Top Ten TED Talks

Top Ten TED Talks…

Okay, so I chose my subject line just to prove I am functionally alliterate.

Apparently blog readers – yes, that’s you – like top ten lists. And I like TED Talks. So, I thought, why not match the two.

Are you wondering who or what TED is? Well, their website probably says it best…

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

Technology. Entertainment. Design. Ideas worth spreading.

Nothing more to say really, except, here’s ten of my favorites from recent talks – which, by the way, are in no particular order…

1. Christopher Soghoian

He talks about surveillance of telephone calls and text messages.

He doesn’t leave you with a nice warm fuzzy feeling, because governments, and anyone who can hack into telephone networks, can listen to anything and read any message.

He tell us that telephone networks have surveillance built-in right from the design phase, and that everything is recorded.

But, he helpfully advises us on what applications we should use, like Whatsapp, that have encryption built-in so that from end-to-end any message is encrypted is and virtually impossible for anyone to decypher.

This is definitely worth eight minutes of your time…

2. Del Harvey

This lady has the strange and unenviable task of determining what messages constitute abuse on the Twitter network. And, as of 2014, there were more than 500 million tweets per day, so that’s some task.

She apparently heads up something called the “Trust and Safety Team,” and spends all day thinking about how to prevent worst-case scenarios — abuse, trolling, stalking — while giving voice to people around the globe. With deadpan humor, she offers a window into how she works to keep 240 million users safe…

3. Ray Kurzweil

If you’ve never heard of Ray Kurzweil, well, it would be a good idea to learn about him now. He has visions of the future that will boggle your mind.

Wikipedia describes him as an American author, computer scientist, inventor and futurist. He often shares his optimistic outlook on life extension technologies and the future of nanotechnology, robotics, and biotechnology.

In this all-too-brief ten minute talk you can discover how our brains have changed over the the past sixty-five million years, and what they will be doing twenty years from now. Scary or fascinating? You be the judge…

4. Sir Ken Robinson

This is one of the longer TED talks, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

Sir Ken talks about education, and how – especially in the US – it’s being done the wrong way. But he throws in a good deal of humor, and, despite living near Los Angeles, his accent could easily fool you into thinking you were watching Michael Caine.

Despite the humor, he has a serious message…

5. Thandie Newton

If you’re British, you may know the name. If you’re not, you may not. Thandie Newton is an actress, well-known in the UK, but not so well-known outside. Well, not to me anyways.

Her talk is about embracing otherness. She found herself as “a black atheist kid in an all white Catholic school run by nuns.” She didn’t fit. But as she says “We all have to learn to live with each other”…

6. Thomas Hellum

Imagine if you turned on your TV to watch your favorite channel, and you found yourself taking a train journey. Not a drama, not a documentary, just the view from the front of the train. For seven hours and fourteen minutes.

Or you found there was a similar program featuring a sea journey – lasting more than five days.

It’s what, in Norway, they call “Slow Television.” That sounds like the understatement of the year.

Thomas Hellum is the guy responsible for making such boring programs that were so well received. He tells the story of how and why they make boring TV, and he does it in an amusing and entertaining fashion…

7. Heather Barnett

Supposedly this talk is about art. But Heather Barnett works with odd things like slime mold, a eukaryotic micro-organism that lives in cool, moist areas, and eats porridge oats!

She tells us what people can learn from such semi-intelligent single-celled organisms.

Actually, it’s the intelligence part that got me hooked. It’s a bit spooky. It only grows at the rate of one centimeter an hour – which might be perfect for Norwegian television – but is best watched with time-lapse photography. I concluded they’d make great pets, if you had a lot of free time. Take a look…

8. Jeremy Howard

Now; if – after watching the last talk – you think slime mold is spooky, take a look at the next one and discover what computers can now do.

One deep learning computer, after watching hours of YouTube, taught itself the concept of cats. Which I think instantly brands them as smarter than humans, because I’ve never met a person who understands cats. Cats exist to be worshiped, not understood.

Jeremy Howard will get you caught up on a field that will change the way the computers around you behave – and probably sooner than you think…

9. Laura Boushnak

For some women, reading is a daring act.

Photographer Laura Boushnak has travelled to countries such as Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia to highlight brave women — schoolgirls, political activists, and sixty-year-old mothers — who are all fighting the statistics.

This talk is about her, as well as the women she met and photographed…

10. Jim Holt

Well, I think I’ve saved the heaviest talk for last.

Maybe by this point you’re all TEDed out. But perhaps you’ll want to watch this one to discover the answer to the major question of Why Does The Universe Exist.

You won’t find out, because no one really knows, but you should discover some interesting ideas from philosopher Jim Holt…

And in closing, I should point out, TED Talks are copyrighted, but there is no copyright infringement here.

TED Talks are made available under a Creative Commons (CC) license in order to allow non-commercial entities (like bloggers, educators and groups of friends) to use them freely and easily. The embedded links in this article will allow you to view the Talks unedited and in their entirety, as required by the CC license.

I watch talks by downloading them onto a thumb drive, which I stick in my DvD player, and then watch on my large-screen TV. The quality is excellent. If you visit the TED website, you’ll see that all talks have a “Download” button. Enjoy.


...has been travelling the world for more than sixty years; having lived and worked in five countries and travelled to many many more.

He likes to write about his travels - present and past - along with his other main interests of Drones, Information Technology and Motorsport, and he adds a few general twitterings along the way.

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