Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ideas set to stream from Puebla

Fast on the heels of Day of the Dead, it’s again time for Mexico’s other annual November luminous experience, the City of Ideas.  Founded in 2008, this is my third City of Ideas.  I look forward to it as a stimulating mental retreat.

It will be held from November 5 to 7 in Puebla’s 5,000 seat, recently-remodeled, Auditorio Siglo XXI.   Though the event sold out within days of its tickets’ release the entire three days is live-streamed on the Internet -- you needn’t miss a moment.  Most everything is in English -- even the theme of the conference:  “What’s the Point?”

The conference is the brainchild of Mexico’s San Francisco Consul Andres Roemer, who co-curates with Ricardo Salinas Pliego, Chairman of Grupo Salinas and Grupo Elektra.   Romer said of Salinas “He’s a visionary -- breaking the typical prototype of the business entrepreneur.  I met Ricardo through books.  After reading two of my books he wanted to meet me. An avid reader, he has read many of the books written by the presenters at City of Ideas.”
TED Talks have become popular world-wide; the City of Ideas may be of equal importance.  The slogan of TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talks is, “Ideas Worth Sharing.”  Growing out of a one-time conference, TED Talks, are curated by Chris Anderson. Anderson, born in Pakistan to Medical Missionaries, went on to an Oxford education in so many disciplines that he, himself, could be considered a Renaissance Man.

Fascinated by the emerging computer world, Anderson began to publish magazines dedicated to various facets of the computer revolution. He used his newly-created wealth to fund the Sapling Foundation and acquired TED. The rest is history.

City of Ideas has a format similar to TED; each speaker is allowed only 14 minutes.   On a single stage only minutes separate the speakers.  All attendees have the opportunity to see all speakers.  From experience, I can attest this is a physically challenging three days.  Yet you hardly want to take a break for lunch.  When the right brain approaches absolute overload, there will be a left-brain interlude of phenomenal music, dance, even magic.

This year’s theme is “What’s the Point?”  If past is prologue, all of the speakers/presenters will, in some way, answer that question.

World leaders and politicians will be heard including former heads of state of Colombia, Switzerland, Mexico and Spain. 

Patrick Magee, a long-imprisoned member of the IRA, will share the stage with the daughter of a British General killed by the IRA.

The US drug war will be one of the topics of “What’s the Point?”  There will be speakers from all sides of the issue, including some major players who have dramatically changed their minds about the impact of this “war.”

Who says one person can’t change the world?  These have.

Canadian Ryan Hreljac was only six years old when he learned about the difficulties Ugandans faced obtaining clean water.  He immediately started doing chores to earn money to give to an African charity that builds wells.  Others began to match his donations and the story went global.  Ryan’s Well is now an international Foundation.  Though now only 23 he has helped build hundreds of wells in Africa and has traveled the world raising money for clean water.

Another exciting and world-changing voice is Sugata Mitra’s.  Professor Mitra is an educational scientist working to solve the global problem of a lack of teachers and schools.  In impoverished areas of India, South Africa, and Italy, he “implanted” web-connected computers in walls located in public places.  He left no instructions with the computers but returned periodically finding them surrounded by children learning complex mathematics and other subjects.  The kids were teaching themselves!

Can the blind learn sonar and navigate the world without vision?  Daniel Kish has been blind since 13-months but has learned to “see” through sonar.  He now teaches his skill to others.

Jason Padgett was savagely attacked in 2002, left with a severe concussion and post-traumatic stress disorder. “Livescience” staff writer Tanya Lewis says, “The incident turned Padgett into a mathematical genius who sees the world through the lens of geometry.  Padgett, a furniture salesman from Tacoma, Washington, had little to no interest in academics.  He now has the ability to visualize complex mathematical objects and physics concepts intuitively. The injury, while devastating, seems to have unlocked part of his brain that makes everything in his world appear to have a mathematical structure.”

Simon Pierro is a German digital magician.  You’re sure to wish your iPad was as talented as his!  His presentation is certain to be enhanced by neurologists Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik, experts in the neuroscience of illusion. 

Like City of Ideas curator, Andres Roemer, Simon Pierro and his many fellow presenters will bring magic to Puebla and into our lives.  By this time next week I’ll hope to have an insight into how it all fits together, perhaps even know “what’s the point.”  For now I leave it in Andres’ capable hands and await the magic of the City of Ideas.

Don’t forget.  You can watch it live-streamed at ciudaddelasideas.com.  I suggest you go on early to register.

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