Tag: TED Talks

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

How the hard choices actually allow us to define who we are.

Jean and I watched a TED Talk a few evenings ago. The title of the talk was: How to make hard choices.  It was delivered by philosopher Ruth Chang who one discovers from her website:

Ruth Chang
Ruth Chang

I am a philosopher at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Before arriving at Rutgers, I was a Junior Research Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford where I was completing my dissertation. I’ve also held visiting positions in the philosophy department at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Chicago Law School. Before my life as a philosopher, I worked as a law associate on a (pro bono) death penalty case and several (non pro bono) product liability cases. I have a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an A.B. from Dartmouth College.

Now I am not going to pontificate about this talk; all I will say is that it is a) very interesting, and b) highly relevant to millions of us when, from time to time, we are faced with the tough decisions to make.

The video is a little less than 15 minutes long. I’m fairly certain that you will be enchanted by Ruth Chang’s proposition as much as Jean and I were.

Published on Jun 18, 2014

Here’s a talk that could literally change your life. Which career should I pursue? Should I break up — or get married?! Where should I live? Big decisions like these can be agonizingly difficult. But that’s because we think about them the wrong way, says philosopher Ruth Chang. She offers a powerful new framework for shaping who we truly are.


Prediction is easy ….

…. unless it involves the future!

There was a recent TED Talk that really made me sit up and think.  Before I introduce the talk, let me offer a personal view.  I’m speaking about the changing nature of the Earth’s climate.

On balance I believe that the climate of our planet is changing and, again on balance, I believe that mankind’s activities especially with regard to CO2 emissions are the primary cause.

But here’s the rub! I’m not a scientist.

So when scientist Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist no less, recently gave a twelve-minute TED Talk about the complexity of Planet Earth’s climate I found it compelling.

Here is is.

Published on May 1, 2014
You can’t understand climate change in pieces, says climate scientist Gavin Schmidt. It’s the whole, or it’s nothing. In this illuminating talk, he explains how he studies the big picture of climate change with mesmerizing models that illustrate the endlessly complex interactions of small-scale environmental events.

Then just two days later, on May 3rd, Alex Jones, he of the blog The Liberated Way, posted Unpredictable nature, that I have the pleasure in republishing in full.  Read it and then reflect on Alex’s post and the talk given by Gavin Schmidt.


Unpredictable nature

Posted on May 3, 2014
Nature is always full of surprises.

Amber the fox reflects the unpredictable face of nature showing up in my garden by surprise on random days.
Amber the fox reflects the unpredictable face of nature showing up in my garden by surprise on random days.

I went camping and woke to frost on the ground. I wrote yesterday that summer had arrived in Britain. A pool of water from recent rains had frozen over.

One thing you quickly learn about nature is its unpredictability. Everything in nature has its own free will, and will determine its own unpredictable path regardless of what humanity thinks. Those that are able to let go of control enjoy a nature full of surprises.


Thanks to the modern-day internet, it takes only a moment to find a relevant quotation to close today’s post.

It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.Sir Winston Churchill.

Once again – the need for integrity.

No apologies for another banging of this drum!

Last Friday’s post Has it always been like this? was comprised mainly of a republication of a recent George Monbiot essay.  The closing paragraph of that essay read:

Stories like this remind me that much of life is a struggle against disappointment. Perhaps I’m an idiot, but I expected a world that was so much better. I still believe it’s possible. But getting there requires a daily struggle against those who would mislead us.

George is certainly no idiot for expecting a better world, or to put it another way, if George is an idiot for such an expectation then there are millions of fellow idiots out there.

That essay from George Monbiot opened, thus:

Almost everything is fake. The brave proverbs with which we were brought up – the truth will out, cheats never prosper, virtue will triumph – turn out to be unfounded. For the most part, our lives are run and our views are formed by chancers, cheats and charlatans. [Ed. my emphasis!]

They construct a labyrinth of falsehoods from which it is almost impossible to emerge without the help of people who devote their lives to navigating it. This is the role of the media. But the media drags us deeper into the labyrinth.

So with those words still ringing in your ears, settle down for just sixteen minutes and watch anti-corruption activist, Charmian Gooch‘s recent TED Talk.

Anonymous companies protect corrupt individuals – from notorious drug cartel leaders to nefarious arms dealers – behind a shroud of mystery that makes it almost impossible to find and hold them responsible. But anti-corruption activist Charmian Gooch hopes to change all that. At TED2014, she shares her brave TED Prize wish: to know who owns and controls companies, to change the law, and to launch a new era of openness in business.

And if, having watched Charmian’s very compelling talk, you want to support her, then go to the Global Witness website.

The Big Edit!

The start of phase two of ‘The Book’!

Back on the 1st November, I started out on the journey to write, before the end of November, a novel of a minimum of 50,000 words.  It was part of the NaNoWriMo annual encouragement for new writers.  To my amazement, I completed a first draft.

However, now comes the hard work!  For as Stephen King explains in his book, On Writing,

When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story, when you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. (p. 57)

Or as I read somewhere else: Your first write is for you, your rewrite is for your readers.

Either way it doesn’t get around the fact that for the next several weeks I need to be spending hours rewriting the first draft.

Which is my way of saying that until that rewrite is complete I won’t be able to spend so much time writing posts for Learning from Dogs.  In other words, there will be more republication of other articles and essays that catch my interest, repeat posts back from the earlier days of the blog and the publication of essays that you, dear reader, have sent me (hint!!).

TED Talks is an amazing resource that thousands use.  Not infrequently, a TED Talk finds its way to these pages; as indeed one on dieting will be offered tomorrow.

For today, however, enjoy this wonderful, and powerful, TED Talk by Benjamin H. Bratton.


The old and the new.

Like thousands of others, Jean and I are regular viewers of the TED Talks.

So first the old. Here’s a reminder of the inspiring nature of mathematics; in this case Fibonacci numbers.

Published on Nov 8, 2013

Math is logical, functional and just … awesome. Mathemagician Arthur Benjamin explores hidden properties of that weird and wonderful set of numbers, the Fibonacci series. (And reminds you that mathematics can be inspiring, too!)

Now to the new. Innovation at its very best.

Published on Jul 11, 2013

The development of new medicine is problematic because laboratories cannot replicate the human body’s environment, making it difficult to determine how patients will respond to treatment. At TEDxBoston, Geraldine Hamilton demonstrates how scientists can implant living human cells into microchips that mimic the body’s conditions. These “organs-on-a-chip” can be used to study drug toxicity, identify potential new therapies, and could lead to safer clinical trials.

Mathematics in action!

You will be amazed – guaranteed!

The TED Talk link was sent to me by friend, Lee Crampton.

Published on Jun 11, 2013

In a robot lab at TEDGlobal, Raffaello D’Andrea demos his flying quadcopters: robots that think like athletes, solving physical problems with algorithms that help them learn. In a series of nifty demos, D’Andrea show drones that play catch, balance and make decisions together — and watch out for an I-want-this-now demo of Kinect-controlled quads.

There’s more on Raffaello here where you can read this:

My work is focused on the creation of systems that leverage technological innovations, scientific principles, advanced mathematics, algorithms, and the art of design in unprecedented ways, with an emphasis on advanced motion control.

By their very nature, these creations require a team to realize. Many are enabled by the research I conduct with my graduate students. Many are also the fruit of collaborations with architects, entrepreneurs, and artists.

My hope is that these creations inspire us to rethink what role technology should have in shaping our future.

Raffaello D’Andrea

and where you can also find this further video – Zurich Minds – doubly fascinating.

Raffaello D’Andrea is interviewed by Rolf Dobelli

Makes me want to lie down in a darkened room! 😉

Second message in a bottle

Continuing the advice you might offer to the next generation?

On the 1st December I published the first message.  It had been inspired by a conversation with Peter McCarthy, who lives and works in Bristol, England.  Here’s a little of what I wrote,

Anyway, Peter and I were talking about the sorts of qualities that enable some young people to take a risk-based entrepreneurial approach to life.  Peter gave me the links to three videos that he thought were especially relevant to the notion of achieving success in life.  So over the next few days I want to share those videos with you, dear reader.  To me, these videos are, indeed, the essence of the messages that any person, especially those the wrong side of 60, would wish to leave in a bottle floating down the river of life.

So to the second message which is a recording of the talk that Sir Ken Robinson gave to the TED Talks conference in Monterey in February, 2006.  It has been widely seen for all the right reasons; Sir Ken offers some powerful common-sense and a wonderful message for all the young people out there.  As Sir Ken’s website says,

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation.  He is also one of the world’s leading speakers with a profound impact on audiences everywhere.  The videos of his famous 2006 and 2010 talks to the prestigious TED Conference have been seen by an estimated 200 million people in over 150 countries.

Read the rest of Sir Ken’s background here.

So with no more ado, here’s the film, watched by nearly 3 million people!


Alain de Botton

An excursion into the nature of self!

I had not heard of Alain de Botton before coming across a series of his TV programmes via Top Documentary Films.  But, clearly, that has been my loss because he appears to have quite a following.  So over the next 10 days or so, I’m going to include some of his material in upcoming articles in the hope that you enjoy them as much as we have.

But first, an introduction to Alain de Botton from a TED Talks video from July 2009.  Enjoy.