Home > General, TED > I engage, therefore my kids will (have a chance)!

I engage, therefore my kids will (have a chance)!

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Ultimately, we now live in a world defined not by consumption, but by participation!

With these words, Ben Cameron, DDCF Program Director for the Arts, delivered a highly energetic and inspiring talk at TEDxYCC earlier this year.

I am not writing this article to discuss Ben’s talk — it is one of the most passionate TED talks I’ve seen in a while and makes very compelling arguments about the future of the performing arts as guiding forces for fostering empathy and providing a platform for social and emotional intelligence in the society!

Instead, I am writing this to try to distill some thoughts I’ve had in my mind ever since I started with the TEDChildren initiative and Ben’s words resonate clearly with me — for reasons I hope to explain by the end of this article.

We hear from many places that having more money — and consuming more — is not making people happier. Nic Marks, founder of the Centre for Well-Being at the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in London, gave an inspiring and very informative talk at 2010 TED Global, and Dan Gilbert, a psychologist and happiness expert, has been touting that money ≠ happiness for a long time, so I won’t discuss this here.

We also hear that people rejoice in participating in creative activities during their free time — something that often makes them a lot more happier than their well paid day job. Daniel Pink, career analyst, and contributing editor for Wired, wrote a book about this, while Clay Shirky, social media theorist, wants to tap into this pool of creative energy to change the world, so again, I have no need to add anything here.

However, knowing all this, while listening to Ben Cameron, something became very clear to me:

If in the money-driven economy of the post-World War II world, consumption provided the positive feedback loop that fueled the growth in wealth, in the new economy of the future, participation will be the new force behind further growth.

Except, this time, the growth will not be measured just in money anymore! Even more, while the consumption was limited to the developed countries until recently, participation will be truly a global force!

What will replace money? — is the next logical question! Some, as Ruud Hein discusses in his blog, think that attention and not money will be the new currency in the future — I tend to agree!

In an attention-driven economy, participation provides a perfect feedback loop that closes the circle with attention, in the same way that consumption did with money, and fuels the growth in the future.

To convince you, let’s take a look at what this means for happiness?! As you’ll probably agree, happiness is the ultimate goal for each human and is hard-wired in our emotional response to our environment, so any attempt to replace consumption must provide opportunity for increased happiness, right? I can’t agree more!

In the past we have tried to pursue happiness through acquiring wealth to enable people to buy the stuff they want. This had some success, as Nic Marks, Dan Gilbert and others have confirmed, but it has the unfortunate effect that the happiness level hits a plateau after a certain wealth level is acquired.

Luckily people are adaptive and in their quest for increased happiness seem to have hit upon a new solution — the attention/participation loop that Ruud Hein and Ben Cameron are talking about.

Beside the obvious moral and social advantages, this new paradigm for growth seems to be ingeniously resolving the plateau problem.

Unlike money, attention does not necessarily have to be limited to the wealthy! The feedback loop with participation sees to that.

The loop between money and consumption introduces an inverse benefit effect. By consuming, you support those with money to produce more, earn more, and ultimately control the market — and your happiness. The effect is therefore negative to those who consume, forcing them to work harder and harder to get more money and consume more.

The loop between attention and participation directly wires the person participating as a benefactor. As Ruud Hein clearly stated:

If you’re not participating, you willingly give up mindshare and fail to influence.

But if you do participate, people will start paying attention to you, and:

Once you have attention you can do anything with it. You can influence, set the agenda, raise a call to action, start a meme, make or break a startup company — make money.

So what does this mean for me, you, or everyone else?

There’s the obvious impact that if you’re community-minded already, you’ll find increased support from the society and more and more people will join you in your efforts — it’s like being an atheist brought up in a traditional environment of churchgoers and hard believers in religion, who has found out that the community is transforming and religion is replaced with enlightened views, after the religious leaders from the past have died out! 😉

There’s something more exciting than the community transformations — the world is increasingly becoming flat and the technology even for global participation has become a commodity! The entry price for becoming a consumer in the past was high, which is why only a select number of countries are labeled today as “developed”. The barrier for entry as a “participant” in the new economy of attention is rapidly becoming so low in all corners of the world, that the opportunities for attention and engagement, for those who decide to participate, are going to become virtually unlimited!

Allow me a quick digression for a personal story of this kind!

Last week, through Twitter, a young entrepreneur from Pakistan reached out to me and within 8 hrs from our first contact we were using Skype to discuss opportunities to engage around ideas like that of TEDChildren, other TEDx events that may connect our local communities and allow kids half-world apart to inspire each other, etc.

Even if further engagement takes a lot of time or even never happens, we already had immediate benefit by inspiring each other! — him with my courage (or stupidity 😉 to push forward the idea of TEDChildren, — me with his ability to quickly turn vision into reality by implementing and launching TEDxTube (I’m happy I got to make a micro-contribution by coming up with the name ;-), a video sharing platform built around YouTube, specifically built for sharing TEDx talks across the world without the additional non-TED related content on YouTube.

Finally, there’s something else too that I am super excited about … but I’ll take the advice of one of my friends and write about that in the next article instead of writing very long posts that no one has the patience to read until the end 😉

Feel cheated? Don’t! Start participating right now and show your support for my TEDChildren idea by following @TEDChildren on Twitter, blog about the idea or any examples of children-driven changes you are aware of in your community, and try to generate enough buzz so we can get TED to officially endorse it and organize a special global conference, of the likes of TEDWomen, where kids and adults will join the discussion around change for better future by sporting a true partnership that crosses the generation gaps! To make this happen — and generate attention — we need to show participation, so let’s make some of the new “attention” currency being invested into our kids!!!

Categories: General, TED Tags: , , ,
  1. March 21, 2011 at 9:02 am

    initiatives. Thanks

  2. November 26, 2010 at 5:03 am

    I must say, there was very little useful information in this post, but I did learn a few things. Thanks.
    Let’s clean up this mess of a forum and start posting meaningful stuff, shall we?
    I write like mad, every day, and no one visits my blog, that looks similar to yours. What could I be doing wrong?
    I’m not sure I agree with you on some key points. Do you allow guest blog posts? I’d love to write on this topic.

    Really get stoned, drink wet cement.

    • November 26, 2010 at 10:32 pm

      I am stoned too by the comment … without drinking wet cement 😀 … I wonder if this comment would pass the Touring test for human intelligence ;-b … if really written by a blog troll, it is one of the most amusing comments I’ve got from one 😉

  3. kima
    September 19, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    I want to thank you all again for the comments and the kind words about this article! As I mention below in reply to -Durk- this was my first significant experience getting so many people to read my thoughts and engage in discussion — and I have to admit I love it and find it inspiring to continue writing! 😉

    Freshly pressed may not happen again soon, but I would be glad if some of you comes from time to time and check my new thoughts and ideas. Some may be less developed than others, sometimes my writing may be less “legible” due to lack of sleep 😉 — like with many others, blogging comes as lower priority after family and work. However, I’d still like to continue getting feedback and engage in discussion.

    As I wrote in my next article, getting others to participate is what will make a difference in the attention-driven world and the value of doing that is the opportunity for lifelong learning. For this, I wholeheartedly subscribe in opening the door for anyone to give my thoughts a second, third and even fourth ride and see if anything valuable or inspiring comes out! 😉



  4. sayitinasong
    September 15, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Attention currency? Had never heard of it before… this definitely peaked my interest… I’m going to look into TED…. very interesting…

  5. Natasha
    September 15, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Great article! Very insightful.

  6. -Durk-
    September 15, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Aren’t you really making a case for community? I would make the premise that people have always tried replacements such as money and many, many other things (addictions, distractions, business, etc.) to replace relationships. I believe that relationships are what make people happy-in whatever situation they find themselves in, rich, poor, educated, illiterate, etc. The mediums in which community can be created are evolving. No longer is community in yelling distance, walking distance, or even driving distance. Community can be established instantaneously in virtually any part of the world. Technological advancements in communication is changing the face of community. Good post! Congrats on being freshly pressed!

    • kima
      September 19, 2010 at 10:44 pm

      Thanks! I must admit I didn’t even know what freshly pressed means when the article got there 😉 I started blogging as a way to try to develop some of my thoughts and ideas and getting lots of views or interacting with readers was not something I imagined would happen soon 😉

      You’re correct to say that the suggested attention-participation loop is another way to describe the involvement in a community. You’re also right that the technological advancement is changing the geography and the face of the community. The reason why I find it useful to think in terms of attention and participation instead of relationships and community is because that view gives me an ability to picture a system consisting of inputs, positive feedback loop and outputs. I guess the engineer in me prefers such view 😉

      Thinking this way I came to realization that having the attention-participation loop is not enough — one needs to work in engaging others and to prepare him- or herself for lifelong learning if the new type of community is to succeed.

      My thoughts around this are developed in my follow-up article on engagement: https://mybin.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/i-help-others-engage-therefore-i-learn/


  7. September 15, 2010 at 1:06 am

    Absolutely well articulated! Such an interesting topic!

  8. September 15, 2010 at 12:58 am

    “it’s like being an atheist brought up in a traditional environment of churchgoers and hard believers in religion, who has found out that the community is transforming and religion is replaced with enlightened views, after the religious leaders from the past have died out!”

    Wow, way to completely alienate a huge group of people and talk about people of faith dying in such a positive/nonchalant manner. I thought you had something intelligent to blog about until I read that nice little quip. Maybe I’ll get Freshly Pressed if I talk about killing religious leaders now….

    • September 18, 2010 at 1:08 pm

      I believe that it was a metaphor rooster90, not a smart one to use in an over-sensitive world where people are desperate to be offended, but a point giving metaphor nonetheless. Also, there is no line inclining favor to “killing” in the article, just in your response. It’s okay though, we all envy you. If I could have life so easy that I need to strawman someone to feel better.

      On to the article which is not, in it’s self, a bad one. In a world filled with societies craving for attention and proof of existence (all of them throughout time), attention and acknowledgment have undefinable value. Even as we get older we are still similar to small children needing attention for, among other reasons, fear of not being liked or being alone. This is not a new occurrence it is just one of those things we relearn every generation or so. This is a valuable concept to know as it helps to remind us of the things that are most important in life if not in the material whole of the Joneses.
      An better metaphor to somehow use would be in antiques. When people buy an old, possibly useless and outdated item, what they are often getting is the story behind that item. The tale is often what is most important and not the item itself. Think along those lines people.
      Best wishes for those with good will.

      • kima
        September 19, 2010 at 10:27 pm

        Thanks for the great suggestion with the antiques metaphor, Him ThatIs! It embodies what I think is the difference between attention and money.

        The attention will often come with unanticipated value, like the story behind the old items in your metaphor (cobracaine’s personal story below is a fine example of such value in regards to the attention this article got). Importantly, attention will often provide opportunities for obtaining new knowledge, inspiration, power to make a change, etc.

        Money, on the other hand, have no hidden value, no hidden essence. They can surely help with opportunities for knowledge or power to make a change, but usually one goes for the money with the opportunity in question in mind — and obtaining the money will not necessarily inspire them to use them in a different way than planned. With attention, planning is almost impossible and the value comes from engaging with the people whose attention you have.

        Btw, re: rooster90’s issue with my anti-religious metaphor — I understand what you mean when you say that the metaphor is “not a smart one in an over-sensitive world where people are desperate to be offended” but on the other hand I value curiosity to discover, thirst to learn, openness to feedback… and avoiding certain metaphors or side stepping discussions for the sake of political correctness or to avoid hurting someones feelings goes against those values.

        In any case, I don’t like using the comments section to discuss religion, beliefs, faith, moral values or anything else that is usually brought into discussion when one starts this topic. I may try to find some time and post some of my thoughts about it, but in the meantime, I would invite anyone, religious or not, to provide feedback on the ideas presented in this and the follow-up article, keeping non-relevant discussion out for later!


  9. kima
    September 15, 2010 at 12:47 am

    As I promised, I have completed the second half on the topic of engagement – I hope it sheds more light on the idea of attention driven economy and what kind of participative world we should build around it!

    Thanks again to all of the thoughts of support and the great comments in this article! I will try to reply directly to few I think may not be directly addressed by my second article.

    Feel free to keep the feedback flowing! Though an earlier recognition for one of my posts (https://mybin.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/can-we-bring-cultural-walls-down-by-telling-stories/) by @TEDNews on Twitter gained me a significant number of views back in July, it was not until now, with the Freshly Pressed option, that I got a real opportunity for the first time since I started my blog to get feedback and engage with my readers!

    Therefore, in the spirit of my newest article, I’d like to get you engaged too in this or any other topic you may find interesting on my blog so we can learn together! 😉


  10. September 14, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Awesome post 🙂

  11. September 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Great read, social connections in the present society is extremely important, and one must start building those connections at a young age!

    If you’ve the time, check out my blog!

  12. September 14, 2010 at 7:41 pm
  13. September 14, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Hello My English is poor,I do not understand completely what is written by you ,but I think it is good .I come here because I wwould like to study English .By reading words ,I hope it will be better .

  14. Sunflowerdiva
    September 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Wow, great detailed post. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed! 🙂

  15. September 14, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Hi Kima,

    I am inspired by your inspiration to organize a TEDChildren event. I’m not on Twitter. Is this the best/only way to keep in touch with you about this?

    I resonate deeply with you about the need to listen to our children and give them a powerful voice and stage to speak from.

    Darcy Kaltio
    The Joy of Learning Network

    • kima
      September 15, 2010 at 1:11 am

      Thanks Darcy!

      I am looking for any possible way to engage with people in turning TEDChildren into reality! I’ll follow up with you over email so we can discuss any ideas you may have to make this happen

  16. September 14, 2010 at 11:21 am

    If attention is the new currency, then is spam the new counterfeit twenty? Does the proliferation of media represent inflation?

    • kima
      September 15, 2010 at 1:19 am

      hehehe … while spam may be a potential attention, if you fool the people you spam in paying attention to you and trusting what you say … it is the actualized attention, when the people that pay attention to you are ready to follow you, engage with you, etc. that is the actual currency

      also, like technology, the media in most cases is merely a tool

  17. September 14, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Great post! Participation begins with education and I think you’re doing that here.


  18. September 14, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Great article.

  19. cobracaine
    September 14, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Awesome article! I will indeed look up TED. But as for now, I can testify.
    Two fridays ago, I saw a BBC program about Malaria in Uganda. They interviewed one of the community activists in East Uganda. That stranger on the t.v. was my facebook friend in less than twenty-four hours! During the 1980’s, I don’t know how I would have gone about finding that dude.
    I called my friend in Texas that night. She is someone I met on one social website and our friendship has continued to another. She immediately began texting me nonprofit information that she retained from experiences she had with her Mom. This friend and I have NEVER met in person, we just know each other from the web. That next morning, I went to the library and went online researching Malaria and mosquito nets. I sent an email to the site.
    By Monday evening, I was on the telephone with a representative of that organization.
    Cobra Caine is on multiple social websites and now has five blog pages. I have friends from various points on the globe. Imagine licking stamps and sending a bunch of postcards out and then slipping through a time warp where you’re copying and pasting a link on your facebook wall and reaching about a thousand people with three clicks of a mouse button. So far, I have made tremendous progress within a week, and absolutely all of my resources have been one form of electronic media or another (no legwork/no direct human contact) and the output, so far, has been the same (all electronic). You are correct, the possibilities and the quick turnaround potential can be staggering when you really think about it.

    • kima
      September 15, 2010 at 1:08 am

      Thanks so much for sharing! This is awesome!! I am always inspired from personal stories of discovery where one finds novel ways to engage with their local or any other community in the world. We’re all aware what the technology can do, but it is not until you shift your mindset and start using it to engage that you realize the impact and the change in the world is real. I don’t think we live in a flat world because the technology enables us to do so, but because we’re striving to engage with other people in doing meaningful activities that fulfill us and only when this desire leads us to discover the technology that can help us turn our wishes into reality does the world look flat 😉

  20. September 14, 2010 at 10:02 am

    “The barrier for entry as a “participant” in the new economy of attention is rapidly becoming so low in all corners of the world, that the opportunities for attention and engagement, for those who decide to participate, are going to become virtually unlimited!”

    Now I am realizing the how our attention-seeking behaviors really connect with our intents – if you are not rich, become famous and then cash it in. Thanks for sharing.

    • kima
      September 15, 2010 at 1:03 am

      “If you are not rich, become famous and then cash it in”

      I didn’t intend to suggest this! 😉 While I can see how some may try to use the participation and attention loop to a benefit in the old money economy, I doubt that will be a long term strategy that pays off … I think the real benefit comes from other people engaging with you, because you have their attention, and from experiencing lifelong learning through that engagement

  21. September 14, 2010 at 9:53 am

    I think that TEDchildren is a wonderful idea. It’s amazing how smart some kids are. They should really be the first in place. But TED is a great idea.

    • kima
      September 15, 2010 at 1:14 am

      Thanks! I am passionate about engaging kids into discussions around change and even if TEDChildren doesn’t happen I believe there’ll be opportunities to use TEDx as a platform to get more and more kids engaged with the rest of the TED community

  22. kima
    September 14, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Thanks all for the support and the great comments! As I mentioned at the end of the post, I wanted to write a follow up, which should round up my thoughts and hopefully relate to some of your comments — or spur new ones 😉 Your support means I better write it tonight — there goes my plan to procrastinate few nights and watch a movie (or more TED talks 😉 instead and get back to blogging in a day or two 😉

    As many of you asked about TED, I owe you some info around it. I think this article at http://j.mp/dsPY20 is a great overview what TED is becoming. If you don’t have time to read it, this is my view!

    TED started in 1984 as a conference to bring creative minds together and share ideas around technology, entertainment & design. It was, basically, an elite forum where you had to be someone like Bill Gates to participate. But something wonderful happened in 2006 — the filmed TED talks were offered for free to the world on http://www.ted.com.

    What happened since then is a great example of how an idea, when thrown into the community, can evolve into something so useful, you start wondering why it didn’t happen before. TED become a platform not only for sharing ideas, but engaging communities, fostering collaboration, and most importantly, getting people all over the world to act on those ideas.

    Btw, I write a bit about the idea of platformness as an essence in one of my earlier posts if you’d like to read more on this.

    This new face of TED became what is known as TEDx, a franchise that is fully endorsed by TED and which lets local leaders in the community to use it as a platform to bring local people together and present ideas that can be implemented right there in their own community or further promoted globally and taken up by other TEDsters across the world.

    If you’re interested in figuring out what TEDx offers, I wholeheartedly recommend watching some of the videos at http://tedxtube.tk/. Only a subset of all videos available are currently imported there, but more should be added as we speak so soon it will be THE portal to check what the TEDsters in your local community are talking about and hopefully inspire you to join them in implementing some or contributing new ones!

    Because I believe in TED and because I want to partner with kids in discussing how to change the world to give them a better future, I started an initiative to get TED to organize a special global conference that will act as a platform for this partnership, TEDChildren. I hope you find the idea inspiring enough to join me in lobbying TED to endorse it! To help follow @TEDChildren on Twitter (https://twitter.com/TEDChildren) or simply blog, comment, chat about and generate enough buzz to get the busy people running TED to hear us! 😉

    Thanks again!!!


  23. September 14, 2010 at 8:21 am

    So what you’re saying is Facebook, WordPress YouTube and the like are all going to make us happier and more fully-actualized individuals? Well, maybe not more fully actualized. Thanks for making me think so hard so early in the morning. I think it’s good for me. It engages me 😉


    • kima
      September 15, 2010 at 12:59 am

      I tried to address this a little bit in my second article … I never saw the technology as providing more than tools to enable greater participation and access to a bigger network of people … it is the interaction with the people that will make us fully-actualized individuals … if you find yourself in a community that doesn’t share your values, the technology can help you find like-minded people half-way across the globe … but it is up to you and the people you engage with if the actualization will happen

      TED’s curator, Chris Anderson, has a great talk about how the advancements in the technology around online video are opening up new frontiers for participation … I recommend watching it fully http://www.ted.com/talks/chris_anderson_how_web_video_powers_global_innovation.html

  24. September 14, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Greatly interesting post. Was unaware of any of this info as alternate to a money-driven economy. Thanks for idea I shall mull today as I create/participate.

  25. September 14, 2010 at 7:35 am

    Great Post! I’m quite curious about this so called TED. Can you shed some light on it and give us an idea what it is.

  26. September 14, 2010 at 7:25 am

    “we’re all sensitive people with so much to give” Let’s Get It On, Marvin Gaye

  27. September 14, 2010 at 6:39 am

    I agree, this is all very interesting, but I’m not 100% sure what it all means…

  28. September 14, 2010 at 6:36 am

    Whoops, I forgot to add: Organizations like TED can change the world. We just have to make that committment. Thanks for sharing!

  29. September 14, 2010 at 6:33 am

    In previous generations, the idea of “happiness” was a luxury. People were simply too busy surviving to give thought to whether they were happy. You can go now to some places on the planet where starvation and abuse are rampant and ask someone if he/she had considered the notion of happiness. You’d probably get a blank stare. Our society has provided enough security and leisure time that we now have that luxury of considering whether we are “happy.” So far, all we’ve done is to throw money into the happy container, and it’s not working. Clearly, we need something else. My vote is for a committment to something greater than ourselves, but alas, the race for acquiring “bigger and better” usually seems to trump that.

    • kima
      September 15, 2010 at 12:54 am

      True, in survival mode “happiness” is a luxury … unfortunately, many people are still in survival mode today and need help … what I think will happen for those people, though, is that once out of that mode they’ll either go though an accelerated money-driven economy before moving into a participatory world, or experience both in parallel

      I hope you’ll find the second article addressing the question of the race for acquiring “bigger and better” … I think the great thing about the attention economy is that it can’t go on without limits unless people learn all the time, so what I hope the world will turn to is a lifelong learning and openness in sharing knowledge … only then a true participative world is possible

  30. September 14, 2010 at 6:13 am

    Ok, so I skimmed your article, and I love what you have to say about engaging and attention…but since I found you on Freshly Pressed… can you tell me in a nutshell what TED is? It sounds interesting!

    • September 14, 2010 at 7:08 am

      Yeah, this is definitely not the first TED article I’ve seen, and I have not yet had the opportunity to look more into it…

  1. March 23, 2011 at 10:51 pm
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