TED Conversations

Sabin Muntean

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology


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What is the next big thing?

In all fields of science we are continously broadening our horizon, we learn more and more about the world and ourselves and use this knowledge to discover, invent and improve.

Inspired by TED 2011's motto "The Rediscovery of Wonder", my question to you is - of all the current developments, which do you think will be the next big thing?

Providing links to TED talks or other sources of information would be very nice.

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    Oct 16 2011: Morning Tom,

    I agree with you, that a major block for humanity to understand is that 'conspicuous consumption and opulence' isn't and can't be a key value if we want a peaceful and harmonious future. Or as Thoreau once said,' I am convinced that life can be a pleasure and a pastime if lived simply and wisely. And the cost of anything is the amount of life one must spend in order to acquire it'. Both of those quotes significantly impacted me over 40 years ago when I was in college and continue to run through my consciousness today.

    I see a direct connection between what I consume and what will be left for my grandson. We live on a limited planet with unlimited desire for 'mine'.

    Regarding living in the city or the country, again for me its the yin and yang. Both are essential for the other. Our economic systems often undermine that balance as we are seeing today. Perhaps its all part of the cosmic plan to reduce human populations to a more reasonable number regarding the carrying capacity of this once garden planet.

    I believe we must all understand that unchecked growth leads to cancer whether its the cells in our bodies or our numbers and impacts on this planet. We have reached and surpassed the limits to growth as the report of that name identified over 40 years ago. Perhaps its time we take it seriously.
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    Oct 9 2011: I think (I hope) that the next big thing is a political change world wide where 'we the people' steer the countries based on greater compassion and justice. We will find a way to impose a fundamental morality on our governments and corporations.
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      Oct 10 2011: I'm thinking economic change. Once people realize money is a social contract, there no reason that people (who are constantly dealing with peer to peer interaction thanks to computers) can't form their own contracts with other people. The main reason we do not have political change is the influence of money. So instead of untangling the two, lets find ways to create symbolic wealth and fix our problems with it.
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        Oct 10 2011: I'd like to hear more about his Anthony. Can you expand on it?
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          Oct 13 2011: Well giving the technology we have access to, and the discrepancy in wealth we are overdue for a financial revolution. I have noticed an increase in bartering as many people do not have much money, so the idea we need money to meet our needs is slowly being bruised. Bartering though is messy and inconvenient. The reason why money overtook the idea of barter in the first place is that it is easier. Well if people people are starting to barter again what is to stop them from recreating the wheel again.

          the best example I can think of is Ithaca hours http://www.ratical.org/many_worlds/cc/CED.html

          But there are other and I believe more will come especially if we do not find a way to create fairer wealth distribution.
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        Oct 16 2011: Thanks for taking the time to answer my question Anthony. I loved the article on Ithaca dollars.
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          Oct 16 2011: Glad to share. The only thing holding this idea back as I see it is the lack of awareness.
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    Oct 19 2011: Nick,
    I agree with you that the next big thing will be social change. As a matter of fact, I feel that no amount of technological innovation would mean a thing without changing the way we think. As far as the social issues you bring up, I feel that a much broader issue is the roots of those which is that a man should not have power over men.
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      Oct 19 2011: Beautiful response, and I fully agree. As Jean Baudrillard said so eloquently in his text "The Agony of Power":

      “Power itself must be abolished—and not solely because of a refusal to be dominated, which as the heart of all traditional struggles—but also, just as violently, in the refusal to dominate. Intelligence cannot, can never be in power because intelligence consists of this double refusal" [p. 47-58 Semiotext(e)]
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    Oct 18 2011: The next big thing wont be some giant step forward in technology , no, it will be a new way of looking at the world, at ourself. We are finally seeing that the way we are living now is slowly but steady destroying us. And that needs to chance.
    So the world is gearing itself up for a joy ride they will never forget.

    As an example , the word of freedom is finally breaking through in the middle-east, people don't take it any longer that they were suppressed and are claiming their rights for freedom. And with success look at Libië and Jemen.

    At the same time people all over the world are demonstrating against corporations and banking establishment .
    After they saw how they got robbed for there own eyes. And also there is success.

    These are just two examples, and there are many more if you look at the newspaper.
    This is happening now and will become an record in history, so my answer to the next big thing: The way people look at the world
  • Oct 17 2011: I think the next big thing would be the potentially great innovations in the years to come. In times where income distribution gap is widening, where global warming is escalating, where energy sources are getting limited, people have adapted to these challenging living conditions to become more resourceful, ingenious, innovative and creative. Sometimes the brightest ideas can be so simple, like how this ingenious guy in the Philippines made electricity so much much more affordable for the people by just using plastic bottles, and how people in some countries made use of people's footsteps to generate electricity in certain parts of the city, and zoos even using elephant poos to bear part of the burden of providing electricity to the zoo...It just amazes me how innovative, intelligent, and ingenious our human minds can be...We just have so much much more in unleashing our potential to recreate and innovate....
  • Oct 16 2011: The grandest triumph of science - the unification of all it's laws into all-encompassinng Theory of Everything.
    Hopefully it happens some day.
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      Oct 18 2011: That would be scary.
      • Oct 18 2011: : ) That would be scarier..."with angels and trumpets, and skies will open.."
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          Oct 18 2011: ....not if they looked like cartoon characters. :) I don't know what would freak me out more -seeing an angel or that (he/she/it was holding a trumpet...
          Seriously though I do think one day everything will be unified I'm just not sure it will be under the banner of science.
      • Oct 18 2011: Hi, Jacob!
        What if... there will be no science , there will be only science, there will be no art, there will be only art...
        and list can go on and on... otherwise what ''unity'' means ?
        Actually, i took the idea from T.S. Eliot
        "There would be no dance and there is only the dance."
        Did I make myself plain? I am doubting :) It's difficult to describe something I have never seen or experienced,
        and most likely won't.
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          Oct 19 2011: Hey Natasha ! Your comment reminded me of a passage from a book I read years ago. It is one of my favorites. I think you will appreciate it. :) Enjoy. http://www.iwise.com/qku9s
      • Oct 19 2011: Thanks, Jacob!
        I do enjoy it, it's what i call the"mythic language of quantum fluctuation", the experience of being not in time!
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    Oct 16 2011: Why big.....why not small.?
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    Oct 15 2011: Extinction... on increasing mass scales are whats next.

    What will the transition from 7 Billion to perhaps 1 Billion look like? We have collectively overshot the carrying capacity of this once garden planet. The return to equilibrium will not be pretty nor pleasant. But it will be.

    Technology isn't the answer, its the problem, as all of the causes and effects are undeniable now. All the unintended consequences of our incomplete analysis are demanding accountability that we continue to deny.

    Hard to say what the tipping points will be, but there is evidence aplenty, if one cares to look with open eyes.

    I am very sorry we have collectively taken this path, as I know my grandson with be left with a future that isn't even close to what I inherited 62 years ago. We have failed miserably and its time to acknowledge it.

    Acknowledging our denial is the first step in recovery, if its even possible now.
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    Oct 11 2011: Whenever it might be coming, I too hope that the next big thing will mean that living on earth will mean flatter, more-interconnected, and more learned about ourselves (human beings) with less political game play from the top side. Not only political, but economical and social leaders also should be able to use their influence for creating better well beings for all members of our global societies.

    I really hope that there will be a heroic icon to shake things up to change the world for better.
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    Oct 11 2011: Technology is changing the world in both predictable & unfathomable ways.
    Here's my idea of what's next.

    Within 100 years:
    1.World peace is less than a century away.

    2.The successful arrival of several different forms of green energy will spread across the globe & end world hunger.

    3.Supercomputers that can think like humans will cure all but the most staunch diseases.

    4.Beautification. I'm actually writing a law at this very moment that (fingers crossed) will make my part of the world more beautiful. Maybe everyone else will like it?

    5.Bigger better economies. Instant transactions over the air as you enter & exit markets.

    6.Poverty will always exist, but opportunities to get out of poverty will increase. It will increase by orders of magnitude as the rest of the countries begin to modernize.

    7.Landfills are gigantic waste of resources... Absolutely everything has a use... even garbage. Someday, some genius will walk up to one & make good use of it. The rest of the world will follow suit.
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    Oct 10 2011: The next best thing is to finally understand what went wrong in the past (or present) and try to redetermine needs and solutions under a responsible manner. Otherwise crises (like the ones happening every 10-12 years) will strike again..
    Find where we stand and where we want to go is the most important element.
  • Oct 10 2011: Whatever creates peace. That would be the next big thing.
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    Oct 10 2011: Sabin ....I believe in the rediscovery of the human spirit.
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    Oct 10 2011: Whatever comes after the iPhone4S
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    Oct 9 2011: Curing cancer I believe is on the horizon for our generation, hopefully!
  • Oct 22 2011: The next big thing ? When the first time i see this topic, i just want my mum change her attitude to everything. She is a very powerful woman, whatever she does is right or wrong. She thinks everyone should follow her rule. I really hate that. Hope everyone has a harmony family.
  • Oct 20 2011: The next big thing is cheap space travel and after that it will be that we terraform and populate another planet.
    Of which the first steps are comming closer and closer. My personal guess is that within 50 years we'll have a building up on mars in which a few people can actually live.

    And another big thing is that humans might be able to live a lot (and I mean a LOT) longer than they have in previous generations.
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    Oct 19 2011: Learning in the next 20 years how to feed 25% more people with an enforced 50% reduction in hydrocarbon, in a world dependent on industrial agriculture.
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    Oct 19 2011: I think the next big thing will be a commonality movement - we will all start to see why we are alike, aided by media, the internet and technology - we will start caring about each other and what happens to our neighbours - then the possibilities are endless...
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      Oct 20 2011: Scott, I really think that your other post about internet polling in government could be the next big thing too! Cheers
  • Oct 19 2011: I'm convinced the next Big Thing will be :

    hyper-collaborative structures of organization, based on human networks.

    I hope leading to "networked intelligence and wisdom" and finally "networked participative democracy".
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    Oct 19 2011: We'll became completly dependent on artificial information environment (not mentally only, but phisiologically also). That will be big, but not really good thing we'll get.
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    Oct 19 2011: Next big thing will not be technology based. It will be all about People!
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    Oct 18 2011: Quantum computing, in the last 6 months alone there have been some breakthroughs making it more real everyday.
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    Oct 18 2011: Not exactly science but I just came across this and I think its brilliant

  • Oct 18 2011: As far as the next big thing is concerned, I think it will involve communication between objects. The CEO of Ford spoke in a TED talk about the future of cars communicating with each other, and we are already seeing the emergence of RFID communication between objects and systems. I think this type of object to object communication is about to enhance our lives greatly. I think this decade will involve replacing almost all of our normal stuff with "smart" stuff. The possibilities are endless.
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    Oct 18 2011: haha....enough of theories....may be if something like that could happen in practical :D
    that would be most scarier....
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    Oct 17 2011: Natasha, Have you read E.O. Wilson's wonderful book, Concilience (the unity of knowledge) ? I highly recommend it given the direction of your comment.

    He speaks that we are drowning in data while starving for wisdom.

    I couldn't agree more !
    • Oct 18 2011: Craig,
      Sorry for the delay with my response, I haven't seen your comment.
      I'll try to find the book, you recommend, I guess it's true
      " that we are drowning in data while starving for wisdom",
      though I' ve never thought about it that way,
      Thank you!
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    Oct 16 2011: Hi Thomas,

    I would just offer the way we frame a problem is critical to how we see a solution. And that is true whether we are talking nano or integrative technologies and science. We can never be fully objective nor should we if we give adequate consciousness to understanding the subjective nature of our questions. Again the yin and the yang.

    I also realize our problem is temporary as is our time here. I just wish we had more connection to wisdom and less to data as a species. Unfortunately there is little evidence of it.

    And yes, I know America is the problem when it comes to consumerism and many other issues as well. I struggle with that daily and feel pretty impotent in the face of it. Although I try. I asked the question, what is the carbon footprint of just one day of football in America? Could it be bigger than some third world countries? Its a scary concept indeed.

    Yes, I have a car. I live 65 miles from a major town but only drive about twice a month. I take the bus too.
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      Oct 16 2011: Hi Craig,

      I agree, the way we frame a problem is critical to how we see a solution.

      And, as a result of our exchange, I was thinking about "the problem" - essentially energy consumption.

      It seems to me the average person (you, me, Zhang Da Xin, Baridi Awino Oketch ...) will be unwilling to accept a lifestyle that is less than "optimal." On a personal level, we do not seem to be willing to accept even nominal deprivations.

      So the next BIG thing might be to find a way to minimize or eliminate our energy consumption in other areas. Areas that are not so "personal."

      Also, my direct reply to the question, "What is he next big thing?" is: "Simplicity. (I hope.)"

      Perhaps if we could teach ourselves to enjoy a simple life, we could, by example, also teach future generations that fulfillment can be found in simplicity. This would have an impact on our personal (and, obviously, collective) consumption.

      As big as the problem seems to be, I think the first step (to resolve most "problems") is to be happy. Not happy with the "stuff" we have or the status we hold ... just be happy. One could say, happy to be alive.

      QUOTE: "I live 65 miles from a major town but only drive about twice a month."


      Not why do you drive twice a month, why do you live 65 miles from a town?

      Perhaps you're a farmer?

      If not, you would leave a much smaller footprint in a town or a city.

      It's a thorny problem.

      On the one hand, we can see what needs to be done, on the other hand, we want to live a lifestyle that appeals to us. (And I'm not "picking on you" ... as I say, I share your sentiments. Not only in regards to ecology but also (perhaps) in regards to lifestyle. When I go back to Canada at Christmas time, my wife and I will be looking at a house we might buy. It's about 30 miles from the nearest town.)