Marco Tempest: And for my next trick, a robot

robot clipart

 

Robots are actually scary; but, if we, their inventors, give them a human face, they can sound entertaining. As techno-illusionist Marco Tempest has revealed in his latest TED talk, he lets his new ‘best friend’, EDI, to play magic with him, with a cartoonish, Spongebob-like screen face.

Okay, honestly speaking, this TED talk suits better for children and the underage. But, still, enjoy his techno-magic as usual.

 

Sebastian Junger: Why veterans miss war

war

 

Nobody loves war; that is obvious. Who can ever think about someone cherishing in the middle of ruins, amid the loss of lives, among dismembered bodies, shattered buildings, firefight, constant dangers from our circumstances, or sounds of continuous bombardments everywhere? Civilians loathe it, children do not want their future obliterated with it, mothers do not want to see their children live with it, wives not wanting their husbands to engage in it, and clearly, almost nobody wants a war.

But, despite all such furor, wars still take place. Throughout the lifetime of human civilization, countless battles have taken place, with innumerable losses held accountable for. Still, this is one of the most befuddling questions ever: we all hate war, but why can’t we stop it? What’s the underlying causa prima for such continual, patterned occurrences? What’s inside the minds of these leaders, and even these soldiers, for such belligerent causes they keep playing upon?

Journalist Sebastian Junger attempts to debunk, in this thought-provoking and emotionally charged TED talk, the ‘unexplained mysteries’ that these soldiers, in particular the veterans, keep inside their minds about combat experiences, and also as a start for us to rethink how to end a war in better ways.

Listen to it, and think deeper.

 

Tali Sharot: The optimism bias

optimism

 

Optimism, or Pollyanna you want to call it, has remained an inseparable trait of human nature. We need optimism as it gives us silver linings for all possible positive consequences of everything we see, whatever we do, or how the reality perceives us to be. The belief that the world will be a better place than yesterday, that our future will be more fulfilling than the lives we are living today, or that we will find our eternal love life, thus giving no spaces for all unexpected occurrences.

Up to that point, however, optimism has shown itself to be a bias. When we are being tottered with our ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ about reality, that things will go smooth as everything is under control, that our marriages will go well with zero probabilities of divorce, or that our career will flourish with little or no stains, we often overlook any harbingers, any dangerous signs that may have been lurking deep within it, all beyond our vision.

Things strike like we never predict, afterwards. 40% of marriages in Western world (where most people surveyed dismiss any possibilities of a split) end up in divorce, millions of people are laid off, accidents happen, financial collapse is inevitable, etc, etc. Optimism bias, one that has so blinded us with way too many positive interpretations about the reality, instead becomes our own double-edged sword.

Cognitive neuroscientist Tali Sharot will talk in details about optimism bias from numerous aspects and ways we can do to handle its side-effects.

Listen, and think again.

 

Ashraf Ghani: How to rebuild a broken state

ashraf ghani

 

 

Ashraf Ghani (pictured above) believes there is something fundamentally wrong with our world today: he believes the world’s current aid system is not working and highly ineffective, that our world’s education system, in a 7-billion-strong population dominated by young people, is still based on that of 19th century, that capitalism and democracy are malfunctioning in many aspects in most developing countries, and that there is a great absence of a strong, international leadership to solve our world’s ages-old problems.

Afghanistan even suffers worse. It is beset by corruption, terrorism (by-products of Cold War, with thousands of combatants trained by both Russia and United States), and an economy largely domineered by illegal drug trading. Despite gigantic potential revenues from mining sector (the country’s mineral reserves are estimated to be worth nearly 3 trillion US$), all these problems, using current problem-solving approach, will take more than decades to solve. And, we must acquiesce, Ghani, having served as the country’s finance minister from 2002 to 2004, will not be able to solve these problems alone. However, at least, throughout his tenure, the country has seen some major improvements: currency stabilization, budget reforms, and long-term public investment schemes.

He once competed for 2009 presidential election, but didn’t manage to secure enough votes to win. For the second time, for the 2014 election, he will compete once again for the seat. Let’s hope he can bring more positive changes to this new, uneasy, and fledgling nation.

 

Listen to his TED talk to know more how he helped rebuilding a once broken state.

 

Louie Schwartzberg: Hidden miracles of the natural world

mysteries of the unseen world

 

We go on with our lives, constrained to our Euclidean boxes one day to another. Either we go to schools to study, or to offices to do our daily jobs, we oftentimes get a strong tedium about our boring, mundane world (sometimes I’ve got that feeling as well). Piles of jobs to complete, homework to finish, without even a single bit of time spent to observe our world.

Louie Schwartzberg, however, having persevered for years to capture photographs of daily glimpses of the nature in full details, wants us to break our mainstream perception; through his latest documentary, Mysteries of The Unseen World, the award-winning filmmaker wants us to realize that the universe itself, in essence, is not that mundane as we can imagine: in fact, it is composed of multitudinous, and even numberless, forms of dynamism, big or small, seen or unseen, visible or invisible. We hardly realize the daily, infinitesimal wonders surrounding us: of tiny creatures hiding in our hair, of birds flying around us, of trees and plants growing around our neighborhoods, of how insects fly, etc.

The world, indeed, has countless mysteries, with wonders and mind-shaking discoveries waiting to be unveiled, layer by layer.

Watch this 7-minute TED talk below, and get ready for some little surprises to our lives.

 

Denis Dutton: A Darwinian theory of beauty

beauty

 

Source: illustrationsof.com

 

Beauty, as a notion, has always been an inseparable trait of human nature. Throughout history, the concept of beauty has long been embodied in countless works of art, either in prehistoric drawings over the caves, sculptures, paintings, literary pieces, and numerous others to mention. Its meaning, its profound effect it gives to our perception of the world, and its importance are so encompassing that without such realization, our world would not have been a colorful one we see today.

It turns out that the history of aesthetics, and its spread, is not as simple as we can imagine. Numerous research by scientists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and professionals of other disciplinary fields alike have shown that this idea has long been rooted in the process of evolution, far before even human beings started to learn speaking. And, to add more surprises, the concept of beauty is universalized in numerous other animal species, say, peacocks, which show their ornamented, kinky-colored feathers to attract their opposite sexes.

The question is: what drives creatures to convey up a concept of beauty? Where does it really originate from? Why did it become an everlasting feature of human nature, and to a broader extent, of nearly all creatures? And how could it correlate with natural selection? Denis Dutton, a philosophy professor, will explain further in the TED talk below. Watch it, and think.

 

Understanding the limitations of mathematics to predict the future: Ronald Meester at TEDxLeiden

 

Before you watch the TEDx talk, here is one important question. What is the similarity of:

1. A dike designed to withstand a very huge, catastrophic flood with a probability rate 1 : 1000, or which means, a catastrophe can only happen once in a thousand years?

2. A news article which reports that many children born in 21st century will live up to 100 years old?

3. A computational model which can ‘accurately’ predict that a political party’s program, on certain measurements, can either increase or decrease 50,000 votes for every step it takes?

The answer: all these mathematical models are thoroughly false. Full stop.

Reality is not as simple as mathematical models can always predict about every decision we make. One of the most fundamental flaws in it, despite its overpowering usefulness in modern technologies (like Google), is that it can’t make uncertainties certain. Engineers can proudly say that the dike they design can withstand a flood for a millennium, but who knows if God, universe, or aliens you name it, decide to play dices with our fate? That’s where, even our most sophisticated knowledge of mathematics, becomes greatly fallible.

Ronald Meester, a statistics expert, gives this TEDx talk with one very simple, yet abyssal, message: we can’t predict the future. Accept the uncertainties. Full stop. Listen to his talk and think deeper.