TED Conversations

Rachel Armstrong

The University of Greenwich


This conversation is closed.


This Live Conversation with TED Fellow Rachel Armstrong will open on February 8th, 2012 at 1pm EST, 6pm UK time.
Join the conversation as Rachel discusses her view on ecological humans and city 2.0.

We are not machines but Ecological Humans. We depend on our networks for survival, like an oak tree in the forest, being made up of highly interacting and interdependent systems. For example, eating is not simply consuming ‘fuel’ to feed our body-machine but is a mutual relationship shared between our gut bacteria, our food and our bodies (which, in turn, are highly interconnected assemblages of specialised tissues). The way that we see ourselves influences the way that we operate through the world in all aspects of our lives - from health, to business and even space exploration!

Ecological Humans, imagine the City 2.0 as being grown from the bottom-up by its communities. It is underpinned by highly interacting and interdependent networks, which use dynamic fabrics that behave in life-like ways. These buildings can be described as Living Architecture that are capable of responding to the changes in our dynamic cities as only real ecologies can.


Will The City 2.0 be qualitatively different to modern cities? Or pragmatically, can the transition only be made as a series of incremental changes? What can we do to facilitate this transition?

What does being an Ecological Human mean to me? Can it help me find new or more effective ways of working?

Can we rely on biology to provide all the answers when it comes to sustainable building solutions? Is life a technology - and should we exploit it in the pursuit of more sustainable ways of building?


Closing Statement from Rachel Armstrong

Thank you so much everyone for joining me today and taking time to comment and share your thoughts. What an amazing set of discussion threads have begun! I am excited about how the TED Prize winner City 2.0, will turn out - which is the event that inspired the context for this discussion. Perhaps, beyond the immediate context of near-future cities - the idea of being an Ecological Human may help us imagine ourselves and the world around us differently. Maybe we can use this way of imagining the world so that we can find truly sustainable solutions for the places we live in. We could possibly also use this approach to help others understand what being 'ecological' might mean. Perhaps this way of looking at the world may have applications in other areas of our lives such as, in the workplace. So, again - a really warm 'thank you' everyone for taking time out to share your thoughts with me and offer your perspectives. If you would like to find out more about Living Architecture you may like to buy my TED Book http://www.ted.com/pages/tedbooks, which is available from Amazon.com, Apple's iBookstore, and is also on the Nook platform.

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    Feb 8 2012: I have trouble differentiating between the Natural world and the Artificial one. Where do we draw the line between organic and synthetic? Is there a line at all?

    I think that projects like Open Source Ecology Project (http://opensourceecology.org/) will end up providing the blueprint for "ground up" sustainable living. That is, unless legislation make these sorts of things impossible.
    • Feb 8 2012: DeCentralized vs. Centralized is perhaps a more important difference in building the future.
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        Feb 8 2012: Great observation! I agree that the top down form of order is the one that we have become accustomed to when thinking about dealing with our cities - and we have yet to articulate exactly what we mean by or how we deal with ideas of 'bottom up' forms of order in cities - or anywhere else for that matter. One of the biggest challenges this century will be finding the principles through which we 'design with emergence'
        • Feb 8 2012: I'd suggest that we could easily "design with emergence" by mimicking key structural functions over different scales of time, place and pace (i.e., ecosystem/ecotope/planetary). Many ancient cultures did (and still do) exactly that.
        • W T 100+

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          Feb 8 2012: But, who is the "WE" who designs with emergence???
          I mean, isn't it true that many of those in the know buy land dirt cheap when they have inside information on city development....and then sell the land to the city. In turn the city to developers.....and these want to make the most profit possible.

          Isn't profit the most important for them? How do we get these folks to grow a conscience?

          I'm I missing something?
      • Feb 8 2012: And how do we ensure that the systems of coordination, communication and feedback are sufficient and strong?
        • Feb 8 2012: That would seem to depend on who "we" is. The De-Centralized Model relies on local control so the "we" would be fewer people.

          The "we" in a larger or global sense would require extensive and robust coordination, communication and feedback systems.

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