The List: Five must-see talks from Ted speakers

Ted – the acronym stands for Technology, Education and Design – started in 1984 and has grown into a non-profit organisation focusing on “ideas worth spreading” through talks at its conferences and the TedTalks video site (, which allows anyone to watch Ted speakers sharing ideas in 18 minutes (or less) from the conference stage.

Ahead of the start of the Ted 2012 conference in Long Beach, California, on Tuesday, Bruno Giussani, European director of Ted and curator of TedGlobal recommends five must-see talks from past conferences all available to watch online.

1. Kevin Slavin: Algoworld (2011)
Algorithms are the secret fabric of our lives. Technologist Kevin Slavin argues that we’re living in a world designed for (and increasingly controlled by) algos. In this talk he shows how these complex computer programs determine espionage tactics, stock prices, movie scripts and architecture, among others. And he warns that we are writing code we can’t understand, with implications we can’t control.

2. Salman Khan: Flip Teaching (2011)
The founder of the remarkable one-man online school Khan Academy, Salman Khan talks about how and why he created it through educational videos offering teaching in maths and other subjects (no certificates though: this is about learning, not about grading). He calls for teachers to consider “flipping” the traditional classroom script: give students video lectures to watch at home, and do “homework” in the classroom, swapping the active and the passive moments of learning.

3. Jane McGonigal: Game On (2010)
Online games (think World of Warcraft) give players the means to save worlds, encourage them to learn and to co-operate, and give rewards for acquiring specific qualities. What if we could harness this gaming power to solve real-world problems? In this exuberant talk, game researcher Jane McGonigal says we can, and explains how. “My goal for the next decade is to try to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games.”

4. Misha Glenny: Hire the Hackers (2011)
Despite huge investments in cybersecurity one of its root problems is largely ignored: who are the people who write malicious code? The author and underworld investigator Misha Glenny profiles convicted coders from around the world and reaches a startling conclusion. Hacking, he says, is more “nurture” than “nature”. Rather than jailing hackers, Europe and the US should be recruiting their talents. As countries like Russia and China already do.

5. Chimamanda Adichie: The Single Story (2009)
Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping narratives. Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice, and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

These talks can be viewed at

Ted 2012 opens in Long Beach, California, on Tuesday; Ted Global 2012 will take place in Edinburgh, June 25-29

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