Ashraf Ghani: How to rebuild a broken state

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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

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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.

David Puttnam: Does the media have a “duty of care”?

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If it’s not true, don’t say it; if it’s not right, don’t do it. – Marcus Aurelius

Mass media, ideally, is supposed to empower us with fact-based information, ideas, and ability to question everything taking place around our circumstances. Nevertheless, reality itself often displays quite the contrary: media, under the control of a handful of corporations with hidden agenda, oftentimes present to us distorted facts, misinformation, and propaganda for their own sake. In brief, we were led to believe in false misconceptions about the world, the society, and the truth surrounding us. As a consequence, we become highly passive in democratic participation, believe in nothing whatever governments say, and tend to avoid with apathy virtually every issue occurring in our societies.

Still, though, despite the repeated cycles, majority of these media businesses do not cease with the current pattern they adopt. We are bombarded with trivial matters (say infotainment news), while at the same time overlooking bigger, and much more urgent, issues related to us. Some of them, meanwhile, do only serve themselves as mouthpieces for certain individuals aggressively vying for better control of the societies (say, politicians, government, parties, or have-all oligarchs). Some of them, under the sake of partiality and advantage to certain sides, even attempt so far to provoke our minds with distorted, half-baked news, only to exploit our emotional responses to these reports for their own benefits. This, for sure, damages the basic nature of democracy itself.

In this TED talk, as conducted by TEDxHousesofParliament, David Puttnam, an award-winning filmmaker and now a public policy analyst, offers to us his harsh criticisms towards the integrity of our media industry in contemporary times. Despite the rigidity of his advice, it is hoped that his talk improves our understanding about the current state of mass media today.

 

What can we learn from the world’s “most humane” prison? Ryan Cox at TEDxSanAntonio 2013

 

Despite its epitomizing illustration of democracy, expression of freedom, and the largest GDP it currently possesses, United States, ironically, at the same time maintains itself as one of the most incarcerated nations throughout the whole planet, even higher than the rates of those in authoritarian states. Out of a population of approximately 315 million people, more than 2.3 million of them are remaining in prisons, and another 8 million are facing probation periods by law. Out of these 2.3 million prisoners, a disproportionate number of them, once released, may possibly commit recidivism (re-offending), or repeating their crimes over and over.

Watch this TEDx talk to find out more what exactly happens inside America’s prisons, particularly those in Texas, one of the most incarcerated states in the US.

How to build a fictional world – Kate Messner

 

Imagination is an escapade of our real-world problems. Of troubles with our societies. Or that it is intended no more than a reflection of our daily lives, and our interaction with the outside world.

In imagination, we build worlds. We build worlds the way we want to be. Of how our imaginary creations should be about, of how rules are applied, creatures to be presented, and real-life scenarios to be bent down and rewritten, all in accordance to our perception.

There, we can create whatever worlds we want them to be; the whole universe inhabited by countless intelligent civilizations, one where some people are granted immortality, one where some can even defy physics – or any principles alike, or anything.

But for those who are seriously considering making the books out of this, the path is not as simple as it always is. While the commoners like us make beds of roses out of daydreaming, authors, or even novelists, will have to delve down, deep beyond the tip of the icebergs, to structure an entirely different world of ours.

This TED-ED talk, narrated by fellow author Kate Messner, will explain to us how to build an authentic fictional world, like the Middle-earth of J.R.R. Tolkien, or the Harry Potter’s universe of J.K. Rowling.

Listen, and think deeper.

Violence – A Family Tradition: Robbyn Peters Bennett at TEDxBellingham

 

One major problem parents always face everywhere is spanking.

As a repressive, and oftentimes ‘last resort’ method, to constrain children from committing their misdeeds, spanking, or other forms of physical punishment, have often been utilized to ‘straighten up’ them. Nevertheless, as scientific research has advanced, new reports have suggested that despite the benefits these violent methods bring to solve children’s problems, so are the drawbacks: these children become more aggressive, more emotionally provoked, and develop higher tendencies to solve problems primarily through violence, all as by-products of such upbringing.

Robbyn Peters Bennett, a psychotherapist, educator, and child advocate, shares her thoughts on TEDxBellingham on what it takes to develop a wise upbringing to children, all without the necessity to always resort to violence.

Her solutions are radical, but at the same time, uneasy. Listen to her talk to know more why.

Mohamed Ali: The link between unemployment and terrorism

unemployment clipart

As urbanization intensifies throughout the whole planet, competition is becoming increasingly harsh in major cities.

This is deeply felt in nearly all countries, whether industrialized, developing, or chronically poor. As a consequence, millions of people, particularly those of young generations, are becoming unemployed as the side effect of such competition. Throughout the long, painful periods of waiting for a job, as described in this TED talk as ‘waithood’, many of these people, disenchanted with diminishing hopes and possibilities, resort to extreme measures to express their anger with the long wait they have to do. Whether they join terrorist organizations, engage in riots, join gangs and other mafias, or commit other extreme crimes to survive in big cities, more and more such reports are circulating around the mass media worldwide, and the rate is increasingly alarming.

Mohamed Ali, a Somalian-born human rights advocate, gives his thought-provoking talk about how to eradicate seeds of terrorism, one of which he proposes is to cultivate entrepreneurship and incubate innovation among these youth. He takes some examples back from his hometown, Mogadishu, to justify his argument. And without him, though, we won’t be as easily optimistic about the fate of this state as he is; we have to be very grateful that someone like him still has unwavering optimism on Somalia, despite all the troubles we still hear on mass media nowadays.

Be enlightened with his talk below.

Organs-on-a-chip

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As growing body cells in laboratory is becoming gradually obsolescent, and as animal testing, in an age of exponential technological prowess, is turning increasingly primitive, biochemistry scientists are now developing a new, safer, and more personal method to test body cells: planting body cells on a chip.

By using the chips, as pictured above, scientists can observe the biological and chemical reactions yielded when these experimented cells interact with outer objects, for instance, bacteria, viruses, or any other chemical substances, in accordance to the genetic structures of every individual. With greater varieties in medication to treat persons with different biological reactions to medicines, personalized medicine will definitely save more lives in the future.

Geraldine Hamilton will explain further about how ‘organs-on-a-chip’ normally work. Click her full profile on TED.

 

 

Excerpt:

Our bodies are dynamic environments. We’re in constant motion. Our cells experience that.They’re in dynamic environments in our body. They’re under constant mechanical forces. So if we want to make cells happy outside our bodies, we need to become cell architects. We need to design, build and engineer a home away from home for the cells.

And at the ViS Institute, we’ve done just that. We call it an organ-on-a-chip. And I have one right here. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? But it’s pretty incredible. Right here in my hand is a breathing, living human lung on a chip.