TED-conference alternatives: best edutainment videos from PopTech conference, Singularity University, Learning Without Frontiers & OpenCulture

Yes, we all love TED. They probably have the best collection of video presentations online with most of them being either inspirational or insightful. But is it all there is?

Actually, there are few places where you can find some edutainment videos for you dinner watching. Here are the main alternatives to TED I stumbled upon and some introductory videos that I personally liked that can help you get started.

1. PopTech

According to the website:

PopTech is a unique innovation network – a global community of cutting-edge leaders, thinkers, and doers from many different disciplines, who come together to explore the social impact of new technologies, the forces of change shaping our future, and new approaches to solving the world’s most significant challenges. We are known for our thriving community of thought-leaders, breakthrough innovation programs, visionary annual conferences and deep media and storytelling capabilities.

A good video to start from: Sebastian Seung’s Connectome.

2. Learning Without Frontiers

According to the website:

Learning Without Frontiers is a global platform for disruptive thinkers and practitioners from the education, digital media, technology and entertainment sectors who come together to explore how new disruptive technologies can drive radical efficiencies and improvements in learning whilst providing equality of access.

A good video to start from: Gordon Brown’s Pirate’s Dilemma.

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The most watched and most highly-rated TED talks at the moment

Recently the list of most watched TED talks appeared in TED blog.  Very helpful to make sure you didn’t miss anything:

  1. Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity (2006): 8,660,010 views
  2. Jill Bolte Taylor‘s stroke of insight (2008): 8,087,935 views
  3. Pranav Mistry on the thrilling potential of SixthSense (2009): 6,747,410 views
  4. Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry demo SixthSense (2009): 6,731,153 views
  5. David Gallo‘s underwater astonishments (2007): 6,411,705 views
  6. Tony Robbins asks Why we do what we do (2006): 4,909,505 views
  7. Hans Rosling shows the best stats you’ve ever seen (2006): 3,954,776 views
  8. Arthur Benjamin does mathemagic (2005): 3,664,705 views
  9. Jeff Han demos his breakthrough multi-touchscreen (2006): 3,592,795 views
  10. Johnny Lee shows Wii Remote hacks for educators (2008): 3,225,864 views
  11. Blaise Aguera y Arcas runs through the Photosynth demo (2007): 3,007,440 views
  12. Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing your genius (2009): 2,978,288 views
  13. Dan Gilbert asks: Why are we happy? (2004): 2,903,993 views
  14. Stephen Hawking asks big questions about the universe (2008): 2,629,230 views
  15. Daniel Pink on the surprising science of motivation (2009): 2,616,363 views
  16. Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice (2005): 2,263,065 views
  17. Richard St. John shares 8 secrets of success (2005): 2,252,911 views
  18. Mary Roach on the 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm (2009): 2,223,822 views
  19. Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire action (2010): 2,187,868 views
  20. Chimamanda Adichie shares the danger of a single story (2009): 2,143,763 views

But I decided to take it one step further and create a list of the most highly-rated TED talks.
Which is not hard to do using their Youtube channel statistics. So, here it is. The list of most highly-rated TED talks:

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23andme review

23andme can decode your DNA using a sample of your saliva and offer you quite a few insights into your nature. 23andme is the biotechnology company that was founded in 2008 by Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki (who also happens to be Sergey Brin’s wife).

I personally tried it couple of months ago and received my results around a couple of weeks ago and decided to write a brief review. So, what exactly can 23andme offer?

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Superfreakonomics review

Book with a stupid name Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner appeared to be quite surprisingly interesting and was listened on my way to work and back home in a week or so. I would probably even say that the sequel is better than the first book – Freakonomics.

Authors position themselves as economists doing research into non-conventional topics. However, I feel that it would be more appropriate to say that book is in the sociology field. Yes, individual & group level economics is often discussed, usually through the prism of decision-making. But in overall it’s more about psychology.

Topics covered are global warming (or cooling?) & ecology, technological & scientific breakthroughs, economics of prostitution, algorithmic search for potential terrorists based on banking activity and human altruism which is covered in more details in video below. In other words, as authors confess themselves, there is no uniting topic.


Superfreakonomics is full of curious facts. For instance, you have statistically higher chances to get into trouble if you walk home drunk then if you drive home drunk.

All topics are presented as stories revolving around particular characters and therefore easily digested. One of the main lessons sounds quite banal and generic: “people respond to incentives, sometimes unpredictably”. However, we forget about it more often than we’d like to think.

You might use this RSA video made from co-author’s speech as a trailer of some sort:

Update 2010.09.22: It turns out they make a movie based on the first book! Trailer is below:

Review of awesome My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

Finished listening to My Stroke of Insight by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor today. It appeared to be as interesting as I expected, so I’d like to share it with you.

Jill is a Harvard PhD who built a highly successful career in science. Everything went just perfect till the moment when she got a stroke on one of her mornings. As a result, she lost almost all of her cognitive and physical skills, but survived. Moreover, eventually she finally recovered which took more than 8 years. Step be step she learned everything: from speech recognition, to walking and reading.

Jill Bolte Taylor

The Book tells her personal story and gives a basic understanding of our brain. According to author our brain functions can be separated by hemispheres: left and right. Right one lives in a present moment and is responsible for our sensory feelings, intuition, and perception of universe as a whole. Left one in turn is our rational mind, future planning, past evaluation, speech, critical thinking, etc.

After the stroke Jill lost functions of left hemisphere. The most interesting part is that despite the loss of cognitive functions, she describes her experience with sincere rapture. She emotionally tells us about feeling of “deep inner piece and bliss” and expresses ideas that I highly connected with a topic of mindful meditation that kind of follows me last month. BTW, here are two awesome Google Talks about it: first, second. I even decided to listen to book of the latter one, but that’s a separate story.

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