My Favorite TED Talks

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Out of the hundreds of TED talks that I’ve watched, these are the ones that struck me as the most interesting and insightful:

How Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google manipulate our emotions | Scott Galloway 


“At the end of the Great Recession, the market capitalization of these companies was equivalent to the GDP of Niger. Now it is equivalent to the GDP of India, having blown past Russia and Canada in ’13 and ’14. There are only five nations that have a GDP greater than the combined market capitalization of these four firms.”

“Walmart, since the Great Recession, has paid 64 billion dollars in corporate income tax; Amazon has paid 1.4…

…This is despite the fact that Amazon has added the entire market capitalization of Walmart to its market cap in the last 19 months.” 

“We no longer worship at the altar of character, of kindness, but of innovation and people who create shareholder value.”

“Children with poor nutrition but a lot of affection have better outcomes than children with good nutrition and poor affection.”

What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness | Robert Waldinger 


“The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. For 75 years, we’ve tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.”

“To get the clearest picture of these lives, we don’t just send them questionnaires. We interview them in their living rooms. We get their medical records from their doctors. We draw their blood, we scan their brains, we talk to their children.”

“So what have we learned? What are the lessons that come from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we’ve generated on these lives? Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

“Once we had followed our men all the way into their 80s, we wanted to look back at them at midlife and to see if we could predict who was going to grow into a happy, healthy octogenarian and who wasn’t. And when we gathered together everything we knew about them at age 50, it wasn’t their middle age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old. It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”

The beauty of data visualization | David McCandless



“Americans, incredibly generous people — over 300 billion a year, donated to charity every year, compared with the amount of foreign aid given by the top 17 industrialized nations at 120 billion. Then of course, the Iraq War, predicted to cost just 60 billion back in 2003. And it mushroomed slightly. Afghanistan and Iraq mushroomed now to 3,000 billion.”

“Who has the most soldiers? It’s got to be China. Of course, 2.1 million. Again, chiming with your view that China has a militarized regime ready to, you know, mobilize its enormous forces. But of course, China has an enormous population. So if we do the same, we see a radically different picture. China drops to 124th.”

“Even when the information is terrible, the visual can be quite beautiful. Often we can get clarity or the answer to a simple question very quickly, like this one, the recent Icelandic volcano. Which was emitting the most CO2? Was it the planes or the volcano, the grounded planes or the volcano? So we can have a look. We look at the data and we see: Yep, the volcano emitted 150,000 tons; the grounded planes would have emitted 345,000 if they were in the sky. So essentially, we had our first carbon-neutral volcano.” 

Do schools kills creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson


“What I think it comes to is this: Al Gore spoke the other night about ecology and the revolution that was triggered by Rachel Carson. I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won’t serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children.”

How we’re using drones to deliver blood and save lives | Keller Rinaudo 


  • In this talk Keller Rinaudo discusses his startup, Zipline, which uses drones to deliver blood to remote villages in Africa from a centralized drone airports.


So today, we’re delivering about 20 percent of the national blood supply of Rwanda outside of Kigali. We serve about 12 hospitals, and we’re adding hospitals to that network at an accelerating rate. All of those hospitals only receive blood in this way, and most of those hospitals actually place multiple orders every day. “

“A couple months ago, a 24-year-old mother came into one of the hospitals that we serve, and she gave birth via C-section. But that led to complications, and she started to bleed. Luckily, the doctors had some blood of her blood type on hand that had been delivered via Zipline’s routine service, and so they transfused her with a couple units of blood. But she bled out of those units in about 10 minutes. In this case, that mother’s life is in grave danger — in any hospital in the world. But luckily, the doctors who were taking care of her immediately called our distribution center, they placed an emergency order, and our team actually did emergency delivery after emergency delivery after emergency delivery. They ended up sending seven units of red blood cells, four units of plasma and two units of platelets. That’s more blood than you have in your entire body. All of it was transfused into her, the doctors were able to stabilize her, and she is healthy today.” 

Mark Plotkin: What the people of the Amazon know that you don’t 


  • In this talk, ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin discusses his amazing healing experiences with Amazonian shamans, and highlights the immense value that is held in the world’s rapidly disappearing rainforests.

Can we create new senses for humans? | David Eagleman


In this talk, neuroscientist David Eagleman demonstrates a sensory substitution vest. This vest takes the input of a microphone and transforms it into a a set of vibrations. The brain of the wearer can eventually use this vibratory pattern as a substitute for the sense that is being simulated via a technology, in this case a microphone.

The surprising math of cities and corporations | Geoffrey West


If you want to learn more about growth and scaling, consider reading Geoffrey West’s amazing book Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies. 

Quit social media | Dr. Cal Newport


  • While I think social media has its place, Dr. Newport makes some very thought provoking points in this talk.