Posted by: Nathan | May 27, 2009

Interesting Talks at TED Online

The other day I stumbled across a video of a speech about classical music that was given at TED. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and it’s  an annual conference that presents a cavalcade of brilliant minds (oh, and Al Gore) to give a talk on something related to their fields. Since that first speech, I’ve come back to the website every now and again to listen to anything that sounds interesting. I was going to save these links for my next round of Stumble Upon Discoveries, but I think they deserve their own post. Obviously, you have 800 things to do today, and there are millions of other things on the web; however, I found these speeches entertaining, interesting, funny, and/or inspiring.

  • Benjamin Zander–On Music and Passion (20:43). This is the first one I watched, and I loved it. Zander makes the case that everyone loves classical music, but they just don’t know it yet. He then proves his point by talking a little about music, telling some stories, and playing a Chopin piece that is achingly lovely. If you watch none of the others, watch this one.
  • J. J. Abrams–Mystery Box (18:02). The producer of the best show on television (Lost, of course) discusses why he is so interested in mystery. I didn’t think the talk was that wonderful, but it did explain a lot about how Abrams approaches his work and why Lost is the way it is. I enjoyed it.
  • Elizabeth Gilbert–Nurturing Creativity (19:29). Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love, which is a hugely popular memoir I have not read. In her talk, she addresses why we treat creative people as if they’re crazy and proposes a different way to look at creativity. I loved the notion of ideas coming from somewhere outside oneself. Definitely worth listening to.
  • Evan Williams–Listening to Twitter Users (7:58). I love Twitter, so I listened to this one for that reason. Williams talks about how innovation is driven largely by individuals and how Twitter adapted to those who use it. This is a great one if you love technology.
  • Brewster Kahle–Building a Free Digital Library (20:06). Kahle’s speech is about how our generation can “one-up the Greeks” by assembling the entireity of human knowledge in a free digital library. I thought of Jason the entire time I listened to this one! Kahle makes a persuasive argument. My favorite part of the idea is that if we have all books in e-form, we can print them cheaply and easily. People who want e-books get them; I get cheaper print books. Everybody wins.
  • Dan Gilbert–Our Mistaken Expectations (33:38). This talk gets long for me, and it goes over my head at times because there’s a lot of stats and numbers here. However, Gilbert makes a lot of great points about how our decision making is flawed. The part about the lottery is brilliant.
  • A. J. Jacobs–Year of Living Biblically (17:40). Jacobs is a quirky, nerdy guy who experiments with his life and writes about the outcomes. In this talk, he discusses how he lived one year attempting to follow every biblical law and rule in the Old and New Testament. The talk itself is fun and interesting as many of the customs of ancient Israel don’t exactly mesh with 21st Century America. The best part, though, was that Jacob (an agnostic, I believe) is not condescending about the Bible. He learns some valuabe things from this experiment. I wish someone would have told him about the New Covenant, however.
  • Liz Coleman–Reinventing Liberal Arts Education (18:38). I am overjoyed to find somewhat of a kindred spirit in Coleman regarding the ongoing failures of the education establishment. Coleman reclaims the liberal arts for what they were always meant to be: a means of creating informed, passionate, and whole human beings via a university education. There are sporadic moments when Coleman ticks me off, e.g. people who disbelieve evolution are ignorant and her all-too-common and annoying notion that Pres. Obama is some kind of Aruthurian figure—please. However, her main ideas I think are spot-on, and I loved it when she took that shot at postmodern deconstructionism. Too true!

There are many, many more where these came from. When I’m bored or putting away laundry, I’ll probably seek out more of these talks. As you should expect, there is definitely a left-wing slant at TED, and Darwinism is everywhere. If that’s what you like, you’re set. If not, there are still plenty of worthy speeches to be found here. Hope you enjoy as much as I have!

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