TEDxWaterloo Part I

How often does one get to be in the presence of greatness? How often does one get to be in the presence of greatness the first time the opportunity has ever happened?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural TEDxWaterloo event hosted at the Gig Music Hall in Kitchener. (Side note: I guess TEDxKitchener doesn’t have the same ring to it!) Because it was a free event (paid for by sponsors), the organizers had to limit the number of people attending, and we as attendees had to apply to get in! (Inside scoop: I asked a volunteered whether everyone got in, but she said no, some were rejected. Only 350 people were invited to attend).

Below I share some notes I took during the talk and my thoughts on them…

Part I: Design Started Yesterday

Speaker #1: Terry O’Reilly

This was the first time I’ve ever heard an advertiser/marketing talk about marketing as a “concept of desire.” The word “desire” has so much passion in it, and I don’t know if I would describe my experience of figuring out which brand of toothpaste to buy a “concept of desire.” Terry was also advocating “friction in persuasion.” This is an interesting one; apparently, it’s human nature to desire some sort of friction. Some examples he gave were the “friction” of having to add eggs to instant cake mixes instead of just water and the “friction” of the artificially induced sting (alcohol) felt when the antiseptic cream is added to a wound, both of which increased the products’ sales.

He also gave the example of when charities want you to donate $50, they give you the $500 and $5 options so the “target” amount is framed. There’s also the example of how Westerners (i.e. individualists) want to control their environment so when they feel cramped in, say, a supermarket, they will lash out and exert their control by exercising choice, which translates into them buying a greater variety of goods.

I came away from this talk now 100% convinced that MARKETERS are EVIL. They are using psychology for “evil.” I felt dirty thinking why I ever considered applying to marketing companies because they need people to do research. I think I’m going to stick with companies that provide service and not products (unless the product is used for a “good” cause, like contraptions that reduce energy consumption, etc.). There goes my aspiration of applying to work for P&G, J&J, Unilever, etc.! Why do principles always have to get in the way?

Other cool things he mentioned (lets be honest, although it’s manipulating people, those discoveries are still cool!):

1) When Steve Jobs first introduced the mouse, he decided to package it separately from the computer. So people had to fiddle with it before they have to use it, which gets them familiar with the product, and they are more likely to use it.

2) The book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. The author found that there were a lot of preventable errors happening in hospitals. He looked at professions with low error rates (pilots) and found that they used checklists. So Gawande introduced checklists to surgeons and reduced preventable errors by 80%! (Note to self: Tell my mom, who’s a hospital medical director, about this book!)

Speaker #2: Philip Beesley

One word to sum this guy up, “visionary.” What this architect designed were these tree-like structures that could interact with you. So if you move near it, each branch or frond has sensors that make the branch or frond respond (move). I am sure his “hylozoic soil” architecture example went over most people in the audience’s heads, but they were still very cool. He kept saying words like “calm” in regards to the experience of being amongst this structure. However, all I could think was “creepy.” Someone on Twitter commented “oh shit, it’s skynet!” because the sample branch looked like a terminator’s arm, LOL. Honestly the architecture reminded me of Avatar’s Tree of Souls.

Other phrases I wrote down:

“emotional exchange with architecture” I definitely feel something whenever I step into a gothic cathedral!

“responsive architecture” It seemed kind of creepy here again because Philip talked about the “trees” taking in nutrients as food for its system? When architecture needs food, it blurs the line between an inorganic structure and a living thing (“thing” is appropriate here)…I know life evolved from inorganic matter replicating, but this still sounds, again, creepy.

Video #1: Aimee Mullins

This was from TED.com but it was still amazing.

“Stop compartmentalizing form, function, and aesthetic”

Favorite phrase from the video, “whimsy matters.” I need to use the word “whimsy” and “beckon the [whimsy]” more often 😉

Speaker #3: Ray Laflamme

Ok, this is when something is beyond my comprehension that all I could do was try to focus all my energy into trying to understand the words that were coming out of Ray’s mouth. His talk reminded me of a youtube clip I saw of another quantum physics professor talking about how some things that happen in The Watchmen were possible (Science of Watchmen). For example, it is “possible” to conceive Dr. Manhattan being in more than one place at the same time. Ray talked about superposition, and how that can revolutionize such things as PDA’s. Just imaging two binary digits being able to be both digits at the same time (00, 01, 10, and 11) already blew my mind. His lolcats reference was priceless (Caution: Its humour can’t really be reproduced outside the quantum physics field or the talk. But if you have to know:

Get it? I laughed out loud!

A quote, “Redefining reality at a very small scale”



Filed under Life

7 responses to “TEDxWaterloo Part I

  1. justin


    Interesting take on Marketing=evil. I’m a big fan of Terry O’Reilly “Age of Persuasion” show on CBC. He argues that marketing is probably the *most* honest form of communication because their intentions are always clear: They want to sell you something. In that sense, there’s no deception involved… as long as people remember that it’s an advertisement.


    • Hey Justin,

      If you put it that way, I agree that marketing is the “most” honest form of communication. But then there’s the caveat of “as long as people remember that it’s an advertisement.” As psychologists, we’re trained to notice the tricks they are using. For example, statistics could be manipulated, testimonials could be bogus, the before and after picture could have been switched, etc. Actually, one doesn’t even have to be a trained psychologist, just a very aware individual, to figure those examples out. However, remember the bell curve? Most people in the population are in the “bell” part and below (by the way, only 1% of the world’s population have a college education!), and most of the time they are not aware of the tricks marketers/advertisers are using. (But they are selling to those people anyway, the largest market, so I guess that’s the marketers’ goal). So technically, it could be argued that they are deceived because they don’t know how marketers figured them out and are using that to nudge them towards a certain behaviour. Thoughts?

      I’m interested in listening to the podcast though. I’m going to download some into my ipod!

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