TED Conversations

TED Book Chat

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Live Chat with TED Books author Howard Rheingold today at 2pm Eastern: Can our digital tools make us smarter?

Continuing with our series of TED book chats, for the next few weeks we'll be discussing Howard Rheingold's new TED eBook, "Mind Amplifier".

Do we humans co-evolve with the tools we build? Can our tools actually make us smarter? "Mind Amplifier" explores the origins of our digital tools, and lays out a framework for harnessing them to collectively and collaboratively solve our most pressing problems.

The book is available for Kindle, Nook, and iOS devices (which have a great new custom TED Books app):

Kindle copy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009GQXRQ8

iOS app: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ted-books/id511071050?mt=8

The author will be joining us for a live Q&A November 8th at 2pm Eastern, mark your calendars!

You can also watch Howard's 2005 TEDTalk, linked below.

So, let's get things started... do our new online tools make us smarter? And if not, can we design and use them in a way that does?


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  • Nov 8 2012: I want to expand a little bit about social capital, Aja. While thinkers such as Bordieu have argued that those with more economic capital and power also have a tremendous edge in regard to social capital, I would point out that people who have few economic resources have always had to depend on each other to get the necessities of life. I am thinking of the definition of social capital as a measure of the capacity of groups or populations to accomplish collective action -- to get t hings done together -- outside of formal institutions such as laws, states, and contracts. Can better communication, better education, and better institutions (in the Ostrom sense) provide access to pathways to a better life? I'm not talking about solving social problems by throwing technology at them. I'm talking about enabling people to communicate, relate, and problem-solve more effectively using technologies and the literacies that enable them to make best use of these tools.
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      Nov 8 2012: Absolutely. Your example of the networks springing up to help locate Katrina survivors was a great one, I think. Do you see these sorts of interactions happening on an everyday basis, as well? Or do the most effective implementations of social capital via technology get drowned out by the less important uses?
      • Nov 8 2012: I was heartened to learn that airbnb was using its system to help people on the east coast of the USA find temporary housing. So yes, I do see people using technology to help people happening all over th e place, from donors choose to kickstarter, microloans, systems for sharing resources. Crisis mapping (Ushahidi), Witness. Many efforts that combine human interaction with empowering technology.

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