Thursday, December 6, 2012

Who is TED? And what is he talking about?

If you haven’t been introduced to TED, you’re in for a treat. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a nonprofit organization that “offers free knowledge," delivered as bite-sized (under 20 minutes) podcasts by "the world's most inspired thinkers."  Currently there are more than 1200 TEDtalks to choose from on topics relating to science, business, and technology. 

 If you’re new to TEDtalks, you might want to start with Steve Jobs’s commencement address to Stanford University's Graduating Class of 2005, entitled “How to live before you die.”  Readers of Walter Isaacson’s excellent biography will be familiar with the three life-altering situations Jobs describes: dropping out of college, getting fired, and facing death, but nothing can compare to seeing and hearing the late Jobs relate the stories in his own words.

Or start with “Finding the story inside the painting.”  Tracy Chevalier, author of The Girl with the Pearl Earring, believes people "are wired" to tell stories.  As proof, she interrogates three different portraits: The Girl with the Pearl Earring by 17th century Dutch painter, Vermeer, Boy Building a House of Cards by 18th century French painter, Chardin, and an anonymous portrait by an unknown Tudor artist.  Art aficionados and readers of Chevalier's novels will appreciate the way she spins a unique identity for each  portrait's model.

As you might expect, many TEDtalk presenters have written books about their specialties.  So after you've listened to Barry Schwartz talk about "Using our practical wisdom," you can check out Practical Wisdom.  And after you've viewed Dan Ariely's podcast "Our buggy moral code," you can read The Honest Truth about Dishonesty.  The same goes for A.J. Jacobs "How healthy living nearly killed me" (Drop Dead Healthy) and Steven Johnson's "The Ghost Map" (The Ghost Map.)

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