The INK Conference: Day 1

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On Thursday, December 10, India’s INK Conference held its inaugural day of talks. Attendees gathered outside the theater doors at Lavasa Conference Center, anticipating three sessions of TED-like ideas. INK did not disappoint, delivering a day’s worth of breathtaking perspective and innovation, both local and global.

Session 1:
Science writer Anil Ananthaswamy gave an overview of the exploratory work that is mapping the cosmos, from the Extremely Large Telescope in Chile to balloon launches from Antarctica. Senior Maverick at Wired, Kevin Kelly presented his “Theory of Technology”, proposing that our digital tools have come about through a process of evolution much as we have and should be classified as the seventh kingdom of life. INK Fellow and author Anand Giridharadas shared his rediscovery of India as the child of immigrant parents, and gave five points that evidenced the enigma of modern India — a country that is trying to embrace progress while cherishing its traditional values. Social psychologist and author of The Dragonfly Effect, Jennifer Aaker brought many audience members to tears with her story of how social media was used to find a bone marrow match for a close friend, suggesting other ways to use the web for good. Derek Sivers delivered a counterintuitive, but convincing, explanation of how failure is the only way we truly learn.

Session 2:
Babar Ali, the “youngest headmaster in the world” kicked off the session by sharing the inspiration that drove him to begin a school, for anyone in his rural village that wanted to learn but didn’t have access to education. He appeared at TEDIndia in 2009, and since that time has devoted himself to improving his English so that he could express himself in his own words today. Transplant surgeon Susan Lim revealed medicine’s latest startling advances in using stem cells to repair, rather than replace, organs. Serial entrepreneur Dinh Thi Hoa shared the amazing personal story of how she survived the Vietnam war, communist Russia and Harvard Business School, to begin a range of successful businesses, from a chain of coffee shops to a mobile banking network. Designer Michael Foley walked us through the creative process he used when creating the new Queen’s Baton, incorporating the actual soil of India. TV and documentary director Sandy Smolan showed the work he’s done for both Heifer Internation and the Gates Foundation, encouraging other creatives to engage in projects that could positively affect the world. Attendee and Indian gaming mogul Vishal Gondal gave a hilariously inspiring talk on the importance of being stupid.

Session 3:
Alexander Tsiarias of TheVisualMD.com delivered the first of three short daily talks he will be giving at INK, showing his carefully crafted animation of the process of creating life, from conception to birth. INK Fellow and clay artisan Mansukhbhai Prajapati shared his amazing inventions for the rural poor of India — a refrigeration device that can operate without electricity and low-cost cooking implements like pressure cookers and non-stick pans (all made of clay). Nam Do of Emotiv.com demoed their intent-driven headset on an audience volunteer, who was able to see their emotional state instantaneously reflected in the face of an on-screen avatar. Filmmaker Shamim Sarif explained how her grandmother’s limited choices as a woman inspired her to write The World Unseen, a novel and film about two women falling in love, while surrounded by racism and homophobia. Web entrepreneur and Fellow Vinay Gidwaney outlined his vision for gently prodding us into well-being through online projects like DailyFeats.com. The session ended with host Lakshmi Pratury’s much-anticipated conversation with director James Cameron, who shared his fascination with India’s imagery, architecture and spirituality, and even said that he would be interested in helping an Indian director or producer to use the tools he developed for Avatar to recreate one of the traditional stories like the Ramayana or Mahabharata.