It was the 6th annual TEDxPortland event on April 9, 2016. A sold-out crowd filled the 3,000 seats at the Keller Auditorium, and another estimated 700,000 people watched the event stream live. As with past TEDxPortland events, this one — entitled “Wonderland” — was inspirational, informative, and fascinating. You can visit www.tedxportland.com for a full list of speakers and performers, but here are a few highlights.
Tracy Oseran, the founder of Urban Gleaners, talked about how Portland’s “food scarcity” problem is really a “food distribution” problem. Massive amounts of food are wasted daily (40% of the food produced in the U.S. is thrown away!); the issue is finding ways to put that food to good use. By the time she was done speaking, she already had more than 100 emails from potential volunteers.
Rex Burkholder leads the Outdoor School for All Oregon campaign (www.outdoorschoolforall.org). He discussed the importance of having a “bullshit meter,” explaining how outdoor school can help children understand the difference between propaganda and critical thinking. All children are born with the tools to be scientists – curiosity, enthusiasm, and a world to explore – and having their own experiences as scientists helps them develop their ability and desire to find things out for themselves.
Maurice Conti, a futurist, described the artificial intelligences that will be building our future. It’s been almost 20 years since a computer beat a human at chess, but that was because all of the possible moves had been programmed by other humans. Now, computers can take the information we provide and create things that humans couldn’t, such as the first 3-D printed bridge in Amsterdam. Technology passes through an evolution from passive tools to generative to intuitive. Conti suggests that our goal should be “to use technology to amplify human cognitive intelligence, not replace it.”
Thaniya Keereepart works for TED in New York City. Coming in at 4’11”, she has had to work hard to establish her leadership, and offered some tips for the rest of us. Direct communication is at the top of the list; simply examine how often you use the word “just” in email communications to discover how much your communication is aimed at not upsetting anyone rather than actually communicating.
Israel Bayer, founder of the homeless newspaper Street Roots, addressed the homeless issue. After World War II, the U.S. devoted $89 billion annually to prevent homelessness, and it worked; there was virtually no homelessness. By the late 80s, that budget was reduced to $18 billion annually, and we can all see the results. “Compassion fatigue is the greatest threat to ending homelessness.” He points out that homelessness is not, and should not be, a normal condition. Israel discussed how homelessness is the root of a host of other problems, from drug abuse to unemployment; having a home is the beginning of solving these problems as well.
Joey Harrington was a star quarterback for his high school at Central Catholic in Portland and played for the Oregon Ducks during one of their most successful periods. He had never experienced failure – until he was drafted by the Detroit Lions. He talked about his experience of suddenly being famed for his failures after a lifetime of seeming perfection, and how he managed that experience. We all try to create a “perfect” persona, especially on social media, and he suggested that we might instead focus on who we really are, accepting imperfection rather than chasing perfection. “Perfection is the ability to fail and grow from it.”
There were more speakers, and a number of incredible performers as well. We are so proud to be third-year sponsors of this amazing event. We’ll keep you posted when videos go up. In the meantime, take a look at some of our photos below: