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Idea festivals: TED


 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design)

TED2012               Feb 27 – Mar 2, 2012 (Long Beach, CA)
TEDACTIVE2012    Feb 27 – Mar 2, 2012 (Palm Springs, CA)
TEDGLOBAL2012   Jun 25 – Jun 29, 2012 (Edinburgh, Scotland)

TED is one of the oldest (started in 1984, annually since 1990), most entertaining and largest in scope of what have come to be called “idea festivals”. The enormous variety of topics at TED events guarantees exposure to new ideas, people and projects. Speakers have ranged from Billy Graham to Richard Dawkins and from Al Gore to Einstein the Parrot. The site also often posts notable talks from other venues as well (this Richard Dawkins talk was given at the Royal Institution in 1991).

Ticket prices are, to say the least, intimidating for most of us: $7,500 for TED2012, $3,750 for TEDACTIVE2012, $6,000 for TEDGlobal2012. However, you can watch a live internet stream of TED and TEDGlobal at home (or K-12 school) by purchasing an annual TED Live membership for a mere $995 ($2,500 for small businesses and colleges). Or, like most of us, just wait for talk videos to be periodically posted to is the largest and most highly developed of the idea festival sites. One of the joys of a traditional TED talk is that speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes. Talk times are often shorter at the partner festivals spawned from TED (TEDx, TEDWomen, TEDYouth, TEDSalon). Many talks have interactive transcripts and subtitles, both in as many as 57 languages (as for this talk by Arthur Benjamin). As of January 3, 2012, the number of talks posted on the site is 1312.

As is typical for Wikipedia, this article has as much detailed history and information on the TED conferences as you’re likely to want, including links to lists of speakers (with links to their TED talks).

The idea for this blog arose while watching TED talks. Here are my own most memorable:

Sir Ken Robinson is author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative, and a leading expert on innovation and human resources. In this talk, he makes an entertaining and moving case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than undermining it. (Recorded February 2006. 20 minutes)

Brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight, a description of her experience of a massive stroke in her left hemisphere. (Recorded February 2008. 19 minutes)
“I felt enormous and expansive, like a genie just liberated from her bottle. And my spirit soared free, like a great whale gliding through the sea of silent euphoria. Nirvana. I found Nirvana. …… And if I have found Nirvana and I’m still alive, then everyone who is alive can find Nirvana.”

Arthur Benjamin’s formula for changing math education(Recorded February 2009. 3 minutes)
(Spoiler alert) quote: “I think if our students, if our high school students — if all of the American citizens — knew about probability and statistics, we wouldn’t be in the economic mess that we’re in today.”

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we’re left, right or center. In this talk at TED2008 he describes the moral values that most characterize liberals and conservatives. Listen to his summary of research by Fehr and Gachter on what leads to social cooperation, and the theme of his talk, that it takes all of our moral psychology to create cooperative groups. (Recorded March 2008. 19 minutes)

Haidt will be speaking again at TED2012.

I discovered Haidt when he was a guest on a recent Moyers & Company program on PBS.
(How Do Conservatives and Liberals See the World). As a political centrist, I found his viewpoint refreshingly helpful in combating the current high level of political polarization.
Here’s a quote from his 2008 talk:
“This is a bit of a problem. If our goal is to understand the world, to seek a deeper understanding of the world, our general lack of moral diversity here [at TED] is going to make it harder. Because when people all share values, when people all share morals, they become a team, and once you engage the psychology of teams, it shuts down open-minded thinking.”


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