When I got there this morning the large room in the basement had 60 seats, only 6 of which were occupied. I tweeted that, but we weren't overwhelmed by an instant rush. There is currently a break for lunch. The lights were turned off at the request of those present which made notetaking tricky. Some "talks that are exclusively presented onsite and may not go online". The first session was for TED Fellows and all the talks were quite short.
It is also the case that the seats are hard plastic, no food is allowed (through I did spot some take out coffee cups in the room) and in between sessions the library intends to empty the room, to allow others to get in if things get crowded later.
Just to give you an idea of what was on offer this morning, the following is a quick summary of my notes (or what I could find online that made better sense), and now the conference is over more is appearing on the TED site.
The session opened with a performance on Philippine gongs by Susie Ibara. Then Andrew Pelling from Canada described how he uses electronic equipment - garbage rescued from dumpsters - to build machines for his research and amusement. The question occurred to him - could biology be like hardware? Could you make human body parts out of apples? Or asparagus to repair damaged numan nerves? The answers he came up with are available as an open source online. He showed pictures of human ears made from apples - which are a lot cheaper than some of the commercial sources used for this type of material elsewhere. "Play is a key part of my scientific practice."
Bektour Iskender from Kyrgyzstan is an independent news publisher and co-founder of Kloop Media. This is both a new website and a training school for young journalists to cover politics and culture. He started off with death threats from the government, but managed the only truthful news coverage of the 2010 revolution and a number of key scoops which led to changes in government. His journalists were 15 and 16 years old!
Sandford Biggars showed some of his art works which include Buddhist symbology created from stencils of slave ship stowage to bullet damage of African sculptures of human figures shot up to symbolize the recent deaths of African American young men by police.
Trevor Timm spoke about the need for and development of Securedrop a surveillance resistant method of communication for whistleblowers.
Jessica Ladd (USA) is a sexual health technologist, the "founder and CEO of Sexual Health Innovations, a nonprofit dedicated to creating technology to advance sexual health in the U.S. Her most recent initiative, Callisto, provides a platform for college students to confidentially report sexual assault." She got the first standing ovation of the morning. Her statistics were remarkable: 1 in 5 women at US colleges are sexually assaulted: less than 10% will report the event. 90% of assaults are by repeat offenders, but very few are caught and even fewer punished: "there is no deterrent". Her system only provides information to authorities when there is a match between two reports: it is a form of "information escrow" which ensures that all reports are verified. This greatly increases the probability of being taken seriously and can of itself prevent 59% of assaults.
Shivani Siroya is Indian-American, "founder and CEO of InVenture, a mobile technology and data science company that flips the traditional credit scoring system by putting power into the hands of consumers via their mobile phone. Now, she is working to launch and test a new application which instantly scores applicants and delivers real-time credit to individuals who lack access to formal financial services."
At that point the session broke for lunch and I headed home to write the blog.