Another Look Into Your Future

In case you have not heard of TED – Technology, Entertainment and Design – it is the rapidly growing forum for all things innovative and cutting edge, not just in technology.

As these selected presentations demonstrate, our world is changing irreversibly and rapidly in many areas that affect us as human beings, as well as library professionals. Hopefully, these selections will reemphasize the dramatic impact change is having on our library environment.

At TEDGlobal2009, Eric Giler, CEO of MIT-inspired WiTricity, wants to untangle our wired lives with cable-free electric power. In this presentation, he shows what this sci-fi tech offers, and demonstrates MIT’s breakthrough version, WiTricity – a near-to-market invention that may soon recharge your cell phone, car, pacemaker.

“[Y]ou start out with electricity, turn it into magnetic field, take that magnetic field, turn it back into electricity.” You may never plug in again. (If you want to skip the technical electric transfer part, go to the demonstration at 6min 30sec.)

Here’s a demonstration of the technology from University of Florida.

Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist who studies the symbiotic interactions between humans and machines, presented We are all cyborgs now at the TEDWomen Conference in December 2010, making her case for the fact that we are fundamentally different now due to adoption of communications technology.

… in the beginning, for thousands and thousands of years, everything has been a physical modification of self. It has helped us to extend our physical selves, go faster, hit things harder, and there’s been a limit on that. But now what we’re looking at is not an extension of the physical self, but an extension of the mental self. And because of that, we’re able to travel faster, communicate differently. And the other thing that happens is that we’re all carrying around little Mary Poppins technology. We can put anything we want into it, and it doesn’t get heavier, and then we can take anything out. What does the inside of your computer actually look like?

Well, if you print it out, it looks like a thousand pounds of material that you’re carrying around all the time. And if you actually lose that information, it means that you suddenly have this loss in your mind, that you suddenly feel like something’s missing, except you aren’t able to see it, so it feels like a very strange emotion.

The other thing that happens is you have a second self. Whether you like it or not, you’re starting to show up online, and people are interacting with your second self when you’re not there.

The most successful technology gets out of the way and helps us live our lives. And really, it ends up being more human than technology, because we’re co-creating each other all the time. And so this is the important point that I like to study: that things are beautiful, that it’s still a human connection; it’s just done in a different way. We’re just increasing our humanness and our ability to connect with each other, regardless of geography. So that’s why I study cyborg anthropology.

Anthony Atala’s lab at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine makes human organs and tissue. At his presentation Growing New Organs at TEDMED in October 2009, he demonstrated a machine that “prints” human tissue.

We started implanting some of these structures over 14 years ago. So, we have patients now walking around with organs, engineered organs, for over 10 years, as well. I’m going to show a clip of one young lady. She had a spina bifida defect, a spinal cord abnormality. She did not have a normal bladder. [16:54]

At the TED@MotorCity 2011 Conference, Lisa Gansky, author of “The Mesh,” talks about a future of business that’s about sharing all kinds of stuff, either via smart and tech-enabled rental or, more boldly, peer-to-peer. Examples across industries – from music to cars – show how close we are to this meshy future.
The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing.

I’m speaking to you about what I call the “mesh”. It’s essentially a fundamental shift in our relationship with stuff, with the things in our lives. And it’s starting to look at – not always and not for everything – but in certain moments of time access to certain kinds of goods and service will trump ownership of them.

First, they really understood that a brand is a voice and a product is a souvenir.

The opportunity and the challenge with mesh businesses – and those are businesses like Zipcar or Netflix that are full mesh businesses, … – is to make sharing irresistible.”
“We’re at the very beginning of something that, what we’re seeing and the way that mesh companies are coming forward, is inviting, it’s engaging, but it’s very early. I have a website, it’s a directory, and it started with about 1,200 companies, and in the last two and a half months it’s up to about 3,300 companies. And it grows on a very regular daily basis.

I encourage you to browse TED’s resources and find those innovation presentations of more interest to you personally. Let us know what you found that has an impact on our profession as librarians of the future.

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