TEDGlobal: Ending Western dominance, viruses and hunger

What started off as a conference on technology, entertainment and design has now become a platform for a diverse range of ideas and issues around the world.

    "Our generation is witnessing the end of western dominance," British historian Niall Ferguson told the audience at the TEDGlobal conference on Wednesday.

    Ferguson took the audience through a few hundred years of history, describing the rise of what came to be known as 'the West'.

    As argued in his recent book, Civilization: the West and the Rest, he explained six ideas and institutions that gave the West an advantage, not only economically, but also strategically over the rest of the world.

    Labelled the six "killer apps", to hold the attention of the TED audience, he explained how the West succeeded due to superior science, medicine, work ethic, competition, property rights and consumer society.

    However, the fact that these "apps" can now be downloaded by other countries, like China and India, Ferguson said that the time of Western dominance would soon be coming to an end.

    Talking about real killer viruses, cyber-security expert Mikko Hypponen, asked what was "the next killer virus, and will the world be able to cope with it?"

    The head of research at a Finnish internet company, Hypponen has led his team through some of the largest computer virus outbreaks in history.

    He gave a history of the 20-odd years that computer viruses have existed, explaining how he traced the first known virus to a pair of brothers in Lahore, Pakistan.

    It was Hypponen's team that took down the world-wide network used by the Sobig.F worm, a virus that replicated itself and spread by randomly emailing addresses from infected computers.

    Hypponen has done classified briefings on the operation of Stuxnet virus which targeted Iranian organisations - the probable target was widely suspected to be uranium enrichment infrastructure in Iran.

    "This morning, one out of every seven people in the world, did not know how to get food and water, Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, told the audience.

    "There's enough food on earth for everyone to have enough calories every day, yet we lose a child to hunger every 10 seconds."

    Sheeran explained WFP's plans to fight world hunger, highlighting the desperate situation that many now face due to drought in the Horn of Africa.

    Citing recent evidence by The Lancet, Sheeran said that children who do not get adequate nutrition in their first three years, will suffer from irreversible damage.

    "This has a huge impact on economies, and the earning potential of these children is cut in half."

    The agency has been working with governments and NGOs in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Uganda to deliver more than half a million tonnes of food to over six million people in the region.

    However, the agency's $477m budget is inadequate and some $190m in funds are needed for refugees in Kenya and Ethiopia.

    She appealed to the audience at the conference to do their bit in the fight against poverty and hunger.

    "Food is one issue that cannot be solved person by person. We have to stand together," Sheeran said.


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