Thursday, May 29, 2008

Three TED Talks on Changing the World

Here are three TED talks - two that may or may not change your perception of yourself and the world and one that may actually change the world. Two talks that may lead you to "God" and one that will let you "play" God.

Loss of Self:
Stroke of Insight
Becoming Modern Buddhas

Playing God to make a "better" world:
Craig Venter's Vision for the Future

View all and decide for yourself. According to two of Robert McNamara's lessons in his book and the documentary, The Fog of War, there's something beyond one self and rationality will not save us, I believe that creativity and imagination tinged and tempered by logic and reason may be the saving graces of humanity. A synergistic synthesis of our two inner minds combining into a loving, compassionate whole with a concrete selfless purpose might be one modern definition of nirvana.

Venter's vision is breathtaking and he already has the components to build a biotech industry version 2.0. His technology will eventually allow us to fix climate change, seed Mars and possibly Venus with life (assuming we can get around the scale problems). We now have the ability to seed the Universe with life. Assuming we find habitable planets and nanotechnology progresses fast enough, in the next 100 years, we could possibly shoot microscopic sized ships at near light speeds containing the knowledge and ability to synthesize and build humans and animals once they land on another world. It's far out, but it's within the possible and others have already thought of the above scenario. One must remember that life changes a world. The planet used to have a carbon dioxide/nitrogen atmosphere. Photosynthesis made this an oxygen world, but it took billions of years. We, however, need wisdom in the application of this technology since knowledge is fundamentally amoral and its application can be used for good or ill.

Maybe I should have labeled this entry right brain versus left brain. Don't fear Venter's vision. Humanity can already engineer more virulent and elegant bioweapons, albeit more crudely than Venter, using present techniques (read about immune mimicry and other nasty visions).

Additional link:
A Superhighway of Bliss


I loved the beautifully written "My Stroke of Insight - a Brain Scientist's Personal Journey" by Jill Bolte Taylor and her incredible talk on TED dot com. Dr. Taylor's unique perspective as a Harvard neuroanatomist having a stroke, combined with her sensitivity and awareness, produced something as powerful as I've ever witnessed. I want to share Dr Taylor's story far and wide because it's a wonderful story and a great book to read, but more importantly, this is the message we desperately need if we are to survive as a species.
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