Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Give me a boy at 7 and I will tell you the man."

Over the past few days, I have been very taken with a documentary series called the Up Series. I picked it up at the local library (recommended!)...but you can buy it here (and then donate it to the library if you wish!!). There were two premises that the documentary sought to challenge:
  • The idea that a child at 7 ("Give me a boy at 7, and I shall tell you the man") has all the qualities and personality to take him/her into adulthood. 
  • The question of what a child at 7 would grow up to be in the year 2000, i.e. what is the future of Britain??

On this note, Michael Apted and his crew scoured England in the 1960's, and found 14 different children from uniquely different backgrounds, to follow over the course of the years. The goal was to return and film then every seven years, until the year 2000. These "children" are now age 52, and the last installment was filmed when they were 49. I have watched all the way until 42, and it is absolutely fascinating. I found myself questioning and wondering how much their child-like qualities have showcased themselves as they have grown.

The whole thing is absolutely fascinating. I'm curious to hear your own thoughts on these issues...firstly, do you believe that the entire personality of an adult is formed as a child?? 


A bit of a spoiler alert below, but if you are interested in hearing Michael Apted's point of view, watch the following interview:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Become a TEDGlobal Fellow

[via Boing Boing]
Organizers of the TED Conference announced on March 6, 2009 that they would begin the search for the inaugural class of TEDGlobal Fellows to participate in the TEDGlobal Conference in Oxford, U.K. This announcement follows the successful TED Fellows program launch at TED2009 last month in Long Beach, California. The program will accept applications for fellowships from March 6, 2009 through April 3, 2009. For more information about how individuals may apply for a TEDGlobal Fellowship, please visit. TED Fellows may apply or be nominated by another individual. To nominate a candidate, email fellows@ted.com.

Please note that TED will also be accepting nominations for the TEDIndia shortly; TEDGlobal will take about 25 candidates, while TEDIndia will take about 100. The application process for each is separate. I do believe that they have a rollover possibility for the TEDGlobal applicants, i.e. you will have the option to let your application rollover to the TEDIndia Fellowship process if you do not get into the TEDGlobal Fellows Program.

I was a TEDLong Beach Fellow and it was an amazing experience, so I would highly encourage all of you to apply. Here are some FAQs from current Fellows and separately FAQs by the TEDstaff; and here is the current TEDFellows blog.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Links I liked

1. 5 Things to do when you are unemployed.

2. How Behavioral Economics is changing the fight against poverty.

3. How to make a terrorist in pictures.

4. Offices made entirely out of cardboard.

5. A photographic tour of open sewers from around the world. I've slept and worked around these. I can assure you, they are even ickier than they look. :-)

6. The flying car or the roadworthy plane...you decide.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tea Power

I just realized that my guest post on the power of tea has been up at change.org.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Public Health Interventions in Eritrea

I found this video to be very informative and interesting, and am very curious about your thoughts on it. I've never been to Eritrea, so I'm curious about how accurate this is and what it really is like out there. Anyone??

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mike Rowe speaks about the lessons from his life.

I don't have TV or cable; but when I go over to other people's houses who have it, I love to watch the Discovery Channel and the National Geographic Channel. One of my favorite shows is Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. Mike recently gave this STELLAR talk about the lessons he has learned from his work. He talks about how practical field experience trumps academic/theoretical research (one of my pet peeves), about the happiest people he has met, about bottom-up innovation, and hard work.

I was totally blown away. The first half will make you squirm, but there's genius in what he is saying. Watch it!

Why Foreign Aid Is Hurting Africa

Above, a picture of Dambisa Moyo; below, Moyo's latest book on the subject. photo credit

In saturday's WSJ, there was a brilliant article on what aid is doing to Africa. Its written by Dambisa Moyo, a former economic consultant for (the investment bank formerly known as) Goldman Sachs. Here's a bit:

Giving alms to Africa remains one of the biggest ideas of our time -- millions march for it, governments are judged by it, celebrities proselytize the need for it. Calls for more aid to Africa are growing louder, with advocates pushing for doubling the roughly $50 billion of international assistance that already goes to Africa each year.

Yet evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that aid to Africa has made the poor poorer, and the growth slower. The insidious aid culture has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation-prone, more vulnerable to the vagaries of the currency markets and more unattractive to higher-quality investment. It's increased the risk of civil conflict and unrest (the fact that over 60% of sub-Saharan Africa's population is under the age of 24 with few economic prospects is a cause for worry). Aid is an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster.[...]

[read more]

Monday, March 23, 2009

South Asian Flavor

For the next few months, this blog might take on a more south asian flavor. That's because my current project requires me to be steeped in finding the best of the unconventional best in the South Asian sphere and I'm combing around looking for these amazing folks.

Here's what I'm looking for:
  • Between the ages of 21-40
  • Doing something truly extraordinary for/within their community preferably in South Asia.
  • A polymath
  • Speaks decent English
If you have any recommendations, please let me know.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Links I liked

1. Great Entrepreneurs should build "tribes."

2. The case for public medicine.

3. 10 interesting alternative non-profit funding models.

4. The real story behind Amazing Grace.

5. Stunning pictures from everyday life in Pakistan, in the big picture.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A wave of change is sweeping through the world

A wave of change (hopefully for the better!) is sweeping through the world; I am sure of it.

At home, a newly minted president taking over from pathetic, lackadaisical leadership stood up for the hardworking people of our country. I can only hope that other leaders of the world begin to take their lessons from him.

In a remote corner of the world, the new president of the Maldives, also taking over from bad leadership, told the world that Maldives would be carbon neutral by 2020, the first country to do so!

And only a few months ago, Bhutan's king of 30 years stepped down early to crown his 28-y/o son in power while also ushering a new move to democracy. The younger king has spent quite a bit of time abroad, including his education at Oxford and has a much more global ideological vision for moving his country forward.

And then this...I do hope that this change is also for the good...

Not sure if you heard about the coup that took place in Madagascar over the past 24 hours. But I've been following the news and been worried. SO little is known in the western world about the politics of this small island nation. I have been in regular contact with a friend of mine, based there and was quite concerned for his safety. A month ago, when we met in Los Angeles, he seemed depressed and worried about the chaos in his motherland. This morning, after a frightful 24 hours, we heard from him. This is what he had to say.

Yes, the former president was a normally good president after being elected...; but then, he got "high" on his almost unlimited powers and used it against the madagasy people´s interest.
[for example, the former president has been responsible for]:
  • selling...all the fertile land in Madagascar for 99 years [author's note: he is referring to land leasing laws that the old government has put into place]
  • the monopoly of numerous businesses for private interest.
  • the small farmers' desolate situation caused by shameless overall control of business opportunities by people with big political and economic power (on this subject there should be written a book, title: THE ORIGIN OF OUR POVERTY).
  • the mishandling of microcredits in Madagascar, in cooperation with international banks, who discovered 36% interest rates(!!) and people take it because they have no choice! Local banking institutions who want to give out domestic savings for less than half of this interest rate, are not allowed to!
  • the [mishandling and privatization] of natural resources for [private gain]
  • the suppression of democratic opposition and free media (imprisonment of opposition leaders, close dawn the tv channel, eliminate free speech and fire even too liberal cartoonists)
...these and many other political and economical phenomena, mixed into presidential powers, are the avoidable cause of the misery of our people in this moment.
THERE IS CERTAINLY NO EXCUSE FOR ANY KIND OF VIOLENCE [but there isn't an excuse for his] imprisonment of the opposition leaders, or for shooting instead of dialoging. And please let us try to put things cronologically right: the dialogue was refused and then the protesting started!
Today is a big day for me , my family and my kids => the end of Ravalomanana dictatorship in Madagascar ( He owned everything in our country and it have to stop) CHANGE

I don't know the future, and what will be happen tomorrow, but please pray for us to have a wise president who will think of the interest of the malagasy people and Madagascar which is one of the poorest countries in the world today.

I am safe and I am free and I am happy. Thank you for your love and support!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lessons from Jeff Bezos

Amazon.com Founder Jeff Bezos gave a great interview with Charlie Rose. The entire thing is available here (and below):

Lessons from Jeff Bezos:

1. Keep prices low, but not at the cost of quality.

2. Be reliable and dependable. People will trust you and stick.

3. Constantly experiment and innovate to improve the quality of your product. In this case, increase the simplicity, efficiency and delivery of your product to the customer.

4. Be prepared to fail. Failure is good, just learn from it.

5. Be culturally sensitive. Always adapt to local culture; create local jobs and use local skills as much as possible in a way that works for your organization.

6. Think long-term (be in it for the "long haul"), and be willing to be misunderstood (I'm not sure I understand this part!).

The Kindle is cool, but what happens to libraries now?? Do they all move to the third world now??

Friday, March 13, 2009

Links I liked

1. Chinese Bluegrass (hat tip: Boing Boing)

2. Time to invest in Whiskey Distillaries

3. How countries in the developing world stack up against the economic crisis.

4. How many gallons does it take to go 350 miles in various modes of transport (this I found to be particularly fascinating!)

5. A Serbian Photographer's memories of Belgrade before the war.

6. The rise and fall of Khmer Rouge in pictures.

7. Ten Fortune500 Companies that started with close to nothing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Inspirational Speech

Someone forwarded this speech to me. I wanted to stand up and cheer. This is a truly courageous person...not just because he goes on with his life, but because he has made the most of it; and he continues to inspire future generations.

(hat tip: Yatin Sethi)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sita Sings the Blues

(photo from Ninapaley.com)

I came across this extraordinarily creative endeavor by chance (and through a friend). Nina Paley is a gifted animator who took her personal story and layered it with the Hindu epic, the Ramayana to make a phenomenal story called Sita Sings the Blues. It brings together beautiful animation styles, blues music, shadow puppetry, and humor into a modern version of the ancient epic.

There are a few inaccuracies in the story of the Ramayana, but by-and-large Paley gets the point across very well; and I greatly appreciated the creativity and art of her final product.

Probably most impressively, Paley has released the entire length of the film under a "creative commons" License so that anyone anywhere can view it. You can also download pictures and make your own merchandise out of it. Unfortunately I can't embed the film. But you can view it in its entire length here.

I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend watching it.

Finally, here is Paley's personal website and the Sita Sings the Blues website. A teaser is also embedded below.

(Hat tip to Chickpea at the Garbanzo Bean)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The 1 Second Film Project

A week ago, I met filmmaker and animator Nirav Mullik who has a great idea called the 1-second film. I'm now a producer of the soon-to-be international collaborative (and so can you!)...having given him the $11 I had in my pocket that evening. Check out the concept here:

On his blog, Nirvan explains:
The 1 Second Film (the1secondfilm.com) is a non-profit collaborative project I started while at CalArts. The idea is to use art to bring people together and make a film from the ground up. All profits from the finished film will be donated to charity. So far, over 10,000 people have joined.
The 1 Second Film project is built around one-second of experimental animation (made of 12 giant paintings). Anyone can produce the film by donating $1 or more; Producers get their name in the credits listed in order of amount. With over 10,000 Producers and counting, the credits will be an hour long. We're making a feature-length documentary about the film that will play alongside the credits. We're also building an online community for our crew.

The project has received a ton of support, and continues to be an incredible journey. The film is ultimately about the process of making art, and the power of collaboration.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Update on work

A lot of people have been asking if I am back at the X PRIZE Foundation and how that project is going, or what I am upto.

Well, I finished my initial contract at the end of 2008 and then took six weeks off to relax and think about my prospects, at which point I heard from another organization who wanted me to help them work on their expansion into India. That's about as much as I can say about them for now. I'm sure I will be blogging about them soon enough and I will let you know when that happens.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Links I liked

1. Great Entrepreneurs should build "tribes."

2. Seriously cool workplaces, and 12 ways to pimp your office .

3. Floating wastewater treatment plants for floating villages in Cambodia.

4. Slums as a model for development??

5. Evidence is showing that open access is the way to truly enhance development. Others agree as well.

6. I just loved this growing idea of Science Cafes.

7. Twipple: Twittering with Loving Acts of Kindness

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Simple solutions to BIG problems

Something about this story made me very happy. Its always the simple things that have the greatest impact. Think outside-the-box, do what's right, and find the simplest way to create a solution. That's what this story taught me. The aid world should take notes!

Watch CBS Videos Online

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Beyond Good Intentions

A lot of people say that it is intention that counts. I'm hard on people...I expect more. Its simply NOT enough to just have good intentions. You need to think ten times beyond just your intention into the impact it has on the people around you.

Not convinced?? Let's take the example of suicide. Quite often, it is done with "good intentions." I used to work with suicidal teenagers...so trust me on this! Most people contemplating suicide believe that they are doing the world and their families a HUGE favor by killing off a terrible, horrible person (that's how they perceive themselves!). But the truth is that their suicide hurts the people they are most trying to help. Friends and family spend years trying to come to terms with that decision. Trust me on this too. The pain left behind is unbearable. In fact, when the kids I worked with realized how much pain they were actually causing by leaving, they often abandoned their attempts altogether.

This is an extreme example of the point I am trying to make...good intentions are simply NOT enough. The same is true of the aid world. People need to think ten times about the impact of their intention before putting it into practice. The reason aid is SO ineffective is exactly because no seems to think past the intentions.

(photo credit: http://www.beyondgoodintentions.org/Mozambique_30.jpg)

Tori Hogan (above, in Mozambique) went through a similar questioning period. Was it enough to just have good intentions?? Tori worked as an aid worker for a few years, got incredibly frustrated with the inefficiencies and left. She saved all her money from various jobs, bought a camera and went around the world asking people working in the aid world, "What makes aid effective??"

She's in the process of putting together a documentary titled Beyond Good Intentions. Tori has an interesting blog here; and a teaser video here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Become a PopTech Fellow

Become a PopTech Fellow and learn various skills from the best in the business (above an exercise in digital storytelling at the Fellows' conference. photo: Kris Krug)

PopTech is another phenomenal conference that brings together eclectic thinkers and do-ers for a three-day conference in Maine, New England, in the Fall. I've heard many people describe it as the "quaint TED." In my opinion TED is very big...1500 people in a single room is a LOT at any given time, so I would encourage you to also look at PopTech.

PopTech has an excellent Fellows program as well. I know a few of the Fellows and they have spoken very highly about it. As with TED, the PopTech Fellows' Conference precedes the main conference, and is a 3-4 day crash course in bonding and getting things done efficiently. The quality of people there is EXCELLENT...atleast what I have seen of them.

Here is a glimpse into the PopTech Fellows Program.

Apply here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

How to Make a GREAT Presentation

If you've watched Vice President Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" and loved the slideshow, and want to know HOW to make your presentations just as wonderful, then meet Duarte Design.

I met them at TED in early Feb 2009, when they gave the TED Fellows an excellent lecture about how to make effective presentations.

On their excellent blog, they have several different pieces about the projects they are working on and lots of tips on design. Probably one of their best recent posts is how they "madeover" TED speaker (who I recently featured) Barry Schwartz's slides. It gives you a step-by-step outline of how to change a typical presentation (they show Barry's slides as he gave it to them) into a much more solid one (as you see in the video below).

If you would like more detail about building effective presentations, read Nancy Duarte's excellent book Slide.ology. I have already found it extremely useful.