TED 2013 TOP 10

Posted on March 4th, by Mats Comments Off on TED 2013 TOP 10


On way back after another great week at TED. Mainly for my own benefit I try to reflect over what I like so much about the experience at TED. To me there are three key ingredients making TED a very unique and incredibly valuable week in my life.

  1. PEOPLE. Saying this is a bit like the Groucho Marx saying that I’d never would want to be a member of a club that accepts me as a member. But seriously. There is history, there is mystery and there is diversity in the mix at TED. People who are willing to spend the time and the money to be at TED really want to be there.
  2. PURPOSE. TED is about ideas. Powerful ideas. Ideas that can move, mobilize and matter. It’s about decisive action. Walking. Not talking. It’s so refreshing and we need more of it.
  3. Accumulation (sorry no P). I think something happens when you listen to almost 100 talks in a few days. There are unexpected connections made. Perspectives illuminate a topic from a different angle. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but I am convinced that the breadth, depths and sheer quantity of ideas play an important role in and of itself.

Unfortunately I had to leave early Friday morning for a family matter. So these comments are without the benefit of the last Friday sessions. I will have to catch up later with those.

In order to gain more insight into point 3 above, I actually went through all talks I listened to and all important conversations I had during TED this year. I listened to 87 talks and also had plenty of meetings, spontaneous or pre-planned, that I had during breaks, dinners and before and after talks. It is that cumulative effect that I believe is the hidden (and not so talked about) secret of attending TED. This “cocktail of ideas” has unexpected, immeasurable and important value that goes beyond any one talk. I think this is a classic example of  when “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Truly.

I found it harder than ever to come up with my top 10 this year. Partly because I think breadth was better and depth possibly weaker. But here we go.

MATS TED TOP TEN (alphabetically)

Ajit Narayanan – for vision and insight in deconstructing language
Alastair Parvin – for rethinking who we design for
Allan Savory – for using his own mistakes to fuel new and surprising solutions to reversing desertification
Bono – for embracing his inner nerd and using Factivism to continue poverty reduction
Erik Brynjolfsson – for understanding and communicating that GDP is not a great measure of growth and that there is so much progress yet to be had
John McWorther – for illuminating why texting is better than you think for language
Meg Jay – for helping us understand that the 20s is a  defining decade
Phil Hansen – for embracing the shake and turning adversity to even greater and more beautiful creativity
Sugata Mitra – for passionately innovating education and self-organized learning
Tony Tjan– for being my friend, partner and tirelessly promoting self awareness, nuance and humilityHonorable Mentions:  

Liu Bolin – for losing himself in the message he wants to communicate and thereby inspiring and beautifying our world.

Elon Musk – for using his talent to think big. Really really big.

Yo-Yo Black – for infusing an old toy with incredible talent and beauty

Beat Boxer Beardyman – for using his mouth to create unbelievable sounds

Larry Lessig – for always giving great talks even though I don’t fully agree

Nilofer Merchant – for bringing attention to the fact that sitting is really bad for you

ShaoLan – for beautifully rethinking how we teach Chinese Characters

Susan Kish – for inspiring us to learn coding. It’s invisible but determinant and therefore we must learn more about it

Morrow Cater – for having the courage and conviction to step out of her liberal bubble and approached the other side. And fell partly in love. We all need to do that

Stuart Firestein – for accepting the limitations of knowledge and that education is not about filling buckets. It is about lighting fires.

Freeman Habrowski -for what he is doing with Education in Baltimore. We need more like him

David Pogue – for being funny and important at the same time

Shane Koyczan – Canadian spoken word poet who got late invite and came and inspired us all. Powerful.