Connect with beautiful minds

How Economic Inequality Harms Societies

Who’s talking? Professor Richard Wilkinson, an epidemiologist.

What is he on about? The effects of inequality on societies all over the world. This will be familiar territory to anyone who has read The Spirit Level but for those who haven’t it will be eye-opening in the extreme.

Wilkinson shows that in unequal societies crime rates are higher, mental health and teen pregnancy are more common, and people in every income bracket live shorter lives.

Is he right? Yes. It’s his life’s work.

Highlight: Wilkinson’s brilliant voice.

Use this knowledge to: Reinvigorate egalitarianism; reform everything.



Violence Against Women – it’s a Men’s Issue

Who’s talking? Dr Jackson Katz, an educator, filmmaker and cultural theorist.

What is he on about? The need to focus on the men who commit violence against women, and how other men can stop them. Katz argues that male peer cultures need to change and this requires brave leadership in male-dominated communities.

Is he right? Yes, of course. The more sexist a man is the more likely it will be that other men, not women, will change his mind.

Highlight: A well-deployed Martin Luther King quote.

Use this knowledge to: Challenge patriarchy; embarrass sexists; berate your granddad.



The Art of Asking

Who’s talking? Singer-songwriter and musician Amanda Palmer.

What is she on about? The willingness of fans to pay for music if you ask them to. She suggests the music industry shouldn’t ask “How do we make people pay for music?” but instead “How do we let people pay?”

Is she right? Well, it worked for her. The talk is mostly about Palmer’s own success with crowdfunding.

Highlight: The moment the audience realises just how successful her fan-funded approach has been.

Use this knowledge to: Bypass record labels; make great art; crowdsource your mortgage.



The Myth of the Gay Agenda

Who’s talking? Sports journalist and gay rights activist LZ Granderson.

What is he on about? The ludicrous notion that there is a “gay lifestyle”, let alone a “gay agenda”. He argues the entire gay agenda is in the United States Constitution: the demand to be treated as equal citizens. He also points out that in some US states a landlord can evict tenants and a boss can fire employees for being gay.

Is he right? Obviously. 

Highlight: The bit where he has a lightsaber.

Use this knowledge to: Get mad; get equal.



Brilliant Designs to Fit More People in Every City

Who’s talking? Architect and designer Kent Larson.

What is he on about? The need for the cities of the future to make more efficient use of space. He calls it “a global imperative”.

Is he right? Yes. It’s a pretty uncontroversial. But Larson’s talk goes further and shows off some of the technology that might address the problem.

Highlight: That cool new tech: a folding car designed for shared use; an electronic three-wheeled bike; and a two-room apartment that functions like a five-bed townhouse using transformable furniture.

Use this knowledge to: Prepare for the future; feel better about your tiny flat.



Shaking Hands with Death

Who’s talking? Discworld author Sir Terry Pratchett through actor Tony Robinson.

What is he on about? The right to die on one’s own terms. His moving speech addresses the arguments against assisted dying, subjecting each to a sharp, satirical examination.

Is he right? As Pratchett puts it: “I believe that consensual assisted death for those that ask for it is quite hard to oppose.” After watching this, it’s even harder.

Highlight: Too many moments of humour and heartbreak to choose.

Use this knowledge to: Fall in love with Pratchett; prepare to die.



The Voices in My Head

Who’s talking? Academic Eleanor Longden.

What is she on about? Her experience of hearing voices. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and told by doctors she would never recover.

She proved them wrong with the help of the Hearing Voices Network, which encouraged her to engage in dialogue with her voices to discover and address the underlying problems from her past. She argues for a radical shift in attitudes towards people who hear voices.

Is she right? It worked for her. And many others.

Highlight: Finding out just how far she has come since.

Use this knowledge to: Improve treatment; be compassionate; challenge ignorance about mental health.



Why I Am Not a Christian

Who’s talking? Nobel prize-winning philosopher, mathematician and campaigner Bertrand Russell. Back in 1927.

What is he on about? The flimsiness of the arguments for God’s existence and the stifling effects of religious doctrine on human progress. Long before Richard Dawkins made militant atheism fashionable, Russell had settled the argument.

Is he right? Yes.

Highlight: “A good world needs knowledge, kindliness and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.”

Use this knowledge to: Argue with Christians; silence Dawkins fanboys.



The Secret to Desire in a Long-term Relationship

Who’s talking? Psychotherapist and marriage coach Esther Perel.

What is she on about? The tension between desire and domestic life. She argues that erotic desire is not about toys or Hollywood-derived spontaneity, but the freedom to keep exploring life away from your partner.

Is she right? Ask the couples she works with.

Highlight: Her thesis is that “the erotic mind is not very politically correct” because “most of us will get turned on at night by the very same things we protest about during the day”.

Use this knowledge to: Stop stifling your partner; keep things spicy.



Printing a Human Kidney

Who’s talking? Anthony Atala, a surgeon and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

What is he on about? The capacity of 3D-printing technology one day to solve the organ-donor problem by printing a human kidney.

Is he right? Well, he brings a prototype printed kidney out on stage, so he must be making some progress.

Highlight: A moving cameo from a boy with an artificial bladder.

Use this knowledge to: Save lives; prepare for the future; fax people kidneys as a joke.



Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Who’s talking? Educationist, author, academic and government adviser Sir Kenneth Robinson.

What is he on about? The need to reform education. Robinson says schools are teaching children not to be creative and failing to recognise the diversity of intelligence. He calls for a rethink of the fundamental principles of education.

Is he right? Perhaps. He’s certainly popular. With over 23-million views, Robinson’s 20-minute lecture is the most-watched TED talk so far.

Highlight: Robinson’s killer gags. It’s almost a stand-up routine.

Use this knowledge to: Reform education; help your children; annoy teachers.



Moral Behaviour in Animals

Who’s talking? Professor Frans de Waal, a primatologist.

What is he on about? The capacity of animals to co-operate and empathise with one another, as demonstrated by chimps and elephants and capuchin monkeys. De Waal argues that this capacity in animals suggests morality has pre-human evolutionary roots.

Is he right? Perhaps, although it may have more to do with survival than any meaningful notion of altruism.

Highlight: The capuchin monkeys rejecting unequal pay.

Use this knowledge to: Demand income equality for monkeys.

Watch: –  © Guardian News & Media 2013

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These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

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