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.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Feb 8 2012: Can a city be solved? A distinguishing feature of the life of a city is that it is not made but evolved in collaboration with its inhabitants. In other words – cities are long-term projects that engage with both top down and bottom up ideas and processes.
    • thumb
      Feb 8 2012: Hi Rachel,

      I am by no means an expert in anyway-shape-or-form, but from an initial perspective yes, a city can be solved - although I might imagine it a little easier to start from scratch. Trying to apply organic ideas to a machine like system could be frictional - if I fertilise my laptop, I should not expect many improvements. Not that you want to hear that. But I would imagine an intermediate stage - or transition period - possible for existing cities, whereby you get cyborg cities (I use the term loosely)

      Something that seems sensible to me would be to define some fundamentals. I think a city should be adaptable and flexible like an organic species rather than a machine designed for a specific purpose. Changing to it's own environment for survival.

      This is vage I know, but it might spark some ideas...

    • Feb 8 2012: We need more imagination & ecological responsibility from our engineers, but we'll only get that through more involvement and oversight from the public. We have relied on engineers to "fix" the problems with straight-line solutions, many of which created new ecological & social problems, which we tried to engineer solutions for, again, with similar results. Tools can help us or harm us, it depends who is using them and how much thought is given to the outcome. How do we encourage people to be more thoughtful about the world increasingly pressuring us toward being insular in life, but global in our private digital realms?
      • Feb 8 2012: i agree. I think this only comes about through holisitc education and better interconnected working across environment disciplines.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.