Recent TED talks that I’ve appreciated:

The good thing about using TED talks for background music/company while I’m working is that they’re inspiring and often very motivational. I got a heap of work done on Friday because I was listening to these. I love TED talks – I’ve got a whole other bunch of talks that I’ve yet to listen to, so more posts like these are planned.

First of all Stanley McChrystal talking about leadership: ‘Listen, learn and lead‘. This quote really sums up what I got out of the talk: 

Leaders can let you fail, and not let you be a failure.”  

This talk came from a military background of experience, I don’t usually find myself in a space where I find that inspiring or motivating. However, there were interesting insights around leadership and how people who are so very different can find a commonality with which to come together as one unit. I appreciated this. 

This next talk almost brought me to tears for it’s beauty and vision. Harnessing the internet for the powers of breathtaking connectionism and creativity. Composer and conductor Eric Whitacre presents at TED talking about his experience creating a virtual choir: ‘A virtual choir, 2000 voices strong. This talk really gives you an amazing platform from which to truly appreciate these virtual choir performances. 

His first piece titled “Lux Aurumque” involved 185 voices from 25 countries around the world, is an amazing proof of concept. Its success inspired Eric to create an even larger virtual choir using his song “Sleep”. The result was an epic music experience, a virtual choir 2.0 comprised of over 2000 voices from over 58 countries around the world

Although I’m disappointed in Google as a organisation at present, I was impressed by Sebastian Thrun’s presentation to TED: ‘Google’s driverless car. After losing a friend to a car accident, Sebastian says that he “decided dedicate my life to saving one million people every year.” Sebastian reports that he’s not there yet, that this is just a progress report.

In my listening his work on the driverless car has a number of potential positive impacts on society. Not the least of these is the potential to massively reduce traffic accidents; plus, the ever persuasive money maker in saving people time – he estimates around “4 billion hours per year” in the US. He also comments on how it will contribute to environmental initiatives to reduce pollution by reducing time spent waiting in traffic – his estimate for the US is that it would save “2.4 billion gallons of gasoline per year”. This car looks pretty nifty – I wonder how far we are from cars like this being ‘ordinary’ and part of the everyday landscape?

“Wrongologist” Kathryn Schulz talks about how we engage with being wrong, or rather how we avoid it at all costs focusing only on being right and in many cases not taking the lessons that come with being wrong into account. Her talk ‘On being wrong‘ is well worth a listen. Also, how cool is her job title ‘Wrongologist’?!

I really enjoyed David Meslin‘s talk on ‘The antidote to antipathy‘, He talks about how people in general aren’t uninterested or uninvolved with politics because they don’t care, or because they’re stupid or because they’re lazy… but that apathy as we think we know it doesn’t actually exist … that people do care, but that we live in a world that actively discourages engagement by constantly putting obstacles and barriers in our way.” From intentional exclusion, unprofitable messages with the economy of freedom of expression to the cynacism provoked by political parties who all say similar things and are unwilling to engage genuinely outside of the politics machine. 

In another fascinating talk, David Christian discussed ‘Big history‘, and how the increasing complexity surrounding conditions for the universe involves amazing instances of vulnerability and fragility. This was one of those talks that makes me swoon over science and physics and cosmology. To think about the universe with this kind of breadth leaves me breathtaken. 

Forth grade teacher John Hunter presents about ‘The World Peace Game‘ and his experiences of teaching in classrooms with it. He talks ofchildren’s ability to act on far reaching vectors and affirm their actions as the right thing despite the disagreement of others. He talks about his student’s understanding of war and it’s cost when they write condolences letters to the families of the soldiers who are killed when they ‘go to war’ on another nation.

The World Peace Game’s board has 4 levels including a deep sea and deep space level, as well as a land and sea level with four nations both rich and poor. The way he talks about all he’s learned from children’s engagement with the game is truly humbling, I love that he’s created a trust between himself and the students in order to achieve the potential of what the game has to offer. I also love that the concept really does engage with real world issues that we’re unable to solve as adults – hearing children’s perspectives on them is amazing. 

Caroline Casey tells the story in her talk ‘Looking past limits‘ about how she became Mowgli from ‘The Jungle Book‘. She’s had an amazing and far reaching career, but everything all came together for her with an intense authenticity when she trekked across India on the back of an elephant. This was a beautiful story, and reminds me of the notion of considering what I would do, if I knew I couldn’t fail? I don’t have an answer in words yet, though my heart knows the words. 

Silence is the subject of Anil Ananthaswarmy’s talk on ‘What it takes to do extreme astrophysics‘, he visits some of the most remote and breathtaking locations in the world and the astrophysics projects going on there. I am so very excited by the passion and dedication with which teams of people all over the world undertake to take us to new levels of understanding about the universe and our place in it. 

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