Last year’s wishes

One of the interesting things to me about TED is the TED Prize. Each year, the TED community recognizes three amazing innovators and honors them with a cash prize, and wishes, which the community then tries to implement. Last year, TED gave three prizes and gave each recipient three wishes. (This year, each will be getting one big wish.)

The session starts with a review of last year’s wishes and their fulfillment. A movie gives an overview of the progress on these wishes:

Bono (rock star, champion arm-twister) wished for:

– a movement of more than a million social activists for Africa. One.org (which I hadn’t previously heard of) was a response to this, helping mobilize 25 million text messages as part of the Live 8 event, and to this wish being considered a success.

– a “media hit” for every person on the planet living on less than a dollar a day. This was easily accomplished with billions of web hits to promote the Make Poverty History campaign.

– internet connectivity for every school, hospital and clinic in Ethiopia. With advice from the TED community (me included) and a great deal of research, this idea was abandoned as being not the right thing to do at the moment. But John Gage of Sun is working on very similar ideas in Rwanda right now.

Robert Fischell (medical innovator) wished for ways to use electrical stimulus techniques invented to help with epilepsy to help with other diseases. His first two wishes had to do with using this technique for OCD and for treatment of migranes. It’s now in clinical trials for OCD and there’s a device in production for migranes.

The third wish was for efforts to tackle the problems of malpractice litigation – TED responded by building a blog, thismakesmesick.com, which has helped mobilize efforts and brought Fischell into dialog over Maryland’s new medical malpractice laws.

My friend Ed Burtynsky (photographer, environmentalist) was honored for his photos of environmental devestation. He wished for:

– support for Worldchanging.com – TED gave $300,000 from the Sapling Foundation, which has served as core funding for the project.

– a competition that would motivate kids to create inventions focused on sustainability. This is turning into a project called “In My World”, which may be a major production hosted by WGBH.

– mentoring to help make an IMAX film. Jonathan Barker, an experienced IMAX producer, is now helping him produce his first feature.

Chris Anderson made it clear that Bono’s failed wish had some positive upsides – it got TED to think very seriously about the problems of working in Africa… and the positives. So TED is now planning its next global conference in Arusha, Tanzania on June 3-6th, 2007. The conference is titled “Africa: the Good News”, and is being designed to have widespread participation from people on the continent, and will include an investment fund to support projects featured at the conference.


My friend Andrew Heavens of Meskel Square has some good questions about why Bono’s Ethiopia wish failed. I promise a full answer, from my perspective, when I’m not sitting in TED, trying to liveblog this thing. Please read Andrew’s post – it’s really important.

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2 Responses to Last year’s wishes

  1. Pingback: …My heart’s in Accra » Why TED said no to Bono

  2. Pingback: afrotechie » Blog Archive » The dream is over

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