By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.
This past summer, my brother who is a computer programmer, excitedly informed me of a website. He stated that it was replete with presentations from the “greatest thinkers” and people of action on the planet. As I never heard of this type of website or gathering of such influential people I became excited too.
This assembly of people is known as the TED Conference and can be found online at TED.com. Each year, the TED Conference assembles leaders in the fields of science, technology, entertainment, business, culture, social and global issues, architecture, the environment and much more. When I say leaders I am not just talking about people who are doing well in their field, I am referring to the biggest names on the planet that are at the top of their field or profession. Al Gore, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Malcolm Gladwell of Blink and Tipping Point fame, Tony Robbins and Dean Kamen, the inventor of Segway and other unique products, are just a few of the numerous intellectual, cultural and iconic giants who have provided presentations at this conference.
When I found out about TED I was waiting to begin my new appointment as an assistant professor so I had plenty of time on my hands. I immediately begin to investigate the website. The TED Conference has been a yearly occurrence since 1984 and they have been posting to the Internet for a few years now. Their website has phrasing such as: “TED: Ideas Worth Spreading” and “Inspired talks by the world’s greatest thinkers and doers.” Each presenter is limited to 18 minutes and is asked to present something outstanding.
The value of the website hit me almost immediately. In what other circumstance would I be able to hear the heads of the biggest companies in the world give a 20 minute talk on something they would like to discuss and talk about subjects not covered in a standard TV or magazine interview? Some of the other speakers I listened to and enjoyed are:
Seth Godin: Sliced Bread and Other Marketing Delights
Jeff Skoll: Movies that Make Change
Jeff Hawkins: Brain Science is about to Fundamentally Change Computing
Richard St. John: 8 Secrets of Success
David Deustch: On Our Place in the Cosmos; and
Nicholas Negroponte: One Laptop per Child
There are also a lot of lesser known names who also have very interesting and awe inspiring presentations:
Sir Ken Robinson: Schools Kill Creativity
Patrick Awahu: On Educating Leaders
Juan Enriquez: Genomics and Our Future
Erin Mckean: Redefines the Dictionary
Dan Dennett: On Dangerous Memes
Dan Gilbert: Why are we Happy? and
Jeff Han: Demonstrates his Breakthrough Touch-screen
As a person who is always interested in increasing my level of knowledge, awareness and my ability to contribute to our world, the TED conference serves as a tool to keep making this ongoing aspiration a reality. It is a constant reminder that there are many people doing exciting and fascinating things and positively influencing the way we live at the same time. For people who want to know what the next great ‘thing’ will be; how they can contribute to our world and who have ambitions of helping others, the TED conference is a great example for those seeking to model human excellence.