Symbiotic: The talks of TED@BCG 2020


Is TikTok changing the way we work and learn? Qiuqing Tai talks about the rise of short-form videos at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

How can we make advances in technology that don’t require massive job losses? Work with nature to protect both the planet and humanity? Ensure all people are treated equitably? In a day of talks, interviews and performances, 17 speakers and performers shared ideas about a future in which people, technology and nature thrive interdependently.

The event: TED@BCG: Symbiotic is the ninth event TED and Boston Consulting Group have partnered around to bring leaders, innovators and changemakers to the stage to share ideas for solving society’s biggest challenges. Hosted by TED’s Corey Hajim along with BCG’s Seema Bansal, Rocío Lorenzo and Vinay Shandal, with opening remarks from Rich Lesser, CEO of BCG.

Music: The group Kolinga, fronted by lead singer Rébecca M’Boungou, perform the original song “Nguya na ngai” — a stunning rendition that’s equal parts music, poetry and dance.

The talks in brief:

Qiuqing Tai, video visionary

Big idea: Short-form videos — 60 seconds or less, made and shared on apps like TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram — are changing the way we work, communicate and learn.

How? More than 1.5 billion people around the world regularly watch short videos, and more than half of them are under the age of 24, says Qiuqing Tai. This bite-sized content is quickly becoming the new normal, with people turning to it not only for entertainment but also to discover new interests and skills. Meanwhile, businesses use short-form videos to find new customers and diversify their audiences. In 2019, Tai led a research study with TikTok, finding that the platform’s short-form content generated an estimated $95 billion in goods and services sold, and helped create 1.2 million jobs globally. There has also been an explosion in short-form educational content, as social enterprises and education startups experiment with 15-second videos for people who want to learn on the fly. There are valid concerns about this young medium, Tai admits — data privacy, the addictive nature of the format, the lack of contextual nuance — but, with the right investment and policymaking, she believes the benefits will ultimately outweigh the drawbacks.


Matt Langione, quantum advocate

Big idea: If not traditional supercomputers, what technology will emerge to arm us against the challenges of the 21st century?

What will it be? For nearly a century, we’ve relied on high-performance computers to meet critical, complex demands — from cracking Nazi codes to sequencing the human genome — and they’ve been getting smaller, faster and better, as if by magic. But that magic seems to be running out due to the physical limitations of the traditional supercomputer, says Matt Langione — and it’s…



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