Thoughts on Uncharted, Day 2

Here are my notes for the second day of the Uncharted Festival, Berkeley. For Part 1, click here.

Why make music?

Matias Tarnopolsky and Lance Knobel

Originally, John Adams was supposed to give this talk, but he declined due to the controversy over his recently staged opera, “The Death of Klinghoffer.” The two speakers mainly talked about the controversy and about the power of music that imitates real life.

Inside the Islamic State

Steve Coll & Lance Knobel

Coll talked about creating a safe frontier for journalists who are reporting in the Middle East. As an aspiring journalist, it’s scary to see stories about other journalists who travel to the war zone and never come back home. I wanted to ask about what he thought about an idea I saw somewhere on the Internet: that women are the main victims in wars started by men.

The lexicon of sustainability

Douglas Gayeton, Laura Howard-Gayeton & Tracey Taylor

This one was surprisingly interesting to me, especially since I don’t usually think about the way the food system works. One of their mantras is “words are powerful,” which I totally agree with. Their main goal is to break down the barrier in the food business and help people understand where their food comes from and how it’s produced (aka “seeding knowledge”). They travel to different farms and invite people tell their own stories.

Nowadays, a farmer who wants to sell tomatoes to a local Safeway store must send the tomatoes off to central food distributor before it can be trucked back to the very same Safeway. This broken food distribution system really changed the way I think about food. Sadly, I’m still too lazy to take up their challenge of buying an item of food only after I’ve seen the face of its producer. 😦

Is disruption overrated?

Dev Patnaik & Lance Knobel

Most inspiring of the day! My favorite quote from Patnaik is that to get people to change, you have to “make the current state of crapitude tangible.” In order to make progress, you have to grow personally and learn from every situation. We as a society should also reward successful failures and punish inaction instead of discouraging failure and risk-taking. Failure is very much defined by society, especially through standardized testing.

When kids plan cities

Deborah McKoy & Daniel Schifrin

You would never think that kids can get together to plan out urban spaces, but they can! McKoy’s “Y-Plan” program attempts to break down the four walls of the school and expand learning spaces. Interestingly enough, kids from Japan found Telegraph Ave dirty, while children from Mali commented on how clean Telegraph is.

Can appropriate technology be inappropriate?

Shashi Buluswar & Joshua Bloom

This was a slightly more complex conversation to follow. Basically, Buluswar is working on making specialized fridges to improve the transportation of vaccines, and I got the sense of urgency from him when he mentions how many people are dying daily from a lack of vaccinations. It’s also interesting to think that professors get tenure by publishing papers/books instead of producing actual work (more relevant to scientific fields).

Farmacology: health from the ground up

Daphne Miller & Marissa La Brecque

Miller, a physician, introduced to us the field of “medicinal ecology,” which she coined herself to describe the way she examines how natural spaces can promote healing. (This is preventative, not clinical medicine.) She also commented that the community produces changes in individual habits, yet we blame individuals for being unable to change themselves.

My 3-D future

Carl Bass & Quentin Hardy

So apparently Autodesk is now investing in 3-D printing! You can now buy DNA! I was slightly unnerved by the idea that people were programming life forms- something could go terribly wrong now that we’re messing with the blueprint of nature. But I do hope that chemotherapy one day becomes a “barbaric” way of “curing” cancer.

Being ourselves in a post-social world.

Scott Rosenberg & Kate Losse

Losse actually worked with Mark Zuckerburg in the past, so she knew the inner workings of Facebook well. It was interesting how Facebook started out as such a private place open to only those at Harvard or Johns Hopkins (Losse’s school) and became what it is now. It makes sense that Myspace was so readily supplanted by all these Facebook and Twitter platforms, because the latter platforms allow you to create identities for yourself instead of dealing with trolls and custom layouts a la middle school. Losse also points out that every status you post is for a general audience on Facebook, and you wouldn’t necessarily act the same way with everyone in real life.

Can art bridge cultural and political divides?

Mina Girgis & Daniel Schifrin

Girgis’s Nile Project is such an interesting concept for me, as a musician. I love the idea that musicians can be at the forefront of cultural communication, that people have different, opposing cultures can come together just to play music. I’ve definitely experienced cross-cultural bonding before, having played percussion with university students in China. On a side note, it’s interesting to hear that Egyptians and Ethiopians don’t necessarily see themselves as Africans, even though we often lump them together as such.

The 2% problem: why isn’t Silicon Valley diverse?

Kalimah Priforce & Lance Knobel

Priforce started his talk with a video of a hackathon for lower income kids, which focused on African-American girls. He said that the low percentage of black people in the tech community (2%!) indicates a lack of a pipeline from the Oakland “hood” and other low-income communities to the high-tech companies. He was so inspirational, and I found myself thinking, “Yes, everyone should be able to learn how to code.”


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