Posts Tagged ‘TED’

We reopen our blog posts today by taking AskMen.com‘s advice on the 10 Top TED Talks. We’ve featured TED Talks here before and this Top 10 list is fresh and very insightful material.

From AskMen.com:

The Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conferences aim to help foster a better future by mining the ideas of “the world’s smartest thinkers, greatest visionaries and most-inspiring teachers.” Past TED talks have been given by Gordon Brown, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and other preeminent figures in their fields. Since 2007, hundreds of talks have been available online in their entirety on subjects ranging from matters of dire global importance to lighthearted comedy.

Described in The New York Times Magazine as a series of “head-rush disquisitions” from “violinists, political prisoners, brain scientists, novelists, and Bill Clinton,” the event isn’t at all limited in its scope, as long as the final product is interesting. The talks to follow are all in some way about men’s issues, though they range from perilous adventure to reflective poetry.


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 Jared Diamond, author of Collapse, gives an interesting talk in TED regarding the reasons why societies collapse. In this talk he describes the story of the Norse society in Greenland which went extinct. He describes a 5 point framework he uses to examine the collapse of human societies:

  • Human Impact On The Environment
  • Climate Change
  • Relationships With Neighboring Friendly Societies
  • Relationships With Hostile Societies
  • Political/Economic/Cultural/Social Factors

One of Professor Diamond’s controversial statements in the talk relates to the tendency for societies to collapse in a rapid fashion:

7:47 One interesting common thread has to do with, in many cases, the rapidity of collapse after a society has reached its peak. There are many societies that don’t wind down gradually but they build up, get rich and more powerful, and then within a short time within a few decades after they have peaked, they collapse.

Professor Diamond’s talk is a timely one especially in light of the economic crisis gripping the globe now and the troubles hitting First World societies in the United States and Europe.

An ecologist, evolutionary biologist and professor of geography and physiology at UCLA, Diamond takes an approach that goes beyond culture and into the impact it has on the environment. As Malcolm Gladwell observes, “Diamond’s distinction between social and biological survival is a critical one, because too often we blur the two.” Diamond’s ability to tackle daunting questions (and pose unsettling answers) in a straightforward voice may be reason enough to share his optimism that recognizing a problem paves the way for solving it.

Going back to his talk, at one point Professor Diamond makes an excellent point about the relationship of values and the consequent collapse of society:

13:37 The other generalization that I want to mention is that it’s particularly hard for a society to make ‘good decisions’ when there is a conflict involving strongly held values that are held good in many circumstances, but are poor in other circumstances.

For example, the Greenland Norse in this difficult environment were held together by for four and half centuries by their sheer commitment to religion and by their strong social cohesion. But those two things: commitment to religion and strong social cohesion also made it difficult for them to change at the end.

Although religion continues its influence in the present time, the best analog to the Norse situation in the present societies in the U.S. and Europe is the strongly held but conflicting beliefs relating to Capitalism and Free Markets–undeniably the locus of today’s crisis. Whether governments should be more active or less active in market dynamics is the strongly debated belief. Understanding this belief in the context of Diamond’s framework might be helpful in seeing a solution to the societal collapse being predicted (as we featured recently by Schiff, Rogers, and co.).

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An older talk on TED which I love going back to from time to time, in appreciation of the personal nature and the awesome power of blogs.

Mena Trott is the founder of leading blog software company Six Apart (Creators of Typepad, Movable Type, LiveJournal and Vox).

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Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we’re left, right or center. In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most.

Liberals and conservatives value certain things similarly and other things differently. His captivating talk on moral psychology sheds insights on the nature of morality of religion and the nature of belief systems.

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In this talk from TED, Emily Oster a University of Chicago economist, looks at the stats on AIDS in Africa — and comes up with a stunning conclusion: Everything we know about AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is wrong. We look for root causes such as poverty and poor health care — but we also need to factor in, say, the price of coffee, and the routes of long-haul truckers. In short, there is a lot we don’t know; and our assumptions about what we do know may keep us from finding the best way to stop the disease.

Emily’s talk is a good example of using inference from existing information and adopting a culture of critical thinking to challenge relevant issues and shape policies to deal with them.

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Tired of the debate? Environmental scientist David Keith discusses a cheap, effective, shocking solution to climate change: What if we injected a huge cloud of ash into the atmosphere, to deflect sunlight and heat? As an emergency measure to slow a melting ice cap, it could work. Keith discusses why it’s a good idea, why it’s a terrible one — and who, despite the cost, might be tempted to use it.

He calls this and similar strategies: geoengineering, and why these kinds of strategies also pose a moral hazard for the environmental lobby. However, he insists that this line of thinking is not only necessary but inevitable against the near-zero progress we have had in the last 50-year-long debate on climate change.

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Neuroscientist Jill Taylor experienced a massive hemorrhage on her brain’s left hemisphere and her experience provided her insights on how the brain works and how to appreciate life.

Her talk on TED is an amazing story.

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Murray Gell-mann is a physicist who reflects on the “theory of everything”. He mentions that there seems to be a relationship with elegance and beauty to finding truth.

What are things that can be said to be beautiful or elegant? Elegance refers to simplicity. Elegance refers to something all-encompassing. Elegance is something that isn’t complicated. Elegance is something that you can immediately relate to–something you can immediately say is beautiful or elegant.

Beauty is a unified theory. There is a simple statement that explains everything. Beauty is symmetry. Beauty is a self-similarity in Nature on all levels. We search for this beauty and we will be closer to truth.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid!)

Are elegant questions more likely to be right than inelegant ones? Do you need something more, something supernatural, something inexplicable–to explain reality?

Murray Gell-mann reflects on these things in this wonderful talk on TED.

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