If you’d rather spend your downtime soaking up new ideas than ending up stage 5 couch potato in front of The Bachelor, then there’s no doubt you’re a fan of TED.
TED (or Technology, Entertainment and Design) began in 1984 as a conference to cover all topics – from science to business to global issues – in more than 100 languages. Today, it has produced over 2200 talks, many of which have gone viral and influenced the ways we think and live.
Curator Chris Anderson has sat front row for nearly every presentation or performance for TED and as such has a pretty good idea of the talks you should be devoting your time to. Here are the top 5 TED talks that have stuck with Anderson the most.
#1 David Deutsch
‘Chemical Sum That Dream That Dream Of Distant Quasars’
Legendary scientist David Deutsch puts theoretical physics on the back burner to discuss a more urgent matter: the survival of our species. The first step toward solving global warming, he says, is to admit that we have a problem.
“…Deutsch helped convince me that knowledge is far more than just a weird evolutionary trick invented by one of earth’s species,” says Anderson.
#2 Clay Shirky
‘Institutions vs. Collaboration’
Clay Shirky shows how closed groups and companies will give way to looser networks where small contributors have big roles and fluid cooperation replaces rigid planning.
“Back in 2005, Shirky spoke about how the Web was enabling new models that should encourage institutions to ‘let go’ and allow others to do some of their work for them. I think it helped convince us that we should be willing to risk giving away our best talks for free online,” says Anderson.
#3 Nancy Etcoff
‘Happiness And Its Surprises’
Cognitive researcher Nancy Etcoff looks at happiness — the ways we try to achieve and increase it, the way it’s untethered to our real circumstances, and its surprising effect on our bodies.
“This is one of a whole collection of talks on happiness that have really changed my think and…I think actually made me happier,” says Anderson.
#4 Bryan Stevenson
‘We Need To Talk About An Injustice’
Human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America’s justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives.
“Bryan spoke about a tough subject – America’s broken justice system – in a way that was unbelievably compelling. He won the longest standing ovation in TED’s history,” says Anderson.
#5 Steven Pinker & Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
‘The Long Reach Of Reason’
In a time when irrationality seems to rule both politics and culture, has reasoned thinking finally lost its power?
Together, Pinker and Newberger Goldstein “reach the conclusion that pure reason has shaped history profoundly, though it sometimes takes hundreds of years. If the world bought into this view, we’d do a much better job of listening to each other.”