March 23, 2009
Posted: 05:03 PM ET
Today's TEDxUSC conference – a one-day event at the University of Southern California's Stevens Institute for Innovation - kicked off with the tickling of electronic ivories by Qi Zhang, a doctoral candidate at USC's Thornton School of Music. Roughly 1,200 people packed the school's red-curtained Bovard Auditorium for the conference, which was supported in part by CNN.
Krisztina Holly of USC's Stevens Institute for Innovation
Conference speakers were scheduled to give 18-minute talks on ideas that will change the future. (For more on TEDx, click here.)
Here's an account of the conference from student bloggers inside the hall:
No cell phones allowed. A secret program that wasn’t revealed until today. The announcement that the doors will be closed throughout the event. But I was most intrigued by the miniature porcelain bells we received with our nametags. We jingled up until the very moment the doors opened. We were told the bells would be explained later in the event.
Krisztina "Z" Holly, the director of USC's Stevens Institute, then opened the event with a quick, mind-stimulating event: The audience was asked to watch a video and count the number of times a basketball was passed back and forth. Although a gorilla also appeared on the screen, most people were so focused on the ball passing and the task at hand - counting - that they didn't even see the gorilla. The point of the exercise was to illustrate the importance of serendipity and to be aware of what's going on around us - even while focusing intensely. The conference is off to a great start.
Holly is now talking about the role of innovation at USC and why the university is hosting the TEDx conference for the first time. She is giving a preview of what to expect throughout the day, and says there will be a few "surprises" not listed in the program. She said "innovation is all about taking risks," and noted that USC is the first university to "experiment" and sponsor TEDx.
Chris Anderson of the TED conference is now speaking about TED as a whole and how the organization has broadened its mission to include the nurturing of ideas, how today's event is a "big deal" and that audience members are "guinea pigs." He is asking audience members to send him feedback on today's event, because he hopes to make similar programs available at other universities and groups.
USC Provost C.L. Max Nikias opened his talk with the insight that the so- called "educated classes" are divided between those who believe they understand how their world works and those who want to know but realize they do not. He said the creative insights that represent true progress inevitably constitute a new discovery that no one saw coming. There can be no knowledge without the recognition of past ignorance, and neither can there be discovery without the recognition of absence.
We can view nearly every great scientific discovery as a journey out of simplistic ignorance into complex awareness. Indeed, great discovery inevitably requires repudiating the simplistic truths of earlier eras. In this path of greater knowledge, Provost Nikias encourages us to embrace what he calls "intellectual friction," or the often disconcerting exposure to different views.
– USC students Brooke-Sidney Gavins, Keaton Gray, Matt Harrison, Emily Henry, Kate Mather, Greg McDonald, Larissa Puro and Deborah Stokol
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