TED provides a platform for some of the most fascinating minds to share their passions and progress. In 2013, hundreds of new ideas were spread throughout the world about technology, education, design, and more. Some of this year’s most world changing (or potentially so) talks include information on how and why to prioritize creativity and individuality in education systems, a huge advance in modern medicine, ending violence against women, a disabled man more capable than the physically healthy, and how to make kids want to work and eat their vegetables. Here they are, in descending order of personal impact: 5 world changing TED talks of 2013.
1. Ken Robinson: How to Escape Education’s Death Valley
In this bold and humorous talk, educationalist and creativity expert Sir Kenneth Robinson discusses the inherent diversity, curiosity, and creativity of human life—and how America’s conformity-based education system stifles all three. The education system under No Child Left Behind manages to: 1. treat and teach all children the same way, despite their diversity, 2. put out children’s natural-born flame of curiosity, and 3. suppress the power of creativity with a culture of standardization and testing. By comparing the U.S. to Finland, Sir Robinson shows us how fix these problems, and escape education’s Death Valley. Should America choose to implement his ideas and neglect their compliance-oriented system, they will raise generations of unique, informed, and creative young people—the kind of people who end up changing the world.
2. Lee Cronin: Print Your Own Medicine
In 3 minutes, Professor Lee Cronin discusses his latest project—a 3D printer for molecular assembly. With this technology, individuals can download blueprints and print their own medicine. This means drugs can be attained immediately upon time of need, and trips to the pharmacy will be deemed obsolete. Cronin suggests that we will have our own 3D printers in which we may enter our own stem cell data, thus creating medicine specifically tailored to our unique make-up and ill condition.
With so many countries fighting drug wars, the release of this technology is sure to be controversial. However, it would be naïve to dismiss such incredible technology simply due to the likelihood of substance abuse. The astounding possibilities and benefits far outweigh the risks. Besides that, let’s be honest—drug wars are proving ineffective. Since we can’t stop substance abuse, we could at least make drugs safer to consume. Printing one’s own drugs will be far safer than buying them off the streets, and indeed, this technology could mean the end of drugs on the black market.
3. Jackson Katz: Violence Against Women–It’s a Men’s Issue
Through perceptual biases, the term “gender issues” has become associated entirely with women, despite the fact that it involves crimes committed by men. Indeed, in such cases, it is often the victim, not the perpetrator, that is questioned and blamed. Why was she hanging around that group of men? Why was the woman dressed that way? These are inappropriate questions to ask. While it is true that women should exercise caution in their company and dress, they are never to blame for being victims of rape and abuse. Filmmaker and anti-sexist activist Jackson Katz delivers a passionate talk on domestic violence and sexual abuse, and acknowledges that men are both the heart of the issue and the answer to the problem. Katz states men must be the ones to take leadership and speak up about gender issues. Because silence is a form of consent, simply caring is not enough–if one remains silent in the face of immorality, one also takes responsibility for that immorality.
4. Henry Evans and Chad Jenkins: Meet the Robots for Humanity
Henry Evans suffered a stroke attack at the age of 40, leading him to become mute and quadriplegic. After deciding life was still worth living, his mission became to help the disabled navigate the world using technology. With the help of Robots for Humanity, Evans created technology capable of allowing him, and others like him, to do everything from shaving and surfing the web, to playing soccer and strolling campuses. Evans reminds us that we are all disabled in one way or another, but our disabilities do not make us any less of a person—and neither do his. From his bed 3,000 miles away, Evans delivers this inspiring talk through a robot on the TED stage.
5. Ron Finley: A Guerrilla Gardener in South Central LA
In South Central LA, Ron Finley watched the consequences of unhealthy eating until he knew he had to do something. A lack of healthy food had caused the obesity rates of those around him to skyrocket and their health to deteriorate. He decided food was not only the problem, but also the solution. Along with his volunteer group LA Green Grounds, Finley planted and currently maintains about 20 gardens on the city’s property. He welcomes anyone to take the food he plants near the street, asking them to take back their health in return. In doing so, he’s witnessed gardening become a tool for the transformation of his neighborhood.