I recently had the pleasure of attending TEDX Manchester at the Bridgewater Hall for the second year running. For those who don’t know, TEDX is an independently organised TED event. TED talks welcome expert speakers within their field from every discipline and culture, who seek to share a deeper understanding of the world around them. TED.com currently has over 2,500+ talks, with a new talk delivered every day. They have over 100,023 videos on their YouTube channel, with 9.3M subscribers.
From all the many inspirational talks I heard on Sunday, I was particularly curious by Moon Ribas's talk, ‘Sensing Earth: my connection with the planet’. It was possibly the strangest start to talk I’ll experience. As soon as she walked onto the stage, she informed the audience that the talk would start as soon as an earthquake occurred. With the audience baffled, she then proceeded to stand there in total silence, thankfully not too long, and after a few minutes one did occur and she began.
Moon Ribas is a Cyborg Artist & Activist, who is also a professional dancer. To me, the idea of real-life cyborgs walking around was a slightly scary concept, this sounded like something straight out of an episode of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror. However, I was keen to see whether her personal experience would bring about a new perception within myself.
In 2012, Ribas decided to have an online seismic sensor implanted in her feet. This sensor allows her to perceive earthquakes (and moonquakes) taking place anywhere on the planet through vibrations in real time. The bigger the earthquake, the stronger the vibration would be.
This tech device has allowed her to transcend the normal senses of the human body, as such, debatably creating a very unique sixth sense. Ribas, now uses this sixth sense, as a means of creating art in the form of sound and dance. In one of her performances called, ‘Waiting for Earthquakes’ Ribas waits for an earthquake to occur, in which she then dances to the frequency and rhythm of the earthquake. In another, she drums to the rhythm of the quakes. In these performances the Earth is the composer and the choreographer, and Ribas the interpreter.
After listening to Ribas talk, it seemed to me the experience for her had been rewarding, insightful, and generally a positive experience (minus occasionally being woken up at night from the strong vibrations) allowing her to feel more connected with the world.
Being so intricately connected to the earth’s movements, she began to feel more aware and engaged with the world around her, taking herself outside of herself. I imagine being constantly reminded of activity taking place, in some cases on the other side of the planet (or in some instances the moon), must be quite a humbling experience. It takes you out of your day-to-day thinking and really puts you in a space where you can be more understanding and compassionate about other beings, species and life in general.
Ribas talks about remembering the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, which killed almost 9,000 people, and how she recalls feeling uncomfortable all day because in way she could relate to the earthquake. She felt connected and felt a sense of guilt. She explains about how people have for centuries been changing the planet in order to live a more comfortable life. She suggests maybe we have arrived at a time where it will be more necessary to design ourselves in order to live more according to the planet.
Ribas concludes how we as humans are not a closed circle, but an open one, and that we can evolve in any direction we choose. Ribas is the founder of the trans-species society (transpeciessociety.com), a community who all share the same interest in exploring our surroundings and the limits of our perception.
With all the negative press surrounding social media, it was refreshing to see a future technology having possible positive benefits to society and our well-being. If we can all become more aware, more connected and understanding, surely this is a better future.
When I looked into the key motivations for why people share information on social media, I realised that these reasons are not too dissimilar from the motivations that drive Ribas. These reasons include a desire to reveal valuable and entertaining content to others, to define themselves, to grow and nourish relationships and to get the word out about causes they like or support. While social media has its clear advantages, it has also been well documented to be associated with the following traits: a feeling of isolation, disconnect, low self esteem, distorted memory, low quality sleep, short attention spans, anxiety and depression.
The main difference for me was that one platform focused on introspection and interaction with fellow beings, whereas the other looked outwardly, extracting information from the planet as a means of gaining new insight and information.
Social media started out as a mere trend, but has now become revolutionary in our society. Could cyborgs be the next step in human evolution?
Ribas, was just one of many moving and inspirational talks I heard on Sunday. If you have not already I would highly recommend attending a TED talk. You can be sure to dine out on the food for thought for days.
Check out the other speakers at the tags below!
Moon Ribas, Cyborg Artist and Activist @moonribas
Rory Sutherland, Behavioural Adman @rorysutherland
Jon Carmichael @PhotographerJon Why Curiosity Matters
Anthony Warner @One_Angry_Chef Nutrition’s Big Problem
Ged King @Skullfades Charitable Barber
Andrew Szydlo, Performance Chemist
David Nihill, @FunnyBizzSF Talk title: Involuntary Authority
Mostafa Nabawy, Bio-Mimicker
Chris Bailey @chris_bailey Talk Synopsis: How to focus in a world of distraction
@Maisie_Williams Actress Entrepreneur
Alex Partridge, Founder of Unilad & LadBible
Emer Maguire, Science Singer-Songwriter
Katherine Ormerod, Social Media Maven
Sarah Carlick, Tech for Good Innovator, @SarahCarlick