TEDxHollywood talks technology vs. humanity in today’s media and tech industry

By in M&E
On October 6, 2016

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It was a great day spent at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse as the LA lorries rubbed shoulders with a diverse group of media, futurists, artists and directors for TEDxHollywood 2016.  As an independently organized TED conference, TEDx is a program of local events that bring people together in small groups in a TED-like setting. Since 2009, TEDx has held nearly 15,000 events across the world discussing ideas and themes that affect the local community and beyond. Technology and humanity was the theme of this year’s Hollywood event, where each speaker led their own discussion about how both are intertwined as we advance as a society.

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The morning kicked off with the sounds of djembe drums led by the international music group Do You Speak Djembe? The band led the audience through an interactive lesson playing the drums reminding us about the importance of reconnecting with ourselves, much like we were connecting our heartbeats to the rhythms of the drums. This was a special moment for attendees and the group, as it was their first performance in the United States.

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Privacy, social media, and the 24-hour news cycle impact journalism and public opinion
When discussing technology and what is considered private or public information, social media’s impact will always be a hot topic. Mathew Belloni, executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard highlighted the fact that people mistrust the media but are consuming it at an all-time high.

What is considered public news and how it’s distributed has radically changed. Should our laws now reflect this massive shift in how we consume media? Because of this over consumption of information and never-satiated appetite for new headlines, Emmy Award-winning television journalist Abbie Boudreau brought up thought-provoking questions as she explained her journey working as an investigative journalist. After working in the field for some time, she started to ask herself: ‘What lines must be drawn and will we ever have unbiased journalism again?’ She believes that today, the investigative journalist is the everyday person, as technology allows us to report the realities of our world without the skew of an agenda.

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Virtual reality to enhance entertainment and interconnectivity
In a reflection of recent trends in the tech industry, virtual reality was the main focus for futurist Brian David Johnson, Félix & Paul Studios’ chief content officer Ryan Horrigan, and USC professor and animator Hao Li. Even actor and director Jon Favreau spent time on the subject. All shared very different viewpoints. Johnson, who thinks science fiction will save business, believes artificial intelligence will not be seen in the fantastical way of talking robots, but more as sentient tools. In cinema, Horrigan discussed how virtual reality is the new experiential stage and will make storytelling an actual experience for the audience rather than viewing a story from the outside looking in. By removing the fourth wall, VR stories will allow for presence and intimacy with characters – a new access that will connect the audience like never before.

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Are we ready for the jobs of tomorrow?
It seems the pace of technological advances is moving at a rapid pace, but what does this mean for jobs? CEO and founder of Working Nation, Art Bilger, described the potential economic and social crisis that could occur from the pace of technology, globalization and the skills gap. He believes that Millennials have a chance to change the world, but must face these problems and come up with answers for a job shortage that is soon to come.

Digital natives and the evolution of the classroom
Media personality and CEO of the GENYOUth Foundation, Alexis Glick, spoke passionately about the role of our youth in the future. Technology gives them a voice to solve real-world problems and an opportunity to be heard. To remove the barrier of age to accomplishment, technology levels the platform allowing anyone to make a difference. Inventor of Pong and Atari, Nolan Bushnell agreed with Glick. He spoke about the end of teaching as we know it, calling for a new kind of classroom that more resembles a startup, allowing children to learn at their own pace and through updated technology.

As a society, we’re always connected through our phones, tablets or laptops. For better or worse, we’re always accessible. We’re able to interact with people anywhere in the world through social media and the internet, but we can get lost in this digital world forgetting to be present in the moment.

That’s why it’s easy to pit technology and humanity against one another in a never-ending struggle. We must learn to balance the two, taking time to unplug and reset. The event posed important questions about the way we consume media and use technology in today’s world. It also inspired us to use all of the technology at our fingertips to create more, whether new methods to help children learn or new ways of storytelling. If we use it wisely, technology will not cause us to lose our humanness. It will make our lives better.

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