TEDxSydney 2014: Live Blog

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by Nathan Olivieri
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6:22 – And after a glorious solo, we are at the end of the day. Thanks for following along throughout, and be sure to check out all the videos on the TEDx website! Until next year, Teddies, and don’t forget to keep the conversation going long after the streaming has stopped and the concert hall as emptied. The idea-spreading starts now!

6:10 – And with that the day draws to a close, but not before we see the bravery of Megan Washington as she takes to the stage to document her fear of public speaking. A fear that is grounded in her history with stuttering, despite a stage presence that would suggest otherwise.

In line with rethinking, to best the situation and prevent her stutter,  she often changes the word she’s thinking before she says it, to trick her brain. Smooth Speaking is another mechanism – turning speech into a sing song tune because it is impossible to stutter when you sing. There are many ways around it. But singing means more to her – music is about honesty with the audience. And it will always be a part of who she is. She doesn’t seek to mythologise herself. And with that she takes to the piano.

5:55 – Zoe Norton Lodge lampoons the entirety of TEDX to round out the day, because a healthy dose of self-referentialism never goes astray. Erudite ideas aplenty in her faux-talk that whistles by before we realise she’s making fun of us. “Pat yourselves on the dick everyone”, she mocks, “you’ve done well today”.

Barry Traill

5:51 – Many are entering into contracts with the land to set them up as wildlife reserves, but this only a minuscule portion of the outback. The outback needs their people, and if we want to keep it healthy , and the diverse wildlife intact, we need to bring people back. We have so much space to use, and that needs to be used. Yet we continually turn people away from the country and have the mentality that “we’re full”. Time to rethink that perception.

5:44 – Outback Australia is one of the last natural places left on earth, and it is not being managed properly. The last ten years has seen a push to have land managers brought back to the Outback. Rangers manage huge masses of hectares, dealing with feral wildlife and managing fires with modern technology.

5:39 – Curator Jess Scully challenges us to rethink our perception of what the outback is – beyond stereotypes of dusty red plains. Enter Traill, who flashes up a myriad of images that showcase the vibrancy of the outback, and he cites that the problem surrounding the outback is too few people, it’s under-utilised and under appreciated.

Clio Cresswell

5:26 – So what if we thought about sex before doing mathematics? Thinking about love triggers big picture thinking, but thinking about sex helps with smaller process thinking, the kind of patterned thinking that maths resides in.

Pattern recognition is at the core of the animal kingdom in sexual intercourse – the root (pardon the pun) of the majority of human motivations – and these align with mathematics. Like sex, it’s about reading cues, responding, and engaging in continuous understanding. If sex is like mathematics, there is thus no excuse for those who say they can’t do maths. The connection is there fore the taking, and if Cresswell – who shows us a screenshot of her report card from high school, with multiple fails in mathematics – can take up maths at 18 and become a professor, than it is a skill that resides inherently within all of us.

5:20 – Equations for love are being developed, just as equations have been developed throughout history: predicting the stock exchange, pfft, we can now predict your chances in the bedroom.

5:17 – The mathematician who will apparently get us ‘so laid’, introduces us to an equation that determines with 95% accuracy whether a couple will stay together. Couples that respond to each other less and compromise less are more successful. Say what?

Richard Banati

5:11 – However, by examining the feathers of birds who have ingested plastic, we can isolate chemicals and compounds which have altered and modified their feathers. An astonishingly simple way of assessing what makes up plastic whose contents haven’t been made traceable. But it should not come to this point.

So could we do the same thing we use for fine cutlery, i.e. the composition of metals, to earmark what goes into a plastic creation? We can trace the plastic to its origin and make it easier to recycle. Trace the atom to trace the product, is the notion he leaves us with. Understand the life cycle.

5:07 – So we look to the good old periodic table late on a Saturday afternoon, and because plastics are such a compositional mish mash, the question remains: how can we possibly know of how to properly recycle plastic once broken down, if we don’t know what makes them up?

5:01 – There has been a call to have plastics labelled as “hazardous”, despite their ability to reduce costs in business, save lives and the like. But the real problem lies in classification and the lack of standardisation in this matter. There are so many labels for recyclable materials these days – bio-plastics, biodegradable, micro-biodegradable – how can we sort such complex materials more easily to improve recycling ability?

4:57 – The wild philosophical mind of Banati starts with plastic, a simple object. Something we make biodegradable in order to disappear into nothingness. Taking a walk along the beach, you’ll see strewn plastic items all across the sand – things that can often take decades to break down. Pristine sands are a thing of the past.

4:47 – And now we move onto Fast Talks, a time for audience participation, each speaker with 30 seconds to deliver their thought provoking idea.

1) Peter – A Geneva Convention for cyber warfare, to force governments to be more transparent about the digital collection of information
2) Oliver – The idea of a Rich List is obsolete, we should measure value creation and teach children that net worth is not s dollar figure.
3) Michelle – We should spread the ides it is OK to not have children. Some have a choice, other’s don’t; and it is an acceptable way to live your life.
4) Mary-Ellen – Pledge a dollar to charity for every dollar you spend on yourself.
5) Brett – What would school be like if we invented it today and bypassed rote learning of the past? Value critical thinking, and revamp the way you see education.
6) Paul – Suicide prevention through digital conversations is a more productive way of using social media and marketing schools. Put your knowledge of social media to a more profound and tangible use.

Short, sweet, and superb.

Mark Major

4:42 – Our addiction to light must be curbed in order to prevent over-illumination, not only for pollution issues but to ensure bio-diversity. Back to Trafalgar Square, and the overall comment: Less Is More. Internal light from buildings can spill over onto the street to light up the surrounds, and tell evocative stories in the process.

4:37 – So how can we make places more familiar and pleasant for people to occupy? How can make light work harder and smarter for us? Well Henry Ford said that if he asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses – and Major makes us contemplate what would we ask of Edison now, to use more light but not to the point of light or ugly visual pollution.

4:34 – Rethinking how we light our urban environment at night is a rich area of research for light architect Major. Less light may incongruously be the answer in how to make areas feel more safe and familiar. Trafalgar Square, for all it’s lighting, has less light than moonlight. How can we improve the lighting of our world; to make people feel safer, to give buildings identity and have them tell stories?

4:28 – And to Rethink, the final session of the day. A chance for a audience participation and a chance to have your mind blown. As the first TVB “Life Hacks” shows us, peel a banana from the top, not the bottom, to avoid the stringy bits; or use tongs to squeeze a lemon. Mind blown, right? Time for a rethink.

3:36 – Post, the amazing theatre troupe behind Oedipus Schmoedious, just captivated the room. There are no words to summarise that – you’ll just have to watch the video. Hilarious stuff.

Jake Coppinger

3:29 – And just like that, he is able to control his music player with a flourish of his hand. He can stop, start, swipe through pictures. He can even control electricity, and remotely control homes of the future, or even devices for the disabled. It can give movement to those without it. And this is something a then Yr 10 student could do over eight months; imagine what can be built on this now? Coppinger does extremely well to captivate the audience despite a few tech glitches.

3:24 – Boy Genius in the house! Yr 11 student Jake Coppinger waxes lyrical of the ways we walk and text , and block out the real world to focus on the virtual. As a perennial hobbyist, he created a glove which can communicate with your smartphone, hand-gestures that through trigonometry reconstruction are recreated on the phone via Bluetooth. And he dons the glove…

Jihad Dib

3:08 – Arguments that lead to fisticuffs now transformed into those over which moisturiser to apply to those same hands that eight years ago were at each other’s throats. The dedication moved the entire audience to their feet, only the second time today after the Sharps.

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3:05 – A man of Lebanon, he was a man of family. And that family aspect doubled the rate of tertiary acceptance to 65%. Students were there for the staff just as equally as the reciprocal; it caused a repayment of faith.

3:03 – Softening the hard edge of the boys was the first step – to quell the gang mentality and ease them into education. Dib removed any excuse to not succeed , and this started with the staff – mentoring, career guidance, sport, all went behind the classroom. Small acts of change can make leaps and bounds.

3:00 – Dib has taken a hands-on approach of being a guiding influence, and more overt presence in student’s lives. Teachers once said the students were not worth it, and he drew a line in the sand. He took it upon himself to create a family, restart the beating heart of the community and creating soul. “Where there is a heartbeat , there is life”.

2:58 – Much has been publicised of one of the youngest principals to ever take charge of a state school. The current Punchbowl Boys High School principal strides to the stage, and wastes no time in telling of his school as a realm of teachers suffering from PTSD, or principals having guns held to their head. In eight years, apathy has faded and pride had taken over the mentality.

Nicole Vincent

2:51 – Even now, concert performers are taking Beta Blockers before going on stage – between 1/4 to a 1/3 in all – and this has been happening since the 1970s. Or what about the increasingly normal caffeine and sleeping pill intakes? Your CV might look better because you’re able to fly around the world and be alert and awake, and deal with sleeping pills better than other academics. Once cognitive enhancement becomes the New Normal, there are no limits and we will be faced with a choice about whether to enhance or not enhance. In some situations, the choice will not be made for us and we will be forced to comply to survive. A scary thought.

2:46 – Imagine the possibilities if a doctor could take a cognitive-enhancing pill, that had no side effects, to improve the efficiency of their surgery? Will it become The New Normal? What if your livelihood as an employee was affected by the ability to take a drug and work all the time? This is a fascinating ethical conundrum delivered by an expert speaker.

2:42 – A question neuroscientist Nicole Vincent poses for the audience: if we could pop a pill to enhance our mental faculties, would we do it? For a lot of students, Ritalin is a real addiction to help them get through school. They’re all central nervous system stimulants, and while generally they are for those affected with ADHD, for the more able they simply wake you up and keep you focused. But the side effects are dastardly: high blood pressure and addiction. Are they worth the extra grades?

Oliver Percovich

2:39 – 5% of skateboarders internationally are girls. In Afghanistan, 40% are girls, and it is the largest female sport. The image of a bearded man with an AK-47 should and can be replaced with that of a smiling girl in a skateboard.

2:35 – Today, Skateistan has built indoor skateboarding facilities in Kabul and Cambodia, turning over 1000 children a week . It provides them with a shared identity and new community – one that perpetuates hope. A suicide attack on a base in Kabul took the lives of four skaters, and the skating community rallied around the families in support. Percovich has his tale written all over his face, and he pauses in all the right places to get maximum impact from his tale. It’s incredibly precise, but his demeanour conveys anything but routine here, it’s all emotion.

2:32 – Daily skateboarding sessions kept him going in a town where he had and knew nothing, particularly those sessions with women only. The enjoyment was palpable, it caused the girls to join hands and chant in joy, and Percovich saw a microcosm of what Aghanistan’s future could be.

2:29 – Percovich, originally from PNG, founded Skateistan in Afghanistan – where he could skateboard in the streets to the utter fascination of the community. 70% of the population of Afghanistan is under 25, and they were compelled by this phenomenon. But activities and sports are purely for boys only, as part of their community informal law – but skateboarding emerged as the loophole to the issue, it was so new no-one had told women they couldn’t do it.

2:16 – And we’re back for our third session of the day – Enhance. And greeted by the dulcet tones of Guy Pearce, waves crash spectacularly in another TVB. Curator Jackie Dent segues nicely into how we look to our nature, we look within, to create something momentous. And she introduces Tjupurru and the Bulldawadda, a musical group devoted to educating students about black culture through song. For them, they enhance public knowledge, and their own culture, through stories, and awaken from slumber a language they feel has been “sleeping” since colonisation.

1:49 – Everyone is deep in communal discussion over their breads and soups, and we have our very own jazz ensemble providing the perfect backing music to get the creative juices flowing. Jill Dupleix has done a wonderful job of creating a food environment to match the intellectual one. Conceptually, the day has been meticulously scoped out to a tee.

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Tim and Judy Sharp

12:47 – The cruellest consequence of autism is it can rob individuals of their most basic instinct to connect, according to Judy, and she turns to Tim to comment, and he delivers a heartfelt appropriation of his life thus far, and how his drawing helped him regain connection with the world, with his Mum proudly watching on miming every word as he utters it. And the crowd roars to their feet, as Tim gives a gracious bow.

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12:43 – He was the first person with Autism to have their art turned into a cartoon, and it aired on free to air TV. But it started from humble beginnings of fleeing an abusive relationship, and nights of no electricity and little food. Only a few years ago he met with Cate Blanchett to try and turn his creation, the hero that helped him become the person he could be, into a stage production. The Sharp’s world has been inverted substantially.

12:40 – She had to move beyond words to communicate with her son. So she started to draw, and it captivated Tim, wanting more and more. It became a formative part of his development, and his vocabulary improved. Laser Beak Man grew with Tim, and he represented Australia at the World Arts Fair for the disabled, and Judy mortgaged the house to have them go to the opening ceremony.

12:37 – Tim’s autism was laid down harshly by a specialist early in Tim’s life. She was told to put Tim away and forget about him, that he would use her and not feel anything for her. He couldn’t communicate , and she longed more than anything to hear the words “I Love You Mum”.

12:35 – Tim Sharp sits at stage, rattling off an astounding array of facts about those who influenced in his life, when they were born, when they died, how old they would be today. This is no ordinary brain we have sitting here. His mother stands proudly beside him, as he debuts his creation “Laser Beak Man”, a superhero Tim created in his vivid imagination. And he has an amazing eye for comic visuals – Laser Beak Man serving an array of Barbies at a “Barbie-cue” was a standout.

12:30 – And the heart of every woman in the room beats to the rhythm of the Latino flamenco dancer Johnny Tedesco, whose legs are moving beyond any visual recognition. The room is aghast, and bursts into applause no less then five times during the performance.

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Mary Jerram

12:22 – We cannot always swallow the role of the popular press. Closure is never achieved, justice is a spectrum, and often an infinite one with no defined parameters. Think critically, not closed-mindedly, about whether justice is, and ever truly can be, done.

12:17 – All cases have a blame game, as is natural for human nature. Though sometimes we need to accept that accidents occur. She turns to the well publicised case of the Brazilian man who was tasered by the police after violent conduct. 15 tasers, he wasn’t breathing, and he never did again. Initial thoughts on the matter were those of vengeance from the Coroners, but can justice be truly done through the law in this situation?

12:13 – The case moves on the hot topic of the moment, alcohol fuelled assaults. Mandatory sentencing cannot be just though, as no two cases are the same. The courts must make sense of the particulars, not politicians. Jerram recalls an early case of a child who died due to parents refusing common medical procedures (they practiced homeopathy). The parents were jailed, and Jerram felt a strange sense of justice herself – even those in the legal profession can be affected by what they believe is right.

12:12 – It seems all my updates have disappeared. Justice has not been done! But Jerram, a former state corner, has noticed many confuse revenge with justice. They try to measure justice by a life sentence, but is that an erroneous method of evaluating wrongdoing?

David Kilcullen

11:56 – Consumer electronic communication is leading to rapid economic growth. Urban cities are growing still in emerging countries. But spaces between formal cities are being filled by informal cities, or slums in many emerging countries. The urban cities want none of this – urban societies are being pulled apart to create gated communities that keep the informal cities out of development. Kilcullen seeks to make these cities not so easy to push around. That, in his opinion, is what true modern anthropology should be about.

Participatory development, or co-design, is a way of ensuring locals can plan their future, and Kilcullen and co provide them with the technological means to achieve it. Anthropology, which in the past has seen people visit a community and produce a neocolonialist and patronising account of a culture, is incredibly outdated. Co-design and assistance is a way of ensuring cultures remain resilient – not a wordy account that achieves very little.

11:49 – All the way from DC, we have David Kilcullen, an ex-soldier and Doctorate of Politics. A valuable asset, he was loaned to the Americans, and he now works directly with communities in rural areas.

The world is increasing its urban landscape exponentially since the industrialised revolution. Those left in non-urban areas are coastal cities of the Global South, yet photos of these cities show satellites and mobile infrastructure in place. The broadband penetration is incongruous with the low levels of urbanisation and development.

Marlon Williams

11:40 – Apologies team for the delays – seems that the conversation is overloading up in here and the Internet is at extreme capacity! But we’re back up with Marlon Williams and his incredibly folksy strummings, and a bluesy voice to match. A New Zealand twang enters his register as he talks about his first visit to the Opera House when he was 10. Now, instead of focusing on a handful of faces on the stage, he looks out onto a sea of them.

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Cyndi Shannon Weickert

11:30 – Her move to Australia was the missing link. Collaboration helped her to realise that SORM (Selective Oestrogen Receptor Modifier) was the solution, and her research took off in leaps and bounds.

All the while Scott was deteriorating back home, with Weickert his closest contact. And a Thanksgiving made her reflect on what she was truly thankful for, a night where Scott unfortunately passed away. Weickert pauses as a lump in her throat forms, and she takes a swig of water before continuing.

The results from her research have led to real drug development and her persona uplifts as she details the successes of research. And the audience stands to applaud as she remembers her brother, lost, and Weickert stands, her brother over her both in visual and in spirit.

11:28 – However, she noted that in the brains of those with schizophrenia, there was a higher likelihood of mutated oestrogen receptors in the brain. So she knew what was broke? How do you fix it?

11:25 – As they shared the same womb, schizophrenia could not have been genetic. Something major must have happened during adolescence. The only difference was sex. She postulated oestrogen can prevent schizophrenia, and oestrogen receptors are present in areas of the brain that determine reasoning and rational thought. But she had to bypass the common knowledge that there were no such oestrogen receptors in the cerebral cortex.

11:23 – There is serious emotion in the room, as squeaks in Weickert’s voice say more than her story of Scott’s arrest ever could. 1% of the world suffer from schizophrenia, and she didn’t know the lack of medication and knowledge that existed. And her quest for a cure began 30 years ago…

11:20 – Weickert opens with her brother Scott, her twin brother, a ‘boy genius’. Yet as they morphed into adulthood, Scott drifted further and further from the norm. He shied away from the world, and only now does she recognise the early signs of schizophrenia. The voices he heard weren’t from iPhone’s, she jokes achingly.

11:18 – A TVB treat: “John was a good man”. Make sure you check out this video of celebrities eulogising themselves, an interesting insight into individual perceptions of life, and a life well-lived.

11:15 – And we’re back for the second session (Blood) after a morning tea of green smoothies, muesli, and Anzac biscuits. And another coffee hit of course. The room is certainly a lot more friendly this time around – perhaps the caffeine (or the breakfast pills) have kicked in?

Barat Ali Batoor

10:23 – Like a scene from a hackneyed Hollywood film, Batoor was living the dangers of a sea journey in a rickety boat. All the while taking photos of this incredible journey. The vessel was forced ashore and into a detention centre, and they wre  humiliatingly strip searched and robbed. They escaped, however, with an uncertain future, only a memory card full of photos to his name, and he was fortunate enough to be resettled in Australia, with his story aired in SBS Dateline. And he leaves us with a thought: the politicisation of asylum seekers has meant they have lost their faces. We need to bring back the human element to the story, beyond the demonisation.

10:18 – The Hazara population, from which he came, suffered incredible death tolls, but Australia is home to the 4th largest Hazara population in the world. So it was he who decided to make the journey to Australia – but a visa was almost impossible. So boat was the only option – moving to Indonesia before taking the perilous journey. But word of a missing vessel, and the disappearance of his friends, made him rethink his decision However, a boat was soon ready and he boarded. 93 people huddled below deck, each paying $6000 for the “privilege”.

10:15 – Photographer Batoor takes to the stage, discussing his family’s flee from their homeland, from mass genocide. But after 9/11 he returned to Afghanistan as a journalist.

His story is accompanied by some stunning visuals from the narrative, fantastic work by the Walkley-Award winning photographer.

Stella Young

10:11 – Disability should not be an exception, but the norm. We should live in a world where ‘genuine’ achievement for the disabled should be celebrated. Disability is not exceptional, but questioning your opinion about it should be exceptional.

10:09 – The people in the inspiration-porn are not doing anything extraordinary. They’re using their body to the best of their capacity. And this perpetuates the lie of objectification. For Young, it’s the greatest injustice. “The only disability in life is a bad attitude” is a bullshit statement for Young – smiling at a staircase does not help you walk up it.

10:07 – The discourse out there is one of inspiration-porn, objectifying one group of people for the sake of other groups of people. Disabled people are there to simply help us feel better about ourselves. But what if you are that disabled person? Why should you be congratulated for just purely existing? It is purely as a perspective-enabler for the non-disabled.

10:03 – And now we have the incomparable Stella Young. She tells of how she was nominated for a Community Achievement Award without having really achieved anything. Disability, in her mind, was not in the equation.

Even when she went as a guest speaker to schools to talk about defamation law, she was asked by ignoramus students when her “inspirational speech” would start. And she said that people always see disabled people as objects of inspiration. And she is not here to inspire us today. She is hear to tell us we’ve been lied to – disability is not exceptional.

Lindsey Pollak

10:00 – And with a bit of hardcore drilling and measuring, I am now listening to something I never thought I’d hear. A carrot clarinet solo!

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9:57 – Linsey Pollak, guerilla-musician, says putting two things together to create something new is at the core of creativity, and so he pairs a carrot with a saxophone mouthpiece to try and create a clarinet. And we wait as he wields a knife…and a drill.

Adam Alter

9:55 – Can we say we have a personality, he concludes? We are not static beings, and can be different things at different times. How will you define yourself going forward? Can we really do it in one single way?

9:50 – Alter than presented us with the letters of the alphabet, and asked us to pick our favourites. Lo and behold, we all picked the initials of our name. And apparently, you are more likely to donate to a relief fund for a Hurricane if the name of it matches the initials of your name. Imagine how much change we could make to charitable donations with such a simple fix? We respond incredibly differently depending on the stimuli.

9:48 – Similarly , for a take a penny leave a penny box, a visual of glaring eyes above the jar caused more people to honestly replenish the jar than less guilty images.

Honesty is by no means fixed.

9:43 – Assistant professor of Marketing and Psychology at NYU Adam Alter takes to the stage. And when he left for America he realised that he became a different person to the one he was when he returned to Australia. Was he particularly malleable, or do people simply change when confronted with different stimulus?

An experiment was called: he gave two sets of jewellery to two different sets of religious Christians, and asked them to give them a valuation. For one group, though, he made one small change, replacing one of the jewels with a crucifix, to see whether it would induce honesty.

He then asked them to answer some personality questions, and the presence of seeing the cross forced them to be more honest in answering them. Christian guilt perhaps?

9:41 – And our first tasty video bit (TVB) – and the most popular word in a TED talk, after lengthy analysis, is People. Not innovation or change or synergy. Profound.

Markus Zusak

9:39 – All those failures made the difference. And he ponders the greater motivations, the beautiful memories, the power to imagine his way around problems, and the courage to follow his own vision, that failure inevitably brought him.

And like any good TED talk he ends with a quote – albeit from an unlikely source. NRL Coach Wayne Bennet noted his players had to go to the dark places so they can’t realise how good they are, and Zusak feels an affinity with this.

9:34 – But he practiced and practiced, and didn’t win. But the moment of practicing in the rain with his Dad was the greatest reward for him.

On to 28, and he starts talking about his origin of The Book Thief, and he was convinced that no-one in the right mind would read a 600 page book narrated by Death. His first 200 pages failed flat, and so he switched his narrator to the protagonist. This didn’t work either (she became the most Aussie sounding German ever), so he reimagined Death as a weary worker, not a macabre sadist, and this time he hit the nail on the head.

9:32 – Failure is my friend, and he tells two stories from both 8 and 28. First the childhood tale of a young Zusak attempting to win his primary school discus competition. He thrice hit the net – three fouls – and failure in front of his family became a reality. And it haunted him, he constantly imagined the world discussing his failure. The audience is responding at all the right cues to this talk of self-deprecation.

9:30 – Zusak recalls his roots, and his first book tour where no-one turned up; cue a roar of ‘nawws’ from the audience. But success comes in a gift box of failure, according to Zusak, to fail again and fail better.

9:28 – And Marcus Zusak takes the stage, whose Book Thief was on the NY Times best seller list for 375 weeks. Astounding.

9:26 – And Julian Morrow takes the stage, one of the proudest supporters of TEDx. And he knows his audience well, thanking John Howard tongue-in-cheekily for suggesting the Black Arm Band. And he thanks the audience too, who range from “Soft Left and Hard Left”, to knowing laughs from the audience.

9:20 – If my friend John Cleese were here, he might remark “And now for something completely different” – a didgeridoo beatbox/rap, with an accompanying drum solo. The rhythms are infectious, before the vocals resume.

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9:15 – Another vocalist joins the harmony, adding tonal highs and lows to the mix. One dips her voice, the other crescendos, with the variations in pitch sending goosebumps throughout the theatre.

9:12 – First a video, the screen pans up into a pastel grey forest, as a the Black Arm Band take the stage. The strings of the violins accompany the soaring bird that courses through the screen above, and the deep, brooding vocals of the female lead interchange between English and her native tongue.

9:05 – After a touching welcome to country by Michael West, reminding us of the cyclical nature of knowledge and community, Remo Giuffre enters the stage to warm and rapturous applause, the man who has made the past 4 TEDx conferences, and of course today’s, possible. He speaks proudly of the incredible reach that these festivals have. It’s a day about “connecting you with both your dreams and the people that can make them happen”.

8:57 – 48 other TEDx talks are taking place all over the world today, that’s incredible. A mammoth spread of ideas.

8:54 – And we’re treated to a little video of the scope and expanse of TEDx – and a tribute to all the volunteers who helped make this day of skepticism and curiosity possible. These talks take place all over the world, no idea or city too small for the realm of TED.

8:52 – And just a quick reminder, the list for the first session (Passages) includes some real doozies: Black Arm Band, Markus Zusak, Adam Alter, Linsey Pollak, Stella Young, and Barat Ali Batoor.

8:50 – And now the fanfare is in full force! Not long to go now – loud whispers are purveying the room. Serendipitous meetings aplenty as people turn to those next to them for a happenstance chat. Lots of ideas flowing, before the speakers even arrive.

8:40 – And the doors fly open. The only time you’ll be told NOT to turn off your phone when you enter a theatre.

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8:30 – In case you missed it, the Breakfast pill that was being offered to all attendants on arrival. No red or blue pills today #matrix

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8:15 – And the speaker list, in case you’d forgotten. Maybe time for a sneaky bit of research before the storm.

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8:10 – Indeed the coffee is brewing, with a Breakfast Pill on the side. Bottoms up!

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7:50 – People trickling in slowly but surely…excitement brewing, or maybe that’s just the coffee….

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6:30am – Hello and welcome to one of the most exciting days on the Sydney, nay the Australian, calendar. Yes, TEDxSydney is back for another year, and we’re strapping ourselves in for  a day of lightbulbs, a-ha’s, and other moments of general thought-provocation. A day where we celebrate ideas; a day where it is impossible to leave without feeling inspired to act, and incredibly possible to find yourself a different person to when you arrived.

For those who are unable to be in the room, fear not, as I’ll be blogging minute-by-minute rolling coverage of the ideas-fest, capturing the mood and atmosphere as the day progresses and doing my best to not butcher the beautiful articulations of the speakers themselves. You can follow me on Twitter as well, ‘NathanOlivieri. Of course, all speaker talks will be uploaded at day’s end to the TEDxSydney website.

To the naysayers who decry TED as dumbing down the intellectual debate or creating pop-education, I defy you to stream, listen, or read along today, to follow the conversation on Twitter, and not feel a stir of eureka-soaked emotion. The ripples these pebbles of ideas cause are immeasurable, and inject such incredible life into the public debate. And the best way to educate someone is to inspire them to self-educate: if a talk today forces you, or anyone, to log on and learn more, then the speaker’s job is done. What use is research and ideas if they lay decrepit in a dusty manila folder, indecipherable in their complexity, to fall on deaf ears?

I’ll be blogging photos and links upon arrival, so join me back here just before 9am as we get underway. Oh, and an open mind is mandatory.

by Nathan Olivieri
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