Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
I confess to never having attended a TED symposium.
I have friends who go regularly. Very intense friends who take (far too) many things seriously, as if they’re members of one of those councils on Star Trek whose job it is to save the world.
Still, watching TED Talks can be a stimulating pastime. I am delighted, therefore, that TED contacted me in order to point to its Top 10 Talks of the year, as selected by incoming Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
I’m sorry, I mean curator Chris Anderson. As you can see, these talks are deep and illuminating.
1. “What the Discovery of Gravitational Waves Means,” by Allan Adams
Some 1.3 billion years ago, there was a Big Bang. But humans learn slowly. So it wasn’t until 2015 that a giant laser detector spotted a tiny anomaly. And that’s how reality TV was invented.
2. “Gene Editing Can Now Change An Entire Species — Forever,” by Jennifer Kahn
I confess this one is a touch creepy, essentially because there are quite a few influential people around who believe that natural humans have had their day and we need to fake them up a bit. Yes, it’s like fake news. But Kahn, a journalist, can help you look on the bright side.
3. “Hunting for Dinosaurs Showed Me Our Place in the Universe,” by Kenneth Lacovara
The dynamics of the dinosaur world — and the rest of geological history, for that matter — aren’t easily understood. The world doesn’t make it easy. This, then, is how an expert tries to make sense of it all.
4. “Can We Build A.I. Without Losing Control Over It?” by Sam Harris
I can answer this one for you, but I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of this fine, thoughtful talk. Harris is a neuroscientist and philosopher. This is not an easy mixture. Neither will be our existence, once we’ve taken artificial intelligence beyond our own capabilities. Essentially, Harris posits, it might be that we’ll be what are now known as ants and robots will be what are now known as humans.
5. “A Visual History of Social Dance in 25 Moves,” by Camille A. Brown
This is unquestionably the happiest of these talks. It’s about how slaves began to dance together, how they subverted slave owners’ bans on drumming, and how they mocked their owners without them ever knowing.
6. “Our Refugee System Is Failing. Here’s How We Can Fix It,” by Alexander Betts
When a subject is this vast, and so seemingly intractable, how can it ever be fixed? Betts offers four different ways, and challenges the notion that a refugee has to be seen as a cost.
7. “What Do You Think When You Look at Me?” by Dalia Mogahed
The Western perception of Muslims isn’t universally negative, but it sometimes seems so. Even some world leaders believe this religion represents threat. Mogahed, who started her career as an engineer, challenges those prejudices.
8. “A Prosecutor’s Vision for a Better Justice System,” by Adam Foss
Foss, a Boston prosecutor, wonders whether a system that can ruin people’s lives when they’re very young can possibly be just. Why, indeed, are there so many people in American jails? And why are prosecutors not incentivized to create a safer and better community?
9. “The Secret to Effective Nonviolent Resistance,” by Jamil Raqib
Raqib has an idealistic goal: to make violence obsolete. Appeals to morality don’t and won’t work. She believes that non-violent actions can bring results. It’s not about street protests, though. It’s something far more subtle than that. Sometimes, the solutions she offers seem like viral ad campaigns. In a way, they are.
10. “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator,” by Tim Urban
I do think you should watch this. Next year, perhaps.