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: When I was writing my TED book on Living Architecture http://www.ted.com/pages/tedbooks - which I am eternally grateful to Tom Reilly for suggesting and Jim Daly for seeing the idea through to fruition – I began to realise that ‘living architecture’ was not a product but a process that could be used for problem solving.

    As the implications for ecological thinking became apparent, I was keen to find a context in which it might be possible to test how ecological principles could be applied to a variety of different challenges.

    The TED Prize City 2.0 challenge [http://blog.ted.com/2011/12/06/ted-prize-2012-goes-to-the-city-2-0/ ] started me thinking about the seemingly insurmountable issues that our cities will pose over the coming decades. It invites us to collectively craft ‘one wish’, which will collectively ignite the actions of the TED community and set them on the path towards sustainable change in our cities worldwide.

    This conversation is entirely separate to the TED Prize but has been inspired by it. The idea of a future city offers a framework in which I’d like to start to explore the possibilities that a new kind of thinking. I’d like to explore what this approach may have to offer us in dealing with the unknown and also with the more mundane aspects of our daily lives.
    • Feb 8 2012: One wish? More accessibility and less mobility (or as the EU put it, decouple economic growth from transportation)

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