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Monday, September 30, 2013

5 highlights from TEDxToronto 2013

TedxToronto 2013TEDxToronto was back in town last week at the Royal Conservatory of Music for their 5th annual conference. Celebrated as one of the largest TEDx independently organized events across the globe, the organizers selected roughly 1000 people from their long list of delegate applications. The theme for 2013 was "The Choices We Make", providing a platform for speakers to discuss and highlight issues that affect Torontonians. With millions of online views from previous years, and multiple local speakers featured on, Toronto has become a catalyst for ideas and positive change around the world.

Here are some of the highlights from TEDxToronto 2013:

Rodolphe el-Khoury

El-Khoury has spent his life trying to combine architecture and information technology. By combining two historically disparate industries, Rodolphe hopes to bring sustainability and responsiveness into the cities and buildings of the future. Rodolphe's flagship idea, called "Im Blanky" is a blanket packed with sensors that can help track your sleep patterns. In his futuristic view of Blanky, he pictures a world where the blanket sends a signal to your intelligent blinds, which slowly allow light to shine in, waking you once you have had the ideal amount of REM sleep. In this new interconnected world, the alarm clocks days are numbered.

Darrell Bricker

Having spent his previous years as the Director of Research for the Prime Minister's office, Bricker has always tried to use numbers to tell the story behind the scenes. He spoke at length about the manner in which power is shifting from the 416 to the 905, which is redefining both our city and the GTA as a whole. Another key subject he discussed was the shrinking Canadian birth rate, which is going to make it extremely tough to support the aging population.

Joel MacCharles

MacCharles has been helping to foster the farmer's market movement in Toronto. By teaching people the benefits of preserving food and eating locally, Joel has altered kitchens around Toronto with some of his 1,700 articles on food-related topics. He's also trying to raise awareness to change aesthetic value system in place in the grocery store industry, where as much as 30% of our harvests can go to waste because the produce isn't "pretty enough." As if life wasn't already tough enough being an ugly carrot.

Steve Mann

The "father of the wearable computer" is viewed as one of the first international cyborgs. A modern-day da Vinci figure, Mann has multiple inventions under his name, including HDR images and the EyeBorg camera, which existed long before Google Glass became a household name. Mann is a believer in wearing personal cameras to ensure his own safety in what he calls sousveillance. Mann combined his discussion on safety with the shooting of Sammy Yatim, stating that videos taken by people outside the streetcar were a strong factor leading to the officer being charged. He also believes everyone should be able to record their entire life, because if buildings and businesses are allowed to record us at all times, why aren't we allowed to record them in return?

Stephanie Guthrie

Stephanie Guthrie is a local feminist advocate and community manager talked about misogyny on the Internet. Back in 2012, Anita Sarkeesian, a fellow female rights advocate, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise awareness about the prejudicial characterization of women in video game. Shortly after, Bendilin Spurr, a 25 year old male from Sault Ste. Marie created an online game called "Punch Anita Sarkeesian In The Face" in which players could click on a picture of Anita and physically abuse her. Guthrie took to social media to challenge Bendilin and the overall lackadaisical enforcement of misogyny on the Internet. The game was removed and the discussion of women being treated unfairly on the Internet was launched onto the front page. Since then, Guthrie has furthered the discussion by taking aim at Internet "trolls." She wants to ensure that the web and social media aren't places that lacks consequence for slanderous behaviour.

From a flash mob-esque encounter by Project Ukelele Gangsterism in the morning to Matthew Good singing Strange Days to wrap up the conference, TEDxToronto once again showed us just how productive a room full of people willing to make a difference can be. The main intro video from this year's conference has been posted (see below), and the first individual talks will come online over the next few days.

Lead photo by Andrew Williamson

by Jonathon Muzychka via blogTO

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