Arts

While it may result in tremendous good, empathy can also be narrow, biased and surprisingly insensitive, argues psychology professor Paul Bloom. Does empathy make the world a better place? It certainly looks like it. After all, empathy drives people to treat others’ suffering as if it were their own, which then motivates action to make the suffering go away. I see the bullied teenager and might be tempted initially to join in with his tormentors, out of sadism or boredom or a desire to dominat...
We have more romantic choices than ever before — and much more uncertainty. Psychologist Esther Perel surveys how tech has completely changed the age-old process of dating and mating. Since time immemorial, human beings have lusted, loved, bonded, betrayed and broken up. Culture and religion have mediated the ways in which this behavior plays out — telling us who we can and cannot mate with, how many loves we may have, and whether we’re allowed to walk away, but more recently, ...
Photographer Danial Shah wants to show the world a view of his country that is rarely shared in news stories: its diverse cultures, crafts and landscapes. In 2008, university student Danial Shah (TEDxSzabist talk: Re-imagining Pakistan from a photographer’s lens) decided to test out his fledgling photography skills with what he thought was an easy task: taking pictures of his home country, Pakistan. After all, he thought he knew the language, food and customs of the four provinces. But what h...
Human creativity is a natural, infinitely renewable resource — and it’s coming up with smart, cheap solutions to people’s biggest problems. Strategist Navi Radjou explains. If an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty, then the developing world must be filled with optimists. There, people have learned to get more value from limited resources and find creative ways to reuse what they already have. For example, in India, potter Mansukh Prajapati has created a fridge made entir...
Reason number one: Chocolate. Plus, seven more reasons to respect and protect these bugs that bug us. When most people think of flies, they think of buzzing, irritation, pests, annoyance. But when I think about flies — and I do constantly, as a researcher who studies them — these are some of the things that come to mind: beauty, growth, possibility and chocolate (TEDxCanberra 2016 Talk: Beauty in the beast). Whether you like them or not, you can’t get away from flies. Entomologists...
Copenhagener Ole Kassow launched a program to bring older Danes on bicycle outings. Now volunteer pilots in 29 countries are taking their passengers on the road. It all started with a friendly wave. In 2012, Copenhagen native Ole Kassow’s daily cycling commute took him past a nursing home. Every morning, the management consultant would see impeccably dressed 97-year-old Thorkild, who’d greet him from a spot on a bench, a walker by his side. Kassow wondered about the last time the man —...
NASA has a plan to combat rogue interstellar objects — and even a Planetary Defense Officer. Asteroid hunter and writer Carrie Nugent reveals the array of tactics, ranging from tried-and-true to far-out. On the whole, asteroids tend to leave Earth alone. And day to day, there really isn’t cause for most people to give them any thought. But despite being remote objects that most people have never seen, asteroids, and the threat they pose, come up an awful lot in popular culture. They are...
Business consultant Jim Crupi helps companies figure out how to change and innovate. What he often finds when he meets clients is a tried-and-true pattern of doing things the same way. He shares an easy game to shake things up. It’s the job of a leader to get a team to see, feel and understand their common mission, vision or task. But what I’ve noticed throughout my career is, people on a team tend to focus on the familiar and on their previous experience with how they operate. They ...
Are you a soldier or a scout? Your answer to this question, says decision-making expert Julia Galef, could determine how clearly you see the world. Imagine for a moment you’re a soldier in the heat of battle — perhaps a Roman foot soldier, medieval archer or Zulu warrior. Regardless of your time and place, some things are probably constant. Your adrenaline is elevated, and your actions stem from your deeply ingrained reflexes, reflexes that are rooted in a need to protect yourself an...
A synthetic biologist has created artificial cells that can “talk” to natural cells — but are they really alive? How does one go about building a living cell from non-living components? And how will we know if we’ve succeeded — or even if we’re headed in the right direction? These are some of the questions that synthetic biologist Sheref Mansy, a TED Fellow, has been striving to answer at the Mansy Lab at the University of Trento in Italy. For the past six years, Mansy (TEDxU...
Writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie makes a confession: sexism bothers her more than racism. Here’s why she believes the current trend towards “Feminism Lite” is no answer. A few years ago, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a childhood friend and new mother, asking her how she could raise her baby girl to be a feminist. Adichie’s new book, Dear Iljeawele, is her response, and it contains 15 suggestions for how to empower a daughter to become a strong...
The strange behavior of Tabby’s Star, or KIC 8462852, has inspired modern astronomy’s wildest guessing game, with explanations ranging from aliens to sunspots. Writer Stephen Petranek got Tabby herself to assess the competing ideas. Far, far away in the constellation Cygnus lies a relatively ordinary F class star about one and a half times the size of our Sun. Astronomers unromantically call it KIC 8462852; others call it Tabby’s Star. If you could travel at the speed of light, it would ...
The best way to prepare for a future of unknown complexity? Build on the strength of our differences, explain MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito and writer Jeff Howe. In the fall of 2011, the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology published a paper revealing that after more than a decade of effort, researchers had succeeded in mapping the structure of an enzyme used by retroviruses similar to HIV. The achievement was widely viewed as a breakthrough, but there was something else astonishing ...
Researchers and academics around the world are in the crosshairs of an assault on the worth of the scientific method. Here’s how to stand up for science. We’re living in anti-science times. Donald Trump has denied climate change, spread unfounded claims about the links between vaccines and autism, and vociferously defended his false beliefs about voter fraud, among other affronts against facts revealed by the scientific method. Whatever your politics, this approach to science will hav...
In this contested territory, women must endure a lengthy, frustrating process when they pursue a university education abroad. Here are four of their stories. “For me, two basic human rights are the right to education and the freedom of movement,” says Kuwaiti-raised Palestinian photojournalist Laura Boushnak (TED Talk: For these women, reading is a daring act). “Now imagine being denied both.” That’s the situation faced by many living in Gaza, where university offerings are particularl...
Historian Yuval Noah Harari makes a bracing prediction: just as mass industrialization created the working class, the AI revolution will create a new unworking class. The most important question in 21st-century economics may well be: What should we do with all the superfluous people, once we have highly intelligent non-conscious algorithms that can do almost everything better than humans? This is not an entirely new question. People have long feared that mechanization might cause mass unemployme...
Four and a half years after her popular TED Talk, the social psychologist updates the research on posture and hormones, responds to critics and discusses her current work. At the TEDGlobal 2012 conference, social psychologist Amy Cuddy gave the talk “Your body language shapes who you are,” in which she detailed the effects of “power posing,” based on research by herself and other scientists working in the field. Cuddy delivered a beautiful talk that resonated with our audience an...
Indigenous biomedical researcher Keolu Fox makes the case for studying Indigenous people’s DNA, something that could yield benefits for all of humanity. There’s a boxed warning that comes along with Plavix, the anti-blood-clotting drug that hit the market in 1997. If you’re a “poor metabolizer,” it warns, the drug may not be effective for you and might even lead to negative effects. How do you find out if you’re a poor metabolizer? You take a genetic test. However, this FDA-mandated ...
Yes, it’s possible to ask for what you want without coming across as a jerk, says social psychologist Adam Galinsky. Speaking up is hard to do. I understood the true meaning of this phrase last year, when my wife and I became new parents. After we took our child home from the hospital, we were unsure whether our baby was getting enough nutrients from breastfeeding. We wanted to call our pediatrician, but we also didn’t want to make a bad first impression or come across as crazy, neurotic...
Life — and love — in limbo, as captured in these beautiful, poignant images from photographer Giles Duley. Photographer Giles Duley (TEDxExeter Talk: The power of a story) has dedicated himself to documenting the long-term impact of conflict on civilians with his project Legacy of War. A few years ago, in partnership with the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, he set out to cover displaced families, focusing on Syrian refugees. While he spent time photographing the Middle East-to-...