Yesterday I was privileged to watch one of the live feeds from this year’s TED conference in Long Beach. I was blown away by the accomplishments of the youngest among the speakers.
There was one, an architect, who only graduated a few years ago. Faced with no employment, he took a different path. He started wikiHouse (www.wikihouse.cc). He put out on the internet for all to access blue prints for simple houses the parts for which could be printed! Using these lightweight printed elements, which he likened to an IKEA model, he has allowed people to assemble simple homes. These structures are designed for developing nations where many live in makeshift buildings cobbled together from cast-offs. They are not anything we in America or other first world countries would use – there’s no plumbing, no electricity. Perhaps the next step is those amenities but for now how much better to have a community of houses not one of abandoned storage containers, packing crates and shanties. These structures could be used for schools, hospitals, libraries – just imagine the possibilities!
The other speaker who was truly amazing was Jack Andraka, a young man who, at age 15!, developed a simple, effective, non-invasive and inexpensive test to detect pancreatic cancer (and ovarian cancer!). After his uncle died from pancreatic cancer – which had been detected too late for him to be treated, this young man asked “why?” Why, wasn’t there a test to detect the cancer early enough to save people? What he learned shocked him. The only existing test had just a 23% accuracy rate and was prohibitively expensive. He took it upon himself to rectify the situation. He did all the research on his own using the internet. Pursuing a solution with, as he puts it, the optimism of a teenager, he developed a theory. He needed a lab to complete his research. Of the two hundred requests sent to local universities, medical facilities and test centers, one hundred ninety-nine were turned down. Luckily one said yes. Working on his own in the lab while a slew of PhDs looked on skeptically, he proved out his theory and developed a simple test which used a blood sample and a slip of paper. Just think of the lives he has saved!
Of course this is TED so there were the performance artists, the unlikely physicists, the couch surfing musicians and a multitude of people who encouraged attendees and listeners, like myself, to stand up to politicians and corporations to make a better world, a better body politic.
You can probably find some of these presentation on You Tube. I encourage you to explore the web in search of these and other TED talks. They’re worth your time! http://www.TED.com/talks