November 11, 2007 2:42 PM   Subscribe

10 TED conference videos that may or may not be perspective changing…otherwise named, The Ten Videos to Change How You View the World...The Myth of Violence - Steven Pinker, 10 Ways the World Could End - Stephen Petranek, New Insights on Poverty and Life Around the World - Hans Rosling, Toys That Make Worlds - Will Wright, Technology’s Long Tail - Chris Anderson, Why Are We Happy? Or Not? - Daniel Gilbert, Universe is Queerer Than We Can Suppose - Richard Dawkins, Sliced Bread - Seth Godin, Redefining the Dictionary - Erin McKean, What’s So Funny About the Web? - Ze Frank

If one types 2007 in the TED site's search box and presses enter, there is a selection of 300 of the most recent -and many wonderful- videos.
posted by nickyskye (25 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Be sure to check out this previous thread: TED talks, give it a listen.
posted by ericb at 2:53 PM on November 11, 2007

I'm familiar with a lot of those people and what they think. I can't help feeling like most of those people are considered visionary because they sell themselves as visionary.

TED just irritates me, it's like a celebration of the form of intelligence, or of intellectualism, rather then the content itself.

I liked the 14 year old piano girl, but David Pouge at the NYT recycling 20 year old Microsoft cliche's? Gag.

The fact that it's all sponsored by BMW's current marketing campaign just makes it more irksome. Somehow those ads just irritate me, for some similar reasons but explaining why would just derail the thread.
posted by delmoi at 3:05 PM on November 11, 2007 [5 favorites]

The new visionary: anti-visionary
posted by stbalbach at 3:09 PM on November 11, 2007

lol, delmoi, sorry the post irritates you so much. *offers you an imaginary mug of peppermint tea [ ]}

The Ze Frank one was funny.
posted by nickyskye at 3:15 PM on November 11, 2007

Hands up if all you did was go straight to the zefrank video.
posted by seanyboy at 3:19 PM on November 11, 2007

the post doesn't irritate me, just TED in general. The talks can be interesting, it's just the packaging I find annoying.
posted by delmoi at 3:29 PM on November 11, 2007

Dictionaries up if you went straight to Erin "Like, or Characteristic of, a Hedgehog" McKean's video.
posted by stavrogin at 3:35 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Hans Rosling one is fantastic. Dan Gilbert's is enlightening. Thanks for this post.
posted by shotgunbooty at 3:41 PM on November 11, 2007

Steven Pinker tackles the myth that today is a more violent era than in the past. Using historical data and information from pre-industrialized tribes, Pinker shows that violence has dramatically declined in our history.

Oh, this is the Lord's own truth. People love to think that today is the worst ever (glass half full?), but society in general is far more civilized than even a few hundred years ago, although conflicts between the Hutu and Tutsi and the beheading incidents in Iraq give pause. These acts pale by comparison with the mass murders and horror of the Middle Ages. Vlad Dracula?
posted by caddis at 3:42 PM on November 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

TED's format makes a lot of sense when you consider the average income of the conference goers. From that perspective what they do is brilliant.

For people with slightly longer attention spans, I'm hoping that TED will be a gateway drug to the sustainability talks I've collected.
posted by FissionChips at 3:46 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

The zefrank video really tweaked my head though. The thing about growing an internet community via shared low entrance "art" projects really hit true for me.
posted by seanyboy at 4:00 PM on November 11, 2007

Conferences! Consultants! Conferences! Consultants! Consultants! Conferences! Let's meet up in Cairo and talk about how we're going to revolutionize the network!

snarkoff. Thanks for the links!
posted by cavalier at 4:20 PM on November 11, 2007

comparison with the mass murders and horror of the Middle Ages

Most people sense of the Middle Ages is of a "Dark Age" which is often wrong. For example in combat between knights during the High Middle Ages it was considered impolite to kill your opponent. At the Battle of Bovines, one of the most important battles, no knights were killed - except for a Frenchman who yelled out "kill the English" - his own troops killed him for that. It was all about capture and ransom, more knights died in friendly Tournament than actual combat. The many Italian wars of the Renaissance period (between Italians) were likewise characterized by bloodless fighting. Of course there were bloody wars and rape and murder was endemic, but the Middle Ages were complex, varied and not at all easily summarized as having a single characteristic - just like our own times. In fact if you were to take the worst atrocities of our own times (Holocaust, etc..) and compare it with the worst of the Middle Ages (Albigensian Crusade, Sack of Rome 1542, etc..) I would say we are more violent today simply because of the technological capability for killing.
posted by stbalbach at 4:34 PM on November 11, 2007

..(correction) Sack of Rome 1527
posted by stbalbach at 4:37 PM on November 11, 2007

The Pinker argument was used as an introduction to a special topics course on violence that I've been taking this semester, and it's interesting. My take on it is still evolving, but right now... I don't know, it rings kind of hollow to me, even as I really want to believe him.

Quantitatively, he may very well be correct, and I appreciate that he's trying to bring a different perspective to the sense of doom that pervades a lot of talk about the "violent human nature," but I think there's something to be said about the fact that the modern era has brought about the machinery for violence on unfathomable scales. And not just in literal terms of weapon yields and sophistication: the Holocaust could never have occurred in those times where violence against another was considered more "socially acceptable," because the apparatus of bureaucracy wasn't present to facilitate that kind of extermination.

But a great part of our society now is structured in such a way as to short-circuit the basic function of human empathy (which he argues in the speech to be something that's expanding--I'm not sure I completely disagree, but I don't think it's that simple), to aid in the identification for "otherness" that is the prerequisite for violence. The level of bureaucracy, of abstracting the performer of an action and the affected away from each other, is massive.

If a corporation screws me over, I never talk to the people who are actually responsible for doing so without extraordinary effort. I call "customer service," and talk to someone who has little to no power to resolve my problem. My frustration threatens to destroy my empathy for him, and his hours and hours of dealing with people like me with no real way to alleviate the problems he's presented with threatens to destroy whatever empathy he may have had for me and others like me. It takes an extraordinary mindfulness to avoid this.

Meanwhile, the people above him, who are actually responsible for the things that they do, are safely insulated from the social consequences of their behavior by virtue of the fact that they never have to hear about it unless I make a massive nuisance of myself. This level of abstraction usually doesn't get people killed (though it still happens with some frequency--see unsafe products, pushed out because they were cheaper, that injure or kill people, and bullshit pulled by insurance companies to avoid paying for life-saving treatments) but I look at it and see how it could be turned to systematic violence with ease. It's already happened, after all.

Bureaucracy is not a new thing, but the level at which it has existed from the 20th century onward certainly is. And the existence of that machinery, even though it's a reflection of a system that makes great things possible, gives me great pause regardless of whether violence against individuals is quantitatively less common or not. I don't feel hopeless, and I don't believe in the idyllic past at all, and, most importantly, I don't have any answers. I certainly don't think the answer is to do away with "modernity" and all the good things it's brought us that I believe Pinker correctly argues have helped to alleviate instances of violence. But I look at how the most common structures in "modern life," the corporation and the government, are both structured in such a way that this abstraction occurs, and that cannot help but leave me disquieted on a deep level.
posted by Kosh at 4:44 PM on November 11, 2007 [10 favorites]

Great comment Kosh. Interested in your thoughts about this. Hope you write more, anywhere, on this topic and hope I have a chance to read it.
posted by nickyskye at 7:20 PM on November 11, 2007

I like this FPP.
posted by bluejayk at 7:37 PM on November 11, 2007

Oh, this is the Lord's own truth. People love to think that today is the worst ever (glass half full?)

Actually, I was shocked when I read the synopsis of Pinkler's video. Shocked that anyone would things were worse today then at any point in the past. It's fairly obvious to anyone that things have been getting, almost monotonically better over centuries. The first half of the 20th century might be an exception, though.
posted by delmoi at 7:51 PM on November 11, 2007

I too have a problem with packaging. Being a visionary or great mind on your field seems to require quite a lot of showmanship and a fast pace. Try to imagine Wittgenstein there, staring at nothing and keeping long pauses while composing a problem. 20 minutes is still a soundbite when talking deep stuff.
posted by Free word order! at 2:04 AM on November 12, 2007

The Hans Rosling one is fantastic.

It made me tear up a little bit.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 8:22 AM on November 12, 2007

Hands up if all you did was go straight to the zefrank video.

Dictionaries up if you went straight to Erin "Like, or Characteristic of, a Hedgehog" McKean's video.

My hand is up, and it is holding a dictionary.

Now if the two would do one together. Peanut butter + chocolate.
posted by sparkletone at 8:59 AM on November 12, 2007

Actually, that last post, like the cake, is a lie.

I've seen the Ze talk before. But I did make sure it was the one I'd seen before. The McKean one was new to me.

My internots-crush on her only grows...
posted by sparkletone at 9:05 AM on November 12, 2007

stbalbach, if the Middle Ages were so rosy how do you explain the reign of terror that was Vlad the Impaler:
Outside of Romanian folklore the reputation of Vlad Ţepeş is considerably darker. Vlad III Ţepeş has been characterized by some as exceedingly cruel. Impalement was Ţepeş's preferred method of torture and execution. His method of torture was a horse attached to each of the victim's legs as a sharpened stake was gradually forced into the body. The end of the stake was usually oiled, and care was taken that the stake not be too sharp; else the victim might die too rapidly from shock. Normally the stake was inserted into the body through the anus and was often forced through the body until it emerged from the mouth. However, there were many instances where victims were impaled through other bodily orifices or through the abdomen or chest. Infants were sometimes impaled on the stake forced through their mother's chests. The records indicate that victims were sometimes impaled so that they hung upside down on the stake.[6]

As expected, death by impalement was slow and painful. Victims sometimes endured for hours or days. Vlad often had the stakes arranged in various geometric patterns. The most common pattern was a ring of concentric circles in the outskirts of a city that constituted his target. The height of the spear indicated the rank of the victim. The corpses were often left decaying for months.

There are claims that thousands of people were impaled at a single time. One such claim says 10,000 were impaled in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu (where Vlad the Impaler had once lived) in 1460. Another allegation asserts that during the previous year, on Saint Bartholomew's Day (in August), Vlad the Impaler had 30,000 of the merchants and officials of the Transylvanian city of Braşov that were breaking his authority impaled. One of the most famous woodcuts of the period shows Vlad the Impaler feasting amongst a forest of stakes and their grisly burdens outside Braşov, while a nearby executioner cuts apart other victims.

Impalement was Vlad's favourite method of torture but was by no means his only one. The list of tortures he is alleged to have employed is extensive: nails in heads, cutting off of limbs, blinding, strangulation, burning, cutting off of noses and ears, mutilation of sexual organs (especially in the case of women), scalping, skinning, exposure to the elements or to animals, and boiling alive.[6]
He at least met a fitting end:
With the help of the Turks (where he also had connections) he regained the throne in 1443 and until December 1447 when he was assassinated by means of scalping ("scalping", for the Turks, meant cutting the edges of the face and pulling the face's skin off, while the person was still alive and conscious[citation needed]) on the orders of John Hunyadi, regent of Hungary.
posted by caddis at 9:35 AM on November 12, 2007

I will not make a "Bush-league" joke; I will not make a "Bush-league" joke; I will not make a "Bush-league" joke. . . .
posted by cgc373 at 7:28 PM on November 12, 2007

I hear ya, delmoi.
posted by shoepal at 7:42 PM on November 12, 2007

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