Asghar Syed, Partnership Director @ TEDxJacksonville, writes about his recent trip to Vancouver for TEDActive. An insightful piece with cool pics of the facilities and surrounding area.
The conference officially got started Monday night by paying homage to TED’s rich 30-year history. Nicolas Negroponte, founder of the MIT media lab and one of TED’s earliest and most prolific speakers, looked back on technological predictions that he has personally made from the TED stage on everything from the advent of GPS, e-books, and touch sensitive digital displays to google street view and google glass. He closed with a prediction that, in the future, we’ll be able to “ingest information,” to literally swallow a pill to know English or swallow a pill to know all of the works of William Shakespeare. I can’t wait.
Throughout the conference, we had the option to pick between lots of different rooms and spaces to watch each session of the TED conference. Each area had TED red bean bags and one had a bed with flat screen monitors suspended overhead. (This might sound a bit crazy, but it was actually awesome and, yes, I totally fell asleep watching TED talks in that bed).
There was a lot to do at TEDActive besides remotely watching TED talks. Attendees did early morning yoga and runs, checked out exhibits and outdoor activities, and participated in daily organizer workshops. The main conference hall at TEDActive had a stage for live TED presentations (we had a number), performances, and well… dance parties.
Tuesday through Friday were intense. Outside of all the activities and talks, we were hanging out with current and former TED presenters, trying to meet everyone, brainstorming ideas for TEDxJacksonville, and thinking hard about issues like privacy, corporate transparency, and what global issues can or can’t be impacted with philanthropy. Not much time for sleep.
Talking to TEDx organizers from other countries was really humbling. Organizers from Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen explained how they’ve had to navigate intense government scrutiny while aspiring to use the TEDx platform to transform their countries. And organizers with TEDxSydney, who hold their annual conference in the Sydney Opera House for more than 2,000 attendees, wowed us with the scope and scale of their operation.
Our team had some truly memorable encounters. I got to hang out with TED curator Chris Anderson. Sabeen discussed corporate transparency and took a selfie with TEDPrize winner Charmain Gooch. And Doug Coleman attempted to, and mostly succeeded in, high-fiving every single TEDActive attendee.
For me, TEDActive reinforced the idea that so much can be done in Jacksonville with the resources available to us. With TEDxJacksonville, we’re hoping to start conversations about how Jacksonville can promote and protect public spaces in the urban core. Given our cutting edge medical industry, we want to explore how our city can play a role in advancing medical technology while promoting community health. And with our river and Florida’s incredible ecology, how we can develop and test new models for preserving the environment. And there’s so much more.
No one person has all the answers but each of us has something to contribute. The TED conference continues to serve as a reminder that by coming together as a community to challenge one another, contribute our perspectives, and share our ideas, we have the best shot at preserving our sense of human dignity while achieving our most farfetched ambitions.
Partnership Director @ TEDxJacksonville
Asghar was born and raised in Kuwait. He moved to the United States when he was 18 to attend UMass Boston. Always active on campus, Asghar wrote for the student newspaper, had fair trade coffee introduced at UMass, and was awarded a grant to present a workshop at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. After college, he lived in China for a year teaching English. In 2010, Asghar earned a graduate degree in law and business at University of Florida and is now a commercial litigator with the prestigious law firm Smith Hulsey & Busey. Asghar and his wife Sabeen enjoy cooking, running, traveling and they plan on hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro within the next 5 years.