(This essay is one in a series of posts reviewing my favorite websites. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time surfing the Internet, I do have a file on my computer entitled “Random Cool Stuff.” Within that file are bookmarked Internet sites, an odd collection of webpages, among the millions of possibilities that tickled my fancy, intrigued me, or led me in a whole new direction.)
Last year, a friend emailed me a link to a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about nurturing creativity. The talk was posted on TED.com, a site unknown to me. After listening to Gilbert’s talk, I began exploring TED.com. On a whim I clicked on a performance by Irish Mentalist Keith Barry. Barry explained the concept of “brain magic,” how our brains can fool our bodies. At one point, Barry demonstrated second sight by driving blindfolded while “seeing” through the eyes of a terrified passenger. It was crazy.
Intrigued, I investigated TED.com further to verify the legitimacy of these talks. I discovered that TED began in 1984 as a conference aimed at bringing together the three worlds of Technology, Entertainment, and Design–a sort of shared ideas fest. From those early conferences grew TED.com, a website dedicated to “Ideas Worth Spreading” that offers thousands of video talks from experts in all fields. Over the years TED.com has become a powerful resource for ideas and cutting edge theories. In an effort to reach a global audience, TED volunteers have translated 11,000 talks into over 50 languages. And if you aren’t an auditory learner, like me, there is an interactive transcript available which enables you to read along.
Some past presenters are Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Bill Gates, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and various Nobel Prize winners. But it isn’t necessarily the big names that deliver the most interesting and riveting performances. Recently, one of the “most emailed” talks was a five-minute presentation by designer Jessi Arrington entitled “Wearing Nothing New.” She described her experience of traveling to the TED conference with only seven pairs of underwear and buying the rest of her clothes at thrift shops upon her arrival.
It’s easy to get lost in TED.com–the endless variety of topics soon had me wandering in all different directions. You will find talks by artists, doctors, writers, scientists, business experts, and psychologists. Bill Stone, maverick cave explorer, spoke of his explorations of some of the deepest caves. Dr. Hawa Abki and her daughter Dego Mohamed, known as “the saints of Somalia,” discussed their community work and the medical clinic they founded. On a lighter note, Jake Shimabukuro performed a cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody on his ukelele in a not to be missed performance.
Since I live in a geographically isolated area, having access to experts discussing interesting ideas and theories is a much needed brain stimulant. My friend Corrie thinks so, too. She recently got hooked on TED.com, and sent me an email suggesting I check out a talk by scientist Rebecca Saxe on how we read each other’s minds. She added, “I can’t believe I just found this site, but I am tired today because I stayed up too late watching a new technique about how to manipulate our brains into making good decisions.”
Checking out TED.com is definitely a good decision.