Four More Great Talks at TED

I’ve already linked to the TED podcasts a bunch of times but I have to do it again because I recently watched four other great ones.

If the pope was thinking more like this Reverend, I might consider being a catholic, not a lapsed one.

It’s a classic problem in theology: How can the existence of evil be reconciled with a God who is supposed to be all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful? Many Christian thinkers have attempted answers to this question. In the days following the thousands of personal tragedies recorded during the South Asian tsunami of 2004, Tom Honey pondered those answers and found them wanting. Instead, he penned his own, personal, and sometimes dramatic response to the tsunami. This is a courageous talk for a Church of England vicar to have given. It concludes that certain traditional concepts of God just won’t do … and calls for believers and nonbelievers alike to dig deeper in their quest for truth.— Rev. Tom Honey: How could God have allowed the tsunami?

Very interesting speaking style and fantastic at putting things in perspective, in this case the importance of genomics globally and as a competitive advantage for countries and cities.

Scientific discoveries, Juan Enriquez notes, demand a shift in code. The shift from cave paintings to hieroglyphics made possible the rise of Egyptian society, the pyramids, and the conquest of other peoples. The shift to binary code brought with it the era of computing and then the Internet, with vast implications for just about every area of human endeavor. Similarly, the rise of genomics has brought a shift in code toward the structure of life, with implications that are slowly revealing themselves. Enriquez argues that our ability to thrive in the culture created by this shift depends on our mastery of it, and companies whose futures lie with the intersecting fates of science, technology, and computing will do well to mind the knowledge gap—and not get swallowed up by it.— Juan Enriquez: Decoding the future with genomics

I’d heard the name bonobo before but that’s about it, incredible what those primates are able to do and learn. Too bad her presentation is just videos, a better speaker could make a hell of a talk with that.

Savage-Rumbaugh asks whether uniquely human traits, and other animals’ behaviors, are hardwired by species. Then she rolls a video that makes you think: maybe not. The bonobo apes she works with understand spoken English. One follows her instructions to take a cigarette lighter from her pocket and use it to start a fire. Bonobos are shown making tools, drawing symbols to communicate, and playing Pac-Man—all tasks learned just by watching. Maybe it’s not always biology that causes a species to act as it does, she suggests. Maybe it’s cultural exposure to how things are done.— Susan Savage-Rumbaugh: Apes that write, start fires and play Pac-Man

Speaking of better speakers, he’s a bit too abrasive and extreme in his comments but Kunstler is funny and, more importantly, talks about some hugely important issues for the future.

In James Howard Kunstler’s view, public spaces should be inspired centers of civic life and the physical manifestation of the common good. Instead, he argues, what we have in America is a nation of places not worth caring about. Reengineering our cities will involve more radical change than we are prepared for, Kunstler believes, but our hand will be forced by earth crises stemming from our national lifestyle. “Life in the mid-21st century,” Kunstler says, “is going to be about living locally.”—James Howard Kunstler: The tragedy of suburbia

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