TEDxVancouver 2011 was thought-provoking, inspiring and really very cool

The theme for this year's "thought leadership" conference was The Frontier: the dreams we haven't yet dreamed.

The country's premier "thought leadership" conference -- TEDxVancouver -- was held Saturday at the majestic Chan Centre at UBC. The TED talks' mandate is to create a conversation about "ideas worth spreading," and many were eager to be inspired and network with other like-minded young urban professionals. 

The event’s theme was “The Frontier”, selected as a reflection of wonders yet undreamt. The focus was knowledge and innovation. TED talks are tremendously successful as a marketing and personal branding tool for individuals. Speakers had to tell a story in 18 minutes or less.

CBC News Vancouver’s Lisa Johnson was the host and the musical performer was the mellifluous local singer/songwriter Billy the Kid. Previously recorded online TED talks were interspersed with speaker's presentations throughout the day’s event.

The day kicked off with a look at Reid Gower’s media project, The Sagan Series, which was influenced by the astrophysicist Carl Sagan and accompanied by an awe-inspiring, slickly produced video created to promote scientific literacy.

Nolan Watson, a humanitarian and president and CEO of Sandstorm Gold Ltd., stunned the audience with his statement that “compassion kills” and argued that we mustn’t just donate money unless we know exactly where it’s going. It’s not enough to give to enable sustained dependence, because it doesn’t solve the root of the problem, Watson said. As an alternative, he recommended paying particular attention to clean water projects and micro-finance loan banks.

Marcin Jacubowski’s online talk about Open Source Ecology and blueprints for hardware technology made available to the masses (so that anyone can build their own tractor or harvester from scratch, for example) spawned many cool trailer inventions -- and is the first step in his vision to build an entire self-sustaining village, the audience learned.

Seth Cooper of Foldit, a scientific discovery game to advance the field of biochemistry, described gamification and video games as the key to solving the future’s scientific problems.

Gen. Romeo Dallaire’s talk on youth activism and encouraging support of NGO communities around the world was passionate and eloquent, and was one of the biggest draws of the event.

Artist Hasan Elahi’s very cool talk about his website and his intricately detailed photo snapshots of his life as a result of his interrogation from the FBI post-9/11 was quite entertaining.

Jose Figueroa had everyone on their feet with his impassioned plea for Canadians to protest and question the country's existing immigration laws as it pertains to refugees and the broadly defined view of terrorism. Figueroa said he felt it was important to distinguish freedom fighters and government activists from terrorist, a label that he has been given; his family is now facing imminent deportation.

Dr. Kate Moran’s talk on measuring the ocean floor using the power of the Internet and fibre optic cables continued the science theme into the afternoon.

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