Yesterday I had the great pleasure of attending TEDxOxford 2011.
I’ve been a fan of TED.com for many years. Essentially it’s a conference where people from all fields of expertise get together and exchange interesting ideas.
The format is that of a series of talks, each time-limited to between 5 and 20 minutes, and the subject must be an idea worth sharing.
TEDxOxford 2011 is an independently organised TED event, organised as it is by students from Oxford University.
Unbeknownst to me, as my wonderful girlfriend Dani had actually scored me the tickets, it was a youth-oriented (18-25) TED event. This didn’t apply to the speakers, rather to the guests. I think I’m right in saying that guests are not allowed to normal TED events, and if you wish to attend TED you must give a talk. So I was quite lucky to be able to attend a TED event without the otherwise necessary idea worth sharing.
Merton College Oxford hosted TEDxOxford, a college I haven’t previously had the chance to visit. The college grounds were, of course, as enviable as any I’ve seen. The TS Eliot lecture theatre was one of the most luxurious and well furnished I’ve ever seen. The foyer was heaving with guests talking excitedly, getting glimpses here and there of the speakers they’d come to see. Blackwells set up a book-stall with some of the speakers books and other books that were deemed relevant or interesting (a very fine selection I have to say, I’d be a much better-read person if I’d read all those books rather than the smattering I could claim to).
As you might imagine, the guests themselves were not your average 18-25 year olds, your average 18-25 year old not being much disposed to sitting voluntarily in a lecture-theatre listening to people talk. I met physics, maths, comp-sci, psychology and even a fellow philosophy undergrad. They all seemed incredibly switched on and eager to learn and discuss the topics at hand. A classroom filled with these kids would be any teachers dream.
In alphabetical order from TEDxOxford
- Alan McGee
- Aubrey de Grey
- Bright Simons
- Charles Roberts
- Chris Goodall
- Kelly Cutrone
- Kevin Warwick
- Marcus du Sautoy
- Mike Soutar
- Rachel Felder
- Rory Sutherland
- Vidal Sassoon
Aubrey de Grey – The hard sell of immortality
He told us that there are essentially three ways of preventing ageing, which is essentially a process of gradual error-introduction much like copying a VHS tape, then copying the copy, etc.
After an initial quick-fire session where he threw ideas at you like spaghetti, he moved onto his idea to share. The idea of “Charitable Yield Management”. Yield management is the pricing structure whereby you charge a premium for high-demand products. Most familiar to people in the airline industry, it is a deeply unpopular concept from most people’s perspectives. Rory suggests that it would be advantageous to everyone if, for example, every 10th parking-space was priced at 4x that of the rest. So that those in desperate need, say for a job interview, would be able to find a parking space assuming they’re willing to pay the premium.
However, as this pricing model is so unpopular, as people don’t like the idea of everything in their lives being ‘rich people first’, he suggests mitigating this objection by having the premium go to charity. That way the business gets their target price, the customer gets their much-needed good/service and the charity gets a regular set of donations.
Charles’ aim, apart from dazzling us with his rather find blue-velvet suit, is to increase customer interest and empowerment when making product-choices based on the company’s environmental impact.
He has created and maintains a company rating system called Greeen Start, he admits himself that all two-e domains were taken, which takes rates companies based on their CO2 output weighted by size, product output, etc. He envisages such a rating system being included in everything from search results to product packaging.