David Payne on ideas worth spreading in 2010

David PayneI just shared a sofa with a 25-year-old Canadian inventor, a Texan neuroscientist turned fiction writer who authored a recent BMJ editorial on synaesthesia, a former lawyer and journalist who now runs a global technology company, and a social entrepreneur whose mother took her out of school each summer to see the world. Some of us are meeting for dinner later.

Each year leading figures from the worlds of technology, entertainment, and design converge on Long Beach, California for TED, a four day conference attended by 1500 invited delegates.

I’m down the road in rainy Palm Springs for its offshoot TEDActive, a more intimate live simulcast of the main event. There are around 500 of us here. Day 1 starts tomorrow.  Speaking tomorrow (none of them for longer than 18 minutes), are speakers including campaigning chefs Jamie Oliver and Dan Barber, Nobel prizewinner and behavioual economist Daniel Kahneman, ukelele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, and cancer researcher William Li.

Apparently my introduction to TED is pretty typical. I’ve been warned that sensory overload will deprive me of sleep, that my taste in music may change, and I’ll forge lasting relationships with some of my fellow TEDsters.

Already, thanks to neuroscientist and BMJ editorialist David Eagleman, I’ve discovered the idea of possibilianism, which celebrates ignorance and favours a middle ground beween atheism and religion. There was also a sofa debate on the chances of discovering a gene for immortality by 2100, and how better school-age education could help us find a solution to reducing waste.

David Payne is editor, bmj.com, doc2doc.bmj.com