Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Best Talks of TED 2018

I was fortunate to be able to attend TED 2018 this past week. Here are the talks I thought were best this year - I couldn't limit myself to 10 so it ended up being a list of 17. For now I've added links to related content, and I'll add links to the official TED videos as they come out:
  1. Alex Honnold is a freesolo rock climber. He talked about his story of almost dying on a freesolo climb in Yosemite, after which he decided to practice intensely for the next big climb to the point of knowing every move.
  2. Ian Firth designs bridges all over the world, and presented new beautiful new designs for an ultralong floating bridge in Norway.
  3. Aaswath Raman presented an amazing new technology which uses thermal radiation to beam heat from the surface of the earth into space, thus creating the ability to more cheaply cool buildings and even generate power at night.
  4. Ingrid Fetell Lee spoke about the "Aesthetics of Joy" and how to create spaces that are beautiful and evoke a feeling of happiness.
  5. Gwynne Shotwell spoke about SpaceX's plan to deliver point-to-point rocket-based travel on earth, and showed this video of how they'll have rockets flying from NYC to Shanghai with a mere 30 minutes travel time. While cool, this seems like a pretty absurd waste of resources. (video)
  6. Steven Pinker talked about how despite all the doom and gloom we are making progress as humanity.
  7. Kate Raworth made the argument that GDP is the wrong way to measure progress and instead showed a new set of indicators that took the shape of a donut. I thought they were pretty good.
  8. Christoph Niemann is an illustrator who made many a New Yorker cover happen, and in his TED talk he reflected powerfully on the creative process.
  9. Robin Steinberg presented her work at the The Bail Project, a national revolving bail fund to fight mass incarceration. (video)
  10. Supasorn Suwajanakorn  showed how computers can now create videos that look like it's actually Obama speaking, and pondered the consequences for humanity. 
  11. Simone Giertz's humorous performance reenacted some of the silly robot scenes she features on her YouTube channel.
  12. Nora Atkinson has catalogued the art installations at Burning Man over the past years, and had a beautifully visual presentation on these temporary pieces.
  13. Angel Hsu presented on the staggering progress that China has made in fighting air pollution.
  14. Gary Liu spoke about China's infrastructure buildout to enable the incredible migration that happens in the country for Chinese New Year.
  15. Kai-Fu Lee's presentation about the unsustainable 996 work culture in China (from 9 am to 9 pm, 6 days a week) and emphasized how the the competition between Chinese and Western tech will likely increase.
  16. Renzo Piano is one of my favorite starchitects (think Whitney Museum in NYC). In his talk, he reviewed his work to date, and the teamwork it takes to make these buildings happen.
  17. Oskar Eustis runs the Public Theater in NYC and spoke about the impact on the public of making theater freely available.