Peter Stibrany: TedX has beautifully captured the modern revival of oral culture
Ahead of the third edition of TedXLuxembourgCity, Delano introduces five of its speakers. Here we chat with Peter Stibrany.
With over 35 years of experience in space technologies and the space business, Peter Stibrany is now dedicated to bringing the small, low-cost satellite revolution to deep space and making available resources from asteroids to fuel a large expansion of human presence in space.
What do you do?
In short, I solve problems--or try to, anyway. I started on this path some forty years ago at university, then worked on purely technical problems as a spacecraft engineer. This involved figuring out what equipment should be on the spacecraft so that it can meet its mission--provide communications, take pictures of the Earth, or help construct and maintain a space station. And where in space the spacecraft should fly, to deliver the most value.
But this occupation has expanded over the years to extremely multidisciplinary challenges. I’m now working on the hardest question I’ve ever tackled, and it still amazes me that I’ve been given the opportunity to do this. The question is how we enable a large-scale presence of humans in space--how we build cities in space.
Meeting that challenge involves a coordinated strategy with technical, market, business, legal, regulatory, management, and even psychological dimensions. Leaving one of those out may mean the solution will only succeed by accident, and I’d like to do better than that. That’s the challenge that makes me get up every morning.
What attracted you to speak at TedX?
TedX has beautifully captured the modern revival of oral culture, of sharing ideas, of story-telling. This is very new to me, since I rarely get a chance to talk to an audience of more than my few closest friends, usually one at a time. The rest is really done in writing. The TedX challenge, to be able to communicate verbally in a clear and compelling way to a group of interested people, definitely puts me outside my comfort zone. But I’m eager to find out what other people make of the ideas close to my heart--are they relevant and inspiring or are they completely alien. Can I bring the ideas across in a compelling way? Can I find collaborators to take on the same mission?
The world can sometimes feel closed, and all its futures look dismal. But equally, it can feel wide open, with the future far better than the present. For me, the spirit of TedX talks is the difference between these two.
Elon Musk has said that life needs to be about more than just solving everyday problems. I believe TedX rallies to that call. So, I could not turn down the opportunity to participate.
Which other speakers are you interested to hear at the event?
If I have to pick one, I’d say Bastiaan Degroot, because of his focus on disruptive innovation, which I’ve wrestled with for decades--even before I realized that this is what I was wrestling with.
But really, I’m excited about listening to all the speakers who are coming from fields that are completely new to me. What unites us in TedX is our love of ideas, and great ideas can come from any field of human action. Some of my favourite TedX videos involve topics I’d never have picked as reading material, and artists I’d not have taken the trouble to go and see. But in the presence of people speaking passionately about them, or demonstrating them thoughtfully, the field is transformed. I look forward to the day!
TedXLuxembourgCity takes place at Neimënster on 28 April. The event sold out in just 6 minutes. But on 17 April Delano will hold a contest to win 2 tickets in our 10 Things To Do This Week newsletter. Sign up here.