Written by Scott H Young
I believe that a sign of good information is that it makes you think. If reading a book, listening to a lecture or watching a video doesn’t change how you think, it probably isn’t that important. But if you encounter something that forces you to change your views, even if you don’t completely agree with it, you’ve found something valuable.
The problem is where do you find these ideas? Better yet, where do you find the time to consume this information?
Recently I found a great place to get started. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a huge conference held each year. The best thinkers come together and share their ideas. Their website, www.ted.com, has hundreds of free speeches. Here’s ten that might just change how you view the world:
1) The Myth of Violence – Steven Pinker
In this video, Steven Pinker tackles the myth that today is a more violent era than in the past. Using historical data and information from pre-industrialized tribes, Pinker shows that violence has dramatically declined in our history.
Pinker believes that a more sensitive reporting system has led us to believe violence has increased, when it has actually dropped. Not only will it make you feel a bit better about the present times, but it gives hope that the future might be a more peaceful place.
2) 10 Ways the World Could End – Stephen Petranek
Particle accelerators producing black holes that could destroy the world? While some of Petranek’s top ten doomsday problems might seem a bit farfetched, many are definitely worth a look. The future has a tendency to sneak up on us from behind, so preparing in advance might be a good idea.
Plus, who doesn’t want to terraform Mars?
3) New Insights on Poverty and Life Around the World – Hans Rosling
Statistics generally aren’t described as beautiful, but Hans Rosling comes close in showing the information about our changing world. The world has changed a lot in the last few decades, as Rosling will update you on how poverty in Asia has dramatically declined.
4) Toys That Make Worlds – Will Wright
Are games becoming a serious medium? (or are the already?) With all the debate around violence in games, it seems hard to believe that they could actually compete with film and literature for artistic merit. But as technology increases and games compete with movies for market share, this might start becoming the case. Will Wright’s talk around Spore might just persuade a few more people.
5) Technology’s Long Tail – Chris Anderson
WIRED editor, Chris Anderson talks about the four key shifts that occur with most new technologies. First, Anderson points out, technology approaches a critical price where it becomes viable for consumers. Next it approaches a critical mass and then displaces a pre-existing technology (VCR to DVD). Finally it becomes close to free.
Using various examples, Anderson shows how technologies are at different stages along this four-part continuum. This is a must see for anyone who works, invests or benefits from high-tech.
6) Why Are We Happy? Or Not? – Daniel Gilbert
Bestselling author of, Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert describes some surprising information about your happiness.
Gilbert describes a study where patients suffering from amnesia were asked to rank several paintings in the order they like them. They were then told they could keep a painting from the middle of their rankings. After the researchers left the room the patients quickly forgot about the whole encounter. When asked to rank the paintings again, however, they ranked the one they owned as being the best.
This means that our tastes are often sculpted by what we have available. As Gilbert points out, our psychological immune system can keep us happy even through depressing circumstances.
7) Universe is Queerer Than We Can Suppose – Richard Dawkins
In this talk notable evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins points out just how weird reality might be. He talks about how we have evolved to fit into a so-called “Middle World” where we can’t observe the very large or very small. The universe might just be a whole lot queerer than we suppose. Or, as Dawkins points out, than we even can suppose.
8 ) Sliced Bread – Seth Godin
Here, influential blogger, writer and speaker Seth Godin shares some of his ideas on marketing.
9) Redefining the Dictionary – Erin McKean
Never had the chance to use “synecdochical” in a sentence before? Here Erin McKean speaks with passion about how the dictionary and the English language is changing. She believes the web, and more importantly, you, will help in changing how the English language is recorded.
10) What’s So Funny About the Web? – Ze Frank
Okay, perhaps this one isn’t as life-transforming, but Ze Frank is a funny guy with great ideas. Between riffing on spam, Google rankings and web toys Ze will make you laugh as he makes you think.
The talks vary in length from ten to twenty minutes. You might want to bookmark this page so you can watch some of them later. Ted has many other fascinating speakers who talk about a huge range of subjects. You might just learn something. Better yet, you might just think.
Not to forget some politics: one should certainly add:
“Loose Change” about 911.