TEDx Geneva: Xavier Rosset — 300 days alone on an island [en]

Xavier Rosset — 300 days alone on an island

Alone on an island, with a swiss army knife and a machete. He’s from Verbier. Extreme snowboarding, finished 2nd in 2005. Quit pro snowboarding but wanted to keep traveling. What’s the opposite of me? He likes mountains and is very social => idea of spending 300 days alone on an island.

Back to nature, and survival, and a search for himself.

Took him 14 months of preparation to realize his dream. 2nd September 2008, on a plane to head to his island near Fiji.

Initially, day-to-day survival. First started collecting coco-nuts so that he would be able to drink. First coconut? 40 minutes to open it. In the end, 30 seconds.

Night? sleep, but not under a coconut tree. On the second day, he lost his camp. He didn’t have much initial information about the island before going there. Did take some information about food before leaving. Coconut is a great laxative, he learned very fast. Snails. Crabs. Mangoes. Oranges. Lemons. Was given some fishing line and 20 hooks, and a lighter. They saved his trip.

Built a shelter. Took him three weeks and two tries to get a waterproof shelter.

He also hid his watch, wanted to lose the perception of time.

10 days after his arrival, his motivation completely plummeted. Depressed, what am I doing here? Realized he wasn’t as strong as he thought. Visitors on the island! A few hours with people from Norway on a sailing boat. They were in a hurry, but Xavier didn’t know what that meant anymore. He was ready to give up.

After 75 days, he decided not to do the 300 days. It seemed so long. 150, instead. Missed his family and relatives. He felt much better with the idea of being half-way through. Found a new motivation: sleeping, because he’d dream about his family. Being alone gives you the best freedom of the world, only limits are imagination.

Christmas: called his family on the satellite phone. Very hard. They were all there. His first Christmas without his family.

30 days later, end of January, 150 days. But it wasn’t a real victory. He was used to his lifestyle, managing it better. Wanted to be able to say he had done what he set out to do. So he added 50 more days, 200.

Water: he used 3-5 litres of fresh water a day. In Switzerland, we use 160 litres a day. He washed himself three times with fresh water. Another definition of drinking water.

End March, he really wanted to quit… but two-thirds in… He started becoming more active. Built a bench, explored. Started feeling confident because he could see the end.

Initial end plan: his best friend would come and stay with him for two weeks. He didn’t really know when it would be. Sat on a rock waiting. Very emotional when he arrived. Jumped in his arms, end of his loneliness. Lost 18kg, but did it. Stayed with him a little to socialize him again 😉

First thing Gaël told him: “hey, you missed the world economic crisis!”

Departure: sad to leave the island. It was his home for 10 months. Another adventure was going to start. Going back… arrival in Geneva. Lots of people. They came for him.

All that can get in the way of your dream is the fear of failure.

TEDx Geneva: Claude Marshall — Sports: Giving refugee youth their lost childhood [en]

Claude Marshall — Sports: Giving refugee youth their lost childhood

Refugees. In a camp, almost all they need to stay alive. 80% of refugees are women and children.

First thing Claude did for UNHCR was see if corporations would support small projects. He was told to get money for sports for kids in camps. There is nothing for kids in camps when they get there.

First project was in Kenya, just south of Sudan, 1000 people in the camp. Context: 3 fighting groups in Sudan who all wanted the same ground.

Traumatized girls sitting around and not talking, whereas the boys get the sports programme and equipment. => sports programme for girls!

What does this programme do for them?

  • they laugh
  • they cooperate
  • it’s healthy
  • they pass the time

Also used team sport to make them go to school, by making school a requirement. Attendance raised by 80%. Importance of education for women.

Uganda has four fifths (?) of the world refugees. 10 camps. In one camp, established a football league. Throwing a ball into a camp is not a sports programme — so got an organisation to help set things up. Initially, very distrustful of themselves, and looking upon the other as an ennemy rather than an opponent. They learnt cooperation, rules, listening to the referee. Structure in their lives. School of life: winning is no big deal, and losing is not the end of the world.

Use sports to get the youth together and seize the occasion to teach them better behaviour (lots of violence etc in camps).

TEDx Geneva: François-Xavier Tanguy — A world full of Dreams: Phnom Penh-Paris on the Dream Road by motorbike [en]

François-Xavier Tanguy — A world full of Dreams: Phnom Penh-Paris on the Dream Road by motorbike

In 2005, goes to Lhasa. His life was good but something was missing. Found a small motorbike in a shop, 500$ — with his friends, they decided it would be cool to buy the motorbike and ride it back to France. But it was not possible: good job, good money, good life in Paris did not permit it.

One day, sends an e-mail to his friends: let’s do it! Four to start with, but finally two of them were ready to carry it out: François-Xavier and Arnaud Dubois. They didn’t know how, though. Had already backpacked, but Arnaud didn’t want to backpack again. Brainstorm + champagne => if this is their dream, why not take interest in dreams all over the world?

Problems: were neither bikers nor journalists, and didn’t have contacts. They just really wanted to do it.

First target: reach out to children about their dreams and projects. Do children all over the world have the same dreams?

Second target: try to understand the dreams and projects of adults. How did they make them come true, what were the keys to success.

In 2007, started their trip from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thaïland, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ouzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, Europe. 7 months with 300 interviews. 25’000 km.


  1. what do you want to do when you grow up?
  2. what is your dream?
  3. what is your dream for your country?
  4. if I were a magician, what would you like?

20 countries, many different answers. In Cambodia, for example, many children want to become doctors and fight poverty. In Ouzbekistan, they want to find water. In Afghanistan or Nepal, they want to live in peace. Boy in Nepal (Saroj) “I want to become the Prime Minister of Nepal.”

Adults: many examples too. People who aren’t afraid to fail or be successful.

Fulfilled their dream (the bike journey) and learnt a lot about the dreams of others. Created a social network around people’s dreams. Entrepreneurs. Their dream now: help people achieve their dreams and projects using new technologies. Dreamshake.

TEDx Geneva: Guillaume Massard, Michael Doser, Bruno Giussani, Jill Bolte Taylor [en]

Guillaume Massard — Industrial Ecosystems – beta version

*(steph-note: not sure if Guillaume is the person giving the talk, or if he’s the guy being replaced because he went to Copenhagen)*

Industry and biosphere are separate. Let’s bring the inudstrial system down to earth. How could the biosphere inspire the economy?

Nature has created a system where there is no waste. It just doesn’t exist. How about applying that to industrial systems?

Strategy in four goals: circularize, minimize losses, dematerialize, decarbonize.

Re-use things more locally. Not a new idea. E.g. The Symbiosis Institute (1996). Get companies to collaborate in order to save resources. Eco-industrial networks and parks, all over the world!

The rebound effect: when you introduce a new technology, you’re sure it’s more efficient/better/etc. But 10 years later, maybe you realize that you’ve created a huge new impact on the environment. E.g. the computer, everybody thought we would go paperless, but actually computers generate more paper. Is efficient really efficient?

A classical example (UNIL research, Roman Näegeli): Toyota Prius, from 8 to 4.3 litres/100km, so you save fuel and money. But if you didn’t have a car before, you’re not being good for the environment by buying it, because then you travel more, it’s another car on the road, etc. So is this green technology more efficient, if it makes car-less people buy cars? What about the money he’s saving on fuel? Travel, restaurants, more consumption (if he did have a car), raw material consumption increase.

Heretic question: should we favor inefficiency, and prohibit low consumption vehicles? 😉 and therefore encourage other types of energy consumption?

Michael Doser — If apples fall down, do anti-apples fall up?

We don’t live in a symmetric universe. Matter and anti-matter are not created in equal quantities. *(steph-note: did I get that right? can’t hear him very well — mic fail)*

Question mark: is antimatter really just matter with opposite charge and identical properties? In 1996, experiment to try and produce anti-hydrogen atoms. But that’s only the first step, because once you have the atom, you want to study it. That first step took 5-8 years. Step “trap anti-hydrogen” started about 3 years ago. “cool anti-hydrogen” will likely take another 5-8 years. We’re not there yet! *(steph-note: and all this in Comic Sans…)* Measure light emitted by antihydrogen… in 10 years maybe?

A detour might be shorter and more scenic… let’s try again.

How about measuring the fall of antimatter? Bring gravity into the fold of particle physics. So, let’s use the limitations of the previous experiment (the atoms are moving) and form a beam of anti-atoms.

Bruno Giussani — Ideas About Spreading Ideas: Inside TED

With the internet, more and more people are having access to the best teachers in the world, to learn and be inspired. Important phenomenon when it comes to how ideas spread: before this, the reach of these inspiring teachers was much more limited.

TED is a very broad platform devoted to spreading ideas: videos, fellowship, events, all year around.

Some less-known aspects of what TED does.

1. TED Open Translation Project

Talks free to the world… not exactly true if they’re just in English. Now there are many languages in which subtitles are available for TED talks. 59 languages in 7 months. Community. Started out with professionals.

2. TEDPrize

Has to do with past achievements and future potential of people. Express a wish and ask the TED community to help them realize it. 100’000$. Example: XDR-TB awareness campaign (extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis).

Other example: Charter for Compassion.

3. TEDx

Delocalizing. Allow anybody to organize a conference “à la TED”. The license is free, there are just a dozen rules, e.g. not to charge for entry. There have been more than 250 TEDx events to this day, all over the world, from NASA to Kibera, a shanti-town in Africa.

Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight (video)

I hadn’t seen this video. Do watch it if you haven’t.

Right hemisphere: present moment, sensory collage, connexion to the world as a whole perfect human being (parallel processor)

Left hemisphere: thinks linear and methodically, about the past and the future, details, thinks in language which connects my internal world from my external world, and it says “I am”, separates me from the energy flow around me, and from the others.

When she had her stroke, she lost her left hemisphere, basically. Perceives her body as some weird external thing, walks across the living-room in a very rigid, mechanical way. Loss of distinction between self and outside. Then brain chatter stopped. Felt at one with all the energy around here, blissful Lala-land, no distinction between her and the world. Peacefulness, all stress gone, as well as 37 years of emotional bagage.

At one point she realises she’s having a stroke “OMG! so cool! how many brain scientists get a chance to study their own brain from the inside out?”

Couldn’t recognize if she was looking at her business card or not.

Stroke in waves, moments of clarity, on off, on off… Matches the shapes of the squiggles on the card to those on the phone to dial the number. She didn’t know that she couldn’t speak or understand language until she tried.


Wakes up shocked to be still alive. Feels so huge she can’t imagine fitting back into her body. Nirvana, and still alive. Clot the size of a golf ball. Took her eight years to completely recover. We have two minds, and we have the power to choose who and how we want to be in the world. We can choose to step into the consciousness of our right hemispheres… or the left.

The we inside of me. Which do we chose, and when?

TEDx Geneva: François Bugnion, Robert Klapisch, Jan-Mathieu Donnier, Frederic Kaplan [en]

François BugnionSolferino: the birth of an idea

Bloodiest battle Europe had witnessed since Waterloo. 9000 wounded transported to the nearest city (population: 5000) after two days. Book published and translated in various languages.

This is the story of how the Red Cross came to be.

Important principles of the Geneva convention: neutrality of hospitals, and wounded will be cared for (regardless of nationality).

Less than 2 years between the publication of the book and the realisation of the convention.

Dunant was able to translate the shock of what he witnessed at Solferino into a book. Gave birth to an actual strategy.

Robert Klapisch — Broadband Internet for Africa: from Research & Education to Social Development

The driving force for the internet is still science. (steph-note: could be argued it’s commerce and porn, imho)

Research and education networks all over the place. The kind of connections the CERN required paved the way for “consumer” connections at 100Mb/s.

Researchers in African universities have less resources than in Europe. Travelling is costly, etc. They need the network.

Lisbon Summit. Africa Connect.

Obstacles: cost of connectivity, lack of infrastructure, enormous distances, legal and regulatory obstacles in some countries…

Until July 2009, there was only one cable connecting West Africa to the rest of the world. 80% of the traffic is by satellite, much more expensive. No competition => very high prices. Consequence? Most universities have less bandwidth than a typical western household, so students have to resort to internet cafés to have access.

In July, SEACOM raised the money to set up a cable from Marseille to Mumbai and South Africa. American CEO, French VP etc, but 80% capital is African. Capacity growth x50 over the next few years.

UbuntuNet groups 10 countries in South and East Africa (surface = China + Europe + India… Africa is huge!)

HDI Human Development Index: what happens when more people have access to the internet?

Cellphones++ in Africa (300 mio), very creative use. Money transfers to make up for the absence of banking infrastructure. E-government (paying taxes, filling forms). Commerce (farmers getting better deals selling crops and advice on best practices). E-medicine, E-learning.

Fighting the scientific divide.

Jan-Mathieu Donnier — 360° imagery systems and applications

(steph-note: couldn’t really take notes as was busy climbing back on the wifi)

Google Street View cars.

360° photos… and videos.

streetview.ch: interface of their dreams (streetview, map, and street list on the same screen). When you go through the streets, it’s video (whereas Google street view is just a collection of images). (globalvision.ch)

Next challenge: produce 2D images from the 3D data.

Frederic Kaplan — Are Gesture-based Interfaces The Future of Human Computer Interaction

Computers to live with, not computers to live inside. Frédéric gets trapped inside his iPhone. What kinds of interfaces could we have which allow us to interact with computers whilst still interacting with the people around us?

QB1: has microphones, fabric skin, camera, etc — interaction at 4-5 meters. Lives in the same space as we do. User-centred system. They mapped what kinds of gestures people made in front of the QB1 => various zones.

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Blue zone: noisy. Red zone: much less noisy. => in the blue zone, you need to make sure the gestures are intentional, whereas in the red zone, you can be much more reactive.

Shows video: the screen follows the user, and there is a representation of yourself on the screen so you can see if you’re “touching” the controls. Pretty cool. You can call it and it will put its focus on you. You can also just show it a card rather than using gestures to give it an order.

Very important: representation of the user. More or less realistic, iconic, etc — they tried lots of things. (steph-note: I’m thinking of Second Life avatars right now…)

You do need feedback about your actions on the machine. Tennis game.

Gesture-based systems can know a lot about you because they share your physical space. They learn. The system can know who is in the room, how many people.

The mouse did not kill the command line. Gestures will not kill the mouse. They open a new kind of relationships with computers. It’s just the beginning.