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David Orban at TEDxTransmedia 2014

September 15, 2014

David Orban – Faculty and Advisor of Singularity University. He speaks widely on the coevolution of humanity with technology, and our future.

I got to know Singularity University at TED in 2012, speaking briefly to Peter Diamandis, one of the founders of the institution.

The claim of SU is – educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges -.

Back home I started to be interested in topics that, before then, I thought, were only for engineers and scientists. Lately though, science has become more approachable and I immersed myself in discoveries, activities and technologies that have the power to make our life better.

In November 2013, I attended the Singularity Summit in Budapest and I was still debating if I was going to fly to Silicon Valley to attend the course where, as Bloomberg Tv stated – the world’s brightest minds convene to attack the world’s toughest challenges.

Eventually I did attend SU in February 2014 and, after that, my interests/passions/activities completely changed. I became fond of robots, I learned how to manage bitcoins, I extracted my DNA, I speculated and forecasted, together with super-smart people what the future holds for us. But most importantly, I demystified the fear I had at the time of exponentially growing technologies and I actually I became part of this community.

Back to Budapest. The Summit was an incredible event, a TED like experience, not yet as widely recognized as TED, but strong, motivating and incredibly powerful.  During a break, I found myself engaged in a conversation with an Italian Singularitan crowd and I met David Orban, who speaks perfect Italian despite being Polish

I discovered that, few years before, he launched the Network Society Project, exploring the technology based transformation of society. He was debating on the social, political and economic implications of network technologies and their application across a wide range of practices and institutions.

David is the CEO of Dotsub, a browser based, one-stop, self-contained system for creating and viewing subtitles for videos in multiple languages across all platforms. And I am pleased to announce that he will be presenting at TEDxTransmedia 2014.

TEDxTransmedia 2014

September 12, 2014

On November 5th 2014, I will organize my 5th TEDxTransmedia, and it will take place at RTS studios in Geneva where it was held the first time in 2010.

In 2011 and for the following 3 years, the event took place in Rome (Italy) and we are keen to bring it back to its original premises.

In reaching this milestone, I feel a strong responsibility for the speakers, for the team of volunteers that are following me (the event changed location), for the partners and particularly for the people that will choose to attend.

We are living a particular moment in time in which technology is growing exponentially, and each day brings a new “piece of the puzzle” to have a longer, healthier, and a more-intense life.

We are experiencing a magnetic and action-packed movie in which we can quantify ourselves to know how our own body functions and how its behavioral health performs. We can capture feelings with software recognition devices, live in an ubiquitous learning ecosystem, which is virtual, augmented and 3D/4K/Ultra HD.

Are we going to face a post-scarcity era of super-abundance where technological innovation allows its supporters to believe they are helping to generate extraordinary beings, (akin to Nietzsche’s Overman) with powers bordering on the divine? Or are we facing theenormous harm, ranging all the way to the extreme possibility of intelligent life becoming extinct?

Not to worry, these are not the issues covered by TEDxTransmedia 2014, but they certainly did start me thinking about the theme: Exponential Beauty.

Technology is growing exponentially and Ethics can’t keep the pace of this growth. Once some new moral guidance is defined, technology has already gone further.

How can we catch up? Is it still possible to have a positive approach if we look into the future? How can we demystify the fear we experience (more or less, I think we all fear something, facing the future)?

think one of the answers can be beauty.There are a thousand definitions of beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder or as Euripides said it is being “of one’s hour” or “being in the moment”.

Being in the moment today means acceleration or “growing at an exponential rate”. What do we need to know, consider, study and define in order to be prepared for an anticipated future of convergence between mankind and technology?

What if we bond beauty and technology? Can Fear diminish? Can Fear fade?

This is what we will do (together) at the 5th TEDxTramnsmedia, in Geneva, Switzerland. We are going to engage in a battle with Fear and we will win it with Beauty, with Exponential Beauty.  (to be continued)


( Picture: courtesy/SHUTTERSTOCK )


July 10, 2014

Thesis Advisor: Wolfgang Schirmacher, Founder and Director EGS (European Graduate School)
 Thesis Proposal: submitted on April 2014/Approved June 2014

BACKCASTING: A reverse-forecasting technique that starts with a particular future outcome and then works backwards to the present conditions.

Ever since Donna Haraway wrote “Cyborg Manifesto,” almost three decades ago, there has been an outburst of literature both fiction and non-fiction and numerous speculation theories—about the extraordinary human transformation.

Technology is growing exponentially, and Ethics cannot keep up with this growth. As soon as some new moral guidance is defined, technology has already gone further. We have already gone that one step further. We cannot keep up with the paradigm shift of our own creation. Many of these technologies are so fundamentally disruptive that they allow for speculations concerning the eventual form humankind will take.

We are facing both the utopia— a post-scarcity era of super-abundance in which technological innovation will allow supporters to believe they are helping generate extraordinary beings, (akin to Nietzsche’s Overman) and a dystopia— with an enormous danger, spanning all the way to the extreme possibility of intelligent life becoming extinct.

Habermas suggests that the human “species ethic” would be undermined by embryo-stage genetic alteration; Zizek arguments argue that a new figure of freedom will emerge when we follow the logic of science to the end.

Humans, without updated ethical standards, are playing with the building blocks of life to make synthetic organisms; they are implanting computers into themselves and making designer babies. In so doing, young politicians and quick-moving legislatures could contribute and at the same time this also suggests that, in the absence of real rules, with a greater reliance on individual decision-making we need communities of people developing and using future tech to regulate themselves.

Ethics should leapfrog and engage contemporary influential thinkers with the utmost science fiction authors. The result may be an utopian/dystopian scenario, in which, a “backcasting” method, could support a steady evolution and provide inspiration for new solutions on ethical standards.

Keywords: Eugenics; Biotechnologies; Cybernetics; Robotics, BioEthics; Freedom; Immortality; Utopia; Dystopia; Trans/Post/Humanism.

Subject Terms: Paradigm Shift; Extinction; Exponential Technologies, Synthetic Organisms; Post-Scarcity; Second Enlightenment; Biohacking, Autonomous Robotic Systems; Artificial Intelligence

Federico Pistono at TEDxTransmedia 2013

October 30, 2013

I contacted Federico after reading a post on his blog. I don’t recall the online journey that brought me to his site but I remember vividly that I was really captivated by his passion for creating a sustainable civilization, and by his book Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK: How to Survive the Economic Collapse and Be Happy.

Federico has the fighting determination of his youth, mixed with intellectual depth and cultural qualities, unpredictable, given his young age.

I was really glad when he accepted to participate to this year’s TEDxTransmedia; but unfortunately few weeks before the event he had to turn us down for a –must attend- engagement in Taiwan. He sent us a short video on the needs of reforming the education strategy and it’s an essential video to watch for students, parents, educators, and all those  who want a better future.

Besides his young age (he’s only 27) he is already an internationally known author, a social entrepreneur, a scientific educator, a lecturer, and aspiring filmmaker.

Federico has written on science, technology, Internet communities, artificial intelligence, and climate change.

He’s a graduate from Singularity University, the special program whose aim is to solve humanity’s grand challenges by leveraging exponentially growing technologies, and lately he founded Esplori, whose goal is to provide an inclusive, global learning environment, where anyone can learn anything, anywhere, without physical or language barriers.

Each time I talk to Federico, I get inspired. His ideas are contagious and I am sure he will be one of our future leaders.

Katharina Sand at TEDxTransmedia 2013

October 28, 2013

“Fashionably Disruptive”

Katharina is a multi-talented woman whom I met through friends. She spends hours researching, studying and learning and has a vivid concepti of what challenges creativity will face in the future. She is an expert in fashion and trends in wearable devices and very active in the online scene.

Katharina grew up in Italy, Germany, Kenya, and Switzerland. After graduating from London’s Goldsmith’s College, she covered the New York fashion scene as a correspondent for over 5 years.

In the year 2000 she opened a boutique, Septieme Etage, to bring designers to the place she felt needed it most: the decidedly un-froufrou calvinist Geneva, home of international organizations, financial institutions, and Swiss private schools forming the next generations of leaders.

She often points out interesting and amazing new fashions to me. I was really glad that our event included a conversation about fashion, and how we can create a sustainable fashion future. She has an innate grace, which covers well the strength of this remarkable woman.

Katharina is currently working on a book and a digital project for retail disruption. A secret: her  wardrobe includes a dress that – unzipped – represents the silhouette of E.T.

Simon Cohen at TEDxTransmedia 2014

October 27, 2013

“How to Be Wise”

In order to create momentum in the start of our TEDxTransmedia 2013 journey, we launched a teaser asking the audience who they wanted to see speaking at this year’s event. Simon came at the top of the list with lots of recommendations on Twitter and via email.

I have to confess that, not knowing Simon, I hesitated a little because I couldn’t find a spot for his expertise in this year’s program. When we finally met (online) I was so enchanted by his thinking and ease in conveying his ideas that I decided – on the spot – to have him with us this year.

Simon is a social commentator, national broadcaster and media ethics champion.
He studied Theology and after spending three years in advertising, he founded – aged at just 24 years of age, the socially driven communications agency Global Tolerance.

Simon pioneered Personal Relations (he defines it as ethical PR), Inspirational Marketing and Symbiotic Communications with the aim to spread positive social stories to hundreds of millions of people.

After 10 years working with the likes of the Dalai Lama and Gandhi’s grandson, he was the first person in the UK to decide to put a whole company on sabbatical, coinciding with the birth of his first child.

Simon is a fantastic communicator, a great professional and a wonderful person to meet. His talk is inspiring, and too strong to forget!

Keren Elazari at TEDxTransmedia 2013

October 26, 2013

“Heroes and Anti Heroes of the Information Age”

Keren Elazari is an emergent star in the speaker’s ecosystem. I have been chasing Keren few times and, unfortunately, I was never able to view her talk. In order to meet with her and hear her presentation I decided to invite Keren to present at TEDxTransmedia 2013; and it was the right decision: her talk was very intense.

Remember Angelina Jolie in the film Hackers? Well, she got her inspiration by that story.
Keren has been a key member of the Israeli Cyber Security & Hacking scene in the past decade and since 2000, has been employed with leading Israeli security firms and government organizations to cover emerging security technologies.

She teaches at Tel Aviv University and at Singularity University in Palo Alto, an institution located inside NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley, aiming to “educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.”

Keren is a hacker by heart; we discussed it thoroughly in preparing her TEDxTalk and the more I think about it and the more I get inspired.

She advocates on how the act of hacking is taking on new meanings and is continuing to evolve. We started debating on the transformational power of positive hackerism, the fact that hackers, with their ability to deconstruct and rebuild coding, will become the bridge between humans and machines. Keren demonstrates that data is the new currency and the owner of it holds the power.

In the age of big data, it is mission critical for broadcasters to have a deep knowledge of their audiences. How can broadcasters know more about their audiences? Is it sufficient to rely only on data provided by ratings and consumer research, or is it crucial to understand –how audiences want to be entertained- before the broadcast has occurred?

Well, Keren ends her talk with a powerful, somehow scary, “Hack the planet” and it is a joy to listen to her.

TEDxTransmedia 2013

October 25, 2013

This was my fourth TEDxTransmedia!

It’s always overwhelming, dead-tiring, but so rewarding to organize a TEDx event (a taste of it with this backstage video by my friend Silvia Iannuzzi)

This year, being a “veteran” of the event, I felt, more than ever, the need to take responsibility for creating a programme of remarkable ideas to be shared; therefore, besides finding a catchy title, Dangerously Ethical, I decided to focus on the ethical values that need to be restored in order to build an attractive future.

We study ethics for improving our lives: the principal concern is the nature of human well-being, or as Aristotle conceived – eudemonia – a lasting state that embraces all aspects of life. The inclusion of the word ‘dangerously’ focuses the attention on the pace and the direction of the current technological (r)evolution and its power to shape humanity.

Every action has a consequence. Experiments to prolong life; drugs that enhance memory; the means to alter our appearance; modify the genetics of future generations: all has an impact.

With a multidisciplinary approach, we are entering a transhuman era, where the acceleration of technology will influence human evolution. With this year’s event, we hoped we’ve giventhe opportunity to reflect on how technology will impact our evolution. Basically, can we foresee a happier life?

Believe me, it was an enthusiastic journey. Here the photostream

P.S. Every year, starting a week before the event, I say to my friends, colleagues and team: this is the last one! Please, if next year I want to do another one… make me change my mind! But then, few hours after the event is completed, well, I want to do another one. What’s the title of TEDxTransmedia 2014? … posterity will judge…

Empowering the Young

July 24, 2013

Young audiences represent the future of the media industry. Securing their interest is no mean feat – mainly because the market is so fickle. Diversity is key, and they flip from one platform to another, from cell phone to tablets, from media player to gaming device, from TV to laptop. Nothing holds their interest for long.

Exploring the non-linear, transmedia approach opens new ways to engage young audiences whose lives centre on social media and online communities. They’re drawn to content that has no pre-defined beginning or end, embracing it in a highly personalized way.

Providers of on-demand internet streaming services and connected TV know what PSM have recently discovered – that young audiences have already won the battle for the living room. Is there a magic formula to win them back to TV? Amazon and Netflix have identified their target groups and laid plans.

Cord cutting, initiated and practiced by youth audiences, (at least in the US with 60 million Americans relying on just free over-the-air TV) continues to grow. While according to Nielsen’s Fourth-Quarter 2012 Cross-Platform Report, the U.S. had more than five million Zero-TV households in 2013, up from just over two million in 2007.

TV itself isn’t obsolete. More than 75 per cent of these homes still have at least one TV. But these households also used to watch DVDs, play games and surf the Net. When it comes to video content, a growing number of households now use other devices.

The solution may lie in reaching out to young audiences, not merely as spectators; PSM needs to recruit young people as allies, content advisors and eventually as ambassadors of PSM.
Broadcasters are still too focused on making content that they “think” young audiences want to see. They need to involve them in a more concrete and creative way, developing a strategy that involves young people in the making process.

Sharing and seeking feedback via a YouTube pilot with a parallel social media strategy may be enough to demonstrate a more open attitude.

How do we engage young audiences? Ask them!

Awaken the cyborg in you

February 17, 2013

Last year, at TED Global, I met my first cyborg, Neil Harbisson. Born in Northern Ireland and raised in Catalonia, Neil is a contemporary artist, composer, and cyborg activist who is best known for his self-extended capacity to perceive colours outside the range of human vision.

Born with a condition called “monochromatism”, he wears a prosthetic device – which he calls an “eyeborg” – that allows him to hear audible conversions of the colour frequencies that the human eye cannot see.

Until his encounter with cybernetics expert Adam Montandon, Neil was an artist who lived in a black and white world.

Now, thanks to his prosthesis – a narrow, flexible arm that ends with an eye-like apparatus starting from the top of his head and ending at his forehead – Neil can ‘hear’ colours; sometimes, like when he contemplates a Picasso painting, the sounds of the colours merge to form a synesthetic symphony.

I became interested in the cyborg world last year, when I got the opportunity to read the works of Amber Case, a Canadian anthropologist who studies the interaction between humans and computers and how our relationship with information is changing the way cultures think, act, and understand their worlds. Amber believes that humans are already low-tech cyborgs because we spend most of the day connected to machines such as cars, computers, telephones, radios, TVs, and so on.

The word “cyborg,” short for “cybernetic organism”, describes a living entity that has been augmented with exogenous components in order to adapt to new environments. By definition, the entity must contain both organic and inorganic elements.

But we are not only cyborg. Today, humans are altering the course of evolution; we are increasingly shaping our environment and ourselves as well as other species. Today’s world is one in which the human body harbors 100 times more microbial cells than human cells, where a gene cocktail can allow almost anyone to climb an 8,000 meter peak without oxygen, and where—given the right drug—one could have a 77% chance of becoming a centenarian. (Juan Enriquez, Homo Evolutis)

My question is whether or not this “nanoscience society” imposes a physical and mental standard on individuals? If human self-modification – known as “modding” – transcends sex, age, race, physical health and even death, can we still call this individual “human”?

And where does media fit in?

For more than a decade we have been promised a world of devices and services delivered into everyday life and personalized based on the situation being experienced at a given moment. And here we are, where communication technology has shaped a world in which people carry small, powerful, wireless devices that are connected to the internet almost all of the time from almost anywhere, making Media ubiquitous.

Being permanently connected enables the development and delivery of targeted, personalized content. It’s called Pervasive Media, which is basically any experience that uses sensors and/or mobile/wireless networks to bring you content (movies, radio, TV, music, pictures, games, and so on) that’s sensitive to your situation, which could be where you are, who you’re with or how you are feeling.

In this context, what role will media play when, for example, smart /connected TV is standard? What if a broadcaster transmitted a regular TV program and, using a smart TV, could modify the content on the fly for each of us based on feelings, moods or shared private moments, in a word, modifying our cognitive behavior?

Will media become a protagonist in this era of subliminal cognitive manipulation? What will be the role of public service media in this scenario? Can public service media be the guardian that delineates the ethical parameters of pervasive media?



(Photo: James Duncan Davidson /TED Blog)

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