- Ryan Lash/TED
Big ideas can come in small packages.
Take TED talks, the beloved lectures on technology, entertainment, and design. Some of the most insightful talks take up less than 10 minutes of the viewer’s time.
They’re perfect for when you want to expand your horizons and still get to that thing you’ve been meaning to do.
Here are some talks to turn to if you want to get smarter in a hurry.
“How to speak so that people want to listen” by Julian Treasure
- Flickr/Sebastiaan ter Burg
Business consultant Julian Treasure remarks on the downsides of gossip, negativity, and excuses, and highlights the values of speaking honestly and nonjudgmentally.
Treasure also outlines six tools to consider when speaking, including pitch, volume, and timbre. The talk reminds people that anyone can marshal the power of words, so long as they do it intentionally.
“Get ready for hybrid thinking” by Ray Kurzweil
Ray Kurzweil, a futurist and inventor, argues that in two decades, human thought will be a mixture of biological and nonbiological processes.
According to Kurzweil, the brain would operate the same as it does today, but if you needed some extra juice you’d be able to connect to the cloud for external neural connections – all thanks to nanobots that would live in your brain and connect to that cloud.
“I listen to color” by Neil Harbisson
- Screenshot from YouTube
In 2003, Neil Harbisson, an artist who was born colorblind, had an antenna implanted in the base of his skull. A sensor on the end of the antenna picks up incoming light and translates it into sound waves.
This puts Harbisson in the unique category of people known as cyborgs – part human, part technology. His talk offers a strange glimpse into his futuristic life.
“5 dangerous things you should let your kids do” by Gever Tulley
- ladydragonflyherworld / flickr
Gever Tulley, the founder of Brightworks, a school based in San Francisco, believes in letting kids make mistakes for themselves by tinkering and experimenting.
His talk extols the virtues of playing with fire and taking things apart, all in the name of figuring out how the world works.
“The next outbreak? We’re not ready” by Bill Gates
- bradleygee / flickr
The billionaire philanthropist has given several TED Talks, but his bleakest one warns of a viral pandemic on a massive scale. Pathogens that travel through the air can – and have – killed millions.
Vaccination is more important than ever, Gates says. Everyone should see the value in getting themselves and their families protected.
“The hidden power of smiling” by Ron Gutman
- Tech Hub/Flickr
A grin is way more than a grin, entrepreneur Ron Gutman says – it can indicate potential longevity and trigger positive emotions.
Gutman presents several studies explaining the reasons for and benefits of smiling. For instance, a Penn State study found that smiling made people seem more likable and competent.
“You smell with your body, not just your nose” by Jennifer Pluznick
Pluznick, a physiologist, explained in her talk that strewn across the human body, inside the kidneys, the lungs, muscle tissue, are the same scent receptors found in your nose.
“In fact, more of our DNA is devoted to genes for different olfactory receptors than for any other type of protein,” she said.
Her lab is dedicated to finding out what these receptors are looking to detect.
“The brain benefits of deep sleep — and how to get more of it” by Dan Gartenberg
Millions of Americans are sleep-deprived, and Gartenberg, a sleep researcher, wants to help improve the quality of those waning hours through technology.
His talk demonstrates a new way of helping people slip into a deeper sleep for longer – namely, by playing a set of sounds that resonate at the same frequency as the brain waves in deep sleep, otherwise known as delta waves.
Gartenberg said his research could lead to devices that use noise to help people sleep more soundly.
“Grit: The power of passion and perseverance” by Angela Duckworth
- Doug Pensinger/Getty
Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, presents research that says IQ and raw talent aren’t the secrets of success. Rather, it’s the ability to keep going after failure.
Duckworth calls this trait “grit.”
Including interviews with West Point cadets and spelling bee champions, Duckworth’s research on grit has transformed the way psychologists and businesses think about success.
“Let’s try emotional correctness” by Sally Kohn
- Flickr / Barney Moss
Sally Kohn, a progressive political pundit, says political correctness isn’t the mechanism by which people should relate to one another.
Persuasion doesn’t begin with politics, she says, but with emotions.
Kohn advocates active, compassionate listening to start “the kinds of conversations that really lead to change.”
“Forget multitasking, try monotasking” by Paolo Cardini
- VFS Digital Design/Flickr
Paolo Cardini, a designer and teacher, urges people to reconsider the value of multitasking. He says it’s overrated from a productivity standpoint.
And a lot of research agrees.
Instead, Cardini encourages people to try monotasking – doing one thing at a time until finishing, then starting the next task. It could make life a little easier.