Close Encounters with Extraordinary Thoughts and Minds

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Conference ( I attended my third TED Conference this year. It was my second time in Long Beach, where the "main" stage is located. I am not watching a live simulcast/webcast, along with thousands of other people across the world; I am seeing and experiencing it live. It is an exciting event. An entire, enormous performing arts center full of people wanting to Get Different through thinking new thoughts.

TED is a fire hydrant of information coming at me (and all of us in the room) in 18 minute spurts. But what spurts!

It is a phenomenon. TED and its offshoots are probably the Number #1 learning experience on earth right now, because of the sheer volume of new and world-changing information that is presented over a four day period. Fast Company just labeled TED the New Harvard.

I did not find this year's TED to be as much a WOW for me as the two previous years. I think that was because I think of our discoveries as humans as opening windows to a new and unexpected room, then exploring the room and realizing there is another window to another room of knowledge.

Whether it was me or where human discovery was at the time, when I first went to TED, a window was opened for me and looking in it blew my mind. It was discovery, it was an exploration of new territory, it was about a New World...above us in the cosmos, below us in the sea, inside of us in our cells, between us in how technology has, is and will change all human interaction and it was about our soon-to-be new personal companions - robots.

My mind could hardly hold it all....18 minute presentations almost back-to-back with a break here and there and wonderful entertainment to allow the audience to exhale.

When I first attend TED I knew I was looking in a window that would change my life. It has resulted in my thinking new thoughts and living my life differently and sharing concepts and information that I did not know "BT" ... Before TED.

"WOW" is a gross understatement for that life-influencing event.

Another reason there was less “WOW” for me: I have changed.

I am now in the room, and I love the room. I expect that in exploring the room and understanding it, there will be awe, but nothing like that first look in the window. Similar to making a return visit to Niagara Falls, or the Grand Canyon, or a Broadway play or the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal... the “WOW” are always there, but not like the first time. I am blessed to have had so many “WOW” experiences in my life.

So, TED was not as much a WOW this time because I knew more about the room. But don't get me wrong...TED was GREAT and wonderful and inspiring!!! I learned about new discoveries, and I got to try on new ways of looking at possible futures for us as a species on this earth.

And, I had fun people-watching. TED is the ultimate "Who's Who."

A few people-watching encounters stood out for me:

Walking down the hall during a break and seeing Bill Gates in a conversation with six people about energy and his thoughts about how we need to address our challenges, and feeling free to stop and listen for a while, knowing that at TED I could add my voice to any conversation.

AND sitting next to Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) and saying "hi" as we both talked on our cell phones.

AND sitting two rows behind Steve Wozniak (co-founder Apple) and hearing people talk with him about his experience on the TV show Dancing with the Stars.

AND sitting next to Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, and not knowing who he was when he asked me if that seat was available - only finding out when he and the other co-founder were introduced from the stage because they were giving a gift of one of their new products to everyone in the audience.

It was clearly Billionaire Day in my life.

BUT MY MOST FUN PEOPLE-WATCHING EXPERIENCE: was walking up to Will Smith, and shaking his hand and talking with him.

TED is GREAT and I look forward to 28 February – 4 March 2011.