(I wrote this in 2007 — that's a reminder to me to update it. (In 2012 I shared several meals with TED's owner/organizer, economist Chris Anderson — getting the inside scoop.)
What's the best website on the entire internet ?
The answer is www.TED.com . (At least that was my answer in 2007.)
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design . But forget the entertainment. (While it's quite good, there's plenty of that elsewhere.)
Here's what this site is really about:
WHAT ARE THE WORLD’s MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEMS ?
WHAT ARE THE BEST SOLUTIONS ?
WHO ARE THE MAJOR PROBLEM SOLVERS ? and also
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, TRENDS, and NEW TECHNOLOGIES ?
TED (Technology Entertainment Design) is an annual conference in Monterrey, California. (Starting in 2009 it will be in Long Beach.) This was (and is) one of those highly exclusive conferences for top-ranked cognoscente. It used to be by invitation only. Now, you can get in merely by paying $6,000 for a ticket.
You don't have a spare $6,000 to see TED live? No prob. Watch the best of TED on-line for free!
TED is so good that I had to move my laptop permanently into the dining room. I watch TED videos while I eat: one or two fifteen minute TED videos per meal. (TV and newspapers are too ephemeral. A book can't be kept open while eating a tuna sandwich.)
There are frequently moments when the video is so good, I have to stop eating. Would you eat during an exhortation from Gandhi to save India ?
Here are a few of my favorites. (Many others are also great.) These are all must watch. To find these videos, just google the presenter's name and TED video .
Jimmy is fantastic. If you haven't seen him before, watch this now (and learn how to be a better leader than you are). Why is Wikipedia important? Jimmy says it best: provide an encyclopedia (of ALL KNOWLEDGE) to every person on the planet - (in every language in every mud hut). Wikipedia is extremely interesting (and paradoxical): how is it possible to create a better encyclopedia than Britannica and spend no money and use a ragtag band of thousands of volunteers working in their bathrobes?
JANE GOODALL, Primatologist ... What Separates Us from the Apes?
Jane had just returned from Ecuador where she was visiting a primitive forest tribe that had just installed solar panels to run electric lights and a laptop for the chief. Her focus, of course, is on her famous work on chimpanzees in Tanzania. Chimps communicate, use tools, hunt cooperatively, draw upon their emotions, and have a sense of self. Chimps and other species are entitled to their lives. Her plaintiff cry is to allow their survival. A must see.
Doerr may not be a household name but he and Kleiner Perkins funded and nurtured several important companies: Google, Amazon, Compaq, Netscape, Symantec, and Sun Microsystems. At 1 billion in net worth John's got the ear of all the movers and shakers in Sacramento and in Washington, DC. In this highly moving piece he talks about Global Warming - the message basically is our goose is cooked. To have any chance of survival we need to start now to massively reduce CO2 emissions. John is a technologist, so his focus here is on GREENTECH and its adoption by corporate America. Even Wal-Mart's CEO Lee Scott is taking big steps to reduce his company's carbon footprint.
While we're talking about global warming ...
Vice President Al GORE : has several important TED video, all worth watching. They deal with climate change, energy research policy, and greentech. See his photos of the North Polar Ice Cap (it is rapidly disappearing and could be gone in five years). Compare the temperatures on Venus (800 degrees F) to Earth (59 degrees F): the difference is largely due to CO2.
Professor Wilson is one of the best know voices for conservation. This is an urgent plea to save our fellow living creatures. How unthinkable that we might permit the destruction of millions of Earth's species.
David presents a stunning animation of what is happening in every one of your hundred trillion cells. Bolinsky got a phone call from Harvard asking his team of medical illustrators to bring cellular physiology to life. If biology bored you in school, watch this. . Nanotechnologists. Fall on your knees in awe! (Want the power of TED in only three minutes? Tune in at minute 7.)
Jeff Han Computer Scientist (NYU), Multi-Touch Interface
This is a wonderful 9 minute introduction to multi-touch computing. I (and others) call this a Minority Report Interface (for the interface that Tom Cruise used to solve pre-crime in that great movie.)
Obviously Steve Jobs and his iPhone crew at Apple were influenced by this work. (And, do watch Steve Jobs video presentation to the June 2008 World Wide (Apple) Developers Conference. This is the computing that you will be using in the next year or so.)
Vilayanur Ramachandran Professor of neurobiology UCSD, Journey to the Center of Your Mind
My son and I first heard Ramachandran lecture at Stanford. A brilliant expositor of neurobiology he lectures on three very informative neurologic delusions including facial agnosias and synesthesias.
Steven Pinker, Professor of linguistics and cognitive science (Harvard), The History of Violence
Steve has two TED videos (both quite good). I'd start with this one. Violence is built into us. The notion of noble savages is wrong. Contrary to popular belief violence is decreasing (with large local deviations). World culture and laws have worked to civilize us. (Also see my photos of Steve when he was our guest star speaker on a CFI trip to the Amazon.)
Bono, lead singer of U2 and social activist. Call to Action on Africa
Is Bono merely one of the most successful rock stars of all time? This beautiful entreaty, on behalf of sub-Saharan Africa, will persuade you that Bono is also one of our most successful social activists. It's evident why Bono won Time's Person of the Year and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
In future weeks I will add paragraphs on some of my other TED favorites:
Richard Dawkins on the God Delusion, Dean Kamen on prosthetic arms, Robert Full on animal movement, Murray Gell-Mann on the Laws of Physics, Craig Venter on Inventing Life, Bill Clinton on Building Rwanda, Chris Anderson (Technology's Long Tail). Basically, the list is endless.
Turn off your TV ... turn on TED.