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Someone doing a study of collaborative innovation could start with a look at the TED Prize, three of which were awarded here last night. The winners this year were extraterrestrial life searcher Jill Tarter, ocean researcher Sylvia Earle, and economist, musician, and advocate Jose Antonio Abreu. The idea is that the prize winners announce their dream. TED kicks in $100,000 to start funding that dream. More important, the prize winner now has access to the people in the TED community. Immediately after the acceptance speeches and into today, I’ve seen dozens of TED luminaries pledge in-kind support to the dream of one winner or another.
This stone soup approach isn’t uncommon, but it’s particularly impressive because all these people are at the center of other communities and have much to offer: that’s how they wound up at TED. Indeed, previous winners of the TED prize have had their dreams fulfilled because of intervention and assistance from (that word again) TEDsters. The most high-profile example of that is photojournalist Jim Nachtwey, a 2007 prize winner, who had to surmount multiple political and technical hurdles to tell his story of a deadly disease that’s hidden to most people in the developed world. Contacts at TED helped him do that.
The TED Prize ceremony capped a day in which it was definitely technology, the “T” in TED, held sway. Some of it was about robots. We learned about medical robots that permit minimally invasive surgery and biologist Robert Full revealed what he learned about how tails work while building robots that mimic geckos.
The first day there was plenty of talk about robots, too, and some of the breakthroughs demonstrated on the TED stage have been placed in the lobby so attendees can get a closer look. You can, for example, interact with a realistic Albert Einstein head that changes its facial expression based on yours:
Yesterday’s talk from Shai Agassi, who, like so many other TED speakers, began his talk with a provocative question — “How would you run a country without oil?” — and told the story of his journey to build an electric car.