TED Talks Web Site Features Videos of Locals with a Lot to Say

Poptional Reading discovers Ted Talks — and “Ted” has a lot to say

There are two types of workers in the world: those who need total silence to concentrate, and those who work better with a little background noise. I’m the latter, and when I was looking for something to listen to while I worked, I discovered TEDTalks. The joke was on me: the talk I put on for noise became so interesting, I stopped what I was working on to give it my full attention.

TED stands for “technology, entertainment, design,” but that doesn’t really give an accurate depiction of what TED does. The nonprofit organization says it devotes itself to “ideas worth spreading” — and that’s a fairer picture. Basically, they get smart people to give short lectures on whatever they want. For example, in some recent talks, Sir Ken Robinson talked about how schools stifle creativity, brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor discussed studying her own stroke as it happened, ocean explorer David Gallo showed amazing footage of undersea animals, and Time editor Jeffrey Kluger gave insight into birth order and the sibling bond. (The one that got me to stop working was about storytelling with Wall-E and John Carter director Andrew Stanton.) Basically, the talks are like the best parts of school, only with no tests, and classes are boiled down to 20-to-45 minutes.

So, who from our area have “ideas worth spreading?”

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By far, our most prolific TED talker is Dan Barber, the culinary genius behind Blue Hill at Stone Barns. He’s a likely candidate, given that he has forward-looking opinions on food production. For example, Barber’s first TED talk, filmed in July 2008, focuses on a small farm in Spain that has found a humane way to make foie gras. “Raising his geese in a natural environment, farmer Eduardo Sousa embodies the kind of food production Barber believes in,” the TED site says. Barber returns to Spain’s food production in February 2010, this time trumpeting “an outrageously delicious fish raised using a revolutionary farming method” in the country. And, for good measure, he’s featured in a non-filmed Q&A on the blog about whether or not organic farming can change the world.

Barber isn’t our only TED talker. You can also watch a video from Mark Bezos, who, according to TED, “is the SVP, Development, Communications and Events at Robin Hood, the leading poverty-fighting charity in New York City.” Oh, and in between all of that do-gooding, he’s also a volunteer firefighter in Westchester. (His talk is actually about an experience he had as a firefighter.) He “tells a story of an act of heroism that didn’t go quite as expected — but that taught him a big lesson: Don’t wait to be a hero.”

Finally, Kathryn Schulz is an author and journalist who lives in the Hudson Valley. Her described profession, if you ask her, is “Wrongologist.” It turns out that being wrong can be so very, very right — at least if you listen to her “On Being Wrong.” If you regret being wrong, she warns against that, too, in another talk titled “Don’t Regret Regret.”

The talks are designed to make you think about how we live as a society today, based on the forefront of our collective knowledge and research. But, really, I’d probably use any excuse watch videos about dinosaurs. (Click here for talks on shape-shifting ones and digging up dinos with Paul Sereno.)

Find any interesting TED talks on your own? Let me know in the comments.

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