Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TED Talks

Like many people, I've spent hours shamelessly pouring over the internet (in fact I'm writing this at 12:06 AM because who needs sleep) and all it has to offer. I've definitely spent my fair amount of time watching silly cat videos on Youtube or scrolling through Pinterest. However, the internet is also an amazing learning tool if you decide to make it. Before you nag me about how you already do enough learning in school, let me preface this post by saying the internet is a different type of learning. It doesn't have to be used to learn algebra or how to conjugate verbs properly, but rather it should be used to explore your interest, to inspire you, to make you think critically and question, which is something a school education might try to do, but will never fully accomplish. Oh, and some of the stuff online is just really freaking cool.

TED talks are one of my favorite online hubs to watch. TED stands for technology, education, and design, and the website features hundreds of lectures by prominent movers and shakers in fields ranging from sociology to botany. The goal of these talks is to inspire and to challenge people to think. There are definitely issues with TED, such as that it grossly over simplifies complex ideas or that it's an superficial, ego building machine. Despite this, there are several TED talks that I've found truly inspirational or that have challenged my mental paradigm, and those are talks worth spreading.

Uri Alon: Why truly innovative science demands a leap into the unknown

Uri Alon pinpoints exactly what's missing from the education most kids grow up with: mistakes aren't just okay, they're necessary. Education, from its setup to its goal, describes life as a straight path from A to B; if you work hard and never sway, you'll always succeed. Failure is discouraged. Yet failure has spawned some of the most important modern discoveries, such as rubber. Alon stresses that failure is the source of the most creative and useful scientific results. It was in improv classes that he learned how to cultivate an undesirable position into a success, which he later applied to his research. Just as this lesson is applicable in both science and improv, it's applicable in every facet of life.

Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

Whether or not you see yourself becoming a politician or an engineer, you will pretty much always have to interact with people on a face to face level. You might as well be good at it then! Regardless how talented or creative you are, your ideas are worthless to others unless you can convey their importance verbally.  My Model UN coach used to show us this video halfway through the season to help us refine our speaking styles, and it definitely helped. Julian Treasure breaks down how to be an effective speaker and his tips are applicable to both public speaking as well as one-on-one conversations. 

Cameron Russell: Looks aren't everything. Believe me, I'm a model.

Like many young girls, I dreamed of being a princess or a model (that is, until I stopped growing at 5' 3"). Cameron Russell, a successful model and globetrotter, breaks down the picturesque perfection of being a model and the fashion industry in general. She points to the unjust racial and economic legacy that the industry relies on, as well as the needless sexualization of young girls for the sake of a good picture. Her main point is that images are powerful; we base our thoughts and beliefs off of pretty images, yet those images are constructed by teams of professionals to send that particular message. When we look beneath the image, things are no longer as pretty as they seem. This not only pertains to the modeling industry, but to any situation worldwide.

Helen Fisher: The brain in love

This is a talk I've watched over and over again and still manage to enjoy it. It's not as "educational" as many other TED talks, but somehow, it still resonates with me. I think I'm just drawn to Helen Fisher's honest, romantic, and idealistic description of love, and with due reason of course. As Fisher describes, our brains are programmed to crave romantic love despite knowing the pain that love can cause. In a world of climbing divorce rates and cynical statements that love is futile, it's a nice, hopeful reminder that all humans need love, so hopefully you'll find it. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story

You may have heard of Adichie's other TED talk that perhaps Beyonce might have quoted, so I decided to give this one a shout out. In this talk, Adichie describes the pervasiveness of stereotypes and how they flatten both the human and the individual experience. Everyone is more than just a single story imposed on them by someone else's imagination. When we get past the single story to see who people really are, we eliminate the hatred and bias that governs so many of our interpersonal relations today. Eliminating the single stories that we impose on discussions of race, class, and gender, are the first step to living in a much more equitable society.

Those are my favorite TED talks. Share your favorite TED talks with me on social media using #theyouthemisms! 

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