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Live Q&A today at 3:30 Eastern: How is the developing brain of a child like the emerging global brain of the Internet?

"The Internet, like the developing brain of a child, is in a rapid phase of growth and change. This means that just as we must be mindful in how we nurture our children's minds, we must also pay careful attention to how we develop our global brain."

In conjunction with her TED Book, author and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain has put together an excellent short film explaining her fascinating ideas about how brain development in kids parallels the development of the Internet.

You can watch the 10 minute film here: http://youtu.be/zLp-edwiGUU

And then read the book:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A30S24S
iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/brain-power/id576233926?ls=1

And here's an article in the Harvard Business Review about the project:

Author Tiffany Shlain ( http://www.ted.com/profiles/91428 ) will be joining us here for a one-hour Q&A Tuesday, December 4th, from 3:30-4:30pm. Mark your calendars!

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  • Dec 4 2012: afraid I am finding this format very confusing
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      Dec 4 2012: Irene, how can I help clarify the format? Would it help if you switch your "Sort By" setting to "Oldest First", so you can read questions/responses in the order they were published?
      • Dec 4 2012: FYI: I've found that you also have to keep "refreshing" the url !
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    Dec 4 2012: I'm afraid our time is almost up. Tiffany, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I look forward to seeing what you create next! :)

    To our participants, thank you as always for sharing your excellent questions. We hope to see you again soon for the next TED book chat!
  • Dec 4 2012: Sometimes people worry that the internet may be negatively affecting our brains and connection to one another, what are your thoughts on it?
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      Dec 4 2012: great point. I think as with any technology there are good things and bad.... one good framework when thinking of technology and the internet is that it is just "an extension of us." we are good, bad and everything in between...and as with anything..if you over do it..it's not great. The reason my family and i started doing our weekly unplugging one day a week is because it was 'too much" technology.. I didn't need a neuroscientist to tell me that it wasn't good for my brain..because my head was hurting at night if i was at a screen until i slept. Now i dont' bring the cell phone or my laptop into my bedroom. I need to let my mind unwind. So as much as I LOVE technology and all the new ideas I am exposed to and new people I am connected to, I also know I need to turn it out too.
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    Dec 4 2012: On the main topic of the book/film…. what would be your ideal future for this developing "mind" of the internet? Would it have any characteristics that it doesn't currently have? Do any existing networks achieve the sorts of deep, meaningful thoughts and connections that you'd like to see?
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      Dec 4 2012: It's been proven throughout history that innovation occurs when you get the most people from dif. perspectives thinking about a problem. Matt Ridley outlined this beautifully in his book "The Rational Optimist" where he talked about how innovation usually happened in cities where there were the møst folks from dif. backgrounds very close together. The ideal future of the developing internet is when everyone who wants to be online is online, and we have collaborative tools to bring people together from all dif. parts of the world to solve problems. We are just at the beginning of what i feel people will look back as the "Age of Collaboration." That's the "thinking" part of the future i would love...i also believe we are being awash in oxytocin ("love/collaboration/sharing hormone" in the brain) with all these links, clicks, posts, text....i think empathy will only increase as we get more connected...
      • Dec 4 2012: we 'just' need better tools to improve the quality of the connections. A 'like' or '+' button is just not enough.
  • Dec 4 2012: how did your children (and your computer science) husband respond to the idea to unplug? any resistance?
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    Dec 4 2012: I understand that your short film 'Brain Power' is part of a series you're working on. What's the meta-theme of the series, and how does 'Brain Power' fit into it? What will the other films be about?
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      Dec 4 2012: "Brain Power" is part of a film series we are doing called "Let it Ripple: Mobile Films for Global Change." In these films we try to tackle topics that connect us all. Our first one was "A Declaration of Interdependence," the second about the importance of "Engagement" in society, and this one on the importance of nurturing and strengthening children's brains on the global brain of the internet. We will be doing three of these a year. 15 in all. All these films at their core, explore what it means to be human.
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    Dec 4 2012: I feel like so much of what's uninteresting and less-valuable online is there because marketing, sales, and other forces are looking to turn users into customers/followers/etc. Does the developing brain have any comparable functions competing for our attention, that make it more difficult to focus on the best information/connections?
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    Dec 4 2012: Something that I found myself wondering as I watched and read… as you explain, the main way we're able to "shape" our children's brains is by choosing what to focus on with them, what to draw their attention to. The rest is naturally pruned away as they age. But does the same thing happen online? What's the process for pruning online information and connections that aren't useful or interesting?
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    Dec 4 2012: Tiffany, I remember that pivotal moment you showed in Connected where you saw how your "connectedness" with the world was impacting the connectedness with those closest to you (your daughters, husband, close friends and extended family).

    Is there a similar ah-ha moment recently as a parent while you were working on Brain Power, specifically in working/nurturing children?
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      Dec 4 2012: yes. I remember the exact moment. Originally when we were working on "Brain Power" it was just focusing on how to best nurture children's brains. We were talking to this brilliant neuroscience Dr. Patricia Kuhl (she has a great TED Talk) and she says, "the goal is with children is to get all the different parts of the brain connected. They are born with 100 billion neurons but the connections between those neurons are not there yet. She explained how your interacting with them creates those connections. " a big lightbulb went off. this is like the internet. We only have 2 billion people online. We must try to get everyone online in order to see it's full potential." A lot of the neuroscientists talk about the "first 2000 days" of a childs brain being extremely imp. to set the foundation for the future. I realized we are in that first "2000 days" of the internet's growth and we need to be just as mindful how we are growing and shaping it.
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        Dec 4 2012: Wow. That put such weight to it! We are talking about fundamental changes in history just as we are impacting our children by either engaging them in intentional parenting....or not.
        • Dec 4 2012: What evidence supports classifying the internet within "the first 2000 days?" More importantly, what would signify to you, Tiffany, that the internet has reached full maturation? Is it possible that the total content and connection size of the Internet would only continue to increase, remaining in a perpetual sensorimotor/preoperational stage of development?
  • Dec 4 2012: How did you get so many submissions from around the world for Brain Power?
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      Dec 4 2012: We have a fantastic community who participates in what we call our "Cloud Films". "Brain Power" is our third film and each new one we do, we receive more submissions. We are just about to do a new call for entries, and I would love for you to join is. A great way to stay posted on our process and calls for entries is both our website www.letitripple.org and our facebook page "Connected the film" ...
  • Dec 4 2012: what are some of the policy and spiritual challenges raised by this book? is my brain undeveloped because I don't relate to this formal...it is more like a chat and I have had difficulty seeing if there is a developing thread
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      Dec 4 2012: Your brain is not underdeveloped :)*

      This is an unusual format for me too. but loving the interaction and questions.

      Highly recommend you download the book. It's all in threads in there:)*

      I feel like in Cinderella when the carriage is going to turn into a pumpkin in 1 minute! there is only 1 min left for this live Q & A.
  • Dec 4 2012: Aja, at the moment Facebook and similarities work not that dissimilar from old mailbox/bbs systems that exited in the 1980s. FB has added a like button and everything looks flasher.but the quality of connections still often relies on RL meeting to gather depth, don't you think? also the interaction is largely text-based and asynchronous.

    That said, I've never been to Second Life. Interaction in face-tface situations is much more comlex than what we are doing here. here we have to leave much of how the other orients to us, to our imagination.
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      Dec 4 2012: good point. i can't wait until video and moving images are really incorporated more into ...well, everything. When you are "with' someone live, half the info you get is from what they say, the other half from body language. We need to use both R & L hemisphere when interacting! I also think they need to add a "Dissimilar to you" button on twitter.
  • Dec 4 2012: how do you see the link btw online and offline connections? Howard R talked long ago about the strengthening and connection-building effect of online communities. how do you experience that yourself?
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      Dec 4 2012: Great question. Both kinds of connections are important. I see this a lot when our "connected the film" facebook community comes to an live event. Nothing replaces the value of real life interaction.

      Even with you. We met on Twitter as we both are interested in the same kind of ideas. Then when I told you I was coming to Europe you tweeted to a conference and made a talk/screening happen and I got to meet you in person. Love that. There needs to be a special word for when you meet someone you have only followed on twitter. I think "Twenchante" would work when we finally meet;)
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    Dec 4 2012: Hi Tiffany,

    What, in your opinion, could we each be doing to help shape a more developed internet? Is regularly going offline a part of this, or is it more in how we choose to spend our time when we are online?
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      Dec 4 2012: I def. thinking unplugging weekly is very important to try. I promise you will love it.

      And then when we are online, we need to be mindful that everyone we follow is influencing the connections in your brain. So we need to be mindful of who and what ideas and connections we making happen. That's all for us personally..and our minds of course, plug into this larger global collection of minds.

      On that front, I feel very strongly that we need to bridge the digital divide so we can get as many dif. perspectives and wisdom participating in these global conversations.

      People also need to be paying attention to policies that are happening that can be the reshape the global brain in the wrong way. There is a mtg happening (ITU) which is making some major decisions in info flow onilne.. You can watch this video to check out how to understand what is happening and how to get involved. https://make-dev.mozillalabs.com/en-US/projects/roll-your-own-itu-activism-video/

      I know that's a big list. I unpack it more clearly in the TEDBook which i think you would really enjoy reading. (and it has less typos;)
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        Dec 4 2012: Thank you, this is good food for thought.
    • Dec 4 2012: I like that Robert's question touches on being mindful of the way we connect in addition to understanding the importance of disconnecting!

      What is the next film we can expect in the Let It Ripple Series, Tiffany?
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    Dec 4 2012: Tiffany, Have you seen others taking technology breaks (tech shabbats)? If so what has the response been? I am so thankful that you encouraged me to take them. Do you find it challenging to schedule those rests around your busy schedule and how technology centered your medium and craft is?
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      Dec 4 2012: I love that you do them too now. That has been the best part of these films is sharing that i unplug and seeing other people try it. (Everyone, here I recommend trying it!) Do I find it challenging to do ..no. I just have to plan. Now most close friends and family know they can't get in touch with me Friday night to sat. sundown (ish) but everyone adapts and then suddenly you have this day to focus on your family or just yourself...It is good to let your mind go into a dif. mode one day a week. With my kids we are pulling out all sorts of games (a 70's version of CLUE i found in my garage and scrabble.) We spend more time outside. it's all good.
  • Dec 4 2012: Is this film and book related to your great feature-length film CONNECTED directly or indirectly?
    • Dec 4 2012: and how do you see your films emerging from or related to the Webby Awards?
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      Dec 4 2012: Definitely related to our film "Connected." The whole new film series "Let it Ripple" is ideas from "Connected" in action. The climax of "connected" asks what is the potential of everyone being online? what can we do with that? (the film also goes into the good, the bad and the potential of all this connectedness and a very personal story interwoven..) you can watch the trailer at www.connectedthefilm.com
      • Dec 4 2012: and the Webbys? were you making films while you worked on the Webbys?
  • Dec 4 2012: I saw that at the end of the film, you get a "customized" version if you are a non-profit. How does one do that and have you made any yet for non-profits? How do they use these customized films? What an amazing idea!
    • Dec 4 2012: agree. that is a great idea!
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      Dec 4 2012: You can just go to our site www.letitripple.org and find out how to easily have one made for your nonprofit for free. We are already making around 25 versions of "Brain Power." Organizations that are interesting in child development, internet policy, education, tech, are all getting them made. It feels so great for our team to make these free films for nonprofits who do such imp. work but often don't have media to get their message out. The nonprofits will then use the film (which looks like it's their film with their call to action, url and logo at the end) for events, fundraising, email campaigns, etc.
  • Dec 4 2012: is there a nook version of the book?
  • Dec 4 2012: How long did it take to complete the TED book? I love that the TED book deepens our engagement with these important topics of early brain development!
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      Dec 4 2012: This is a great question. I was Tiffany's editor on the book, and we really took a non-linear film and adapted it into a linear narrative that expands on the ideas in the film.
  • Dec 4 2012: What is the most (or one of the most ;) interesting things you learned in the research & making of both the film & Brain Power Ted Book that you didn't know before?
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      Dec 4 2012: I think learning about neuroscience really help me think about the growth of the internet in a new way. The way I can contextualize what acts like PIPA and SOPA would have done to the web to constrict the free flow of information. Also in terms of neuroscience and my children. We have a 3 year old who is in that first "2000" of life when her brain is most malleable. And learning that her mind has more connections than the entire internet, def. blew my mind. I learned a lot of things that stimulate her brain's growth. Eye contact is great. and Making her laugh. These were things I did before but let's just say now, i do a lot more.
      • Dec 4 2012: When my 7 year old daughter watched it she pushed her fist in the air when learning that her bran has more connections that of an adult
  • Dec 4 2012: this is not live with moving images, correct?
  • Dec 4 2012: and in relation to Aja's question, how do you strike the balance and manage (your) children's use of the internet and other activities considering the draw of screens is so great to children (and adults)?
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      Dec 4 2012: My family and I unplug once a week together as a family. We call it our "technology shabbats" it's really changed our lives. it's been around 2 years that we have been doing it. We also had a screening of "Brain Power" along with Rebecca Randall from "Commonsense Media" which was terrific. That website/org. has fantastic guidelines when thinking of our kids and screens.
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      Dec 4 2012: Really glad I am able to type fast right now;) It's interesting to think that one's fingers are the conduits to our communicating our thinking;)
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      Dec 4 2012: I'd love to hear more about this, as well. :) I loved the description in the book of your "Technology Shabbat". Do you have to lock up your laptops/phones/devices? I don't know how I'd be able to resist checking in with the online world for a full 24 hours!
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    Dec 4 2012: We've also been fortunate enough to chat with Sherry Turkle and Howard Rheingold here on TED Conversations, both of whom are mentioned in your book. Do the three of you ever get together, and if so, what do you talk about? And do you keep your phones switched off? ;)
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      Dec 4 2012: Actually we do. Howard is a dear friend and mentor. We take walks in the hills of Mill Valley together and talk about this stuff. Sherry is fantastic too. Sherry and I talk about unplugging. One of these days we want to co-author something together.
  • Dec 4 2012: Love your incorporation of found footage, animation, the submitted videos and great music in Brain Power making complex ideas entertaining and engaging. Do you always create work in this way?
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      Dec 4 2012: First, thank you:) This new style of filmmaking really evolves my earlier style. I couldn't afford to go to film school and often made films but recutting together old movies. That style still informs my film today. We now do original animation for our films but we rarely shoot. Adding this new component of having people all over the world send us videos is very exciting for our film team. We recently wrote a "Cloud Filmmaking Manifesto" which talks about our process. We are making free customized versions of our 10 minute film "Brain Power" for non profits.
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    Dec 4 2012: Tiffany, do you see events such as Syria's shutdown as an example of toxic stress to the Internet?
  • Dec 4 2012: How long did it take you to make BRAIN POWER including the research & making the film?
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      Dec 4 2012: Hmm..My co-writers Prof. Ken Goldberg & Sawyer Steele and I started diving into research January of this year. I was approached to do the TEDBook in I believe April. So let's just say 2012 was about "Brain Power";)
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    Dec 4 2012: Welcome Tiffany!
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    Dec 4 2012: Hello all, and welcome to this live Q&A with author Tiffany Shlain! Tiffany, thank you for joining us, your "Brain Power" book and film have some fascinating thoughts for those of us who spend so much time online. :)

    To start off, I wanted to ask… the book/film format for Brain Power was a new one for me, very cool! How did you get started as a filmmaker/author? Is this work you've always wanted to do, or did you find yourself unexpectedly drawn to it? Do you plan to use this book/film format for future projects?
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      Dec 4 2012: Hello Aja!
      This was a very exciting process:) We were just finalizing the script when I was asked to do a TED Book. It was exciting put all the research into context in the book.
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      Dec 4 2012: I definitely think I would like to think about film/book format together for the future. What is so great about the TEDBooks is that we could put film clips into the book in the iPAD version. It is a filmmakers playground to take a script and unpack it with visuals.
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    Dec 2 2012: The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite (often called TCP/IP, although not all applications use TCP) to serve billions of users worldwide.

    whereas: In a typical human the cerebral cortex (the largest part) is estimated to contain 15–33 billion neurons, each connected by synapses to several thousand other neurons.

    In the above there is a simularity. From a central point each send billions of messages. However, while the internet has only one purpose and utilizes a standard protocol ... the brain serves many funtions, seperate and combined actions, and reflexes. The brain has the ability to grow, adjust, revise, react, and recall.

    I do not see the internet as a global brain ... I see it more like a home library with vast resources. It is also a form of communications which is global.

    After watching the clip I was left with the questions of how can we develop both better. Since this was in the title I was lookuing forward to the answer or suggestions.

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      Dec 4 2012: Tiffany Shlain, the author here. Glad you saw the 10 minute film Brain Power. Highly recommend reading the TEDBook which I do go into details on how to nurture and strengthen both: children's brains and the global brain of the internet.