When we’re feeling stuck on coming up new ideas—or simply looking for soaking in some new information outside of the ever-maddening news cycle—we often turn to TED Talk videos. The now-ubiquitous mini lectures are centered on game-changing ideas for topics like feminism, creativity, and super topical global issues. And you can never watch enough, really.
TED Talks started as a four-day conference focused on “ideas worth spreading” 25 years ago, and the nonprofit has since morphed into a huge platform with tons of conferences, a podcast, and the kind of viral videos that will spark a meaningful conversation around your dinner table—or at least allow for a semi-intellectual icebreaker for your next Tinder date.
We rounded up some of our favorite TED Talks of 2018 including powerful insight from the founder of the #MeToo movement, the story of Marvel’s first queer Latina super hero, and an argument why everyone should make useless things.
In activist Tarana Burke’s talk she shares the roots of the #MeTooMovement she founded and why interrupting sexual violence is worth fighting for, especially in our post-Kavanaugh world. Burke reflects, “We owe future generations nothing less than a world free of sexual violence … I believe we can build that world.”
Charismatic writer Gabby Rivera shares “The Story of Marvel’s First Queer Latina Super Hero” in this one. In Rivera’s speech she draws on her own background growing up as a queer kid in a Puerto Rican neighborhood, and how that led her to create Marvel first-ever Latina lesbian comic book hero. But like in most TED Talks there’s a bigger take-away; Rivera shares, “That myth of having to go it alone and be tough is not serving us.”
Barnard College president, and cognitive scientist, Sian Leah Beilock’s topic for the TED stage is centered on “Why We Choke Under Pressure—And How To Avoid It.” Beilock shares,“When we’re concerned about performing our best, we often try and control aspects of what we’re doing that are best left on autopilot, outside conscious awareness, and as a result, we mess up.” Her mini-lecture reveals psychological tools that can help prevent that.
In speechwriter and inclusion advocate Janet Stoval’s talk “How To Get Serious About Diversity And Inclusion In the Workplace” she details her three-part action plan for how to help people feel safe—and authentic—in the workplace. In the powerful speech Stoval notes, “I believe that business is in a position to do something that no other entity can do. Business can dismantle racism.”
Halima Aden is known as making history as the first ever hijab-wearing model on the cover of British Vogue. In her TED speech she shares how breaking boundaries shaped her—and what we can learn from her own journey. Aden reflects, “When I reflect on the issues of race, religion, identity, a lot of painful memories come to mind. It would be easy for me to blame those of another culture for making me feel the pain I felt, but when I think deeper, I also recognize that the most impactful, positive, life-changing events that have happened to me are thanks to those people who are different than me.”
Amy Edmondson is a professor at Harvard Business School where she studies people and teams. In Edmondson’s talk, she focuses on the idea of what it looks like to do teamwork on the fly in order to solve unusual challenges or problems—and why it’s important. She shares, “There’s no better advice than this: look to your left, look to your right. How quickly can you find the unique talents, skills and hopes of your neighbor, and how quickly, in turn, can you convey what you bring? Because for us to team up to build the future we know we can create none of us can do that alone.”
Designer Ingrid Fetell Lee draws on neuroscience and psychology to study how people can find more joy in their daily lives through design. In her no-nonsense talk, she acknowledges that joy can seem “mysterious and elusive” but we can access it through“…tangible, physical attributes, or what designers call aesthetics, a word that comes from the same root as the Greek word “aísthomai, “which means, “I feel,” “I sense,” “I perceive.”
In geopolitical technologist Yasmin Green’s particularly of-the-moment speech “How Technology Can Fight Extremism And Online Harassment,” she acknowledges the ugly side of the internet—including how it can be manipulated by bullies, terrorists, and criminals—and she examines how to make it a safer space. Green shares,“Imagine if machine learning could give commenters, as they’re typing, real-time feedback about how their words might land, just like facial expressions do in a face-to-face conversation … If we can build technology that understands the emotional impact of language, we can build empathy.”
Inventor and robotics enthusiast Simone Gietz has built a cult following online for her wacky—and mostly useless—inventions that she showcases on YouTube, which have included cutting hair with drones, semi-successfully applying lipstick, and a toothbrush helmet. In her charming and funny talk “Why You Should Make Useless Things” she shares the mission behind her inventions and the power of not being afraid to fail. Gietz reflects, “The true beauty of making useless things [is] this acknowledgment that you don’t always know what the best answer is … It turns off that voice in your head that tells you that you know exactly how the world works. Maybe a toothbrush helmet isn’t the answer, but at least you’re asking the question.”