Until recently, I had never heard of a TED conference. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading”. TED was founded in February 1984 as a conference, which has been held annually since 1990. The main TED conference is held annually in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can.
This year’s TED conference was held on April 24 thru April 28, the theme of which was ‘The Future You’. Speakers included authors, actors, scientists, healthcare professionals, climate scientists, artists, and even Pope Francis. I imagine that most of the speeches were relevant and worthy of consideration, but a couple stood out that I’d like to share with you.
Pope Francis, in a videotaped talk, called for a “revolution of tenderness”, urging that the conference’s tech leaders, investors, journalists and academics to consider “how wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear. The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.” A message that needs to be heard by many of today’s ‘powerful’ people, I think.
David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, spoke about the current global refugee crisis: “The world is more connected than ever before, yet the great danger is we’re consumed by our divisions — and there’s no better test of that than how we treat refugees. Now is not the time to be banning refugees — it’s the time to be embracing people who are victims of terror. It’s a test of our humanity. It’s a test of us in the Western world of who we are and what we stand for. It’s a test of our character.”
Then there were three speakers who presented some common sense ideas for those who want to live longer, enjoy life more and actually find that elusive happiness:
- Psychologist, columnist and author Susan Pinker: Face-to-face social interaction leads to a longer life. Smoking, drinking, exercise and even heart problems are not predictors of a person’s longevity — a person’s close relationships and social integration are. Those with intimacy in their lives, those with support systems and frequent face-to-face interactions are not only physically and emotionally healthier, but they also live longer.
- Adam Alter, professor of marketing and psychology: Knowing when to turn off your smartphone enriches your life. People who spend time on social networks, dating apps and even online news sites reported being less happy. Most things we do for pleasure, like reading a book or watching a movie, have an end. But scrolling on the phone is endless and we don’t know when to break away.
- Author Emily Esfahani Smith: Chasing meaning, not happiness, is what really matters. The quest for happiness doesn’t make us happy. constantly evaluating our own happiness is actually contributing to feelings of hopelessness and depression. What’s really making us feel sad is not a lack of happiness, it’s lack of meaning. Meaning can be derived in four forms: belonging, purpose, transcendence and storytelling.
All simple, common-sense ideas, yet ones that I think we all forget or disregard, at least sometimes. The conference brought together people from all walks of life to share and exchange ideas. While I had not heard of it before, I think it is a great idea and will be following TED more closely in the future, though at $4,400 per ticket, it is not likely that I will ever attend one of these conferences!