It often happens at events, that feeling of total inadequacy. Speakers that are younger than you, sharing their experiences, people who are older and more successful that you – making you question all your life’s decisions and really, truly make an effort to just do more. Then there’s speakers like some of those on during Wired 2016. People who are saving lives, educating women in Afghan or fighting to expose ISIS, and that’s when you really question your job in advertising and what you’re actually achieving day to day. Here’s some of the stand out speakers (in my opinion) I thought you’d be interested in hearing about…
Regina Catrambone spoke of buying a boat and rescuing thousands of refugees, Alexander Betts highlighted that most refugees actually come from three main countries; Syria, Afghanistan and Somali, and then stay fairly eastern. He explained how Uganda is making the most of those coming into the country, there’s thriving communities, businesses and education, ensuring that both Uganda and the people benefit.
A standing ovation for Abdalaziz Alhamza, whose emotive words told the story of his organisation “Raqqa is being slowly slaughtered” (RBSS), and the journey they’re on to expose ISIS, feeding the media outside of Syria to ensure that the truth is available. Roya Mahboob shared her story, helping to educate women in Afghanistan with skills that enable them to earn their own money and have a professional life too. The worlds youngest head teacher, Babar Ali, who has helped educate 5,000 kids in India during the past 14 years, many of whom were women who wouldn’t have had access to schooling without his help.
Ambitious Artists was the theme of the final section on day one, with Daan Roosegarde showcasing how he is finding a new link between the beauty and the bullsh*t – enabling a whole new world to be explored. Take pollution for example, it’s taken for granted – what are we really doing about it? Roosegarde is doing something, he’s collecting smog in Bejing and making it into jewellery. Yep you read correctly, jewellery – smog is just carbon in the air, and hey we all know exactly what diamonds are made of right?
Chris Lejeune and his company Obscura is using the power of light to communicate, educate and show people the world. Highlight our incredible species and make people aware of what we could lose if we don’t start looking after our planet properly. We’re talking HUGE light shows across New York City and other incredible buildings over the world. The finale of day one was Yves Rossy, “Jetman”, sharing his adventure in the sky having built the technology (that we’re unlikely to replicate for consumers) to travel as high and as fast as an Emirates plane.
Another keen adventurer on day 2, Bertrand Picard shared his thoughts on the impossible – or as he commented “things aren’t impossible, you have to try”. It was Picard and his friend Brian Jones who travelled around the world in a hot air balloon – his second huge challenge was to do the same journey in a solar powered airplane; “the night is the most frightful time in a solar powered airplane”. He talked of thinking outside the box, and ensuring that the people that are innovating have a range of experiences from different backgrounds – it wasn’t the people who invented candles who then invented the lightbulb was it? If you want innovation, you have to get outside of what you have learned and think about different things, differently, and, in every direction. His final comments were complemented by a beautiful photo from the plane’s cockpit; through an iced up window you could see the gorgeous orange and reds of the sunset. Picard had talked about the challenges facing innovation and any pioneering mission, but with this experience in mind “you’ll never see the rising sun if you don’t get through the frozen ice”.
Gingger Shankar shared her story to music. It was her grandmother, Lakshmi Shankar who was a huge influence in bringing Indian music to the west. In fact her whole story, set to music and photos from the past was so mesmerising that I didn’t even write any notes down. She shared the story of her mother who too wanted to sing and sneaked off to win a (x factor ish) competition in Bombay. The Shankar family performed in Europe as part of Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival from India. Gingger finished her session with some fabulous music and vocals on stage – I’ve since tweeted her to find out what it was called so I can listen again and share, but sadly she’s not replied.
With Indian talent in mind, Shekhar Kapur the international film-maker was joined on stage by Wired’s editor David Rowan. As a director he’s shaped politics and his film “Bandit Queen” was actually banned in India for a while, as the message it portrayed about women wasn’t what they wanted people to see – appalling when you consider that! He commented on globalisation, and how we should drop our identities from countries and be global citizens – something I too feel strongly about – why does it matter which country we’re from!? Very nice link to some of the previous talks about migrants across the world.
My final favourite was Megan Smith, CTO for Obama. In a fast paced, full on session she talked about changing the digital revolution for Governments across the world. She used words we’re very familiar with here at IBM; Design Thinking, Agile, APIs (all my new fave nerdy tech phrases) – sharing how everyone can be involved in making the US and other countries more digital and enable people with the skills to do so. She commented that (and something I too believe), innovation starts with inclusion. There’s no “techie”, “non-techie” people anymore, we all have the ability to be the former and with our lives being immersed in technology, we really have no excuse no to be.
I didn’t get to stay for the rest of Friday unfortunately but those first few sessions that morning were enough to inspire me and excite me about the changes in the world. These people really are driving not only innovation and technological change, and, also change in the way people perceive society and culture – forward thinking in all elements of the phrase. A fantastic event, which I would LOVE to attend again next year!
Check out the links throughout for more information on the speakers, visit the Wired website for loads of cool articles and let me know your thoughts on the speakers I’ve mentioned?