TED Conversations

Rachel Armstrong

The University of Greenwich


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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: Future cities will need to have some qualitatively differences to modern cities but change does not mean tearing down what already exists. This is simply silly. In my book I refer to 'extreme recycling' of cities where structural elements such as concrete and steel that mature with age are kept in situ and new kinds of 'skins' that have more biological-like and dynamic materials in them can start to perform some of the kinds of functions that we'd normally attribute to plants. Most of us will not be able to live in Masdar and sustainable enclaves so one of the biggest challenges that I hope that living technologies can address is in our existing building stock. I think that we will firstly experience a series of incremental changes as some of these new technologies can increase the quality of the local environment in physical but also in terms of its psychological impact. We need to make room for nature in our cities. We can be inventive about what this actually means now that we are able to design and engineer with biological systems to the degree that we are currently able. But we also need to respect our environment and also the wishes of communities. Facilitating a transition towards a City 2.0 (as the TED Prize states) has really got to start with a change in mindset as to what is possible, education, addressing infrastructures, meeting the needs of populations and lastly changing the way that our architectures are made. In that order. Also this is just my opinion and I am very keen to hear your views as to how change may be possible - it is so vital for a humane future in cities - and so pressing upon us!

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