TEDxSP 2009 - Silvio Meira

Uploaded by TEDxSP on 09.09.2010

Shall we?
What Iím going to do here is an animated cartoon of provocations
about how I think the world should work.
And I wonít tell you what Iím going to talk about.
So youíll have to, in a way, elicit the theme of my talk
based on what I say here.
Iím that guy.
If you want to purchase the meira.com domain, itís for sale.
Itís expensive, of course, because Iíd have to change my name,
a lot of people have their email as...
Well, letís go!
Letís talk about the time, which is little and trivial for us.
Gilberto Freyre used to say that we live in a combination
of past, present and future all the time.
And that this is not homogeneous for all the people.
Here you have the old-timers,
the people who have a big gap in their lives
and who live mostly in the past,
wishing that things do not come to an end, one way or another.
Here you have the dreamers,
who live in golden dreams of the future all the time,
without being able to accomplish things.
These people are different from innovators.
And you have the people who have no past and no future
and who live all the time in the present and these are the futureless.
But, regardless of who we are, or where we are, in reality,
we live in a combination of past and future within a certain present.
This present, for all of us, could be seen as a singularity,
as something more or less unique.
Instead of extending it like this,
we should, in certain occasions, under certain circumstances, make it linear
and experience an absolutely singular present.
Whatever we donít focus on, whatever fails to get our attention,
whatever we donít experience here and now,
itís no use remembering this part or planning this,
because, otherwise, we wonít be able to accomplish most of our actions.
If we look at this singular present,
it is, in reality, a sort of machine
about to transform possible futures into pasts.
Thereís a large number of things which may happen,
but evidently,
only a very small number of these takes place in this singularity,
and then it immediately becomes past.
The singular present in which we live, all of us here,
we have a radical idea that it is not only singular
from the perspective of singularity, but unique,
because we are the first beings in the history of the planet
to live in a quasi-virtual world.
For most people, in most places,
with a very large number of outcasts.
But it so happens that we, as mankind, have experienced virtualizations since the beginning.
For example, language creates time.
If Iím standing here in the present without going anywhere,
I might not be futureless, as Iíve just mentioned.
Iíve seen some kinds of behaviors from some people,
at some instants in time,
but I may be an ant.
Because without language, I canít tell stories or make plans.
Techniques virtualize actions by creating tools,
instruments, technological systems.
So, those who have no access to the techniques,
in the words of David Leans, in their interviews in Polynesia,
are ëbaggage-freeí,
people who have not accumulated technical knowledge or mastered the tools
in order to participate competently in the present
and begin to build the future.
And the third virtualization that we experience in mankind for a long time now,
based on languages and techniques, is that of contracts,
which is our way to virtualize violence.
Because we have a civil code, laws, court systems, etc.,
we do not need to get into a fist fight with other people to settle things.
When this happens, society reacts
and you go to a place where the present is squared.
If we do not have contracts at any point in time when we live,
we will have a barbaric State, in which the law of the strongest is all there is.
In this particular way of seeing things, we have always been virtual.
But we are not special,
even with all that, even with language since the dawn of mankind,
even with technologies such as the wheel and mastering the fire,
even with the millennial contracts of ancient societies,
we are still, as the ad used to say, mammals.
And mammals have an interesting property.
Looking and at the history of all of them on planet Earth, here and now,
from coming to the planet to extinction, 2 million years went by.
Weíve been here for 200 thousand.
I put this transparency here in red on black
because we are working desperately
to make our existence here as short as possible!
We might now make it to the average of mammals who are I donít know, more intelligent,
like the sloth, for example.
But if all goes well, we still have 1.8 million years to come.
Therefore, if the last five thousand which are those for which we have notions,
albeit rudimentary, of mathematics, of logics, of contracts,
of techniques, of actions, of language, theyíre an absolute nothing
compared to the next 1.8 million years.
This is not necessarily the way it happens,
because as the Copernicus principle states, once more, as rewritten by Richard Gott,
that we are not special,
that whatever happens to any human group,
family of ants or anything, is that, in the horizon of events
within that society, within that civilization, planet, mankind we want,
we are generally neither at this green part here, where things start,
nor in this red part, where things end.
We are somewhere around the middle, here,
and, in our case, on planet Earth,
we may be pressing this entire red future
into this yellow thing, with alert signs all around.
This means that, if we donít take good care of the yellow stuff,
we may get red pretty soon
and those 1.8 million years could be nothing but unachievable futures.
What we want is to push the red over there
so that we get a lot of gray in here
so that we can discuss the next 1 million years of our civilization.
This implies in us having to think long and hard
about sustainability and about adaptability.
How do we adapt to a condition
that we have mostly brought upon ourselves?
Apparently, with almost complete certainty.
And that if we donít adapt and if we donít adapt our tools,
instruments, society, very quickly,
we will be literally futureless.
Or, at least, that's what Darwin used to say in all contexts.
Darwin said that,
if we are really living in networks,
and a network is a set of agents which are independent in context,
competing and cooperating to survive,
then those who donít adapt very quickly
to the demands of the new context will be extinct.
Or, at the very least, they'll devolve in the chain of value of the mankind around us.
And when we talk about networks and talk about mankind,
we are talking about network infrastructures
which, once again, are not new, weíve been building them for thousands of years,
the infrastructures of movement, tracks in the woods, human roads,
the infrastructures of shelter, the first houses,
the first halls used to produce stuff, the first factories,
the fist fixed physical structures we built
to store people, animals and stuff in;
the support infrastructures,
such as water and sewage, and, more recently, energy,
here, in black and red, because...you know exactly why.
And, more recently in the history of the planet, the information infrastructure
as we witness it, as we experience it today.
This information infrastructure depends on three things
we usually donít mention because we think theyíre too complex.
First, the ability to compute things using digital systems,
binary systems, based on 0 and 1, and to do this very quickly;
the second is to transfer digital information very quickly
from one place to another;
the third is the ability to control.
These are the three Cs: communication, computation and control.
They create that which we may call informatics.
But if we exaggerate a little bit and compare it with electricity,
I think we create something called ëinformaticityí,
which is informatics that is as simple as electricity,
which we use just by plugging something to the wall
or clicking a switch and things happen
when thereís no blackout.
The thing about informaticity is that it is perhaps the most disseminated,
the widest and most radically universal platform we are creating in this century,
in most places in the countryside and in the outskirts of Brazil.
Informatics is getting there faster than sewage and its treatment,
just so we have an idea.
The introduction of this informaticity has been accelerating, in society.
Between 1965 and 2005, the computational, communication and control capacity
for the same price was multiplied by 1 billion.
Thatís 9 zeroes.
We are talking about capacity for the same price.
In the forty years between 1965 and 2005
we saw our computational and communication power grow
by 1 billion times for the same amount of money.
When will we have another capacity increase of one billion times
for the same price?
The answer is: until 2030, in the 25 years between 2005 and 2030.
So, the first good news and bad news in this conversation are this:
if you think youíve seen it all you are in for a surprise.
Seriously, this? Seriously! I mean it.
Black letters on white.
So what, what do we make of this?
This acceleration will also correspond to an acceleration of competitions,
of all competitions, between the systems, between the people, between the corporations...
But thereíll also be an acceleration in the possibilities for cooperation.
I can cooperate much more,
I can do much more stuff
with much more people within a context
of abundance of information and knowledge
in which we entirely change the motto of, for example, education.
If, in the past, I had to memorize things,
now I have to learn processes, methods and structures on a meta level,
above the content for which I elicit, elaborate, capture, and generate new knowledge,
conducting cooperation processes with the systems,
with the people, with the networks around me.
In my personal interpretation,
this creates a number of opportunities in education,
an absolutely fantastic, gigantic, almost indescribable number,
before data and facts, and even in Brazil--
You must have seen this data here
several times in other places too,
we have hundreds, or, in reality...
hundreds is pushing...
120, 130 thousand LAN houses. and 150 million cell phones today.
This is a medium of digital inclusion and connection of everyone within a web.
In the case of most mobile phones,
it is a second-rate web,
but soon, in the same web where everyone in this room is.
This educational process has to be radically transformed
into a learning process.
I donít know how many hours of your undergraduate courses
you have spent asleep in the classroom, but I have counted mine.
I was asleep through 75% of my undergraduate course,
which granted me two hernias.
And still, I passed, and Iím here, I mean...
Sleeping in class doesnít make any difference.
This process, which runs from here to there, has to transform
into a community process of continuous learning
within a context of ëcompetitioní,
which is competing and cooperating at the same time,
intensively using the tools which are the pencils of today,
such as this, which writes and erases, as we can see here.
This change process in the educational system
will lead to a system that Beagles refers to as "whole mode"
which is concentrated on a structure
of mind assembly for people,
of clear assembly mechanisms with standard syllabi and content
peopleís minds, and restrictions like:
everyone cannot do that, they canít do this,
they canít do that other stuff either, they have to ask permission.
We have to break free from this mechanism of structures,
assemblies, restrictions and measures,
and enter a mechanism which is increasingly conjunctural and mutually articulated
to solve problems, to reach substance from structure.
This change of mechanism one, based on housing structures,
Iíll teach you everything, ëjust in caseí.
This has to be radically and urgently changed
in all the levels of the educational system into a conjuncture mechanism
in which I learn ëjust in timeí when I need it, if I need it.
And this requires us to have that meta level,
the basic level in the transition process.
From one to two, it doesnít mean that one will completely disappear
and that now there are no rules in education.
The other day I asked my students
if theyíd love to have just this method here,
and then weíd never have to go to school again.
ëSchool's out forever for everí.
I think weíll have a combination, of establishing processes and methods.
On level one, this is the basic process of communication and dissemination
and weíll have a much more intense level two
in connectivity and interaction,
but in such coexistence
that this guy becomes much more important than the discourse from here to there,
the collective reflection of this room and breaking the walls, beyond this room,
in the network, out of time, delocalizing and desynchronizing
the geography of knowledge, of human actions.
Thatís what I think weíll see in the near future.
This module is the network mode, of course, weíre just repeating it,
but itís also the peripheral mode,
in which the center loses power systematically and irreversibly
as the abundance of connections and
learning opportunities spread through the network.
That's when we have more than issues, we have real problems,
thatís when we have the opportunity to create connections
to interact and create new knowledge
in a process that is essentially innovative,
which is a process that I donít know how to conduct.
Itís a learning process based on the imperfect execution of the unknown,
and I donít have methods for everything, and I donít have to have methods for everything
because Iíll never have methods for everything, ever again.
Actually, we never had methods for everything.
And very few methods were good and sufficed
for the things they set out to solve.
Imperfect execution of the unknown means
a world in permanent beta mode.
We will never go back to the general idea of perfection
which we may have had
during a certain time in the history of mankind.
How will this happen?
Through collaboration.
In order to collaborate, what do we need?
We need to know a few basic things, our concepts;
we need to be able to execute some other things,
regardless of these concepts;
we need to have connections with people,
with institutions, with systems;
and we need to be curious and trusting of the world out there.
To set up a cognitive partnership, to set up a partnership of business results,
with those who are there, looking at us with the same collaboration eyes.
And thatís the essential and central motto of social networks,
which is where, in my opinion, weíll live until the end of time.
Because this is how we have always lived.
Deep down, we, humans, gregarious, collaborative, connected,
we have always been social networks.
What has changed is that we now have, for more and more people,
and soon for all the world, virtual support.
Thank you, and good afternoon.