For those of you who haven’t heard, TED stands for Technology, Education, Design. They’re a non-profit organisation who present talks by leading experts in every field possible, from purely motivational to hard scientific topics. Like Wikipedia, but a lot more inspiring and in the video.
The TED talks page is the perfect place to lose yourself in, especially right now, when you can get bored out of your mind and you don’t want to mindlessly scroll through your Instagram (again). It gives you the opportunity to learn something from the comfort of your couches.
It can be a large area to start with though. On one hand, it is amazing to see that so many people have amazing stories to narrate and interesting information to tell. But it can also be daunting not knowing where to begin. So here are some recommendations to get you started!
#1 How to Make Stress your Friend by Kelly McGonigal
This is easily one of the most popular TED talks and with good reason! Whenever we think about the word ‘stress’, it’s in a negative sense. When situations get out of control, we get stressed and hence we conclude that stress is bad. But in her talk, Kelly talks about how changing our mental attitude towards stress can change the way you face problems and effectively, life. And don’t worry, they’ve tested this technique on others in a Harvard University study, so you know this really works!
#2 What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on Happiness by Robert Waldinger
Stress is not the only thing that can be solved through studies. The key to lasting happiness is also a question that has been answered this way! Robert Waldinger is one of the directors of a study called The Harvard Study of Adult Development where they documented the lives of 724 regular men. This study aimed at finding what kind of lives people led that made them happier towards the end. Back at the end of World War 2, (yes, that’s how old and long this study is!) a lot of the younger participants said that money, fame, hard-working attitude would make them happy. But over the years they realized that long, lasting happiness came from being with people, friends and family. To be fair, we have heard this a lot by this point. From “Maybe the real treasure was the friends we made along the way” to “En friend-a pola yaaru machaan”, we have a lot of cinema that talks about the value of human connection. But to actually see that proven in a life-long, still ongoing study, is really extraordinary.
#3 Looks aren't everything. Believe me, I'm a model. By Cameron Russel
This one is a personal favourite of mine! The quote “Looks aren’t everything” has been floating around for quite some time now. But it has never really sunk in with the majority. It’s one of those sayings that all of us would agree with on the surface but not accept deep down. All of the media we consume project the message that ‘Looks are everything’ from social media to magazines and all of fashion. To have a model from that field, step up and state her reality; say that this twisted message affects everyone, even models is eye-opening. And she proves her point beautifully, contrasting statistics with stories from her real life.
#4 Thoughts on humanity, fame and love by Shah Rukh Khan
Of all the TED talks I had hoped to find, Shah Rukh Khan’s was probably the surprising one. If there’s one thing that’s even more surprising it was probably the impromptu Lungi Dance he performs on stage! The talk had plenty of funny moments, but for the most of it, he artfully relates his own life story to the journey and the current state of humanity.
#5 Before Avatar ... a curious boy by James Cameron
Moving on to the other celebrity presenter on this list, James Cameron! The man you may know directed many of the iconic films we love like Titanic, Terminator 2, and the visual masterpiece Avatar. While he is known for all of these things, outside of cinema he’s known for his interest in the deep sea. The sheer size and how little we know about the far deep of the planet really tickled his curiosity. Which is what he chose as his topic of speech: The importance of curiosity. He says that curiosity is the most important aspect a creator can have because that is what drove him, and drives all of us, to do more. To push boundaries of what is possible and create something entirely new. Now we might not be the creators of the next ‘Avatar’ but it is really inspiring to hear a narrative different from the usual “Curiosity killed the cat”, especially from a director of such fame and fortune!
#6 A Cinematic Journey through Visual Effects by Don Levy
It’s not only James Cameron who talks about cinema, we have Don Levy who talks about visual effects over the years. Today we have many movies like The Avatar, 1917, Mad Max Fury Road and the entire Marvel franchise bringing us some of the finest visual effects and CG of the day. But what was the finest of the day in the 90s? Or even before? This talk takes us through the journey of how visual effects have evolved to reach this point where we can have larger-than-life dragons flying across a blazing city (Game of Thrones, anyone?)
#7 Building a Dinosaur from a Chicken by Jack Horner
Speaking of larger-than-life dragons, Steven Spielberg gave us larger-than-life dinosaurs much before CG was used in its full extent and it’s one of the hallmarks of visual effects in cinema. If there is one thought that the movie put in our heads, it’s the idea of dinosaurs alive in the modern day. And that’s what Jack Horner is all about! Fiction inspires reality, and it is no less true in this case where some scientists are figuring out a way to reconstruct an actual dinosaur. I agree, this might seem like a monumentally bad idea considering the consequences (T-Rex running through the city, remember?), we’re nowhere close to a reality where that happens. And taking James Cameron’s advice, it never hurts to be curious. At this point at least, you never know what the future holds!
Side Note: This video was released in 2011, and since then the technique Jack Horner talks about has been used to grow a dinosaur snout on a chicken, link here is anyone’s interested!
#8 What your smart devices know (and share) about you by Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu
Whenever any new technology comes out, there’s always one person who isn’t completely on-board with it. The ‘glass-half empty’ type of people, always looking at the cons and generally being pessimistic. Sometimes these people have a point. In the age of smartphones when people’s data are valued more than the people it belongs to, you can never be too careful with smart devices. Meet Kashmir who converted to a smart home for a simple experiment. The goal? To find out whether we’re being monitored, and how much. Watch this TED talk to uncover some disturbing revelations about the data being mined from us every day. Even when our devices are turned off.
#9 Why jobs of the future won't feel like work by David Lee
The other fear the age of technology brings is us losing our jobs to robots (or AI currently). David Lee is a part of this movement of bringing automation wherever possible, but he explains why this is actually a good thing. The human brain is capable of the most amazing things. Everything from your surroundings to the device you’re reading this on is a miracle of human thought. David Lee argues that all jobs of the future can be transformed in a way that gives room for that kind of innovation. Yes, every single one of us can be creators in that future. And that’s a utopia if I ever heard of one!
#10 and #11 James Veitch’s Videos
TED talks aren’t all informational or study-based or serious even! Take a break with the light-hearted James Veitch who tells us his experience of responding to emails no one’s supposed to. You know the ones, spams, promotions. If you thought prank calls were funny, you haven’t seen the hilarity of exaggerated email responses you can drag out for days!
And that’s the only the beginning of thousands of TED Talks available. There is a niche catering to everyone’s interests so just pick your category and dive right in!