Sometimes stories come along that are beautiful for the human spirit they display, gratifying for the abundance in our lives they expose, and inspiring for the persevering capacity they show. Like this one.
My second Thanksgiving week thankfulness post.
Thank you TED.
If you don’t already know, TED is a conference that features some of the most extraordinary speakers you will ever find, and the speeches, ranging from 6-18 minutes, are posted online and free to view.
TED is enriching in so many ways and I am thankful I live in an age where this is available. Here are three of my recent favorites.
Thank you Amy Cuddy. I had my whole family watch this. Amy Cuddy provides a simple technique you can take to improve your mood and performance and decrease your stress. It takes two minutes and it feels great. Thank you Amy Cuddy.
Thank you Jane McGonigal. How do you feel about playing games? How about living longer? This video shows how the one leads to the other. Thank you Jane McGonigal.
Thank you Daphne Koller. What if you wanted college education but couldn’t have it. Because you can’t afford it or couldn’t apply or already graduated but still want to take more classes. What if you could still go . . . and attend the classes of the best professors on the planet . . . and do it for free, from your living room. Thank you Daphne Koller.
There is a brilliant (hour long) video of Daniel Kahneman, nobel prize winner in economics, talking about what we know. My favorite lessons from the video:
- We think we come to conclusions based on our logical response to the arguments at hand. Just as often we draw a conclusion based on an emotional reaction and ever after believe arguments that support that conclusion and ignore or refute arguments that don’t.
- We think we know what’s funny. But there was an experiment in which participants watched a cartoon holding a pencil in their mouths either sideways or straight out like a cigar. The sideways pencil people found the cartoon funnier because their faces were already in a smiling position.
- People will pay more for insurance that protects against death by a terrorist act while they travel than for insurance that protects against death by any means while they travel. Why? The terrorist act is more vivid. So even though the second policy covers the first and more, it is less valued by the consumer because it lacks the strong mental story.
- Messages appear more true to people when (a) they are repeated frequently, (b) they are processed easily – e.g., an easy font to read, or (c) my personal favorite – they rhyme.
- Our automatic decisions about what we believe to be true are more swayed by the coherence of a story – does it seem to make sense – than by the quality of the argument, data, and evidence. So we are likely to believe things that sound right, especially if delivered by someone we like and trust, even if there is a mountain of data that follows explaining otherwise.
Cheers to the joy of irrationality.
What if you gave people an opportunity to anonymously share their secrets? What would you uncover? Would it be ugly? Beautiful? Obvious? Intriguing?
Frank Warren did exactly that and shares his experience on his blog and in one of the most touching and beautiful TED videos I’ve seen.
Has there ever been a better invention for young minds than Legos?
Little Bits is Legos 2.0. Featured at TED in a 5 minute standing ovation video, these building blocks give kids (and adults who like to play) an engaging way to play with the technologies that surround every part of our lives today.
They are my new favorite gift for kids. Actually, I just can’t wait to play with them myself.
I considered going to RPI for undergrad to study engineering. I was a math geek. Had I done so, I might be in a better position to understand more of the complicated issues related to our oil dependence and energy needs.
But as a relatively unknowing and ignorant citizen, this TED video makes arguably the most compelling case I’ve heard that our energy problems are solvable – cleanly, globally, cheaply.
My favorite quote from the video:
“If we’re going to get this country out of its current energy situation, we can’t just conserve our way out. We can’t just drill our way out. We can’t bomb our way out. We’re gonna do it the old fashioned American way. We’re gonna invent our way out.”
Okay. I’m a sucker for these stories. But sometimes we all need to see something this extraordinary, this inspiring. (And at 28 million views on youtube, I seem to not be alone.)