Posts Tagged ‘TED’

Just because you have gotten too old for Saturday morning cartoons doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy some quality animation.  The Royal Society of Animators presents fascinating lectures on topics such as education reform, motivation, the human drive towards compassion, and the relationship between business and social change.  Each presentation is clearly narrated in accessible language with engaging, masterful illustrations that lock details into the mind and delight the eye.

Like most brilliant ideas in history, the RSA was fueled by caffeine and good conversation.  In 1754, the RSA  began its life in a Covent Garden coffee shop by William Shipley, a Northampton drawing master.  Shipley created the idea of “premiums” or cash prizes that intended to stimulate and support the humanities and social sciences.  Throughout its 250 year history, the Society has awarded grants, held art exhibitions, published numerous journal articles, demonstrated cutting edge technologies, held festivals and design competitions, and compiled archives of its many achievements.  (For a more detailed history, browse the Society’s interactive timeline.)

In an effort to strengthen debate and provide a platform for innovative new ideas, the RSA collaborates with a network of over 27,ooo fellows who are dedicated to civic and social responsibility.  Anyone can visit their site to join and receive their newsletters and journals for a small payment, or enjoy their animations for free.  Notable fellows have included Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, David Attenborough, Peter Ustinov, Karl and Enid Marx, Charles Dickens, Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, and Samuel Johnson.

Lovers of viral videos and though-provoking entertainment will delight in watching and sharing the RSA’s series of YouTube talks.  Personal favorites of mine are Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation on Changing Education Paradigms, and Jeremy Rifkin’s lecture on The Empathic Civilization.  Finally, an academically valid excuse to watch online cartoons!  If you are inspired by their animations, take some time to explore the Society’s page where you can read blog articles, listen to audio programs, or even enter a film competition!

Be warned, like the TED site, several minutes of poking around can become hours-long media binges.  So go and have fun “drawing” upon this well of creativity and ingenuity!


Meet Bill Ford, great-grandson of Henry Ford and Executive Chair of the Ford Motor Co.  As the head of a large auto company, one might not think he would have many environmental proclivities.  However, from a childhood filled with fishing trips through the lake country of Michigan to an early fascination with H.D. Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, Ford has held nature as a powerful and formative influence on his life.

Hoping to leave a legacy that extends beyond gridlock and pollution, he hopes to institute smarter urban traffic systems, cleaner cars, and more efficient, smarter vehicle communication technologies.  Once thought to have ideas too radical for the company’s old school corporate culture, Ford was told at one point in his career to stop associating with environmentalists.  Now, his views concerning lowering emissions and untangling global congestion problems are attracting attention.  To hear what Bill Ford plans for the future of his company and the worldwide auto industry, watch his TED talk, “A future beyond traffic gridlock“.

What are your thoughts?  Can a car company lead the way for a more sustainable future, or do profit margins obstruct any positive progress?  Should we invest in restructuring our cities to accommodate new vehicles, or work towards a higher quality public transport system?  As a developed nation, do we have a responsibility to adopt cleaner technologies as a way to set an example for rapidly growing, undeveloped countries?

Before the Internet, if you wanted to attend a lecture given by a world-renown scientist, business mogul, or performer, you had to be enrolled in a University or in possession of a costly pair of tickets for admission.  Now, thanks to TED talks, all you need is a computer and about twenty minutes.  The private non-profit, TED (Technology, Education and Design) challenges a wide range of speakers (ranging from Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson to Bill Gates and J.J. Abrams) to present their work or thesis in 18 minutes or less.  This brief format creates engaging, creative presentations that cut to the core of what the lecturer has to say and introduces millions of viewers to ideas that they may have never otherwise been exposed to.

Launched in 2007 by the Sapling Foundation, TED now offers over 900 talks that are available for free online, taking advantage of a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.  The organization believes that ideas shape and transform our world, and that this information should be accessible to all of those who seek to enlighten themselves.  Under the slogan of “ideas worth spreading”, TED supports a number of different programs including annual simulcast conferences in Palm Springs, a yearly gathering in the UK, discussion forums, open translation projects that subtitle materials for non-English speakers, fellowships, a blog, smaller scale community-based lectures, and themed symposiums around the globe.

Now, for a note of sobriety; TED has some major big business backers.  How do they influence the selection of guests, if at all? Some companies have used the organization as a platform to express their interests, such as a talk that posited the idea that big brands could possibly save biodiversity by becoming sustainable (See Jason Clay, president of the World Wildlife Federation).  Some participants of the discussion boards have noted representatives of larger corporations jotting down one or two of their own ideas in favor of their agendas.  Can this be considered just the normal occurrence of an open forum or unfair advantage?  For those of you familiar with TED, have you ever come across material that you would consider in favor or a major sponsor?

In the opinion of this self-proclaimed Student For Life, TED is as close as it gets to a good college lecture.  While the talks may not be as long as I would like on some subjects (what? you mean we can’t spend three hours discussing fungi?) the material is nearly always fascinating and the speakers engrossing.  Discussions on the boards are generally informed and intelligent, and although they may not replace the human interaction that a university setting would provide, they are a wonderful way to do what TED has set out to achieve: share ideas and form connections with minds across national and cultural boundaries.

Do you have any favorite TED talks?  Who would you like to see speak?  If given the chance, what would  you talk about?