Build

lava maybe, lava exploding

I love to create, to build things. Especially things bringing people together. Here are a couple ideas I’ve been working on lately. If you think any of them are interesting, connect with me. They’re all in active brainstorm mode.

Rebuilt TEDx Music Project and have been thinking a lot about how to structure visualizations of its hundreds of tracks. So far we’re leaning toward geotag for a world map of TEDx music. There’s also navigation, which might be made interestingly interactive by making a network map of communities of songs with similar attributes, such as genre, instrument or danceability. Installation on a big touchscreen. Ideas and collabs welcome.

Redoing the TEDx music site reminded me of Project HAO and that now I can actually probably set it up pretty easily. So I will. Looks like we can send a hammock + stand to US planetariums for under 200 bucks through Amazon, so I’ll probably set it up where 20 people each donate $10 and when the 20th name comes in *boom* we sent a hammock to a planetarium and are on our way towards hooking up the next. Extra funds can be used in the future to pay for international shipping once all the US planetariums have hammocks.

I’m also gearing up to do a posture measurement with Vicon motion capture software with the wonderful biomechatronics guys at MIT Media Lab. I’m going to wear ~100 sensors, do a sequences of moves and be tracked in 360 degrees at .2 mm precision. The idea is to be strategic in stretches. If one could identify asymmetries, torsions or other malalignments in posture, one could theoretically choose stretches to correct them. I’m going to test that out.

Learning about neurotech has been mind-blowing. I’m attending a pilot class at MIT this semester about how technology is catapulting neuroscience. Along the way we’ve gone from measuring genetic changes in cells to imaging an entire brain. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing professors and graduate students; seeing and using the tools. We’re currently half way through a Scientific American blog series from EyeWire that shares the experience with the world. Excited to write up the rest. So far it’s been fodder for fascinating conversations.

I titled this post “Build” because I suddenly felt compelled to share things I am building. Side projects you have here, mostly. Love a good side project. Love to learn of yours! And I was serious about that first paragraph.

@amyleerobinson

PS: recent additions to my Epic Pics folder:

capybara and monkeys hehe

filename “capybara and monkeys hehe”

Crops in Kansas

Crops in Kansas, formerly my background image

highlands in Iceland

highlands in Iceland

my notebook :), amy robinson, amy notebook, notebook, moleskin, notebook in woods

my notebook :)

do epic shit

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A 30 Second TEDTalk

Imagine a future when you could put on one of Hugh Herr’s robotic biomechatronic exoskeletons and instantly do acrobatics. Imagine shredding slopes like Shaun White. Pair this with a Chris Klewe style augmented reality football visor so you could see real time stats and visualizations of your new iron man esque skills. Thinking farther future, you might pop some Negroponte knowledge pills and Kurzwifi neuro nanobots so you can instantly calculate new tricks, download the latest apps and stream your adventures first person from glass and the drones filming you from above.

Surprise this morning. I was invited to share a 30 second neural avalanche onstage at TED 2014. Opening the final day. This references a few favorite wild and forward thinking presentations from this week which I look forward to rewatching. Because awesome.

Extraordinary life. Wonderful times. Viva TED.

Amy Robinson 30 second tedtalk at 2014, TED 2014, TEDTalk, Amy Robinson, 30 second TEDTalk, 30 second TED Talk, TED Talk

Maps of Ideas

mapping ideas quid neuroscience arxiv snapshot, mapping ideas, neuroscience, arxiv, quid, amy robinson, map ideas, graph ideas, mapping ideas

A universe.

We live in one. Your mind is one.

Human beings, besides generating things like science and technology and businesses, generate ideas. Thoughts. Sometimes thoughts lead to action. Life happens or rather is made by he who lives it.

I’ve been pondering: how could we explore being human from a perspective of ideas over time? Say, my personal ideas over time. A dynamic network, the questions, concepts and values that fuel who I am. Creativities and habits; discoveries and experiences.

If you were to document things you think are important or things you are curious about or wonder, what might you have after a month? A year? Eight years?

That’s how long I’ve been doing this. I’ve amassed 30 Moleskine notebooks, 3.5G or 756 voice memos, 6,000 Tweets and gigs of autotune on t-payne (don’t judge).

How could you map ideas? Here was my first attempt from 2012, delivered for Quantified Self at Stanford.

I spent hundreds of hours figuring out how to map 6 months of ideas in the form of emails to self. A collaboration built through an amazing community of Gephi devs.

Others are making strides in this arena. Watch the below TEDTalk about mapping ideas from the top 25% of TEDxTalks. From transcripts to a network you can interact with and explore. Beautiful. And insightful. How could these ideas apply to the ideas of an individual over time?

How do the things I’m interested in evolve? What new things have I learned and how have they made their way into the projects I create or things I do or learn in the future? When do ideas change how I think? After I learn something that changes how I think, it can be difficult if not impossible to retain how I thought before I realized it. Particularly over years. These deep ideas fascinate me.

So I’m exploring them. Publicly. And I’m going to make all of my personal data public someday. Still working up the nerve to put up my browsing history. The short term will see transcripts of voice memos and handwriting. We may need to create new language processing algorithms for stream of consciousness.

Publicly. If you think this is interesting, contact me and think about it with me. I’m using Quid and learning principles of graph theory, community detection, python, JSON, dealing with audio transcription, and most interestingly figuring out how to build a network/networks out of ideas.

Challenging. Exciting. Neural avalanche inducing.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever spent money on? Experience

I opened Quora on my iPhone the other morning and saw this question and suddenly felt an urge to answer. Odyssey on the fly

What’s the best thing you’ve spent money on?

Amy Robinson, idea machine Edit Bio

TED.

I spent every penny I had (and then some) getting to a TED Conference when I was 24. It changed my life.

I was organizing a TEDx in Huntsville, Alabama, where I’m from, when I learned that in order to have more than 100 people at your event you have to go to TED. Like, go to TED. Real people actually do that and you can too.

At the time I was working in environmental management and bartending on the side i.e. not your typical millionaire attendee. It was April, my TEDx was slated for November and TEDGlobal was happening in early June. TED Registration was closed so even if I could have afforded it, I couldn’t  apply.

Then came Tod, a now close friend and mentor at TEDxAtlanta who I reached out to for advice. We talked extensively and he convinced me that I should do everything in my power to go. He wrote letters to TED on my behalf and landed a nonprofit rate (yes it exists; you can only use it once in your life). I spent everything in my savings to buy that ticket. I had to fly standby because I couldn’t afford a real flight.

I don’t really know how to explain it..the sheer joy, inspiration and openness of ideas that is TED. Big ideas from the stage coupled with extraordinary audience members is the perfect storm with which to disrupt yourself. Conversations blew my mind. I talked with executives, researchers, explorers, entrepreneurs..I met people from all walks of life from all over the world, something I had not much been exposed to while growing up in Alabama.

TED audience members are all people who go to great lengths and expense to immerse themselves in Ideas Worth Spreading. I was nervous and intimidated but I forced myself to suck it up and walk up to strangers and ask them things like “What talks inspired you most?” In part because one of the first interactions I had at TED was with a stranger who walked up, said hello then asked point blank “so what inspires you?” So..that can happen. It helped me realize I can catalyze amazing, thoughtful conversations by asking intimate, important questions. TED was the perfect environment for it. I learned never to be intimidated and to just relax and talk about ideas that matter. The editor of WIRED and Shell’s Sustainability Director are all people, too, and if you just ask interesting questions with an open mind, they might surprise you with perspectives you never even imagined.

I realized how little I knew about the world and how much, even in my state of perpetual optimism, I had underestimated the infinite opportunities in it. TED connected me with ideas and people that have helped shape who I am today. Involvement in TED and my expansion into TEDx has heavily influenced how I organize projects and even got me into crowd sourcing, which I now do for MIT. It is my duty to use my time here on Earth to make it a better place and TED has played an instrumental role in shaping how I take action along those ideas.

Now, three years later, I am Creative Director of EyeWire, a game to map the brain at Sebastian Seung’s Lab. I met Sebastian at TED. I started the TEDx Global Music Project — it was catalyzed in part by TED. I cannot quantify the multitude of things that this engagement has brought to my life.  I’ve kept going to TED and expanded to TEDMED and many TEDxes.

I wrote this story out because TED can be anything. I followed my passion for ideas and caliber conversations and I invested everything so that I could take action – it started because I wanted to put on a big TEDx event. You can find your TED (and it may be cheaper!) and when you do, I hope you have someone like my friend Tod to tell you to throw caution to the wind go for it. And if you don’t, I will be that person for you. My email is neurons@mit.edu. If you ever need encouragement to be brave, drop me a line.

You must take risks. I overdrafted my bank account while at TED (ahh FML but it was worth every penny I didn’t have). My parents had to wire money over because I didn’t even have a credit card. That’s the TED attendee story you don’t hear! Money is a means to experience. I don’t buy prada bags. I buy plane tickets. It’s true. Put your pocketbook where your heart is — better, where your head is. Invest in your passion. I use my money, limited as it may be, to facilitate action, interaction, collaboration, side projects and I rarely live a day without experiencing awe at just how much my life has changed since I signed away my savings to attend a dreamy conference in England..

Quantified Curiosity 2.0

ideas, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy RobinsonBack in September I gave a talk at Stanford for Quantified Self titled Quantified Curiosity (summarized in this post, which includes slides and a links to videos refrenced in the talk). Below, check out the video complete with a text transcript.

Before you watch it, think about this. Who are you? Seriously, how do you answer that question? Does who you are change over time? How? Why? When? What if you could explore these questions empirically, with data that correlates with significant events in your life, data that collectively integrates to tell a story of who you are? This is what I begin to explore with Quantified Curiosity, a network exploration into the ideas that fuel me. As of March 2013, I’ve connected with a couple academic and corporate network powerhouses to this concept a few orders of magnitude higher and deeper. More on that soon.

Over the coming months, stay tuned for the evolution of questions, new visualizations, and curiosity progress reports. A goal of this side project is to create a platform that allows anyone to explore and graph his or her ideas over time. Here’s to tackling fundamental questions! Ping me if you are interested in brainstorming. Now, on with the evolution of ideas!

Transcript with slide selections:

Quantified Curiosity brainbow Amy RobinsonI am obsessed with thinking about thinking.

My name is Amy Robinson and I am here to share Quantified Curiosity.

I am very curious how the ideas that I encounter and the new things that I discover integrate and infuse to form who I am and who I will become.

A stranger at a TED Conference once walked up to me and said “Hi Amy, What inspires you?” Besides actually making me think about what inspires me, it made me think about how the things that inspire me change over time. I am not a constant, I am very dynamic; however, it’s hard to remember how I change and to keep it in perspective.

Those 5 seconds consequently have mattered much more than just 5 seconds and I wonder if the same is true for ideas. So I’ve been tracking them.

How? I email myself “interestingness.” So when I look at say an article or write notes or watch a cool video; anything that makes me think “hm, that’s interesting,” I email it to myself. For this talk I’ve compiled 6 months of this data into..a pretty big spreadsheet and some beautiful network visualizations.

Each line is an idea, an entry, and the data has attributes like a date, a link, an ngram (which is the subject and body text of the email), it’s tagged with topics and it’s also given an interestingness ranking of 1 being low and 5 being high.

ideas, Gephi, "Quantified Curiosity" Amy RobinsonSix months worth of data came to 770 unique entries – or ideas – in 772 different topics. Once this data was organized into a spreadsheet I was able to analyze it and look at it in a completely new way.

This is a weighted graph  [below] of the most important topics of all topics that were used at least 40 times and weighted either 4, the green bar for “important,” or 5, the blue bar for “most important,” they show up on this graph. You can see based on the importance that the most prevalent topics vary. For example, the green bar most important is “journal,” which is peer reviewed literature, not my personal notes, followed by biology and neuro. Whereas if you look at the blue bar “notes,” my personal notes, come up first.

"Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson

photosofnotes, photos, notes, tumblr, amy robinson, quantified curiosity,You can also look at most important entries over time [graph below]. The most important entries  tend to occur in clusters. I wonder do these clusters actually correspond to something? There’s a huge cluster in February, 14 items in 3 days. They actually correspond to my starting a new side project, photos of notes, it’s a tumblr blog where I just publish photos of my notes. In that case, yes, that cluster was something real. And I wondered, is this true for the other clusters?

quantified curiosity, QS, quantified self,

Turns out, yes. In March there’s another one where 21 items occur in a period of 21 days. It corresponds to something kind of goofy that I do — lifebonus emails. I send these out now quite periodically to my friends saying, ya know, share something beautiful, inspiring, intelligent or entertaining that you’ve discovered in the past week and they get a hypothetical lifebonus. It’s goofy, it’s fun, it rocks the inbox but again the data actually corresponds to my doing something new.

How else can we actually explore this?

We were able to formulate these ideas into Gephi, a free network graphing program. The way this works: the circles are called nodes and they correspond to topics that are tagged with ideas. The size of the nodes indicate how many times they were used in tandem with other nodes. The edges – the lines between them – are the actual ideas that are co-tagged with the two different topics.

ideas, graph, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, "Quantified Self", nodes, edges

ideas, graph, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, "Quantified Self", nodes, edgesYou can run statistics in Gephi to modularize communities so based on how connected groups of nodes are relative to the overall connectivity of the whole graph and see distinct communities. For example, the blue down at the bottom is science and science-related tags. The purple is work slash health — I work[ed] in health; you can probably actually infer that by looking at the graph. The red section is TED and TED-related tags, including TEDx and video. And then the green section is “self” and there were come cool things in there like playful, curious, ideas and Quora that popped up really close to me. But this is messy. It’s hard to see 10,500 edges so what you can do is you can actually isolate individual topics.

ideas, graph, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, "Quantified Self"

The yellow dot here is the tag “ideas” within all my ideas data. You can see the little green dot sort of off to the side. It exhibits what’s called a high “betweenness centrality.” In social network graphs that represent people, those nodes that have a high betweenness centrality are the ones that bridge gaps between distinct communities. They’re interdisciplinary in a way and it made me wonder, could the same be true for ideas? Those “in between” ideas, and how can I decipher this information?

ideas, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, "Quantified Self", beautifulWe can look at the graph of “beautiful” for an example. You see there’s a purple dot right in the middle. That’s “tech” and when I actually looked at these tags, there’s a series of beautiful, scientific, technological videos, that I’ve actually compiled on my blog [here!] if you’re curious to see them. You can also zoom in on this red section that were closely tagged with “beautiful” — so “TED”, “TEDx”, “side project”, I guess it’s a good sign that the things I do for free in my spare time incite a sense of awe and beauty. “Video” was the largest in that cluster.

ideas, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, "Quantified Self", video

When I actually look at the graph of “video,” it made me wonder how we could take this information and make it interactive. Imagine you were panning through this on a computer and rather than just looking at nodes, you could actually look at the content relative to where they’re tagged and other things

Here is the tag for “self.” A lot of this was intuitive — “TED,” “science,” — I’m geeky, I love TED. But one dot that very much surprised me, closely related to me — the green dot of Quora, Quora the social Q&A network.

ideas, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson

ideas, Gephi, Quora, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, "Quantified Self"This [left] is a graph of Quora. It’s highly infused with all the different communities of my ideas.

These are beautiful graphs; they’re elegant and nice to look at but what do they mean? What can you actually learn from exploring ideas in this type of way?

It puts them into context. By being able to see my ideas and see how they’re connected to each other, I’m able to think about myself in new ways. I’m able to see, rather than just the fact that I started a new blog or I sent out a lifebonus email to friends, I can see how that evolve and where it came about. Based on the features of these graphs, I can actually understand more about where my ideas come from and how they change over time. And there’s a lot that can be done in Gephi that I haven’t even gotten to yet.

Really, like that one line at TED, those 5 seconds carried a much greater weight than just 5 seconds. I think the same can be true of ideas. How do I remember what was new to me four years ago? How do I understand how the ideas that i encounter today are influencing me as a function of time? And I really wonder how I can discover more ways to think about myself and how I can explore how my mind looks relative to other people’s. I wonder if there are hidden patterns inside of this.

I don’t know the answers to these questions but I think that there are answers, or can be. I’m very curious to understand who I am and how I exist. Consciousness is my greatest curiosity and in the end I’ve learned that we need to think socially about how to better think about thinking. This was a momentous task to put all this  together and it can certainly be done more efficiently. Remember, you are extraordinary. Your mind is exquisite. You, the things that you think about and the things that are important to you, create who you are and who you will become. So imagine how you might answer the question “what inspires you?” if you had a quantified mind in your cognitive toolkit.

Thank you.

ideas, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, Quora, beautiful, video, self, quantified mind

Explore like a hero. #LifeBonus

Wonderfuel featuring inspiring minds and daring accomplishments. Drive your life; fuel your wonder. Enjoy.

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Possibilism and the Power of TEDx

Originally written for the TEDx Blog:

TED is an epicenter of the extraordinary and TEDx is one of many examples why.  This is how organizing a TEDx changed my life.  This is the power of ideas worth spreading.

To quote Hans Rosling, “I am a possibilist.”  Endless innovations are possible.  I am inspired by the notion that great discoveries coalesce from within a dense matrix of curiosity, collaboration, determination and inspiration.

TED brings fourth the subtle intricacies of an individual.  The details of one’s passion and the content that harmonizes with wonder are fascinating to explore, both in one’s self and in others.

A leaping sense of curiosity emerges when life is enhanced by TED-like content.  One remembers to regularly experience ‘Wow!’  Prolonged exposure to TED results in a deep and peculiar effect:  curiosity evolves.

Ideas worth spreading feed back into their recipient and yield an amended manner of thought.  Open, innocent explorations of our beautiful universe and its inhabitants become a regular aspect of life and business.  ‘TEDster’ is a 21st century character attribute of the purveyors of tomorrow’s next big ideas.

This revolution of interaction may help explain why thousands of people around the world spend tens of thousands of hours helping each other put together TEDx events.  Themes like Play BigMind Wide OpenRelentless Curiosity, and Perspectives on Innovation echo the TED brand (see Rediscovery of Wonder) while leaving room for independent expression.

Fellow TEDx hosts are, in my opinion and much like TED itself, legendary in the degree to which they determinedly create a medium for the spread of curiosity and inspiration.  The TEDx network is basically a propagation of TED; a secondary support structure for the dissemination of ideas.  TEDx organizers provide one another with resources, answers, optimism, suggestions, and instant friendships strengthened by a commonality that transcends traditional boundaries.  Whether local (the teams atTEDxAtlanta and TEDxNashville are both friends and mentors) or at a distance (fromTEDxDubai to TEDxMidAtlantic toTEDxLondon) it has been my delightful experience that TEDx organizers diligently uphold TED’s virtue and purpose, together learning from setbacks and sharing successes.

Over the many months involved in planning a TEDx event, its organizer repeatedly explains his or her interpretation of the philosophy of TED and the ideas that underlie TEDx.  This perpetual redescription of ideas worth spreading helps clarify why and how we volunteer to take the idea of TED and turn it into action as TEDx.

TED changes lives by encouraging participants to explore their own.

At TEDGlobal 2010, Matt Ridley aptly shared his concept of ideas having sex:  ideas must be shared if we wish them to evolve “beyond the capacity of the [single] human mind” and reach their full innovative potential.  TED might then be an idea orgy because it exceeds explanation and seems to evolve faster than we can describe it.   It has shared its genes through TEDx and catalyzed a passionate global network of people who have thought in depth and at length about answering the question “What is TED?”   More than an organization, beyond conferences, far surpassing even the phenomenal TEDtalks.. TED is Ideas worth spreading, questions worth asking, curiosity worth pursuing, work worth doing; it represents man achieving his best and then exceeding it.

TED and TEDx events reflect the caliber ambition of creating opportunities from obstacles and thus making life TED-like and an epicenter of wonder.  There are endless discoveries to be made when we look at existing knowledge, ideas, and opinions in a new way.  So said the possibilist.

Human beings are beautiful things when reminded to thrive.   I shared this thought inspired by TEDx with Chris Anderson, who answered that TEDx hosts = heroes.  While I may be no hero, the hundreds of other TEDx hosts around the world certainly are.  And I know few so deserving of my gratitude than they who graciously share ideas worth spreading.   To TED, TEDx organizers, TED and TEDx supporters and attendees:  I sincerely appreciate the opportunity through TEDx to help others share inspiration in pursuit of innovation.

TEDxHuntsville 2012 Presenters

ideation.TopictoTopic