When hanging out with your friends from school or university, you might have heard someone saying: “I watched a TED talk about it.” TED is an American media organization that organizes conferences on campuses around the world, covering a variety of topics ranging from technology, education, design, business, health, and countless more. What are some of the best TED talks to expand your mind and give you new perspectives?
In recent years, TED has become much more than just conferences. Today, you can consume “ideas worth spreading” as talks, articles, interviews, and podcasts. Since 1984, TED has touched upon a veneer of subjects – some of them show us novel ways to see the world, others are great conversation starters.
Let’s take a look at the top 5 TED talks and what you can learn from them.
Give yourself permission to be creative | Ethan Hawke
In his talk, the actor Ethan Hawke mentions Allen Ginsberg – a poet from the Beat Generation – who gave up on the traditional lifestyle for the sake of art. The whole world was making fun of him, yet he accepted this faith of a fool as “[his] job.”
Most people go to work to contribute something of value, something that others may see as good. This pressure to make things of good quality that the world will deem valuable is one of the greatest enemies of creativity.
History has it that many an artist receive their credit only years, maybe centuries after their death. While their alive, art can be seen as something unnecessary or unreasonable. Every day, we’ve got lives to live and bills to pay.
Yet, in times of extreme emotions, either euphoria or suffering, art is no longer a luxury, it becomes essential.
Art is the ultimate expression of one’s identity. The abstract self, the ideas coming from deep within, manifest themselves through creativity in all forms. Once you know yourself and articulate it, you see how much in common we humans have with one another.
By devoting your life to passion, you can change the lives of people around you. You have to forget about the urge to be good at something, and just try new things and meet new people to express your creative individuality.
Youth Time Magazine tip – ‘How To Activate Creativity In The Brain? Tricks From A Professor Of Biology’.
Facebook’s role in Brexit – and the threat to democracy | Carole Cadwalladr
The rise of social media and the internet has opened many doors for global connection and interaction between people all around the globe. Unfortunately, along with its merits came a plethora of dangers. In her TED talk, Carole Cadwalldr elaborates on Facebook’s influence on the 2016 Brexit vote.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal sent ripples around our planet. The Leave campaign used targeted ads to make profiles of people, only to drag them deeper into misinformation and persuade them to vote despite common sense.
In the United Kingdom, there’s a certain limit to how much one can spend on one’s political campaign. With Facebook ads, there could be no control of this limit. Hence, the masterminds behind the Leave campaign could pump millions into targeted ads, often balancing on the boundary of fake news and hatred.
There is a great danger lurking behind Facebook and similar technologies. Through algorithms, companies from Silicon Valley can hack humans into buying certain products or voting for certain politicians. This is a great threat to liberal democracy.
Profiled ads have the power to subconsciously change our views on particular political matters. Similarly, the Trump campaign in 2016 worked closely with Cambridge Analytica. The ability to shape our perception is disturbingly real and has a massive impact on elections and referendums.
It’s our individual responsibility to stand up to tech giants and take back control of our own decisions before we turn into puppets of the invisible hands of corporations and social media.
Youth Time Magazine tip – ‘Is It About Time We Recognize Internet Access as a Human Right?’
How great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek
From Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the Civil Rights movement, to Apple revolutionizing the tech industry, the world’s greatest leaders share one recipe for success. In this TED talk, Simon Sinek codified this idea.
First, inspiring leadership starts with “why” – the reason for changing the world, the purpose to strive for, the cause to fight for. The best leaders and organizations define their beliefs in the very beginning, acting and communicating in a slightly counterintuitive way. They begin from what’s abstract and driven by emotions.
Only then do these great inspiring leaders elaborate on “how” and “what.” This strategy has it’s justification in biology, and is extraordinarily effective in business. When humans make choices, the reptilian brain makes the first decision, which controls emotion-related body functions. Rationalization of a decision comes afterwards.
Inspiring people and driving change begins by saying what you believe in and what your values are. How and what you want to do is secondary. By addressing the feelings, such as trust and loyalty, you can become the next leader – be it in business, politics, or technology.
Youth Time Magazine tip – ‘Learning Leadership By Experiencing Powerlessness’.
There’s more to life than being happy | Emily Esfahani Smith
Our society pushes you to pursue happiness and success. Yet, instead of making you feel fulfilled, it makes you anxious and insecure. Emily Esfahani Smith’s TED talk explains that life is not about being happy.
Psychological studies showed that the main reason behind depression is not a lack of happiness, but a lack of meaning. There are four pillars of meaning that together construct the core values of existence.
Belonging is the first of them. It’s about building valuable and reciprocal relationships. When love is the main motivation behind your actions, you will appreciate and acknowledge the people around, consequently building meaningful bonds.
Purpose is the second pillar of a meaningful life. Finding a purpose is about having the “why,” a motivation behind your actions. By using your strength to help others, your life will have a goal – a meaning.
Transcendence is when you disconnect yourself from the regular, daily reality. This third pillar puts a huge emphasis on the immersion in your passion, when you lose the sense of time and space.
Your life is not just a compilation of events – it’s a story. Storytelling is how you present yourself to others and how you see your life. The narrative you add to your life is the fourth pillar of a meaningful life.
Life is a complex process, and happiness is not the paramount goal to strive for. By having a purpose, a meaning, you can make your life worth living.
Youth Time Magazine Tip – ‘Procrastination and Boredom is Not All Bad’.
Do schools kill creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson
Education is our attempt to shape the future through the younger generations. At the beginning of his talk, Sir Ken Robinson states that creativity in education should have a comparable status to literacy.
In order to stay creative and innovative, you have to be prepared to be wrong. As we can see clearly, by stigmatizing mistakes in school, many children lose this capacity. As a result, we then run companies on the same premise that making a mistake is the worst one can do.
Wherever you go in the world – no matter how much the culture, climate, or work ethic changes – almost all countries have the same hierarchy of subjects. The arts are usually at the very bottom, and within the arts there’s another hierarchy, e.g. favouring music over drama.
All modern public education systems came into being along with industrialism, focusing on academic ability, paying more attention to subjects like maths and languages rather than art and dancing. As a consequence, many creative, brilliant young people leave school thinking they aren’t so clever.
What is more, some subjects are stigmatized as irrational. Hence, some talents are muzzled. Intelligence is diverse, dynamic, and interactive. In order to face academic inflation and the ever-changing world, we need to restructure the way we educate our children. By rethinking education and its effect on creativity, we can truly unleash the potential of humanity.
Youth Time Magazine tip – ‘Alternative Education: Expand The Process Beyond Traditional Institutions’.
Ideas worth spreading
The internet is a mine of information, and TED talks are a great way to combine educating yourself with entertainment. Not only are they wonderful conversation starters, but they may also change your perspective on how you see and interpret the world.
Of course, these 5 TED talks we’ve discussed are but the tip of an iceberg. You’ll find thousands of other talks, conferences, and interviews. If we’ve sparked up your curiosity, visit the TED website to watch more, or maybe act upon what you’ve learned. Either way, don’t stop exploring, learning, and trying to make sense out of this world.
Photo: Shutterstock / Edited by: Martina Advaney