Because Ideas Matter: 10 TED Lectures You Need to Watch

So ideas are supposed to be powerful and change society.  Really excited because TED provides some amazing people the microphone to get their ideas out to the world.  There is so much excitement when I listen to these lectures, that its sort of become a ritual where over the course of three months I favorite the lectures that sound interesting and then I sit down at one time, two or three hours, listening to all these wonderful people.

I decided that I want to share the ones that I am most moved by.  You will notice that the law, politics and psychology (relationship building, connecting with people, self improvement) seem to carry lots of weight for me.  But this most recent batch there is a new concern that is taking over my thoughts, that concern involves the food we eat, the health of America and the health of the planet.  While I am not a full blown tree-hugger, I am now comfortable to say that I am on my way to becoming one in some form or fashion.

I am all about evaluating our ideas about the places we live in and where we get our food from.

The following three lectures explore that nexus and build on the idea that a capitalist economy with its focus on specialization of skills and labor doesn’t mean that we provide the best life for individuals, a community or the overall society.  Pam Warhurst challenges this notion and builds on the idea that we don’t need government to do whats right and that a local economy can be invigorated by growing local, buying local and eating local.

Tristram Stuart hits on another aspect of the modern economy dealing with agriculture and food- waste, the large quantities of food that is grown and never makes it to the mouths of people, but rather gets incinerated and thrown away.  We must address this food waste when it comes to not just going back to growing food locally and eating locally culture.

To build on that we need to realize that the way our cities are developing its not sustainable and to make life worthy of living we need to reconfigure our idea of how to design the spaces we live in, work in and exist in.  Kent Larson is amazing and his talk “Brilliant designs to fit more people in every city” is great endeavor in thinking how to move forward with the a cityscape design that promotes locality.

In thinking about locality, cityscapes and energy our big challenge is how to make our processes closed circuits.  I love this talk about Jonathan Trent about taking our waste products (poop and pee) to get rid of it but also make use of it so that it doesnt kill the environment or kill us.  This is a great talk that shows how thinking outside the box is critical, but one of the most demoralizing aspects of the talk is that government bureaucracy prevents us from initiating the whole innovate technology.

Shifting gears on the economy theme, there is an entire economy that exists supposedly underground, for the West anyway its underground, but totally above ground to folks who travel to the developing world.  Robert Neuwirth does an amazing, and entertaining, lecture on the informal economy.

What gets me is that part of citizens taking up action and working outside the system stems from the very premise that government and the capitalism weren’t doing what everyone kept telling us it was supposed to do.  Rory Stewart is a MP in the UK, who walked across Afghanistan after 9/11, talking with citizens and warlords about democracy. Now, a decade later, he asks: Why are Western and coalition forces still fighting there?  But he turns toward the idea that while in the West Democracy is seen as something less then perfect, politicians as being something less then genuine and the process of democracy as being something less then serving the interests of the people, why are people in the furthest reaches, backwaters of Afghanistan calling for the opportunity to pick its leaders?

I then point toward what folks believe are the underlying problems with our democracy, its not that democracy is flawed, rather it is flawed but its possible to make it work for the people by the people if, according to the two speakers, we have means for citizen participatory mechanism in legislating as well as transparency.

Clay Shirky explores how Linux, open source operating system, approach to open platform editing of the program for everyone, can in essence transform the government in how citizens participate, really amazing piece:

Sanjay Pradhan on the other hand talks about how open data, available and accessible by all, is going to make a government that can be held accountable especially in budgeting and use of international development aid.  Pradhan tells the story in a compelling personal history of his fathers struggle with corruption and government bribery in the Indian state of Bihar, one of the most corrupt systems in India:

Finally, I finish the politics with Ivan Krastev.  Everything the other speakers presents sound amazing, then Ivan comes on stage with his pessimistic view of the world and crushes your nodding into a full blown “oh shit, he’s right how naive of us.”  Basically Ivan argues that without trust there is no democracy and all these measures we talk about are great, however, it reduces trust and makes politics into the very thing we are trying to prevent it from becoming.  Listen, you know, its better that you just listen to how he puts it because I am doing his message a disservice:

Since you made it this far, reward yourself with this final lecture by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability.  I explore a key concept during my Ramadan series, specifically in this post about Rahma.  I actually got Brown’s lecture recommended to me when I got several responses to my posts about my TED binge, so I am a bit happy that I was hitting on some of the themes on vulnerability when talking about having Rahma in our lives before I actually watched Brene talk about vulnerability being a key ingredient to being happy, confident and fulfilled in life.

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