Sunday, March 06, 2011

Your Guide to TED Talks 2011

I had the great fortune this week to attend my fifth TED Conference in Long Beach, along with Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Demi Moore, Al Gore, Jason Mraz, Mark Pincus, and too many other fabulous TEDsters.

As in prior years, I've compiled a resource to help you select which TED Talks to watch online. The main-stage talks -- which I've classified below -- will link to my reviews and to the videos as they become available throughout March. Each TED Talk has been rated on a 1-to-10 scale by a panel that includes me, my sister Jill, and Nina Khosla, an 8-year TEDster and blogger who graciously reviewed the Tuesday sessions that I missed. Nina co-founded Teethie, an online community platform set to launch this summer.

The 2011 speaker lineup lived up to prior years. You can never tell beforehand which ones will be the classics; this year the standouts turned out to be General Stanley McChrystal, dinosaur hunter Jack Horner, transplant surgeon Anthony Atala, Slate columnist Kathryn Schulz, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, poet Sarah Kay, Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim, and fourth grade teacher John Hunter.


  9   Anthony Atala, printing organs
  9   Deb Roy, 24/7 home movies
  8   Aaron O’Connell, human scale quantum mechanics
  6   Fiorenzo Omenetto, cool uses of silk

Directed Evolution

  9   Jack Horner on making a dinosaur
  8   Harvey Fineberg, Neo-evolution
  7   Eythor Bender, human exo-skeletons

How we think

10   Kathryn Shulz, Being Wrong
  8   David Brooks, Emotion precedes reason
  8   Ed Boyden, Illuminating the brain
  7   Antonio Damasio, Cognition of Self
  4   Daniel Temmet, autistic cognition

How information networks are transforming military conflicts in the Arab world.

10   Wael Ghonim, Egyptian activist
10   General Stanley McChrystal on leadership
  9   Wadah Khanfar, Director General of Al Jazeera
  5   Ralph Langner, Stuxnet cyberworm


Creating more engaging curricula for the diversity of kids in our schools.

10   John Hunter on World Peace, and other 4th Grade Achievements
  8   Salman Khan on Khan Academy

Smart Cars and Roads
The future of mobility

  9   Sebastian Thrun, Google's driverless cars
  8   Bill Ford, the future of mobility
  7   Dennis Hong, driving blind

Deciphering the Past

  8   Rajesh Rao, Cracking the Indus code
  7   David Christian, history of entropy
  6   Edward Tenner, unintended consequences

Discovering New Life Forms

  8   Edith Widder, bio-illuminescence
  8   Felisa Wolfe-Simon, arsenic-based life forms

Shameless Promotion

10   Morgan Spurlock, Best TED Talk Ever Sold
  3   Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi
  2   Christina Lampe-Onnerud, modular batteries

Performance Artists

10   Jason Mraz
  9   Bobby McFerrin
  9   Sarah Kay, poet
  7   Julie Taymour, designs musicals like Spiderman
  6   Handspring Puppet Company
  3   Maya Beiser cellist
  2   Antony, vocalist

Social Art

  9   Paul Nicklen, Arctic photographer
  8   Thomas Heatherwick, large scale artist
  7   Shea Hembrey, artist
  6   JR, TED Prize Winner
  5   Eric Whitacre, virtual chorus
  5   Sunni Brown, gamestormer
  4   Kate Hartman, funny hats
  4   Janet Echelman, fishnet sculptures
  3   Beatrice Coron, papercutter


  9   Roger Ebert, finding his voice
  8   Al Weiwei, Chinese activisit
  7   Eli Parisi, the internet echo chamber
  6   Amina Az-Zubair, fixing Nigeria
  6   Janna Levin, black hole physicist
  5   Bruce Aylward, eradicating Polio

<-- TED2010


  1. Anonymous6:07 AM

    I guess I have to assume that 10 is tops and one is bottoms? It would be helpful if you had said. For that you get a 5.

  2. John Hunter works in the school district where I work and he is a 10 every day- can't wait to see his Ted-his passion is contagious and he's a real-deal teacher in a regular school. Thanks for noting and noticing this fabulous educator!

  3. Anonymous9:16 AM

    You should have put Felisa Wolfe-Simon in the Shameless Promotion section. The arsenic bacteria are a hoax.