10 of the Best TED Talks
TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) is a global set of conferences curated by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading”. Every year, the technology, entertainment, and design worlds’ most inspired movers and shakers convene for a week of forward thinking revelry. These are 10 of the talks that have been most well-rated over the internet and my personal favorites too.
10. Stephen Wolfram: Computing a theory of everything
Stephen Wolfram, creator of Mathematica, talks about his quest to make all knowledge computational — able to be searched, processed and manipulated. His new search engine, Wolfram Alpha, has no lesser goal than to model and explain the physics underlying the universe.
9. Malcolm Gladwell: Spaghetti Sauce
Detective of fads and emerging subcultures, chronicler of jobs-you-never-knew-existed, Malcolm Gladwell’s work is toppling the popular understanding of bias, crime, food, marketing, race, consumers and intelligence. Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell gets inside the food industry’s pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce — and makes a larger argument about the nature of choice and happiness.
8. Arthur Benjamin: Mathemagic
Mathematician and magician Arthur Benjamin combines his two passions in “Mathemagics,” a mind-boggling presentation of lightning calculations and other feats of mathematical agility. In a lively show, mathemagician Arthur Benjamin races a team of calculators to figure out 3-digit squares, solves another massive mental equation and guesses a few birthdays. How does he do it? He’ll tell you.
7. Richard Dawkins: Our “Queer” Universe
Oxford professor Richard Dawkins has helped steer evolutionary science into the 21st century, and his concept of the “meme” contextualized the spread of ideas in the information age. Biologist Richard Dawkins makes a case for “thinking the improbable” by looking at how the human frame of reference limits our understanding of the universe.
6. Blaise Aguera y Arcas: Photosynth
Blaise Agüera y Arcas is the architect of Bing Maps at Microsoft, building augmented reality into searchable maps. Blaise Aguera y Arcas leads a dazzling demo of Photosynth, software that could transform the way we look at digital images. Using still photos culled from the Web, Photosynth builds breathtaking dreamscapes and lets us navigate them.
5. Elizabeth Gilbert: Nurturing Creativity
Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk. The author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert has thought long and hard about some large topics. Her next fascination: genius, and how we ruin it.
4. Mark Roth: Suspended Animation is within our Grasp
Mark Roth studies suspended animation: the art of shutting down life processes and then starting them up again. It’s wild stuff, but it’s not science fiction. Induced by careful use of an otherwise toxic gas, suspended animation can potentially help trauma and heart attack victims survive long enough to be treated.
3. Jill Bolte Taylor: Stroke of Insight
Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one. An astonishing story.
2. Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry: Sixth Sense
Pranav Mistry is the inventor of SixthSense, a wearable device that enables new interactions between the real world and the world of data. This demo — from Pattie Maes’ lab at MIT, spearheaded by Pranav Mistry — was the buzz of TED. It’s a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment. Imagine “Minority Report” and then some.
1. Ken Robinson: Schools kill Creativity
Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we’re educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity. Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.