“Ideas worth spreading…”

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

An interesting thing to do of an idle, snowbound afternoon is to look up a TEDTalk or two on your computer or your iPhone or on National Public Radio, which broadcasts about an hour a week of the popular 18-minute talks.

Conceived in 1984 by a Silicon Valley architect and graphic designer named Richard Wurman, the nonprofit TEDTalks (Technology/Entertainment/Design) ask only for “ideas worth spreading.” This slogan itself is good advertising. It certainly led me on.

The concept did not catch on at first. But, by 1990, when Wurman expanded the fields of discussion to preachers, musicians, philosophers, philanthropists, historians, explorers, entrepreneurs, geniuses and ex-presidents, TEDTalks became the talk of the town.

I somehow missed the talk, and didn’t know anything about them until 2011, when a European friend introduced me to the smart talk of interesting, amusing, often outside-the-box women and men talking about polar explorations, brain science, history, the future, farming, words . . . it’s a thorough and endless list. This week, I was in on a discussion with friends who had never heard of TEDTalks, which shouldn’t have surprised me, seeing as how it took me so long to get with it. The talks are such fun, inspiring as they mean to be — ideas worth spreading indeed.

If you look up TEDTalks on Google, you can find out how to suggest yourself or someone you know who is full of a grand idea that might help the world. Or maybe you’d like a live TEDTalk in Greene County — you can investigate the free licensing application and look up advice on how to put on the event and give the talks. You can watch TedTalks with subtitles in more than 90 languages directly on your device, or on AirPlay and now Chromecast. You can read a transcript if you don’t want to watch it. If what I’m giving you here isn’t enough, The New Yorker magazine’s July 2012 issue has their customarily exhaustive article.

The list of speakers contains the famous and the obscure — Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Karen Anderson, Bono, Billy Graham, Al Gore, Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall, Sheryl Sandberg.

The topics include the science of happiness, newly discovered creatures in the ocean depths, the probability that we’re all geniuses, how to understand the human condition, where ideas come from, how to stand up to bullying, demonstrations from maestros and virtosos, craftsmanship, our future in cities, what makes you happy, can you live a little longer?

The non-profit TEDTalks now uses Facebook, twitter and YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and TEDBlog. You can get TEDTalks on Netflix. It is easy to access the current talk as well as all the old ones from these sources. You can order a CD of the top 10 talks or the top 100. Or ask Mrs. Google, who knows them all. They might inspire you to come up with your own . . . on organic farming, on how living in a small town makes a person happier, or how writing poetry and eating vegetables is a sure road to romance, or on sustainable ag or the benefits of GMOs.

There is now TEDMED — all about health issues; TEDWomen, about reproductive health and other female issues; TedEd, for kids. More than a billion views so far. Try one. They’re an addiction that’s good for you.

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