There have been lots of links to the recently posted videos of TED talks from the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference, a yearly meeting where 1000 influential (board-of-director-level) people are invited to Monterey to think and talk big thoughts. There are currently six 18–minute presentations posted, including one by Al Gore. More are promised.
I wanted to comment on several talks, beginning with one by Sir Ken Robinson who speaks about the need to rework our education system to preserve the creative spirit in people. He suggests that the curricula at public school programs are designed to produce university scholars and that this is too narrow a definition for what schools should produce. Sir Ken says that children are boundlessly creative because “they’re not frightened of being wrong,” and goes on to say that we learn to be frightened as we grow older and that most people are indeed terrified of being wrong by the time they start working at companies, with their creative spirit dissipated. Sir Ken blames our school systems for not nurturing creativity, stating that
We are educating people out of their creative capacities…we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it, or rather, we get educated out of it.
Sir Ken is a charismatic speaker and engaging to the audience but unfortunately, to my taste, he spends too much time on jokes and stories and not building his case towards revising our public school goals. This is a particularly resonant topic given the work that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been doing. With only eighteen minutes to influence some of the top leaders in the US, I would have liked to have seen a more direct focus on his very important thesis.
Al Gore discusses the global warming presentation that he gave earlier in the TED conference and which forms the backbone of the movie An Inconvenient Truth. He also spends several minutes on jokes, at the beginning of his talk and of the self-deprecating kind, but he eventually gets down to business and he is indeed all business at addressing the issue of spreading the word about global warming. Not only is his presentation compelling, but he is clearly reaching out to the attendees and trying to make a difference.
Majora Carter gives an emotional and inspiring talk about bringing green space to the Bronx and the need to consider urban development as a way of moving our society forward.
My favorite talk is from Hans Rosling, director of Sweden’s top university, the Karolinska Institute. Hans gives a tour de force data-driven overview of world development that uses data displays that would make Edward Tufte weep with envy. His presentation was fascinating: compelling and rich with information. Anyone who watches this video and does not finish with an intense desire to do similar data mining in their own fields is a poster child for Sir Ken Robinson’s thesis that schooling eradicates creativity—see above.