John Robb

John RobbJohn Robb was born in Blackpool, fired by the punk rock DIY ethic he put together his legendary cult band the Membranes. At the same time he started his own fanzine before moving onto the music press and writing for Sounds where he coined the phrase Britpop and was the first person to interview Nirvana, the Stone Roses and the whole of the emerging Manchester scene. From this platform he went onto be regular radio and TV pundit and presenter and author of best selling music culture books including ‘Stone Roses and the Resurrection of British pop’ and ‘the oral History Of Punk rock. He is currently the boss of one of the UK’s main music culture website www.louderthanwar.com, fronts a reformed Membranes whose critically acclaimed Dark Matter/Dark Energy album combined the Universe into life and death an a post punk trip.

Sabine Hauert

Sabine HauertSabine Hauert is Assistant Professor in Robotics at the University of Bristol in the UK. Her research focusses on engineering swarms across scales, from trillions of nanoparticles for cancer treatment to thousands of robots. Profoundly cross-disciplinary, Sabine works between Engineering Mathematics, the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, and Life Sciences. Before joining the University of Bristol, she engineered nanoparticles for cancer treatment at MIT, and deployed swarms of flying robots at EPFL.

Sabine is also President and Co-founder of Robohub.org, a non-profit dedicated to connecting the robotics community to the world. As an expert in science communication with 10 years of experience, Sabine is often invited to discuss the future of robotics and AI, including in the journals Nature and Science, at the European Parliament, and at the Royal Society.

Her work has been featured in mainstream media including BBC, CNN, The Guardian, The Economist, TEDx, WIRED, and New Scientist.

Simon Johnson

Simon Johnson is a game designer who specialises in enabling people to play in real, social spaces. He designs experiences to amaze, exhilarate, activate and promote understanding. Simon currently runs a startup called Free Ice Cream dedicated to making complex subjects playable.

In 2008 Simon co-founded Slingshot and was a company director for 7 years. Slingshot was a real world games company. They delivered real world gaming experiences to over 60,000 players worldwide. Slingshot was about offering a proposition that was simultaneously ridiculous and appealing. They were known primarily for 2.8 Hours Later. The original city-wide zombie chase game. It has inspired many others to take up gaming as a form. Along the way they also won several media innovation awards.

Way back in 2008 Simon set up iglab, the world’s first pervasive testing games lab. It was a means to popularise pervasive gaming as a form and to introduce new artists and designers to the possibilities offered by play, games and the city .

2008 also saw the inception of igfest; an international festival of street games and playful experiences. Simon directed and curated the festival for six years bringing in some of the finest games designers from around the world and working closely with the community of international peers.

Simon was a founder resident here a the Pervasive Media Studio. With the work and research Simon did here then he helped shape the agenda of the pervasive media studio toward the use of play as a strategic goal for urban development.

In 2016 Simon set up a new game studio Free Ice Cream. They are focused on making games that enable people to play with subjects that are in one way or another very complex. The first major commission saw us develop a game called 2030 Hive Mind. It is a real time policy simulation that sat at the core of The Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development AKA The Playable Conference.

Simon keep a poorly updated ludography of old games at s-j.io

Neil Lawrence

Neil Lawrence leads Amazon Research Cambridge where he is a Director of Machine Learning. He is on leave of absence from the University of Sheffield where he is a Professor in Computational Biology and Machine Learning in the Department of Computer Science.

He received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Southampton in 1994. Following a period as an field engineer on oil rigs in the North Sea he returned to academia to complete his PhD in 2000 at the Computer Lab in Cambridge University. He spent a year at Microsoft Research in Cambridge before leaving to take up a Lectureship at the University of Sheffield, where he was subsequently appointed Senior Lecturer in 2005. In January 2007 he took up a post as a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Computer Science in the University of Manchester where he worked in the Machine Learning and Optimisation research group. In August 2010 he returned to Sheffield to take up a collaborative Chair in Neuroscience and Computer Science.

Neil’s main research interest is machine learning through probabilistic models. He focuses on both the algorithmic side of these models and their application. He has a particular focus on applications in personalized health and computational biology, but happily dabbles in other areas such as speech, vision and graphics.

Neil was Associate Editor in Chief for IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (from 2011-2013) and is an Action Editor for the Journal of Machine Learning Research. He was the founding editor of the Proceedings of Machine Learning Research (2006) and is currently series editor. He was an area chair for the NIPS conference in 2005, 2006, 2012 and 2013, Workshops Chair in 2010 and Tutorials Chair in 2013. He was General Chair of AISTATS in 2010 and AISTATS Programme Chair in 2012. He was Program Chair of NIPS in 2014 and was General Chair for 2015. He is one of the founders of the DALI Meeting and Data Science Africa.

TEDxExeterSalon 2017

TEDxExeter Salon 2017

Watch talks from tech themed TEDxExeterSalon online now

Artificial intelligence, pop culture and online privacy are just some of the subjects explored in six enlightening new talks released by TEDxExeter.

Videos from the first TEDxExeterSalon are now available to watch online, following the sell-out event at the Barnfield Theatre in October.

The talks – which can be found on the TEDx Talks YouTube channel – include insights into the latest developments in machine learning, how games are being used to understand complex problems like climate change, and the fundamental differences between artificial intelligence and the human brain.

Total views for talks from previous TEDxExeter events now stand at nearly 17 million.

The six talks just published on You Tube – each lasting around 15 minutes – are:

The coming privacy crisis on the Internet of Things, by Alasdair Allan, scientist, author, hacker, and journalist;

Artificial intelligence, video games and the mysteries of the mind, by Raia Hadsell, research scientist on the Deep Learning team at DeepMind;

Engineering swarms to solve global problems: From robots to nanoparticles, by Sabine Hauert, Assistant Professor in Robotics at the University of Bristol;

Playing with complexity: From zombies to climate change, by Simon Johnson, co-director of Bristol-based games company Free Ice Cream;

Living together: Mind and machine intelligence, by Neil Lawrence, Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Sheffield and founder of Amazon Research Cambridge;

Pop culture and technology: The shock of the new, by John Robb, music journalist, singer and founder of The Membranes.

The TEDxExeterSalon took place at the Barnfield Theatre on Saturday, October 7, and was broadcast live to the Exeter Phoenix’s Studio 74, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and a large screen on Exeter’s Cathedral Green.

The release of the talks comes as tickets for TEDxExeter’s 2018 ideas festival are due to go on sale via the Exeter Northcott Theatre box office at 10am on Friday, December 1. This year’s event sold out within minutes, and demand is again expected to be extremely high. Tickets for the live event at the Exeter Northcott on Friday, April 20, will cost £75, with tickets for the simultaneous livestream in the university’s Alumni Auditorium costing £25, including lunch and refreshments.

Claire Kennedy, licensee and curator of TEDxExeter, said: “We were privileged to bring together an exceptional group of speakers who are carrying out groundbreaking research in technology which is transforming our world.

“Feedback from those who attended the TEDxExeterSalon has been overwhelmingly positive, with audience members describing the talks as ‘thought provoking’, ‘fascinating’ and ‘mind expanding’.

“We’re really excited that our speakers’ ideas are now being shared with a global audience around the world.”

TEDxExeter is a not-for-profit event organised by a team of volunteers and made possible by support from sponsors, including local businesses. TEDxExeter’s 2017 annual ideas festival in April was attended by a combined audience of more than 900 people in the Exeter Northcott theatre and Exeter University’s Alumni Auditorium. Thousands more people were watching the live stream at over 180 gatherings in more than 50 countries around the world.

Thank you to our sponsors for our Salon event:

Guest Blog – Finding Hope Closer To Home

TEDxExeter was my first time at a TEDx event and it was everything that I had expected: inspirational people sharing stories and ideas to make you rethink your point of view. Lots of these stories were from around the world, a chance to hear first hand from people who are affected by the refugee crisis, radicalism and more. However, for me the talk that stood out was one that was a little closer to home – Toby and Jo Gorniak, a couple from Plymouth who, through Hip Hop dance, were changing the lives of young people.

The words of the poem that accompanied the performance really touched me because it used the real words of young people they’d worked with. They talked about feeling invisible, confused and the need to just to be loved.

I grew up with children just like those they talked about: some of my friends were children whose home lives were far from perfect. They were moved from home to home and were surrounded by alcohol, drugs, anger and self harm, with parents so stretched mentally and financially that there wasn’t much room left.

I was lucky, that despite a tough situation, my parents gave me hope and permission to dream. The message in my family was always: if you worked hard you could make it. But for some they were not so lucky. They accepted that this was how it was and I saw close friends’ lives take a more destructive journey.

So beyond the dancing and their background, seeing how Toby and Jo Gorniak had found a way of giving children a purpose and a chance for their voice to be heard, truly does fill me with hope.

TEDxExeter is all about being inspired, sharing new ideas and discussing how we can make a positive impact on our local communities. At Stephens Scown we like to keep our eyes, ears and minds open to new ideas and we have gained so much from our involvement in TEDxExeter. We are proud to be sponsors for the 3rd year.

Blog written by Kerry England, Marketing Executive, Stephens Scown

Ultimate HOPE

In the past few months, I’ve written several times about death in my two series of blogs on the TEDxExeter 2017 theme of HOPE, and on things that interest me which have a TED or TEDx angle: the death of Carrie Fisher highlighted her last (CGI-created) word in Rogue One; the death of Richard Adams caused me to reflect on the work of Susan Cain on introverted leadership, and how it appears in Watership Down; the death of Hans Rosling made me think about taking responsiblity for our own statistics; and in the last week or so, I’ve considered the response to the Westminster attack and quoted reflections after the death of John Berger.

It is probably one of the ways I am grieving my own father’s death last November. Also, I tend not to be squeamish about talking about death. Death makes me think about life, especially during Spring, and especially especially at Easter. Denial of death, and use of euphemisms like ‘passing’, are much more likely to make me squirm.

I agree with Benjamin Franklin: “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. Although certainty can for a time be comfortable, it is a living death. For me, faith and doubt are two sides of the same coin, and faith and certainty are in opposition to each other. Paying attention to this world and to my life of prayer can only get me so far. How can I possibly know the mind of God? Uncertainty is fruitful, in the mulch of faith.

Ships are not built to stay in harbour, but to put out into the deep. Some may be freighted low in the water; others are short on ballast. Some congregate in flotillas and convoys; others are a lone sail on the horizon. Some are navigationally-challenged and wallow in circles; others find their Polestar and sail straight and true. But all risk storm and doldrum, even those which stay close to harbour tacking to and fro, or which don’t leave at all.

Hope pulls, love pushes, and faith supports. To those of us who will make landfall briefly together at TEDxExeter tomorrow, whether in the Northcott or via the livestream, what are your hopes? What are your hopes for the day, and for your life? What are you going to do about them? As Carol Ann Duffy wrote in Snow, “what will you do now with the gift of your left life?”

Our Speakers will have their own hopes, and tomorrow I hope to hear many of them. Today are the Speaker rehearsals, but this year I won’t be there. I am instead singing at a friend’s funeral. So I will leave you for now with these words from Benedictus by John O’Donohue, which her family has shared. Even in the darkest places and the fiercest storms, there is always hope.

May you be given some inkling
That there could be something else at work
And that what to you now seems
Dark, destructive and forlorn,
Might be a destiny that looks different
From inside the eternal script.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

Imaging HOPE

Images are extraordinarily powerful. Those able to see, see before we learn to read, and orient our world by sight. One of the articles after art critic John Berger’s death in January applied his ‘language of images’ to Trump, polar bears and Kim Kardashian.

Berger was optimistic about the age of the mass-circulating reproduced image: “For the first time ever, images of art have become ephemeral, ubiquitous, insubstantial, available, valueless, free. They surround us in the same way as a language surrounds us … If the new language of images were used differently, it would, through its use, confer a new kind of power. Within it we could begin to define our own experiences more precisely in areas where words are inadequate.”

He was a moral man who wanted a better world, and his art criticism is ultimately an eloquent argument for social justice and ethical behaviour. But the article goes on to note that “vacuous, deceitful, falsely seductive, grossly manipulative images have never bombarded our semi-conscious minds so shamelessly. … We have more images than compassion… In a world shaped, as ours is, by what Berger called ‘the language of images’, people don’t think too clearly.”

Should we be hopeful or despairing? Here is a triptych of further art-related articles presenting both sides.

“The drop in museum visitors reveals a nation without aspiration or hope”

“There is nothing more aspirational than visiting a museum or art gallery. It is an expression of hope and self-esteem.” writes Jonathan Jones. “Just as lying in bed all day binge-watching TV [let’s call this ‘Berger-negative’] and eating crisps is probably a mark of melancholy. Going out to an exhibition [ie ‘Berger-positive’] or taking your kids to the Natural History Museum is surely a symbol of belief in your family and the future.”

Jones diagnoses the causes of falling visitors numbers as not the shrinking of minds or the internet making young people turn away from art and knowledge. Rather, the causes are “the same economic pressures that have uprooted politics around the world”, which mean fewer school trips, and fewer adults making time to go to museums and galleries and take children with them on visits.

His prognosis is gloomy: “Britain is failing its young people, and losing the passion for self-improvement that our free public museums used to nurture. A nation that loses interest in museums has not just lost its head. It has lost hope.”

My prescription? Watch Camilla Hampshire’s talk “Home to a Million Thoughts” from TEDxExeter 2013, and go visit RAMM. And get stuck into some of the many goings on during Art Week Exeter over 13-21 May.

Art to inspire

Various famous people appeared in a Guardian piece at the dawn of 2017, reflecting on works of art that fill them with energy, optimism, hope and zest.

From the introduction, again by Jonathan Jones:

Aristotle, the first person to think seriously about art’s purpose, claimed that watching a tragedy was a “cleansing”, a catharsis that purified your soul. So seeing the stage covered in bodies at the end of Hamlet is the best emotional detox you can have.

This is what makes art so much more valuable than some inspirational video or self-help book. It does not feed us fake remedies for life’s ills. Instead, it speaks to our innermost selves in a way we recognise as true. What it tells us is that other people feel like we do, that we are not alone. “He was despised and rejected of men,” goes the line in Handel’s Messiah, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” It is one of the most inspiring of all musical uplifts – and it works by accepting and transcending pain, rather than denying it. All kinds of art can provide the inspiration we need, and it is a sustenance like no other.

Here is philosopher Alain de Botton on Chardin’s “Woman Taking Tea”:

Art can teach us to be more just towards ourselves as we endeavour to make the best of our circumstances: a job we do not always love, the imperfections of age, frustrated ambitions and our attempts to stay loyal to irritable but loved families. Art can do the opposite of glamourise the unattainable: it can show us anew the genuine merit of life as we’re forced to lead it. It is advertising for the things we really need.

And here is curator Hans Ulrich Obrist on artist Etel Adnan:

She is a great inspiration to many. Although she is now in her early 90s, her art still has energy, optimism and intensity, and remains among the best work being created in the world today. It gives me courage. It reminds me of what Gerhard Richter once said: “Art is the highest form of hope.” When I asked her to write a Post-It for my Instagram project, Adnan wrote: “The world needs togetherness, not separation. Love, not suspicion. A common future, not isolation.” These words seem particularly urgent for 2017.

Drawing a way out of depression

Nick Willing, the son of artist Paula Rego, says “an artist is like an explorer who goes to worlds where no one has ever been and brings back a picture. And although we’ve never seen it before, we all recognise it.”

Rego has often suffered depression. In a particularly deep trough in 2007 it nearly killed her, according to Willing, before she “drew her way out of it”.

She created 12 large pastels of a woman – isolated, fearful, paralysed, constricted – then locked them away in a drawer. “She had put the depression into them,” says Willing, “and was afraid it could come out again.” …

Today, Rego can view the images more comfortably: “Now they’re pictures, it’s all right”. This is a theme that runs through her life and work: traumas are turned into art; difficult emotions are worked through in images…

Willing was surprised at how he reacted to the unveiling of the depression pastels. He was expecting to be shocked, to feel sorry for his mother. “But I didn’t. I didn’t see her at all. I saw depression, as I or anyone else suffers it. The art was already working.”

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

A fortnight of HOPEful responses

During 82 seconds on Wednesday 22 March, Briton Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing and injuring more than 50 people; fatally stabbed an unarmed police officer in New Palace Yard; and was shot and killed by an armed police officer. Over the next fortnight, these were some of the responses. Governments please take note.

Friday 24 March

Sheikh Mohammad al Hilli, of the Shia Muslim Council; Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis; the Chief Imam of the Central London Mosque, Sheikh Ezzat Khalifa; and the RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Nichols attended a vigil outside Westminster Abbey. The faith leaders held a minute’s silence to remember the four victims, and spoke of their determination not to let violence triumph.

Archbishop Welby said: “We have all of us come together because it is a moment of sad reflection but also of determination for our nation together. We represent the three Abrahamic faith communities, equally committed to a peaceful future”

Sunday 26 March

Muslim women gathered on Westminster Bridge to condemn the attack and show solidarity with the victims. Dozens of participants from a range of backgrounds joined them at the event, organised by Women’s March on London. One of the women said: “Islam totally condemns violence of any sort. This is abhorrent to us.” Others spoke of the “overwhelming” emotion they felt standing on the bridge. A group of women, wearing blue as a symbol of hope, stood holding hands for five minutes on Westminster Bridge as Big Ben chimed 4pm.

The Observer published this comment on the response to the attack: “Terrorist outrages can serve as a brutal reminder of humanity’s capacity for cruelty. Yet it is so often the brave responses of ordinary citizens that we remember. In London last week, the reaction to the trail of death and brutality that Khalid Masood left in his wake proved the point: the sacrifice of PC Keith Palmer, who laid down his life keeping MPs and citizens safe; the actions of the MP Tobias Ellwood, who performed first aid; the medical staff of St Thomas’ hospital who ran on to Westminster Bridge to help the wounded; and the ordinary men and women who reacted with compassion and courage to the distress of the victims.

Wednesday 29 March

Hundreds of people gathered on Westminster bridge and outside the Houses of Parliament, and police officers  held a minute’s silence outside New Scotland Yard, to pay their respects to the four people who were killed.

The acting commissioner of the Metropolitan police said: “I would urge you, if you get time, to go on to the bridge, talk to Londoners, talk and get a feel for this great city and how it’s come together in responding to these events.” One woman reflected on living through the IRA bombing campaigns in the 1980s: “I think it’s so important to show that we all stand together.” 

Wednesday 5 April

That message was echoed in the Dean’s conclusion to a service of hope held in Westminster Abbey: “We stand together; just as in this service the world faiths are represented and will pray together – above all for the gift of hope.”

National dignitaries, police officers, paramedics, and relatives of those killed lit hundreds of candles together to “our shared humanity and our resolve to bring light and life to all.”

Faith representatives, including a Muslim commander in the Met and a Sikh constable, said prayers, which ended with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, quoting the prayer ascribed to St Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make us channels of your peace… Where there is hatred let us bring your love… Where there is despair in life, let us bring hope. Where there is darkness, only light.”

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller