I just got back from TEDTalks, which were held in Rio this year. It's like going to Glastonbury but the acts are geniuses who've invented things I've never dreamt possible. It's extraordinary - and the sense of "I'm not worthy" bubbles below my surface as I'm surrounded by all this brain candy.
The biggest thrill of all thrills is hanging out with some of them during the breaks. I lost weight from all the mingling with women who are standing up to the Taliban even though their lives may be substantially shortened, high techies who make apps that teach kids to read, saviours of the environment and preventers of death and illnesses; not in that order. Here, instead of treating you like some pathetic prehistoric fish, they give you their cards, yes, like you're going to be friends from now on. I am now back in the UK touring Sane New World with no voice from all the talking. I now bark at the audiences and do a lot of mime.
I can't even list all the jaw-droppers I met at TED. Over breakfast, a woman told me she makes satellites and floats them over Egypt to look for archeological sites; she's found over 17 pyramids. I met two young, gorgeous girls researching at Princeton; one is an astrophysicist, her job is to find life on other planets. Her friend, with a ring in her nose and wearing a black sparkly dress, is a cosmologist (I thought that meant she did make-up) who's an expert on what happened 1,000 nanoseconds after the big bang. They said they had a hard time getting dates when they tell men what they do. The men just walk away in mid-sentence they're so intimidated. It goes on and on.
There was a kid from Singularity University who invented some app where after you get a genetic blood to test your proto DNA, you hold the iPhone up to some cloud and find out if you have the beginnings of cancer in a specific area in your body. There was another guy who put helmets on monkeys so they can read each other's minds. One of the monkeys sends the message through the helmet to move the arm of the other monkey. He's starting to try it on humans - meaning one day you could pass your thoughts on through sheer force of will. Are you getting the idea? They put a suit with sensors on a kid who had spinal damage and couldn't walk. The activated suit got him up out of the wheelchair at the Brazilian World Cup and he kicked a football which he could feel on his foot from other sensors. Everyone at the game wept.
When they asked me what I did I just coughed over the part about being in comedy, though the Dalai Lama's right hand man asked if I could help him do stand up for the next TED conference. We're going to Skype and I hope to have him getting laughs by the end of the month. At one point I couldn't even get my iPhone to work so stopped some passing guy and said, "You look like a techie, can you help me get my phone working?". When I say he looked at me like I was a rotting corpse, it doesn't even begin to describe it. I read his badge. It said 'Director of Amazon'. I winced for an hour trying to unclench my behind. Some people might cower in a corner, but for some obsessive reason I had to know what everyone did for a living. My curiosity is almost an illness, and I now have so many business cards I don't even know who they belong to.
Listening to these people I'm not frightened about the future. We are in good hands, they care, they're doing something about the problems - from stopping the ice melting to bringing back the Amazonian trees, and they're doing it in spite of governments. There are brave souls everywhere in the world fighting for their rights even though their lives are in danger. I was lucky enough to see up close these heroes of tomorrow.
I'm on the road in October with Sane New World - full details at my website. I may be hoarse from all the mingling, but I'd love to see you there.Suggest a correction