Archive for February, 2008

TED Day 3: ReCap: TED Breathes!

February 29, 2008

Good morning, a lot more refreshed and ready to share. TED does demand a decatholon approach to energy output and happily this morning, many of us found a space of calm: Yours truly introduced the noble and simple practice of contemplative breathing — a great group filled the room, navigating the qualities of breathing as a human ORGANISM! Yes, I emphasis “organism” as in this conference, we’ve heard one speaker, Susan Blackmore, put forth a deterministic view of homo sapien sapien and our “meme” potential. Waving her arms and stating emphatically, Blackmore claimed the envitable and absolute coupling of machines and humans, transforming us into telememe-machines.Susan Blackmore, Psychologist, Meme Theorist, TED Day 2: What is Life?

Here we find a mixed metaphor with tremendous unconscious potential to confuse us as we struggle to navigate the day to day requirements of our own biological destiny. A matter of mere semantics? I don’t think so. Thinking of yourself as a machine intends a very different picture, a whole set of different assumptions about oneself as a “closed system” that are quite distinct from the picture of being an developmental biological organism, a mammal that has evolved over thousands of years. We are an extraordinary example of an “open system,” Ms. Blackmore, producing telememes or not.

And if there is anything that can reinforce this sense of openness, is our evolutionary, biological capacity for neuroplasticity, for fluidity, for indeterminate growth and change!

All this to say, I am not denying the computational practices that can be used to show human biology, but to encourage a deep think about the difference of using biological and engineering metaphors to capture the future of our whole–brain, whole-body… whole-mind!

More thoughts to come……

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TED Day 2: How to Create and Destroy Planet Earth in One Easy Lesson

February 29, 2008

Garrett Lisi, Physicist TED2008 Day 2: Is Beauty TruthIt’s been a long, challenging day at TED — one that followed from the euphoria of the greatly anticipated opening. By challenge I mean that by posing the Big Questions concerning life on Planet Earth (and beyond), TEDsters in Monterey and Aspen were asked to consider the full, complex span of biotech probabilities that point to some of greatest achievements acribed to the human race: Craig Venter’s newest venture in synthetic probability, Cal Tech’s Paul Rothemund’s study of self-assembly approaches to molecular computation and Garrett Lisi’s aesthetic “theory of everything” that may open the doors to seeing more fundamental particles of life. Surely the stunning insights allowed by computation in all three ventures are matched in turn by dark, hellish views of biotech abuse. The afternoon focused on that abuse, drawing speakers into a response to the question “Will Evil Prevail?” (see TED conference list of talks).Philip Zimbardo, Social Psychologist, TED 2008, Day 2: Will Evil Prevail?

There was a self styled pragmatism that over-ruled conceptual analysis in these talks, leading speakers like Irwin Redlener to offer brief historical overviews and a recipe for surviving nuclear attacks. Phil Zimbardo’s analysis of “evil” or what he calls “the Lucifer effect” however managed to penetrate the social theories of evil, demonstating with photos from Abu Ghraib, the line “normal” people cross to commit crimes of power and sadism when pushed into high stress states.

Somewhere between complex systems analysis of synethic life and stats on nuclear war heads, we entertained the “innate” power and truth of “beauty.” For those of us engaged in the professional practice of art and art criticism, the discussions were philosphically thin (not an unfair comment given the session was reaching back into Platonic questions). They were also diasppointing, especially Thomas Kren’s patriarchal parade of artistic genius (with one mention only of a female, Vanessa Beecroft) and his survey of Guggenheim spawns. Where Krens argued the Guggenheim sought to demonstrate a new paradigm of a museum, it seems his global outreach to Singapore, Taichung, and Abu Dhabi looked more like a 21st century viral expression of an old model of public exhibition space: the Kunsthalle.

More tomorrow on the prize winners and Day 3

Greetings from TED Aspen 2008

February 28, 2008

M. A. from L. A. blogging from TEDAspen 2008As promised, I’m writing from TED Aspen after a roaring first day! You can read more about the first day line up on the TED website/blog section (www.ted.com), but here are my comments for the day:

You can imagine how pleased I am to be amongst a group of keen pattern recognizers and visionary conceptualizers (corporate “belief monks” opines one TEDster) for 4 days!!! And you might guess how lucky I felt to witness Day I presentations by the likes of palentoanthropologist Louise Leakey (of the esteemed Leakey family!), neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor (former stroke victim) spiritual teacher Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, expert (comedian) John Hodgman, particle physicist Patricia Burchat and palentologist Peter Ward show how the micro is connected to the macro, the brain to the mind, the breath to non-violence, the indeterminate universe to Sheherazad like story telling (with tongue firmly planted in cheek)… and the human to other uprights standing great apes! A brilliant orchestration of ideas, shared by a brilliant roster of people sharing their research and gifts.2297169223_5669507e8a.jpgJill Bolton Taylor, neuroanatomist, TED 2008, Day 1: Who Are WeSri Sri Ravi Shankar, spiritual teacher, The Art of Living, TED 2008, Day 1: What is our place in the universe?

John Hodgman, Expert (geek celebrity), TED 2008 Day 1: What is our place in the universe?

Patricia Burchat, Particle physicist, TED 2008 Day 1: What is our place in the universe?

Peter Ward, Paleontologist, TED 2008, Day 1: What is our place in the universe?

I saw a pattern in the talks: drawing on ancient technologies and survival skills to survive our present, whether it’s knowing the size of the skull of our African homonid forbearers or learning to exploit our “reptitilian potential” to produce H2S to survive possible great cosmic catastrophes! And of course, the ancient practice of developing elegant neuroplasticity and restoration of the body/mind by means of breathing practice and ritual. Talks by Anthropologist Wade Davis, Jill Bolton Taylor and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gave heartfelt, intelligent presentations on how we can balance our understanding of our minds, ourselves and the complex world in which we live by engaging awareness of breath, ritual and the right hemisphere of our brains!2297169283_d0811cb35a.jpg

Smart Education? Comedic interludes (John Hodgman) and mind-blowing, poly rhythmic riffs and slides by Guitarist Kaki King. Kaki King, Guitarist, TED 2008 Day 1: What is our place in the universe?This is definitely education for the future!

Tomorrow I will offer to teach cellular respiration (one of the many restorative practices basic SpaceSuit Yoga) to the TEDsters during our breaks. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will be offering meditation sessions at TED in Montery.

Stay tuned!

Zoom zoom,

DR. G.
Wednesday 11:07 p.m, Aspen Colorado

February 24, 2008

Greetings All!  Here’s my February blog on the brain! brainbodyblogfeb08.doc 

The Map is Not the Territory: Visualizing the Brain/Body

February 24, 2008

brainbodyblogfeb08.doc