My Top 15 TED

The first TED talk I ever watched was Ken Robinson’s talk on how schools are killing creativity. It was one of the first talks uploaded to the site, way back in 2006; 10 years later, it is by far the most popular, with 42 million views and counting. With the number of talks on the site at more than 2,300, I thought it a good idea to list my 10 favorite talks. But I just couldn’t narrow down the list to 10, and so ended up with a Top 15 list… [you can actually find a shorter version in my newsletter].

Some of the site’s most viewed talks (like this, that, this one and that one) aren’t part of my list (see what I did there? Now they’re part of this post…). Some are. In any case, number of views was not a criteria for inclusion. The list is built of those talks that inspired me, awed me, made me think, and most of all touched a nerve and stayed with me long after watching.

So without further ado, let’s go on a TED journey.

1. Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

Cuddy argues that “Fake it till you make it” is wrong. You have to fake it till you BE it. Body language doesn’t merely affect how others see us – it may actually change how we see ourselves.

For a deeper dive, look for Cuddy’s recently published book, Presence.

2. Pamela Meyer: How to spot a liar

Speaking of faking it – can you really spot a liar based on eye contact, fidgeting or other physical gestures? Since we may be lied to up to 200 times on any given day, this is an important skill…

If you’re interested in some counter views on lie-detecting, read this.

And if you want to test your lie-spotting skills, Jimmy Fallon’s Box of Lies skits are a fun way to do so – here’s the one with Jennifer Lawrence.

3. Apollo Robbins: The art of misdirection

Sometimes, all we need to do is to pay close attention. On second thought, that might be our undoing…

Here‘s a great article on Apollo, the greatest pickpocket in the world.

If that reminds you of the Monkey Business illusion, you’re right.

4. Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability

Enough faking. Are you willing to let people see you as you really are?

See also the following talk and this wonderful short talk by Brown.

Paul Zak explains that the key to trusting someone is not just emotional. It’s chemical. Here’s his talk on the power of Oxytocin.

5. Jeniffer Senior: For parents, happiness is a very high bar

When it comes to closeness and vulnerability, few relationships surpass those of parents and children.

All joy and no fun” is a great related article.

6. Robert Hammond: Building a park in the sky

Generating empathy on a mass scale is one of the keys to starting a successful movement.

Movember is another fine example.

7. Deborah Rhodes: A test that finds 3X more breast tumors, and why it’s not available to you

Movements face high hurdles – in some fields even more so. Dr. Rhodes and her team have developed a breast cancer detection tool that’s much more effective than traditional mammograms for women with dense breast tissue. But navigating the maze of healthcare politics and economics proved daunting.

Thankfully, it appears since the talk was uploaded in 2010, there has been some progress.

8. Ramona Pierson: An unexpected place of healing

Sometimes it’s not about failure, but about recovery… An incredible story.

Here’s more on Pierson.

And this one is justifiably one of the most popular TED talks ever.

9. Caroline Casey: Looking past limits

Sure, seeing is believing. But believing is not necessarily about seeing.

10. David Blaine: How I held my breath for 17 minutes

Is there a limit to human feats?

David Epstein explains some of the limitations.

But that doesn’t mean humans should not evolve.

11. Hans Rosling: New insights on poverty

Time to talk about feats of the mind. Rosling’s is a brilliant one, and his talks are amazing. Wait for the ending of this one…

12. Steven Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: The long reach of reason

One of Rosling’s clearest messages is that we should, as much as possible, resort to reason when discussing humanity’s progress. This is an enlightening dialogue on the power of reason.

Also, you might not be interested in dinosaurs, but this talk by paleontologist Jack Horner – a partial inspiration for the character of Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park – is an iconoclastic example of the power of reasoning.

13. Oded Shoseyov: How we’re harnessing nature’s hidden superpowers

Feats of the mind, continued…

Shoseyov’s talk is an extreme example of Steve Jobs’s definition of creativity: “Creativity is just connecting things”. Steven Johnson does a wonderful job of illumination such connections – what he calls “The chain reaction of ideas”. For example, what does a pre-historic flute have to do with the personal computer?

14. Stephen Petranek: Your kids might live on Mars. Here’s how they’ll survive

One of the next frontiers of human invention? Becoming a multi-planetary species. Petranek explains how (almost) all the ingredients necessary for humans to live on Mars already exist…

Some are relentlessly at work to make it happen.

15. Yanis Varoufakis: Capitalism will eat democracy – unless we speak up

Scientists might be able to solve complex problems. More and more, politicians seem unable to do the same. Former Greek Minister of Finance explains why.


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