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November 10, 2011
100 Best TED Talks
After watching or listening to hundreds of the most popular and highest rated TED talks, we've compiled this list of the 100 Best TED Talks of All Time! For over five years now the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Conference has been releasing talks from their conference on video featuring leading thinkers not only in technology, entertainment, and design, but also science, psychology, personal growth, and numerous other areas. They now offer over 900 talks on their website and numerous other TED conferences have popped up including TED Global, TED India, TED Women, and 100s of TEDx Events which have produced almost 10,000 TEDx videos on YouTube.
For this top 100 list we've selected mostly videos from the main TED conferences but have also added some talks from these special TED events. We've divided the top 100 list up by categories and ranked the TED talks within each category according to the ones we enjoyed the most. We've embedded all these TED talks on pages on our site along with linking over to TED's site which offers many of them on MP3 audio & video download. We've generally left out the really short TED talks and the ones that are more entertainment rather than educational. We'll be updating this list as we find better and better TED talks in the years to come. Let us know if you think we're missing any great TED talks by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you watch or listen to all these TED Talks, we guarantee that they will change the way you view the world! The TED Talks give you a global outlook in a way that few other resources can provide. And at 20 minutes you can get through a lot of them and gain a lot of condensed knowledge very quickly. Expand your mind and inspire yourself to learn more with these amazing TED talks!
Here are the categories we've featured below with the number of TED talks that we featured for each category:
ART & DESIGN (5 talks)
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS (10 talks)
EDUCATION (5 talks)
HEALTH & PERSONAL GROWTH (10 talks)
PSYCHOLOGY (15 talks)
RELIGION & PHILOSOPHY (10 talks)
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY (25 talks)
SOCIAL SCIENCES & GLOBAL ISSUES (15 talks)
MISCELLANEOUS (5 talks)
And here are all of the 100 Best TED Talks with in depth write ups of why they're so great. Start your TED education right now!
ART & DESIGN:
Conductor Benjamin Zander shares his passion for classical music in this TED talk. While the statistics say 3% of the population are classical music lovers, Zander attempts to prove that we are all lovers of classical music. He takes listeners on a journey of what he calls one-buttock playing where the pianist is moved with the music and in turn moves the audience. He then plays a Chopin prelude and proves that nobody is tone deaf.
Novelist Chimamanda Adichie talks about the danger of only knowing a single story about a particular culture and relates it to events that have happened throughout her life. Growing up in Nigeria she started reading only European literature and she began writing stories only about whites. When she moved to the United States for college her roommate had been told only one story about Africa and was shocked by the similar middle class upbringing that Adichie had had. Adichie tells the story of going to Mexico while the media was reporting on the immigration crisis and she embarrassed by her cultural bias and at the diversity of Mexican culture she saw. She encourages us all to seek out a variety of stories about cultures and not just adhere to the one definitive story that is often told by the powerful of one's own culture.
In this TED Talk author Amy Tan probes into the roots of creativity or how "out of nothing comes something". She examines her own life and the many influences that have fed into her novels. She also tells of the many fascinating coincidences that have happened to her over the years at key moments of creativity. It's an intriguing and often humorous talk from a beloved author.
Green-minded architect and designer William McDonough presents many of his ideas for creating sustainable businesses which he introduced in his book Cradle to Cradle. By creating products, buildings, and more that are non-toxic and reusable he shows how they can not only have a positive environmental affect but also how they can be profitable for companies in the long run. He presents many of the designs that his architectural firm has created for companies around the world.
Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert examines the way society looks at artists and the way artists look at themselves in this TED talk. She feels that the creative people should view their work as channeling God's creative gift to them rather than as their own personal creative genius. And she hopes such a shift might prevent some of the madness and self-destruction that occurs in so many of our modern artists.
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS:
In this interesting talk delivered by bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, he explores how the food industry went from looking for the perfect single spaghetti sauce recipe to a more diverse approach of creating a variety of spaghetti sauces to suit the desires of shoppers. He examines this trend through one of its main proponents Howard Moskowitz who used the field of psychophysics to create a variety of original sauces for Prego in the 1980s. Once this variability was proven to be successful it spread to the rest of the food industry, and Gladwell feels we are all happier for this increase in choices.
Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, discusses some of the observations he makes in his book in this talk from the TED conference. He argues that the vast explosion of choices in advanced capitalist societies has led to increased paralysis in terms of decision making and ultimately decreased satisfaction. He provides a number of examples to back up his thesis that more choice and individual freedom is not always best.
37signals co-founder and Rework author Jason Fried makes some provocative suggestions regarding why work doesn't get done in the workplace. He suggests that interruptions are the key component contributing to the lack work accomplished in the workplace and that managers and meetings are to blame. He relates the stage of work to the stages of sleep and in order to get the best work done one needs to go through these stages without interruption. This talk was delivered at the TEDxMidwest Conference.
Seth Godin feels that days of status quo marketing through the television industrial complex are coming to an end. People are too busy to pay attention to the nonstop advertising of average products for average people. What grabs people's attention is something remarkable, or rather something worth making a remark about. And their remarks spread the ideas or products to the world and make it a success. Learn about the cutting edge of spreading ideas with this talk by Seth Godin.
Ad man Rory Sutherland takes a look at his profession and shows how advertising makes regular things valuable and that this perceived value is often just as satisfying as what we consider "real" value. He makes many telling jokes about this matter such as why don't we sell placebos as medication if they're actually shown to work in the perception of the ailing person. Throughout the talk he makes his point that advertising can often do a better job at spreading an idea or a product than rational problem solving.
Johanna Blakley delivers an eye-opening talk on copyrights in the world of fashion. Because the courts have deemed garments as too utilitarian to be copyrighted, the fashion industry has a complete lack of copyrights when it comes to their designs. They do have trademarks over their brands, but when it comes to the design anyone can copy it. This has led to the fashion imitations we are familiar with, but Blakley points out this hasn't really hurt the industry because the customers who are buying the fakes are not the same as the customers who buy the real thing. If anything Blakley feels this has spawned creativity in fashion as designers are able to mix and match with any designs throughout history and they increasingly try to make designs that can't easily be copied. Blakley points to other industries where items can't be copyrighted and she feels that the struggling industries of movies, books, and music might need to update their ideas on copyright in this new digital age.
In this humorous sketch provided by TED Talks, Steven Levitt analyzes what it takes to make a living selling drugs. Taking America's crack epidemic as a template, Levitt discusses how inner city gangs developed a corporate structure that consolidated power, left little room for promotion, and was incredibly dangerous to boot. In the end Levitt argues that selling drugs on the street is about as lucrative as working at McDonald's, but that this fact hasn't diluted its mystique.
While businesses are obsessed with measuring the tangible elements for their business, hotelier and author of Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow Chip Conley makes a strong case for businesses to measure the intangibles of business such as the feelings of customers or the whether the employees find their work meaningful. After studying the "hierarchy of needs" developed by psychologist Abraham Maslow, Conley realized that there was a lot more to his business than making sure his customer's basic needs were met. He set out to measure and improve the metrics of intangible benefits to his customers and employees and his hotel business boomed to become the second largest boutique hotelier in the world.
Master negotiator and Getting to YES author William Ury tells stories of successful negotiations he has conducted throughout his life often in heated political arenas. He talks about the Abraham Path Initiative which he conducted as a way of getting to the root of the conflicts in the Middle East by having people walk the path Abraham walked and practice Abrahamic hospitality along the way. This talk was delivered at the TEDxMidwest Conference.
TED's Chris Anderson sits down with multibillionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson to discuss his some of the over 400 companies he's started in his Virgin Group. Branson gives some advice and tells of his adventures along the way. He talks about his Virgin Galactic which is now booking sub-orbital spaceflights to the paying public. And he tells of his philanthropic efforts around the world.
Chef Jamie Oliver gets serious of food education in this impassioned TED Talk that confronts the preventable obesity epidemic. He shows that diet-related disease is the leading cause of death in America and that 10% of our national health care costs goes towards treating these diseases. He then discusses childhood obesity and his campaign to reform school lunches along with his call for all children to be educated about food so that we can prevent the growing obesity crisis.
Sir Ken Robinson gives a humorous and inspiring talk on rethinking education and its relation to creativity. He feels that education becomes increasingly narrow as students proceed through it leaving many forms of intelligence and creativity behind. In order to confront the unknown future, Robinson sees creativity as the essential component as future generations face new challenges with new ideas.
In 2004 Salman Khan began posting math tutorials on YouTube and now he has created Khan Academy which features over 2,000 educational videos. In this talk at the 2011 TED Conference Khan describes how using video can help students learn at their pace and reduce the lecturing time a teacher needs to take which will allow for more one on one interaction with students. These video lectures can also become the homework that students do, and their actual "homework" can be done in the classroom with the teacher their to help. Watch this video on Salman Khan's innovative use of educational video available on TED.com. And if you want to check out Salman Khan's videos you can check them all out here: Khan Academy Videos.
This entertaining and amusing talk was delivered by writer Dave Eggers at the TED conference. In the talk he tells about his founding of the literacy project 826 Valencia in San Francisco which brings together creative people with kids in the community for one-to-one tutoring. Instead of making it a non-profit they instead made the storefront a shop which sells pirate supplies and they actually ended up making a profit. Since then similar literacy projects have opened in major cities serving neighborhoods throughout the United States.
In this TEDx talk, our very own founder and CEO of LearnOutLoud.com Jon Bischke talks about the future of education and how data on the progress of learning can transform our education system. Through adapting one's education based on the progress of one's learning schools can possibly do away with the idea of teaching the exact same things at the same time to every student and they might even be able to get rid of standardized testing. Jon also looks at how to achieve reputational data on people so that employers can make better decisions on hiring employees based on how they are rated in different areas by the people around them, such as who could be the best leader for a job and other areas where it is difficult for people to currently make judgments. Watch our LearnOutLoud.com CEO speak at this TED event!
HEALTH & PERSONAL GROWTH:
Hear some wisdom from a man who is often considered the greatest college basketball coach of all time: John Wooden. The legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden passed away last year at the age of 99. Under Coach Wooden, UCLA won a record ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period. John Wooden left a legacy of leadership wisdom through his numerous books including his conception of "The Pyramid of Success". In this talk delivered at the TED conference a few years ago, Wooden talks about true success being the satisfaction of knowing you that put forth your utmost effort in the game despite whether you win or lose. He readily quotes poetry and other sources of his inspiration throughout his life. This 20-minute talk is loaded with wisdom from a lifetime of success.
Dan Buettner talks about the findings of his team as they studied the world's "Blue Zones," communities whose elders live with vim and vigor to record-setting age. He talks about a culture in Okinawa where the elderly were seen as the peak of society and they don't have a concept such as retirement. There they stay in a close knit communities and have a strong sense of purpose, they make it a rule to eat only up to the point that they are 80% full, and they have physical activity built into their everyday lives. In America one of the communities that lives the longest are the Seventh Day Adventists who take a whole day every week to worship God, to be in nature, and to socialize within their faith based communities. For more tips on living to 100 definitely listen to this talk from TEDxTC.
Self development expert Anthony Robbins speaks at the TED Conference on what motivates people. Robbins insists that he isn't a motivator, but instead he is out to find what motivates people and what is it that makes the difference in the quality of people's lives. He discusses briefly the core human needs that drive people.
In this talk from the TED conference, holistic healing physician Dr. Dean Ornish prescribes easy and effective ways that you can prevent heart disease and other illnesses through changes in lifestyle and diet. He also points to the numerous ways in which diet and exercise can actually help to treat existing illnesses including cancer. Dr. Ornish addresses carbohydrates and fats and their relation to the obesity epidemic in America, along with ways people can lose weight and still be healthy. This talk is full of great pointers for improving your health.
Christopher McDougall lays out the endurance running hypothesis that not only can all human beings run long distances but that in our early evolution humanity developed in hunting packs that ran long distances for food. By tying together insights from the world of running to the Tarahumara Indian tribe in the Mexican Copper Canyons who are capable of running great distances to some facts from evolutionary history, McDougall argues that all humans are born to run. After numerous running injuries, McDougall looked at the world's best long distances runners such as the Tarahumara Indian tribe, and concludes that modern cushioned running shoes are a major cause of running injury.
In this talk William Li teaches TEDsters about angiogenesis, which is the growth of blood vessels, and how it relates to cancer. When a cancer develops angiogenesis feeds the tumor through blood vessel growth. Many medical breakthroughs have been made in treating cancer through anti-angiogenesis and some of these have been very effective at treating certain types of cancers. William Li and his Angiogenesis Foundation have looked beyond treatment of cancer and looked at how certain foods are naturally anti-angiogenesis and can "starve cancer". He goes over a number of these foods and some of the studies that they've conducted around diet and nutrition. Li gives us an interesting glimpse into an area of cancer prevention and treatment that we might not have heard of before.
Journalist and author of the book In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honore talks about the rise of speed in almost every imaginable area of human life from fast food and instant gratification, to even such things as speed yoga and the 1-minute bedtime story. It was the 1-minute bedtime story which caused Carl Honore to take pause. A reformed speedaholic, Honore would rush through bedtime stories with his son and initially thought a 1-minute bedtime story was a great idea, but then realized how crazy his speed addiction had become. He tells the story of how he slowed down and also points out to slow movements happening throughout the world and the benefits that slowing down can have in many aspects of life.
In this talk delivered at TEDMED, Dr. Mark Hyman presents his functional view medicine which focuses on the underlying causes of symptoms people experience rather than diagnosing them with a disease and putting them on medication. His holistic views of medicine started with himself when his health began to collapse earlier in his life. By studying many aspects in his life from stress to diet to toxins that he was unwittingly taking in, he was able to turn in health around. He hopes his promotion of this new kind of treating illness will transform medicine in the 21st century.
Author, activist, and Omega Institute co-founder Elizabeth Lesser talks about the importance of sitting down and talking with "the other", referring to those people who you might consider your enemies or your ideological opposites. As a liberal activist she tells of her lunch with a conservative tea party activist and how they both felt the other side demonized their side. In reality they acknowledged that the harsh rhetoric of the fringes of either side really didn't apply to anyone that the both of them knew. Listen to her interesting experiment which she challenges each of us to do.
Nigel Marsh takes a tough look at work-life balance and imagines ways we might be able to obtain a new outlook our busy lives. He took a year off of work and realized it was easy to balance your time when you didn't have to work which is fine until the money runs out. Taking a more realistic view he imagined his ideally balanced day between work and life and tried practicing it and made some interesting discoveries.
In this moving talk delivered at the TED conference, brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor provides a first-person account of her own stroke and the experience of losing control of her bodily functions as well the functions of the left side of her brain. Instead of it being a painful or frightening experience, she said the stroke put her in a intense state of bliss and nirvana. Sharing this experience became her motivation for recovery.
In this TED talk Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology and the author Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism, looks at ways healthy people can lead happier, more engaged, and more meaningful lives. While Seligman acknowledges that psychology has done a pretty good job over the past 50 years of making miserable people feel less miserable, he shows that there is a whole other realm of positive psychology which he and a group of other psychologists are only beginning to study. Seligman tells some of his findings on what contributes to healthy states of mind and what fosters genius. Going beyond the conventional pleasure seeking form of happiness, Seligman points to practices that truly give life meaning.
Learn how to better motivate yourself and others in this recent popular TED Talk. In this talk writer Daniel H. Pink lays out the facts about what drives the best results in business. In study after study any work that requires creative problem solving does not benefit from external rewards such as money. Only mechanical tasks benefit when there is reward and punishment, but when creative solutions are required, workers are more motivated when they feel there is intrinsic value to what they are doing. Pink lays out some of the ways businesses have benefited by implementing policies to encourage the best in right brained, creative thinking.
In this TED talk, anthropologist Helen Fisher discusses a study she was involved in which examined the brains and biochemistry of people in love. She points out the ways in which we have evolved in order to trigger love, lust, and attachment to a mate. She also examines the changes of women's roles in society and how she feels this will ultimately lead to the happiest marriages.
Check out this TED talk from psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who authored the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Csikszentmihalyi talks about how he became interested in psychology after World War II when he heard a lecture by Carl Jung. Csikszentmihalyi eventually began his psychological study of how average people become extraordinary which he attributes to the idea of "flow" when one become completely involved in an activity for its own sake. Csikszentmihalyi provides many examples of individuals who have tapped into this "flow" state.
Biochemist turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard examines happiness and well-being in this TED talk. He differentiates between pleasure and happiness as pleasure if fleeting and reliant upon circumstance. He feels that true happiness is found by training the mind to be happy regardless of the situation we find ourselves in and to tap into the deeper happiness of the awareness that we are more than our fleeting emotional states.
In this TED talk, neurologist Vilayanur Ramachandran provides some neuroscientific explanations for puzzling psychological and physiological phenomena. He covers why after certain brain injuries patients cannot visually recognize their mother, how to amputated patients can overcome the pain of phantom limbs for only $3, and why certain people see colors when they look at numbers and letters.
In this TED Talk, Animals in Translation author Temple Grandin discusses her autism and the wide spectrum of autism, and how she has used her insights into autism to help her relate to the inner worlds of animal. Her autism leads to hypersensitivity to noise and other sensory stimuli and she correlates it to how animals perceive the world through their senses.
Check out this TED talk from Harvard psychologist and the author of Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert. Gilbert provides info from studies that reveal that what we often think will make us happy is the opposite of the case. He shows that because we have the ability to consider the future, we are much better prepared for the results and can usually be happy regardless.
Renowned social psychologist Philip Zimbardo talks about the ideas in his book The Lucifer Effect which explores how good people turn evil. He looks at Abu Ghraib prison scandal which he was called as a witness to, and he compares it to the influential Stanford prison study which he conducted in the early 1970s. In both these circumstances normal individuals were given power without oversight over the prisoners. Zimbardo emphasizes the importance of circumstance when it comes to the potential evil, indifference, or heroism in all of us. Note: Zimbardo shows some graphic imagery of Abu Ghraib in this video.
In this TED talk Dan Ariely, author of the bestselling book Predictably Irrational, talks about his experiments in cheating in an attempt to understand the economic cheating that happened during the Enron scandal and later the Wall Street financial crisis. At MIT Ariely tested students at various activities and he details the many findings him and his colleagues discovered such as that most people like to cheat a little bit but not so much that it gives them negative impression of themselves as a "cheater".
In this fast-paced talk from cognitive researcher Nancy Etcoff she looks the science of happiness and the many ways in which it is achieved along with the ways that it eludes us. She describes in basic terms the neuroscience of happiness including the importance of neurotransmitter dopamine and the hormone oxytocin. She also talks about the rise of stress, depression, and anxiety in the modern world. It's an interesting overall view of some of the recent findings in the science of happiness.
In this brief TED talk, psychologist and author of Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman discusses his research into the psychology of compassion and being a "good Samaritan". He suggests that our emotional response to be compassionate towards others is an automatic response when we see people suffering, and it is only by turning this emotion off through the busyness of our daily lives that we suppress this desire to help others. He then provides some inspirational stories for how we might all work towards being good Samaritans.
In this TED talk American surgeon, author, and Yale professor Sherwin B. Nuland talks about the history of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for treatment of severe major depression and other mental illnesses. He then proceeds to tell about his own recovery from major depression through electroshock therapy back in the 1970s. After his first marriage failed he fell into a deep depression until he could no longer function. When no other treatments worked the doctors attempted electroshock therapy which led to a remarkable recovery.
Neurologist Oliver Sacks talks about Charles Bonnet syndrome where visually impaired people experience lucid hallucinations. Sacks points out that about 10% of visually impaired people experience these hallucinations, but few mention it because they are often frightened that they are losing their minds. Sacks gives examples of many of his patients who have had these hallucinations and what they often consist of. Through brain scans scientists have actually been able to identify which parts of the brain are activated when such hallucinations occur.
RELIGION & PHILOSOPHY:
Oxford University Professor David Christian takes us on our 13.7 billion year journey in this TED Talk that covers "big history" from the big bang all the way up to the rise of humanity. He tells us how rare it is that complexity arises in the universe and particularly the "Goldilocks" conditions for which life on Earth arose. He finds humanity as a new threshold in the complex development of "big history" because we are able to accumulate knowledge and pass it onto the next generation. He does point out that it is not entirely clear that we are in charge of this learning that we have acquired considering the current threats of nuclear devastation and global warming that potentially threaten the conditions for life on Earth. This fabulous TED lecture is available on MP3 audio download and streaming video. And if you're interested you might want to check out Professor David Christian's Teaching Company course Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity.
In this talk at TEDGlobal philosopher Alain de Botton looks at the contemporary notion of success and why he feels it is such a source of anxiety for so many people. He finds that in today's world the appearance of equality, such as Bill Gates dressing just like everybody else, makes most people feel they too can be rich & successful. He also relates contemporary success to the meritocracy that exists today when people are made to feel that they own their successes and failures. And he looks at how failure is treated today by referencing the tabloids that often portray failures without any empathy, whereas in past societies tragedy was often used to encourage empathy of people that might've failed at something. Ultimately Alain de Botton encourages you to try to not live according to the models of success & failure around you, but to instead make success your own!
Mythologist Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik compares the roots of Eastern and Western mythologies and shows how understanding these myths can explain a lot about the every aspect of these cultures and help us overcome our misunderstandings and conflicts between these world views. He tells the story of Alexander the Great who encountered what the Greeks called a Gymnosophists who were ancient Indian philosophers that pursued asceticism. The Gymnosophist told the Alexander the Great that he was seeking nothingness and Alexander the Great told the Gymnosophist that was seeking to conquer the World and they both laughed at each other. Dr. Pattanaik then examines the myths that two men grew up with and shows how understanding this can give us insight into the supposed clash of civilizations throughout history. He relates this to the differing ways in which Indians and Americans conduct business today, and when questioned which view is better Pattanaik says we should choose for ourselves and we shouldn't never be fundamentalist about our world views since they are man made.
Comparative religion scholar Karen Armstrong talks about how she stumbled into her field during a trip to Jerusalem and ever since she has studied the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. She looks at the concept of belief and how it has changed over the centuries and how in today's religious practice the need to be right is often elevated over the call to be compassionate. She points out that the golden rule is at the center of all major world religions, and at the end she makes her TED Prize wish for a "Charter for Compassion" put together by thoughtful leaders of all faiths around the world.
Pastor Rick Warren authored the mega-bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life. In this TED Talk he talks about how the popularity of the book altered his life's purpose. With the bestselling book comes tons of money and before spending any of it he sat down with his wife and laid out that there were going to not spend it on themselves and instead would give back to their church and give 90% of it to charity. He also talk about the fame and influence that came with the book, and how this influence has enabled him to expand the purpose that he feels God put him on Earth to do. He encourages us all to use our influence to speak up for those that have little influence in our society.
Philosopher Dan Dennett starts this TED Talk by arguing that the facts of all major world religions should be taught in schools. He addresses pastor Rick Warren who was speaking at that year's TED conference. Dennett quotes from Rick Warren's mega-bestselling book The Purpose-Driven Life and mentions some things he finds troubling about the book. He denounces intelligent design and questions the God designed the environment just so we could live in it. He also doesn't feel that without God life is meaninglessness and we cannot be good.
In this TED Talk Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice and his latest book Practical Wisdom, talks about the absence of calling on virtue and wisdom in our personal and professional lives. While most businesses bribe their employees with incentives or try to control them by rules and regulations, Schwartz feels this demoralizes professional activity and he provides some examples of this in action. Schwartz argues that all people want to be allowed to be virtuous in their workplace and their personal lives, and leaders should encourage practical wisdom in all walks of life.
Eclectic author Steven Johnson talks about his recent book Where Good Ideas Come From in this talk from TEDGlobal. Through researching good ideas throughout history Johnson tries to discover best environments in which good ideas are fostered. He covers the history of the coffee shop and how in British culture the switch from the bar to the coffee shop (with its stimulant accompaniment coffee) helped to foster the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment in Great Britain. He also talks about how great ideas often take a long time to germinate and aren't necessarily the "eureka" moments we often here about.
Rev. Billy Graham talks about science and technology and that despite it's many advances it hasn't been able to solve the problems of evil, suffering, and death. He quotes from many famous thinkers throughout history that have grappled with these problems. At 80 years old he tells some of his own experiences that he has encountered when facing these questions. He quotes from the Bible and points to his faith in Jesus Christ when it comes to facing life's ultimate questions regarding evil, suffering, and death.
In this TED talk, Oxford professor and author Richard Dawkins calls for atheists to step forward and join forces against religions unquestioned dominance of politics and culture. Dawkins argues that the majority of intelligentsia are atheists and yet in American political and social life their voices are seldom heard because of their reluctance to stand up for atheism. Dawkins suggests some alternatives to the taboo word atheist such as agnostic, humanist, naturalist, and he finally settles on "non-theist". Since 9/11 Dawkins feels it is time for all atheists to stop being respectful and to start being militant with their beliefs.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY:
Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking takes a look at the big questions of the universe and gives the best answers that science has produced to date. He gives insight into how the universe began and how we discovered the universe is still expanding. Hawking also discusses the search for intelligent life and how we haven't found anything yet in the nearest 100 light years. He cautions about the threats of destruction to life on Earth and feels man needs to keep venturing out into space in the future. He then answers a question about whether he thinks there is life in Milky Way.
Professor of global health Hans Rosling brings data to life in his first TED talk which dispels common myths about the so-called developing world. While many people assume that there is a large gap between technologically advanced western world and the rest of the developing world in terms of health and wealth, Rosling shows some tremendous animated graphs which show that from 1960 to the present day the so-called developing world has made enormous strides in terms of life expectancy, particularly in Asia. He presents a lot of other interesting data showing the rise of a global middle class and how diverse the statistics are in Africa. He hopes that by making data interesting and accessible to the average person it will give us a clearer picture of the way we view the world. And if you liked this one watch all of Hans Rosling's TED talks.
British cosmologist Sir Martin Rees gives a wise talk on the history and future of Earth in this TED Talk. Viewed as a whole the Earth has seen very gradual change in its 4 billion year history. Since the dawn of man though there has been some quite rapid change on the planet particularly in the last 2000 years. And in just the past 50 years the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has begun to rise abruptly, the planet has been emitting radio waves, and small metallic objects have begun orbiting the Earth and some have journeyed out of that orbit. With 6 billion years yet to come on Earth it remains to be seen what sort of life will inhabit it, and we will need the humane wisdom of the elder Albert Einstein to prevent catastrophe.
Try wrapping your mind around string theory with this TED talk delivered by physicist Brian Greene. He starts the talk with the story of the German mathematician and physicist Theodor Kaluza who proposed that the universe might have more dimensions than the three-dimensional space apparent in of the physical world. This led much later to the attempt at discovering a unified theory through string theory and superstring theory which proposes 10 dimensions. Brian Greene ends the talk with describing some experiments which are being conducted that could lead to proving the existence of other dimensions.
Legendary scientist James D. Watson tells the story of how he and Francis Crick co-discoverered the structure of DNA in 1953. As detailed in his bestselling book The Double Helix, Watson gives an entertaining account of how scientific discoveries are made in the modern world. He goes into some talks on genetics and DNA which may require some basic genetic knowledge to understand, but even without this knowledge one gets a taste for the excitement of scientific discovery. At the end of the talk he looks at the more recent discoveries of the genes that are thought to give predisposition to autism, schizophrenia, and more.
Listen to this brief debate at the TED conference over nuclear energy between environmentalist and Whole Earth Catalog editor Stewart Brand who argues in favor of nuclear energy in the face of global warming and Stanford University environmental engineering professor Mark Z. Jacobson who argues for using renewable energy sources of energy instead of resorting to nuclear power. Brand sees nuclear power as the best way to reduce the massive amount of carbon dioxide that coal plants emit. Jacobson provides stats on wind and solar power and warns of the dangers of countries secretly developing nuclear weapons in conjunction with establishing nuclear power.
In this 2007 TED Prize talk biologist E.O. Wilson takes a look at the vastness of the biosphere and points out that the majority of species on Earth we've yet to discover. From his studies of insects he has come to understand immense beauty and variation in the smallest living things. Yet he cautions that humanity's actions are set to destroy over half of the surviving animal and plant species on the planet by the end of the century along with destroying many species of living things before they are even discovered. He sums up these extinctions as being caused by H.I.P.P.O.: habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, population expansion, and over-harvesting by excessive hunting and fishing. With this destruction of life, we will lose a vast amount of knowledge, along with the potentials of what this life can provide for the world. He wishes for an online encyclopedia of life to be created that researchers all over the world can contribute to in order to catalog our ever-expanding knowledge of life on Earth and value you it enough to avoid its destruction.
In this mind-bending lecture from TED.com, biologist Richard Dawkins examines the universe from the standpoint of contemporary science and finds that our universe is much stranger than we are capable of supposing. He provides many examples in the biological world about how assumptions such as a rock being solid and our bodies being the same throughout our life are incorrect. Stretch your perspective with Dawkin's case for "thinking the improbable".
Craig Venter is famous for his role in the Human Genome Project and their accomplishment in being the first group to sequence the human genome. In this TED talk he talks about his attempts to create life with a synthetic genome, and in 2010 Venter announced the creation of first self-replicating semi-synthetic bacterial cell. This talk from 2008 describes what they were doing in their attempts to create synthetic life and more importantly why they attempting to create synthetic life. Venter argues that synthetic life can create new forms of energy that convert carbon dioxide to fuel and replace the entire petrol-chemical industry. It's an ambitious goal from one of the leading figures in genetics.
Bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe shows some of the latest feats in bio-engineering from creating animal hybrids such as the zorse (a zebra-horse hybrid) to genetically creating bio-luminescent animals that glow in the dark. He also covers the advances in cloning, genetically modified foods, and animal-robots which can be controlled by computers. After presenting all these fascinating and sometimes terrifying bio-engineering advances, Wolpe asks some very important ethical questions about the future of bio-engineering.
Futurist Ray Kurzweil takes a look the exponential growth of many forms of technology and where these technologies will take us in the not to distant future. From the spread of the cell phones to the development of nanotechnology, Kurzweil feels this is all leading to a technological singularity. It's an interesting glimpse into the future with a leading technological thinker.
Physicist Brian Cox talks about the Large Hadron Collider which is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. Cox talks about how it is hoped that it will explain many of the most fundamental questions in physics. He explains the creation story as know by physics starting with the theory of the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago and taking us through time to the present day.
Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos takes a look at the history of internet and compares it to past historical developments. He starts off relating it to the gold rush of the mid 19th century. At first people were skeptical but by a certain point everyone wanted in on the gold rush and the internet riches that were arising the late 20th century. They both had a bust and their excesses led to some tragic losses, but the internet has continued to be resilient in its innovations. Bezos then compares the internet to the development of electricity. By the early 20th century the ground work had been laid for electricity to be delivered to houses in urban areas and immediately people started developing electrical appliances. These rudimentary appliances were a long way away from the ones we know of today and Bezos feels we are at that early stage with the internet where we haven't even begun to think of all the things we are going to be able to use it for.
Scientist Jared Diamond takes a look at the many factors that go into the causes for societies that have collapsed throughout history in this TED talk. He analyzes the Greenland Norse and the many environmental and social factors that led to its societal demise, and then focuses on the modern US state of Montana which, as a society within the United States, is facing many of the same issues. Diamond then points out some ways we can learn from history in order to prevent the collapse of contemporary societies and lead us off our current path of unsustainability.
Theoretician in the field of gerontology Aubrey de Grey looks at how new medical technologies are going to increase the lifespan of humans to the point of "longevity escape velocity" where we will be able to essentially live forever. He addresses a number of the arguments against his theory and provides some projections how old we are going to live on average in the coming years. He quickly addresses some of the scientific research behind his ideas and fields a few questions.
Chris Anderson of WIRED magazine gives his grand unified theory of technology in this TED talk. He points out the four stages of a technology: first they fall below a critical price, then they rise to a critical mass, then they often displace an existing technology, and finally they often become nearly free. He walks us through the stages with the rise of the DVD from the 1990s into the 2000s. This talk was delivered back in 2004 and he does make some predictions with the rise of hybrid cars, free phone calls (Skype), and other technologies that were rising at the time. For the most part Anderson's theory of technology seems to still hold up.
Sam Harris, author of the recent book The Moral Landscape, posits that just as there are scientific facts there are also moral facts and science can play a role in determining morality when in comes to the well-being of humanity. He sets up the idea of a moral spectrum of what is optimal for human well-being within a culture and argues that there are universal truths which contribute towards this well-being just as there are truths when it comes to the physical health of a human being. With humor and clarity he questions certain religious practices as being the best way to confront moral dilemmas.
In this TED talk the founder of the One Laptop per Child Association, Nicholas Negroponte, shares his ambitious vision of distributing $100 laptops to the children of the world. To date his organization has delivered 2 million laptops worldwide. He delivered this talk in 2006 when they were just ramping up their distribution and he tells of the challenges they faced in making a $100 laptop. He also talks about some of the successes they've had in the program in aiding the education of children throughout the globe.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales separates fact from fiction regarding the founding of his super popular online encyclopedia and how it operates. He talks about the close knit community which is at the heart of developing Wikipedia and the team of volunteers which have helped it grow technologically and have keep the costs down. Wales discusses some of the controversies and criticisms that have arisen about the Wikipedia project. It's an interesting look behind-the-scenes at one of the most popular websites on the world wide web.
In this TED Talk Bill Gates speaks on innovating our energy policy so we reach zero carbon emissions globally by 2050. In this talk Gates provides a simple equation for the increase in carbon dioxide globally and he sees that the only way to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is to reduce carbon emissions from the equation. He calls for innovation in all alternative methods of creating energy and says it will take a miracle of innovation to come up with a solution. He suggests one possible "miracle" which he is investing in is a new kind of nuclear power which generates power from what we currently designate as nuclear waste. Listen to this clear and concise talk about how one of America's top business & technology leaders is looking at solving the climate crisis.
Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, talks about how he came to the idea of viewing the world from other species points of view. And while humanity often assumes human consciousness is the end-all and be-all of evolution, he humorously suggests that humanity was maybe grass's way of getting another species to mow the lawn so there are less trees to prevent its growth. He presents a way of farming that he has discovered in which viewing the farming process from the point of view of other species could produce a new world where it is not a zero sum game of humanity winning.
WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange sits down with TED's Chris Anderson at TEDGlobal 2010 for a discussion of his controversial website. Assange talks about the purpose of WikiLeaks which takes highly classified documents and video from whistleblowers and other sources in order to alert the press and public and instigate political change. Assange provides many examples of leaks which his site has released that have had an impact on global politics.
Al Gore lays out 15 ways to avert climate crisis through our personal and professional lives. He plays a brief slide show and provides examples of many of the ways that these steps are being used in action. Speaking to a business audience at the TED conference he also points out important steps that businesses can take to influence climate change.
Physicist Leonard Susskind talks about his friendship with the legendary Richard Feynman. Feynman made many contributions to various areas of physics and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. Susskind tells stories of Feynman and his scientific method which sought to eliminate the
In this TED Talk from primatologist Jane Goodall, she discusses her many years spent with chimpanzees in Tanzania and the many ways in which she and other researchers have discovered that chimpanzees are similar to humans. From their ability to make tools to their emotional lives Goodall lays out the characteristics of chimps that may make us second guess how they are treated. She then talks about how chimpanzees are being endangered and she connects this to the many ways in which life and our environment are being threatened. At the end of the talk she gives reasons for hope with telling of some of the courageous acts of young people throughout the world that participate in the Roots & Shoots program she started.
SOCIAL SCIENCES & GLOBAL ISSUES:
Joseph Nye is an international relations theorist who coined the term "soft power" which is the "ability to get others to want what you want, to get the outcomes you want, without coercion or payment". In this TED talk he takes a look at the current power shifts of the 21st century which in broad terms are shifting from West to East. While traditionally these power shifts were seen in terms of economics and military power, he argues that the trends in power have shifted with more importance on non-state actors from corporations to international organizations to terrorist networks. And he feels that the shift in power from the United States to China should not be framed in as a zero sum game, but one in which both parties can benefit from the power shift.
Steven Pinker shatters some commonly held assumptions about the violence of our times showing how in actuality we live in the least violent time in human history. He shows data on the homicide rate throughout human history, dispelling myths that our ancestors lived in peaceful harmony with one another. Pinker finally presents a number of theories as to why humanity is less violent that it has ever been.
Indian social activist Sunitha Krishnan addresses the global problem of sex slavery. She tells some disturbing stories surrounding the issue and then talks about how people often do not wish to become involved with this sad abuse of human rights. After telling her own story of abuse, she tells of the heroic ways that she has helped over 3000 people out of sex slavery. She encourages everyone to become informed about this issue and to do one thing to combat sex slavery. This talk was delivered at TEDIndia.
In this TED talk journalist Misha Glenny takes a deep look into the world of organized crime which now is estimated to account for 15% of the global economy. He tells the story of the rise of the mafia in Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Berlin Wall where many of the Communist government workers moved into the world of organized crime. Glenny traveled all over the world examinging organized crime from the production centers in the third world to the areas of trafficking in places like the Balkans and Mexico to the consumers of the products of organized crime in the European Union, Japan, and the United States. From money laundering to cyber crime to drugs & prostitution, Glenny provides an interesting glimpse into the shadow economy that is all around us.
Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig has been advocating reduced legal restrictions on copyright and trademark for years now. He starts this TED talk by quoting American composer John Philip Sousa who argued against music players because he felt that they would ruin artistic development in the young since they would not sing the songs of the day but rather listen to these "infernal machines" and just become consumers of music. Lessig feels that throughout much of the 20th century Sousa was right, but that with the arrival the digital age, the new technologies have made way for more and more amateurs to become creators. While the youth are busy remixing the culture of the day, the copyright law in America has not adapted to these new creations and has turned these amateurs in criminals. Lessig argues for new sorts of copyright that allow for simple ways to allow for this new creative expression.
Management consultant David Logan has been studying "tribes" for decades now which he describes as the many groups of 20-150 people that human beings associate with on a daily basis. In this TED talk he takes us through the five stages of tribes from the first stage of anti-social groups that basically assert that "life sucks" all the way up to the fifth stage of tribes who seek to transcend their tribe and make the world a better place. He gives many examples of the tribes at these various stages and how they interact with one another. It's an great model for analyzing any of the many tribes you might be inhabit.
Sheryl WuDunn is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. In this TED Global talk she gives us the facts on the inequalities of women worldwide, such as the fact that there are less women in the world than men due to mostly to the injustices inflicted on women in the developing world. She goes on to tell many interesting stories of women worldwide who are empowered by the smallest efforts in aiding their education and opportunities, and how these efforts ripple onto their children and future generations. At the end she gives us a few reasons to help women globally to those of us who have won the lottery of life by being born into an affluent society.
Nicholas Christakis speaks at TED on his studies of social networks and how things spread amongst these networks. He looks at a study of obesity and the ways in which obese people connect to other obese people over time. After those findings he looked at the spread of certain emotions within social networks. At the end of the talk he encourages more social connections as being ultimately beneficial.
Indian Parliament member and author Shashi Tharoor takes a fresh look at India's rise as a world superpower. Instead of pursuing the economic and military superiority of past world superpowers, Tharoor argues that his country should pursue "soft" power when presenting themselves to the rest of the world. He points out how the story of America and American culture have often had more influence globally than their economic or military might. Tharoor demonstrates how from ancient history to the present India has had a very rich story to tell and how Indian culture is now beginning pervade throughout the rest of the world.
Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg gives the statistics on women in leadership around the world and tells why she thinks women are not moving into these roles in politics and business. Sandberg gives examples of the subtle ways that women often shy away from the roles men are so driven to get and she encourages women to overcome these cultural barriers in order to get to a more equal balance of male vs. female leaders. This talk was delivered at TEDWomen.
Author Robert Wright argues that the ongoing evolution of human interactions have become increasingly complex which has lead to greater rewards for cooperation amongst all peoples. He calls these interactions non-zero-sum games because in general both parties are profiting from cooperation. Where in past societies families, tribes, and nations often participated in non-cooperation, zero-sum games that led to violence and warfare, in our globalized, capitalistic society there is often a lot at stake when peoples or nations do not cooperate with one another. He does provide some cautionary notes to this otherwise optimistic tale of global cooperation.
Tony Porter co-founder behind the nonproﬁt A Call to Men: The National Association of Men and Women Committed to Ending Violence Against Women. In this TED Talk which he delivered at TEDWomen he talks about the socialization of men in society and how boys are taught to stay in the "man box" where men don't show emotion or cry. They're also taught to treat women like objects and to not act "like a woman". Born and raised in the Bronx, Porter tells some stories which changed his views on how men are raised and what inspired him to break out of his own "man box".
Author of When China Rules the World Martin Jacques shows the rapid economic expansion of China with projections that it might eclipse the U.S. economy by 2020 and by 2050 be possibly double that of the U.S. with a GDP of $70 trillion. While many in the West assume that this economic growth will be coupled with increasing westernization of China's society and institution, Martin Jacques argues that this is a very ignorant point of view. He demonstrates how different Chinese culture is in fundamental ways from Western countries, and while people of the major powers of the West may think they know a lot about the world it is actually these developing Eastern countries that know much more about the West.
New York Times columnist David Brooks speaks at the 2011 TED conference about some of the ideas in his latest book The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. From his work in covering politics he has observed amazing social and emotional skills in politicians as they interact amongst themselves and with their constituents but has seen a disconnect when it comes to reasoning out policy. In this talk he emphasizes the importance of training the emotions and the unconscious as well as the reasonable, logical brain that we develop in education.
In this TED talk, Chilean-American novelist Isabel Allende stands up for passionate feminism when confronting global issues. She feels women's energy is needed to alleviate the suffering of women and poor people in developing countries. During the talk she tells tales of courageous women throughout the world.
Get inspired for creativity with this enjoyable talk by film director and creator of TV's Lost Series J.J. Abrams. Abrams talks about his grandfather and the sense of mystery that he instilled into Abrams as a child. As a memento to his grandfather he kept a box of magic box sealed that his grandfather gave to him. He always has kept the box with him in his creative endeavors and has tried to use mystery to constantly propel his stories forward.
In this short lecture provided by TED Talks, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin explores what we can learn about life from the lives of the Great Presidents. In trying to balance work, love, and play, we see how the ambitious Lincoln was always trying to find respite in Shakespeare, and how Lyndon Johnson found it difficult adjusting to family life after the fast pace of the Presidency. Viewed through the prism of the Presidents, Goodwin demonstrates that even our most celebrated leaders had a hard time sustaining a balanced, happy life.
Magician David Blaine talks about his tireless attempts at doing what is thought impossible. He begin looking into holding the breath and researching what it takes to hold the breath for longer than scientists thought possible. At first he experimented with creating the illusion of holding the breath, but when those attempts failed he began exploring what it would take to actual hold his breath for the longest period of time and break the world record. After much trial and error he finally broke the record holding his breath for 17 minutes and 4.4 seconds on the The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2008. This talk was filmed at TEDMED.
Disaster-medicine expert Dr. Irwin Redlener takes a look at the threat of nuclear attacks. From the first development of the nuclear bomb and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the number of nuclear weapons expanded throughout the Cold War and today there are still an estimated 21,000 nuclear warheads in the World. While all out nuclear war between nations is unlikely in the current state of global affairs, Dr. Redlener looks at the real threat of nuclear terrorism. He then proceeds to tell us how to possibly survive a nuclear terrorist attack and gives us concrete advice on what to do if you survive the initial blast. Currently there are no major American cities that have developed effective plans to deal with nuclear detonation despite that there are ways to minimize fatalities. He concludes by reminding us that the only way to truly deal with the threat of nuclear war or terrorism is the complete abolition of nuclear weapons and encourages everyone to work on this matter.
While not necessarily educational since Barry doesn't tell us how he did his tricks, it is nevertheless a very entertaining TED Talk. He starts with a brain trick that even works at home. He goes on to do many tricks such as driving with a blindfold, doing some puzzling voodoo experiments, and more. It's a TED talk that is sure to get you scratching your head.
That's it! The best 100 TED talks in the world!
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