Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Life Hacks from TED 2016

This is material taken from the 2:15 to 4pm session on Tuesday February 16, 2016

The session opened with an unscheduled short talk from Allen Adams on gravitational waves. I noticed that very few people in the audience at TED - or at the VPL Kits branch - were taking notes, so I just listened. He was very enthusiastic and made clear just how extraordinary the very idea of trying to listen to gravitation waves was - and how quickly the machinery of LIGO actually proved useful.

The first speaker on life hacks was Tim Urban who is a blogger and procrastinator.  He talked about the Instant Gratification Monkey who gets in the way of getting on with a task until the Panic Monster wakes up, just before deadline and lets the rational being get on with the job.
"It has always been a dream of mine to have given a TED talk." 
He explained that there were actually two types of procrastination - with and without a deadline. When there isn't a deadline there is no way to wake up the Panic Monster, so some things - which might be Very Important - do not get done.

He was very entertaining and got a standing ovation.

Adam Grant started off by talking about Warby Parker - something I confess I have never heard of but is apparently hugely successful, but he chose not to invest in, because he thought the people who created that website seemed to him to be less than fully committed, and were not giving it their undivided attention in the period before it launched. He was wrong. He calls himself a pre-crastinator: he does not wait for the deadline but has his work all done and dusted well before it is due. Even so, he has begun to recognize the value of procrastination.
"You call it procrastination. I call it 'thinking'." Aaron Sorkin
Much thinking occurs in the part of the brain that is not actively engaged in a task. While you are playing Minefield, your brain is turning over other possibilities that you may not actually be aware of. (He has researched that.) "I have a dream" was not in the script of MLK's famous speech.

"First mover" is not actually much of an advantage (he had data of the first mover failure rate)
You don't have to be first. You have to be different and better.
He is trying to recognize "Originals" - the successful ones anyway. He noted a process through which ideas go and said that it was necessary to distinguish between idea doubt and self doubt. The first is essential and the second gets in the way.

The first drafts are always crap. You need to get better by working on them. He had a simple test that seems to help identify people willing to go that extra step. If you use Internet Explorer or Safari as your browser, you accept the default. Chrome and Firefox users want to find something better. What you need to do is replace "deja vu" with "vu jade". When you experience doubt don't let it go. the biggest regrets we have in life are not the things we did, but those we failed to do. Originals are the ones who try the most and experience the most failures. Be quick to start but slow to finish.

The organizer then got both presenters to talk about their different approaches. I am not sure that added much. Nothing appears in my notes, anyway.

Brian Little was the third presenter: at this point I did my own data collection.There were 18 people present. Only two were male.

He is a psychologist and talked about "trait psychology": he used the acronym OCEAN


each one of which is a parameter. There are also three fields in which these parameters are measured: biogenic, sociogenic and idiogenic
I don't think [even] pigeons belong in pigeonholes
We need to act out of character sometimes to get results. He said that he was an introvert but he was very funny and got the first standing ovation.

Dave Larson called his talk "Learning 2.0" which started with the observation that the way we learn things are outdated and ineffective. He illustrated how we can better remember things by singing his Alzheimer's song. Basically, sitting in a lecture room, writing notes and then studying in the library does not actually produce quite the same effect as the way you pick up an "ear worm".

John MacWhorter was the first black guy in the line up, and talked about languages - why even though English is becoming universal there are benefits to learning another language. I have few notes but what stuck in my mind was his reference to "Jesus of Montreal" which features a group of francophone women forced to speak English when they get to the ER - and are no longer the witty, intelligent engaging people we have seen for most of the movie, but shadows who can barely function in the second language that they can speak but is not their own.  This had a great resonance for me, as I can speak french but very badly and so the French do not perceive me as intelligent or witty but barely coherent. If you do not understand this watch an episode of 'Allo 'Allo until the policeman appears. He said that web pages like Glossika enable you to learn a language easily and will "blow your mind".

Noah Zandan has been analyzing how people speak to help identify how to speak like a visionary. His data analysis has allowed him to produce three rules

1 Focus on the present (like Elon Musk)
2 Be Clear and Simple (sorry did not note the name of the lady)
3 use "you"and "your" a lot (like Richard Branson) enabling people to Experience the Vision

Kio Stark said that she is "obsessed with talking to strangers". We have been raised to believe in 'stranger danger' but most people are not dangerous. We need to use our senses not our fears, and do not put people into categories, which is a road to bias. We need to see them as an individual. "It's a political act."

She told a story. "I'm a New Yorker. So when I am waiting to cross the street, I stand on the stormn drain, not the curb. Like I am going to get across the street quicker. An old man said to me 'Don't stand there. You might dissapear. I could turn around and you're gone'." She felt valued - another human being had expressed concern for her, a total stranger ... cared.

She also spoke about how she teaches her daughter (four years old) how to assess a situation and recognize that some people will not welcome an approach, or should be avoided.

We expect our spouses to read our minds but with strangers we have to eliminate that expectation and explain everything. We practice "civil inattention" but other cultures have different rules. In Egypt it is rude to ignore a stranger.

So there are some simple techniques

Triangulate - refer to some third point of interest
Noticing - she recommends shoes (note: this was cited in The American President "Compliment her shoes. Girls like that.")
Dogs and babies - talk to the dog or baby directly: they are a social conduit
Disclosure encourages disclosure

I put that into action when the stream stopped. I had a very rewarding interaction with another audience member. I gave her my card. I hope she found her way and leaves a comment.

Speakers: 6 men (of which 1 black), 1 woman
Audience at Kits Library: 18, of which 2 male


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