelling overview of the emerging role of technology stewardship for communities of practice (CoPs). They’re leaders in thinking about CoPs, they’re smart, and they’re great communicators. Their book is Digital Habitats; stewarding technology for communities, and it’s a must-read if you’re involved with any kind of organization that uses technology for collaboration and knowledge management. And who isn’t?

It’s my privilege to lead a discussion with Nancy, John, and Etienne over the next two weeks at the WELL. The WELL, a seminal online community (where Nancy and I cohost discussions about virtual communities), is a great fit for this conversation. You don’t have to be a member of the WELL to ask questions or comment – just send an email to inkwell at


I spent today at the 2010 UTeach Conference here in Austin. UTeach is an acclaimed teacher prep program at the University of Texas. Attendees were mostly K-12 teachers and university professors from across the U.S. I heard about UTeach’s STEM focus (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), New Technology High Schools in Napa and Manor, project-based learning, Knowing and Learning in Math and Science, etc. I was primarily interested in the possibility of collaborative projects and learning involving multiple classrooms and disciplines, mediated by social technology. I was live tweeting the event. There were multiple sessions per time slot, so I only got a slice of it. (I also missed the events on Tuesday, and probably can’t make it tomorrow – so much more to learn about learning.)

TEDxUT Notes

Today at TEDxUT, I was live tweeting all day until I maxed out my update quota. This was my second TED-inspired event, really like the format, though I’d also like to do something a little more … experiential. The venue (UT’s AT&T Center) was great, and the talks were diverse and compelling. Since tweeting was allowed, I did that instead of taking conventional notes, so I’m posting that link instead of a summary.

Selected tweets:

Jim Walker: Sustainability has basic equity component, impacts everyone globally. Challenge: how to pursue sustainability, keep qulaity of life. How do we improve the lives of millions of people living on brink AND improve environment at same time, become sustainable. Gulf between academy and athletics at UT. Nobody’s fault, matter of evolution. Both leaderships focused on relationships.

Melissa Lott (on Energy): In 10-15 years, we’ll have translational tools to put data into useful formats for feedback and management. Powerful to be able to see electric flows per appliance/device in home. We need to make people passionate about the science of sustainability. Space program analogy. We need that kind of excitement. Astronaut Barbie becomes Energy Wonk Barbie.

Derek Woodgate: How can we augment the learning process? Convergence, ambience, collaboration, remix. Delivering context and relevance… context-based, media-rich, collectively generated, diy and access culture. Mulltiuser immersive enviironments, recombine knowledge into different perspectives. Continuum of learning throughout life. Concept of the sense event. Intesnse, interactive, with augmented ambience. Deliver a sensation, built into an experience. Teachers and students co-create and design educational experiences, real sense of being there.

Ramon Alberto Garza: What’s happening with information? People not consuming broadcast as much. Information a commodity. What will people pay for? Understanding and entertainment. [I would add context.] Global Alliance for Information Tech Development formed to expand global connectivity.Propose and information society bill of rights. In broadcast world, editorial funnels decide what information we get. In the web world, information is firehosed into our brains. Cellphones bringing dark ages villages to the 21st Century quickly.

David Cameron: If you give people more control over their lives, you can build a stronger and better society. Politics will succeed only if you go with the grain of human nature: treat people as they are, not as you’d like them to be. Evolution from local power to central power to people power. Pre to post bureaucratic. ehavioral economics: give people comparison data showing what others are doing, as in energy efficiency. JFK: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Now you actually have the knowledge to do (for your country). RFK on what GNP doesn’t capture (longer speech)

John Daly: Teaching influence: create need, have a plan, show benefits,what happens if we don’t adopt. Simple persuasion model. Creating a need: unless there is pain, there’ll be no change. Creating a need: unless there is pain, there’ll be no change. Correlation of healthcare to donor class is practically perfect right now. No pain. Significance of affected parties: rich matter more. Poor and uninsured don’t have power to make the case for healthcare. Campaigns not a battle of facts, but a battle of stories. Republicans sucked people into discussion of plan before need had been established. Pretended there was one plan, cherry picked. People fear regret more than they’re excited by opportunities.

Peter Stone: Stone is into robots, fully autonomous agents in the real world. Could be robots, could be software agents. Robots doing sensing and decisionmaking in the real world in early Robocup, but not well articulated. Have to alter rules of soccer for human vs robot game. Thinking how to do that. Cars with autonomous agents who have a reservation path can make traffic lights and stop signs obsolete. A goal of AI to achieve robust, fully autonomous agents in the world. Result: Jetsons or dystopia?

Meg Withgott: Tree in Amazon jungle with aerial roots that seemed to lift it from the soil – “its a tree that walks,” says the guide. Changed the way she saw culture, life, creation. First tree she new was a huge spreading apple tree. Neighbor said the tree was planted by Johnny Appleseed. Meg thought this was a tall tale or myth. Story of a tree that thinks, the Dream of the Rood. Tree linked old native story to a new story. Tree thinks and speaks. Tree tells the story of the crucifixion. Rebirth is important for this tree. Talking tree promises healing for those who believe. Later Anglo Saxons look to trees for healing – is this a myth? Do trees think? We’ve learned that plants respond to touch and have memories, signal, communicate, plan, do cost-benefit analyses. Back to Amazon, trees really can walk. Socratea exorrhiza. Trees use aerial roots as legs. The Walking Tree can step a meter a year. She had blinders that obscured her outlook when the guide originally spoke… thought plants were more machinelike.

Bruce Sterling: Nonprofit idea that is worth spreading: Design Fiction. Becoming chic in the design world. Has a lot to do with lower coordination costs. Has dropped people across disciplines into each other’s laps. Design Fiction = Has dropped people across disciplines into each other’s laps. Most products of human genius are never real objects, anyway. Designers and fiction writers are up to date with storyboards, user observation studies, scientific experiments, brainstorming. Everybody who’s involved has a different idea about what design fiction is. Recommendations who to follow. FIrst, @bruces. Then Branco Lukic. Dunn and Ravey, critical design, Royal College of Art. BERG, and experience design company in London. Have an onboard sci fi writer, Warren Ellis. Julian Bleecker, guru of Neat Future Laboratory.Make diegetic prototypes,actual objects, commonly electronic, to make political point. Jake Dunagan, Institute of the Future. Into immersive futurist experiences: future shock therapy.Design fiction has to be scripted, thought up. Not standard futurism. Social intervention or activism.

Sidney Burrus: Open Educational Resources. Burrus is involved with Connexions at Rice – similar to MIT Open Courseware. Connexions is a respository of modules of informaiton online, plus tools for athoring and maintaining content. Book is mature technology being replaced by net-based content delivery, which is more immediate and current. A book created by a stay at home rural Illinois mom (Catherine Schmidt-Jones, Music Theory) via Connexions is globally one of the most read books in its field (music). Within 3 days Minh Do created Fundamentals of Signal Processing for his class – with chapters by global experts. Software to enable virtual laboratories. Powerful learning tool. Creative Commons important for broader distribution of learning.

SXSW 2010 Notes: Universities in the Era of Free

I think what’s happening with universities today reflects what’s happening in other fields – journalism, other forms of publishing including the music industry, energy, manufacturing, retail, the old doctom era, etc. Things are just changing everywhere. Old business models aren’t working.

The presenters here, Glenn Platt and Peg Faimon, note that the university has been an enduring institution but it’s resting on its laurels and has to think about changing. They described an image, taken from Daniel Quinn but we’ve all seen it, of a peddling flying machine attempting a takeoff over a cliff, having that momentary sensation of flying but actually falling. Higher education is facing unparalleled crisis, tectonic changes. Universities are in a state of collapse. Some entrepreneurs are doing well in this space, but the traditional universities are crumbling.

The speakers went on to convey some lists…

What are universities for?
1) Convey knowledge
2) Create knowledge (research)
3) Develop the (well-rounded, not just professional) person.
4) Contribute to society, at levels both local and global.
5) Have a “signal ability” – higher education as a signaling model, signaling the quality of a person coming out of the institution. This is a validation: “I’m smart because I have a degree.”
6) Seed innovation, working with industry.

But the system’s breaking down:
1) Costs are too high. Tuition is becoming too expensive for common enrollment, the University’s out of reach for some, yet schools are still in the red. I.e. they can’t charge enough to sustain their activities.
2) “You have to go to the mountain” and prostrate yourself to the guru in order to get single-centered knowledge.
3) There’s no control over the clock. You have to do it over the university’s timetable (~6 yrs.) and schedule.
4) The experts are local. You can only access the teachers on your campus. Expertise lies in networks – higher education finds that disturbing.
5) Universities change “one funeral at a time.” Because of tenure, professors aren’t judged by productivity. There’s no sense of market pressures. Change management is difficult.
6) Faculties hire people just like themselves.

What’s driving the breakdown? Tectonic change:
1) Change in learning styles. People learn differently now. They way they manifest themselves has changed.
2) Collapse of disciplinary structure: “know more and more about less and less until they know nothing” – against the tendency today to be broad AND deep.
3) Acceleration of K-12, where people are learning things previously taught in college. “Senior to sophomore” – seniors are testing out of the freshman year at collage, starting with a full year of credit. This has a negative impact on some curricula that depend on that first year to lay a foundation.
4) Networking technologies are flattening hierarchies.
5) Students and parents as consumers – there’s more of a consumer mind set in determining about schools to attend and what to study.
6) Employers are more active in developing curricula, companies have more influence. There’s more of a market focus, but universities don’t do this well.
7) Location independence.
8) The Internet.

Entrepreneurs stepping in – disruptions:
1) Open Courseware, various online learning opportunities including those at MIT, Itunes University, LectureFox, NPR Forum Network, TED, Open Culture, Research Channel, etc.
2) Textbooks more accessible online, via Google Books, Flat World, Textbook Revolution, Course Smart, etc. There’s also,,, etc. And there’s University of the People, a tuition-free online university. Also OpenUniversity in the UK. And the University of Phoenix currently has 150,000 MBA students.

How does the traditional university evolve? The professor of the future is….
1) Experience designer.
2) Project manager.
3) Angel investor – identify resources and solve problems, map the road to success.
4) Curator – find and make sense of the wealth of free information online. What’s more and less valuable?
5) Resource allocator.
6) Life coach.
7) Validator (as with the signaling model)

Where to begin. These recommendations are about bigger picture thinking, more holistic approaches, working across disciplines, being grounded in the “real” world, etc.  Internet/social  technology is an enabler.
1) Experiential learning. Interdisciplinary, project-based courses. Resume builders that also teach how to deal with ambiguity.
2) Multi-institutional collaborations. Need to engage with one another, think globally, maximize resources of each institution. Study-abroad programs are included here. Branch campuses.
3) Train PhDs to think more contextually. PhD’s are thoroughly trained in their specific subjects, but there are no classes that teach PhDs how to teach, or how to be contextual. (I assume what they mean by “be contextual” is look at, think about, and present facts in context, rather than divorced from context).
4) Strategic industry and non-profit partnerships: “we all need each other.”
5) Get rid of tenure. (This is evidently a big issue for Platt.)
6) Student-driven inquiry.
7) Facilitate collaboration.
8) De-privilege institutional content – the Creative Commons/Science Commons idea of making data and other content shareable and usable  across institutions.
9) Reward failure. Get rid of the doctrine of “publish or perish.” Allow time to fail and innovate.
10) Get rid of Departments and focus on Questions. Bennington is  doing this, according to the speakers, and I found this idea particularly intriguing and challenging. This would drive multidisciplinary approaches. Teaches students how to ask and answer questions – presumably how to find the right questions, too. Kevin Leahy would like this (
11) Think like an entrepreneur.
12) Give more than you get.
13) Hire people that think this way.

TEDx Austin notes

Here are some notes from my TEDx Austin experience yesterday at the Austin City Limits studios on the campus of the University of Texas, hanging out with 300 or so people, listening to a series of very interesting talks. This was an independently organized TED event, limited by TED policy to 300 people. Licensee Nancy Giordano, who moved to Austin eighteen months ago from Los Angeles, pulled together a local team of volunteers to produce the event. For something put together on a wing and a prayer and a bit of donated time, the results were very good.

TED is about “the power of ideas” or “ideas worth spreading. ” Some think it’s a tech event, but tech is only the “t” in the acro, there’s also Entertainment and Design. Also, per Nancy’s opening, it’s about giving people ideas for a future they can believe in. Overriding theme of this particular TEDx: PLAY BIG.

My notes:

  • Rip Esselstyn talked about his Engine 2 Diet, which is plant-based and excludes any animal products as well as oil. His intro was about the nutritional bases for many common diseases – heart disease, cancer, diabetes. We work hard to find ways to cure or prevent these diseases without looking at the obvious source of the problem, which is the American diet, very heavy on animal products, processed foods, fats. Rip, a former firefighter, noted that 80% of all fire department calls are not about fire at all, but about fighting Western disease. He thinks it’s time for the USA to acknowledge the nutritional problem and make a change, for which he’s evangelizing. Quoted Winston Churchill: “America always gets it right, but only after they have tried everything else.”
  • Doug Ulman said “small is the new big” and talked about changing the label “nonprofit” to something else.
  • Many thought Steven Tomlinson was the best speaker. Coincidentally, my friend Rob Matney was telling me about Steven earlier in the week – “this is somebody you really have to meet.” Indeed. He talked about deciding what you want to do and be and, even if you want diverse things, finding a way to engage wholeheartedly with all of them, as he has done (he teaches business, writes and performs plays, and has attended seminary). We don’t need careers, we need callings. A calling is where your deep passion meets the world’s deep need. We need to stare at things until they inspire us and inform us – “until it becomes in us what it needs to be.” Our fantasies are a first offer of what might be. In summary, practice, pay attention, don’t discard. Show up. Lead with what you love.
  • Chris Mueller of Life Technologies gave a fascinating overview of gene sequencing. As we understand the human genome better we can approach personal genomics which is a foundation for personalized medicine. [I’ve always felt a core flaw with the healthcare system as it is today is in a generalized approach to the human system, whereas each of us is unique – I hear that organ shape, size, and arrangement can vary quite a bit from one human to the next, and we all have a unique cellular code with general similarities. Something to think about.]
  • Chris Shipley said we should rethink how to be big in business – by staying small. She used the analogy of the Sumo wrestler, who is big and powerful but not particularly agile, and the Peloton in a bicycle race, which is agile and collaborative. Small companies do more with less, are more innovative, and the customers of small companies are engaged (because scale creates barriers). The value creation by all small businesses is kind of a long tail – far greater than the value creation the the Fortune 500. She’s an organizer of Innovate 2010, which is sponsoring global “pitch slams.”
  • My friends Suzanne and Dave Armistead did a short version of the much longer “Moving Love” performance, which celebrates their son Davis’s short life. It’s also about their grief over his death, and how responding to that grief brought them to a greater awareness and appreciation of life, and a deeper connection to Davis. Very powerful.
  • Dr. Bill Merrill talked about the devastation of Galveston by Hurricane Ike, and his proposal to build a $3 billion Ike Dike to prevent further disasters. Significant hurricanes like Ike strike the Galveston coast at least once every fifteen years, and with climate change there could be more strong hurricanes than usual. Merrill borrowed his idea from the Dutch, who’ve build a system of “gates” for protection. He said that you can’t really quantify the loss from Ike in dollars – 40,000 monarch oaks were destroyed, and historic iron-front buildings were devastated, probably beyond recovery. Evacuation doesn’t really work – the Rita evacuation was impossibly chaotic, 30 people died as a result.
  • Mark Rolston of Frog Design talked about user experience, the increasing degree to which computerized devices are embedded in our environment. He showed the “Santa Claus of the subconscious” clip of Ralph Fiennes in the film “Strange Days,” the point being that “jack into the matrix” and download experiences. He didn’t really pursue that, burt got into the transformation of objectsin the environment, and made a distinction of first life (physical) vs second life (digital). I don’t know that it’s valid to make the distinction, but it enabled his point that “second life” is grwoing in fidelity and frequency, and starting to compete for mindshare with first life (physical) experience. There’s an entangling of the two, which we see in location-based augmented reality applications that are starting to appear. Human computer interface (his field) is evolving quickly, and touch is an important step (think how so much of the iPhone experience is organized around touch). 3D controls are coming, too, as on the Wii. The computer is learning to interact with our world – he suggests that computers are beginning to “understand.” I’ve always argued that this claim is somewhat bogus – computers intelligence is simulation, I haven’t seen anything to suggest otherwise though brilliant scientists like Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec suggest the possibility. Rolston went on to say that computer experience is no longer tied to devices, that we can tag our world, create map overlays with citizen notes, etc. We are beginning to get embedded or peripheral devices attached to our bodies – “your heartbeat becomes a conversation.” This was probably the talk I resonated with least, because it was a rehash of old thinking with very little that seemed innovative – but for many in the audience, it might have seemed new and stimulating.
  • Carrie Contey, who focuses on prenatal and perinatal psychology, talked about “the power of the pause.” Her studies suggest that the brain reaches a kind of saturation point, and at that point it’s important to pause in some way. She talked about a baby turning away at some point, shutting off attention in order to process. She talked about “big being in a small body.” Development is doing and being. The brain lights up, then pauses to integrate, at which point what happens is 1) orientation, 2) regulation, 3) integration, and 4) inspiration. In stillness, there’s room for creativity to bubble up and pop. In being, there is more room for our authentic self. In modern life, with so many sources of stimulation, it’s important to pause – pausing should be a priority for us. Creativity requires space; do less and be more. This meant a lot to me – I’ve been dealing with a lack of creative space.
  • Turk and Christy Pipkin showed their more recent work via the Nobelity project. They have a new film near release, “One Peace at a Time.” “You can’t build a wall by starting at the top.” They’re reading out to people, trying to get many small donations. They’ve been working in a particular African village to bring clean water and nutrition – which should both be considered a human right.
  • Bob Hunt is a former nuclear engineer who, disenchanted after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, left that industry and became an entrepreneur and inventor. He created a wind turbine that was inspired by the way a wind chime works. He realized you could integrate gravity and thermodynamics to get more power. He developed a Gravity Assisted Airplane, and a Gravity Assisted Wave Energy Device. More recently he’s been developing a gravity-assisted way to extract geothermal energy from existing dormant wells. Others who have attempted to do this got undramatic output, but his system should be more effective. It occurred to me that this would mean shifting the wells from production of transportation energy to production of energy for the build environment. (Though in fact the wells are inactive, so the real shift is from inactive to active in a different context).
  • Richard Garriot talked about the new space race. Many of us were disappointed that the Kubrick/Clarke vision of space travel by 2001 never came to be, and on February 1st, President Obama ended funding for planned manned space projects. However private industry will step in, and the government and others can contract manned missions and space development, as they currently contract satellite launches. He talked about major players in the field, and how the “NASA primes” (those who were part of the original government space efforts) are getting involved with the private efforts. In a conversation between sessions, Richard told Derek Woodgate, Brandi Clark, and I a bit about his own space mission, how seeing the earth from space, it was clear to him that we’re more resource-constrained than we realized. He’s retooled his home and cars to conserve energy, and has taken an interest in sustainability projects.
  • John Phillip Santos, formerly a poet, brought up DNA again, and talked about genealogical genetics. We’re learning more about our ancestral code. E.O. Wilson talks about reinventing an ethic of our origins. What are we becomgin? What is our true origin? Advocating a mestizo world view. Shows a partially-erased (by the subject) image of Carlos Castaneda. Brown is the new white? Yellow is the new brown? Actually, mixed is the new white. We have mixed cultures that have emerged through patterns of migration. Borders are less meaningful. “No borders will stand.” How will genetics be encoded into personal devices? Into persons? Genetics will change from read only to read/write.
  • Philip Berber: every three seconds a child dies because they’re too poor to live. One in five in the third world will not reach their fifth birthday. Every year we give three billion to charity in the U.S., but only 5% of that to international causes, because we don’t trust that the money will be used as intended. Fears of mismanagement. Berber left business, has created a nonprofit with his wife called A Glimmer of Hope Foundation. Focusing on projects in Ethiopia. Asked locals what they need and want: clean drinking water, a place to go to the bathroom, classrooms for their children. Empower them to lift themselves out of poverty – they have the motivation, but they need funding. Partnership: “We buy the bricks, they build the walls. We buy the pump, they dig the hole.” Giving a hand up and a handout. The way out of poverty is to have money via microloans. Funding women in Ethiopia, who are very good at putting small businesses into operation. Donors just need to be able to make informed choices about where their money goes.
  • Final talk was by Mark McKinnon, who talked about how his wife’s bout with cancer taught him to value her and to value life. He has a jar full of beads, as many as he’s estimated he has days left in his life. Each day he takes a bead from that jar, and drops it into another, and thinks how thankful he is to be alive.

One last note – via my good friend Honoria Starbuck as we talked… she said her advice to people how are down is this: “Save your pessimism for the good times.”

Complete speaker list with links. Watch the TEDx Austin site for videos!

Another set of notes from my friend John McElhenney provide another perspective – and more about Doug Ulman’s talk. (For some reason I took few notes while Doug was speaking.)

Here’s another account by Carla Thompson at Guidewire Group.