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Videos: Grand Rapids connects with TEDx conference

Topics include technology, innovation and minority businesses.

May 16, 2014
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The fourth annual TEDxGrandRapids conference attracted hundreds of community members to hear 15 speakers address the theme “What’s Connected?”

One of the day’s highlights was hearing from original TED Conference founder Richard Saul Wurman, who is also a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

Often eliciting laughter from the audience with his asides, Wurman spoke about the overuse of the word “innovation” and talked about what, to him, constitutes true innovation.

“Most things called innovation are incremental change. They’re not innovation,” he said.

True innovation can be found in the acronym ANOSE: Addition, Need, Opposite, Subtraction and Epiphany, he added.

“I think those are the ways you innovate,” he said.

Wurman explained what he means by “addition”: The automobile was a truly innovative invention as it came from adding something new to already existing products and ideas.

“Need” has regularly led to innovative ideas, Wurman said, particularly within the medical field.

Explaining the term “opposite,” he said that the world is full of preconceived notions, and many innovative ideas have been the result of someone’s ability to turn away from that preconceived notion and look at it from the opposite of what is believed to be true.

“An astonishing number of things are the result of looking at things from the opposite,” he said.

“Subtraction” means eliminating things in a way that allows one to see an idea, a problem or a solution differently. Wurman used the original TED Conference as an example of how subtraction leads to innovation, saying he got rid of CEOs and politicians — all the people that regularly are provided the floor to pontificate — and replaced them with people whose voices are less often heard.

Finally, sometimes there are just “epiphanies” — brilliant ideas or connections that just seem to happen suddenly.

Focusing on the theme of connection, Wurman said no matter how digital the world becomes, nothing can replace face-to-face interaction, and he noted one of the best results from the original TED Conferences was bringing together people from all walks of life — from across the globe — which he said had the potential to be life-changing in ways that sitting next to someone you always see at other events can’t be.

It wouldn’t be a TED conference without a glimpse into the future, and Jason Sosa, founder and CEO of IMRSV, provided attendees with a glimpse into the world of artificial intelligence and what he called “trans-humanism.”

“Man is merging with technology,” Sosa said. “We’ve already begun the process of augmenting the capacity of our minds onto our devices.”

While wearables are widely anticipated as the next big thing, Sosa pointed to embedded technology as an even bigger next big thing — “sensors under the skin,” he said.

He said eventually people will be able to upload their memories to the Internet, watch a movie the way the director intended by making it a fully immersive experience, teach technology to understand human emotions, and have devices regularly interact with one another.

“If you think ‘Inception’ was just a movie, MIT scientists have implanted memories into mice,” he said. “In the future it may be possible to remove or implant memories.”

The possibilities are endless and happening at an unbelievable speed. He said the computing power of today’s smartphone is equivalent to the entire computing power of NASA in 1969, when man landed on the moon. Computing power is growing exponentially.

“Technology is getting smaller, faster, cheaper and more powerful every day,” he said.

Speaker Maggie Anderson, author of “Our Black Year" and founder of The Empowerment Experiment, provided insight into the demise of the black-owned business following integration, and the present day income inequality that persists within the black community.

Anderson and her family embarked on a yearlong effort to spend their money with black-owned businesses, which turned out to be more difficult than they imagined. While there are plenty of Asian-owned businesses of all types, there are very few black-owned businesses, she said.

She relayed statistics of how long a dollar remains in circulation within different ethnic communities. A dollar remains in circulation within the Asian community for 28 days, while a dollar remains in circulation within the black community for about six hours.

Business ownership provides a community with both economic and political power, Anderson said.

“Black kids can’t see business owners that look like them every day,” she added. “They can’t get or create jobs in the community.”

There also is a striking disparity in the unemployment rate within the Asian community compared to the black community.

“Those disparities cause the same kind of problems in the corporate space,” she said. “Most products catering to black culture are not from black companies.”

Anderson ended her talk with a call to action, calling on everyone to support black-owned businesses. “We are all connected to this economy, so we can all do something about this economic injustice.”

Her talk was especially well timed for Grand Rapids, given that the Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses organization launched a “30 days 30 dollars” challenge to encourage people to spend money at locally owned black businesses.

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