Yes, The Human Race Does Tons of Dumb Stuff But We Also Overcome The Impossible All The Time

It’s really hard not to come away from TED inspired. One of the speakers was a blind guy who fell out of a third story window and is now in a wheelchair. Instead of quitting on life, he’s becoming a cyborg and is going to find a cure for paralysis.

Another speaker was an Indian woman who wanted to open up a bank for women in India. After a guy rejected her application, citing the totally-accurate and completely reasonable “fact” that women are illiterate and can’t do math, she laughed in his face and challenged all of his men to solve math problems faster than her women. His guys could even pick the problem and the women wouldn’t use calculators.

She now has her bank.

There were a million stories like this, and a million macro stories about how to solve big, global problems facing the entire human race. From building AI safely, to rethinking our justice system, to inventing our way out of climate change, it was inspiring to see, as clear as day, the human capacity for ingenuity and aspiration.

There were also a few amazing artists, musicians, movie directors, and other creative folks who put together creative pieces that demonstrated just how far the human imagination can reach.

Yes, humans are capable of unspeakable stupidity and cruelty, but we’re also capable of doing pretty great things. Amongst other things, TED is a baseball bat designed to beat an ounce or two of cynicism out of the world.

Photo: TED's Flickr account.

Photo: TED's Flickr account.

A Wildly-Oversimplified Summary Of What The TED Conference Is Like

Most conferences get well-known people to speak and sell tickets to lesser-known people. At TED, the opposite is true. Many of the speakers are undiscovered or super-niche and many of the attendees are famous people.

You’ll be walking around, eating beef jerky, wondering who you’ll chat with next and, boom, one of the Google founders is hanging out, eating the same beef jerky, and basically is not doing shit. He has like $40 Billion in his checking account, but you can just go chat with him like you’re old buddies and you own the island next to his.

There were a bunch of TED talks each day, with breaks and activities in between sessions.

The thing about the breaks, though, is that they weren’t really breaks. When a speaker session would let out, I’d attempt to go grab a Nutella donut (yes, that’s a thing) and sit down to process the previous two hours of mind-stretching speeches. But, what would actually happen is that I’d get sucked into a great conversation with somebody else in the donut line. Very often, that person had invented a thing that I use everyday and they would start telling me about what the future is going to look like in 10 years.

It was wild. There are TED talks in the snack lines at TED. It blew my little mind.