Futurists vs Magicians
This is Part 3 of my series on Ideas Worth Spreading from #TEDxCanberra, held last weekend at the National Library of Australia.
Two of the speakers at the TEDxCanberra event held recently at the NLA, were high impact performers, but for very different reasons. Both, left Tedizens wondering, and tongues were wagging well into the weekend and the week afterwards.
Mark Pesce, inventor, writer, educator and broadcaster, as well as a panelist and judge on the ABC’s hit series The New Inventors, is a regular commentator on technology and society for JJJ Hack, the 7.30 Report, the 7PM Project, and ABC Local Radio.
Apparently, in 2006, Mark founded FutureSt, a Sydney consultancy, helping people to negotiate the challenges presented by our hyperconnected future.
Undeniably his area of expertise is one, which touches us all one way or another. It’s unseen, and like the sleight of hand Simon Taylor performed on stage, it is almost intangible! Yet, we want it. We crave it. We want to know how to negotiate the future with it. We want to know how to negotiate the most difficult questions in our lives. It’s technology.
Mark is a gifted storyteller. He gifted us with touching stories. Measured stories. Human stories. Yet his topic was technology – but the compelling point he made was, “no man can serve two masters” and the dichotomy between technology and the flesh was one explored at length throughout these stories.
Having a commanding presence on stage is a trait of TED talk presenters, and Mark qualifies eminently on this trait. You could have heard a pin drop when he spoke. I looked around at the audience and indeed, they were connected, interconnected, and the tweets simply cemented that connection.
Mark named the Blackberry, “absent minded death”. That’s who we are! We are looking down, and in and out. And then he regaled us with the story of the bad mother – whose child in a pram was almost wiped out on a busy intersection in Sydney, right in front of him, because she was on her Blackberry, and hadn’t noticed the imminent danger to her child.
That’s the moment when Mark realised there was something BIG going on. The moment of clarity, where a choice had to be made: the flesh or the technology?
With 5 billion out of 7 billion of us owning mobiles, with the growth and technology becoming more and more alluring, attracting more and more money and power, Mark warns us: there is no way to stop it.
“We are already mid-singular!” he exclaims.
When his friend’s husband died suddenly, however, on the other side of the world, what was the role of technology then? He philosophised; that the real world breaks; it’s torn; flesh fails.
That was the moment he knew that you needed to remember the good; to connect across distance. Their touch is real. Their touch is what matters! Technology lets us connect., lets us “touch”.
So, his final message to us was clear: Look up and connect!
Connect we did – with Simon Taylor, as he took us with him, via the psychological journey, into the world of illusion.
This young performer has a huge future in edutainment!
A blended background, with studies in psychology and experience in the performing arts, armed him with the ammunition to explode our beliefs and to entice us into the elusive world of magic tricks.
Simon explained that we are in a world full of puzzles we can’t solve. He explained how we construct our own reality and backed by Theory of Mind, he demonstrated with a trick on stage, that still has people wondering: “how did he do that?”
In true magician’s code, of course, he wouldn’t (and won’t) reveal it, but he does admit it’s not magic. Rather, it’s because magicians know how we think and can predict our behaviour in advance. So much to ponder, on the repercussions of such a statement!
Yet why is it so difficult for us to solve life’s puzzles? The answer lies in a simple lesson he was taught by his parents as a youngster. His parents told him to put himself in the other man’s shoes.
Empathy! Once again the human connection is the driving force to solve the problems of humanity. It’s not magic. It’s just the psychology of our minds, which we alone control.
We need to reach out and walk in the other man’s shoes!