My Favorite TED 2013 Talks

TED has been a favorite conference of mine since I learned about it. I love the combination of brilliant speakers, the variety of topics and the diversity. I’ve attended 3 TEDActive conferences over the years, which is a simulcast of the TED conference in a secondary location. They do a great job of re-creating the conference experience in a simulcast environment.

This year, we decided to bring the TEDActive conference experience to Axosoft. So we bought a TEDLive subscription for the company. Then we set up our large event room with sofas, chairs and bean bags to accomodate about 40 people to watch the event live. But we wanted the full TED experience so we catered breakfast, lunch and dinners, complete with extra curricular activities and our own speakers as well conference related activities (Yoga, Crossfit and others). To make sure everyone got the most out of the event, we also shut down our normal operations so that every employee could attend.

Sharing the TED experience with coworkers and friends was by far my most favorite part of TED this year. It’s wonderful when you watch a brilliant talk that changes your point of view on something – but imagine watching such a talk with everyone you work with. It was awesome!

It seemed like this year’s TED had one of the best lineups too. Encouraged by my friend @bsstahl, I decided to write a summary of my favorite talks. Unfortunately, only two of my favorites are live. I’ve provided links for those two. Watch for when others go live. This link will take you to all the TED 2013 talks which are live on now. 

Robert Gordon & Erik Brynjolfsson – They talked with opposing views about why the biggest innovations that have impacted our lives have been behind us or ahead of us. They try to answer the question of “is technological improvements accelerating or decelerating?” Amusing talks for sure. Lots of good arguments on both sides.

Nilofer Merchant – She convinced me that an easy way to improve health problems is to do walking meetings. I’m going to start that next week!

Richard Turere – This 12-year old (?) inventor from Zimbabwe invented a way to scare away lions that were eating livestock. His invention won him a scholarship to a school in Kenya. Inspiring talk.

Alastair Parvin – As a professional architect, he realized that architects work for less than 1% of the most privileged portion of the population, so he started an initiative of free open-source architectural work that allows people to download blueprints for do-it-yourself structures. Very interesting.

Amanda Palmer – This musician spoke brilliantly from the heart about her unusual experiences as a starving musician and her eventual financial success including raising more than $1.1 Million on Kickstarter. Highly recommend. She definitely helped open my eyes to artists in a different way. Watch it now >>

Larry Lessig – Gave an amazing talk on what is wrong with our government, why it’s wrong, how it’s broken and he gave a strong, passionate call to action to help fix it. Amazing talk. Must watch.

Sugata Mitra – This year’s TED 2013 prize winner ($1 Million), Sugata gave an awesome talk about the future of learning and the results of countless experiments he has done. The surprise here is that one of the most effective teaching methods is letting kids teach themselves! Watch it now >>

Interview with Elon Musk – Chris Anderson interviewed Elon Musk about his successes with PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX as well as what drives him and his vision of the future. It was a good interview.

Taylor Wilson – This 18-year-old genius has a new design for lower cost, safer and more practical nuclear power plants that seem like they could solve so many of the nuclear power problems. Watching him, I was thinking “I’m so happy that people like him exist!”

Kate Stone – She has created a printing process that has turned paper into interactive electronics. Super impressive!

Jack Andraka – This 16-year old genius has created a super cheap and much more accurate Pancreatic cancer detector after his uncle died of pancreatic cancer. His solution costs as little as 3 cents and is nearly 100% accurate vs. older solutions that were much more invasive, cost $800 and only 70% accurate. Insane!

Leyla Acaroglu – She gave a very convincing talk about how we need to look at the entire lifecycle of environmental costs when making decisions as simple as paper or plastic. Turns out plastic might be much better for the environment. Awesome talk.

Ron Finley – I loved Ron’s “gangster” talk on turning South Central LA into an area that grows their own food through gardens and lowers crime by creating gardening gangsters. Ron was super entertaining to watch and what he is doing is great for humanity.

Alex Laskey – His research team has found that you can get people to take action a lot easier if they think their neighbors are doing something that they are not rather than other incentives (such as monetary or to help the environment). Using that technique, they have change paper electric bills to include information about energy use of similar homes. Something that simple has helped reduce energy consumption to the tune of 1.2TWh in 2012 alone!

Michael Green – Wants to make sky-scrapers with wood designs rather than steel and concrete. They have designed systems and addressed most of the problems (such as fire). Already there are 10-story buildings made out of just wood – I had no idea. His goal is to build a 20 or 30 story building using a wood design. Very interesting.

Allan Savory – More and more of the world’s landscape is becoming desert which also helps accelerates climate change. Allan has figured out a way to stop the desertification of land and even reverse it using live stock. He also talks about a blunder he made that was responsible for the death of nearly 40,000 elephants. He gave a brilliant talk. Watch it now >>

John McWhorter – If you think texting is ruining language, watch John’s talk on how texting is actually developing into a new spoken-like language that’s probably extremely valuable to future generations. John argues that teenagers today are getting brain exercises that are equivalent to being bi-lingual. Not only was it an interesting talk, but I also learned more text language. 

Adam Spencer – He gave a mind-blowing talk on math and prime numbers that was super funny and brilliant. He makes you proud to be a geek. Highly recommended.

James Lyne – His talk on Internet security is a must-watch for everyone who uses the Internet or a smartphone. Even being in the tech industry, I was blown away by the things I didn’t know including the fact that your mobile phone broadcasts your previous wifi network names when looking for a network and therefore, people can likely find your home and work location from just that info. Mind blown.

Rose George – Raised the awareness that a good toilet is as important as good water to improving the health of people in third world countries. Convincing.

Anas Aremeyaw Anas – As an undercover journalist, this guy has broken a ridiculous number of amazing stories about corruption, abuse, prison problems and more. Makes me wonder why we don’t have journalists like Anas in the US!

Eleanor Longden – She gave an amazing story of how she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, how bad it became and how she overcame it by using the voices in her head to her advantage.

Shane Koyczan – He had perhaps the most powerful and flawless presentation of TED 2013. It’s a must watch for everyone. It was both entertaining and thought provoking.

Jim Flynn – Great philosophical talk about how human knowledge and abilities have changed over time. Something as simple as a “hypothetical” question was virtually impossible to ask the general public as little as 100 years ago.

Peter Singer – A good talk on why to give to charities and how to determine to which charities to donate time and money.

Orly Wahba – A good talk on why and how to perform acts of kindness. Well done.

Dan Pallotta – Gave a very convincing talk on why the “overhead” of a charity should not be a focus. In fact, he argued for why it’s absolutely required to have a reasonable overhead in order to build a big scale charity that actually makes a large impact. He wants to fight the prejudice that people pick charities based on their overhead costs. Very well done.

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