Sat, Aug 31, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Guide to the most-watched talks online

Before the Internet became so widely available, the privilege of seeing thinkers of our age explain their ideas was confined to city dwellers with time and money. Now there is broad access to a vast body of ideas

By Tom Meltzer  /  The Guardian, LONDON

Illustration: Constance Chou

Your body language shapes who you are

Who is talking? Amy Cuddy, a professor at Harvard Business School.

What is she on about? The influence of a power stance. Cuddy argues that not only do our nonverbal communications govern how others think and feel about us, they also have a significant effect on how we feel about ourselves.

Is she right? Yeah, it is kind of her area of expertise. Plus it is all backed up with the science of testosterone and cortisol levels.

Highlight: Cuddy’s personal story of faking it as a public speaker.

Use this knowledge to: Stand tall; fake it; make it.

How economic inequality harms societies

Who is talking? Richard Wilkinson, a professor of epidemiology.

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 have not 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 is kind of his life’s work.

Highlight: Wilkinson’s brilliant voice.

Use this knowledge to: Reinvigorate egalitarianism; reform everything.

Violence against women – it is a men’s issue

Who is talking? 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 within male-dominated communities.

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

Highlight: A well-deployed Martin Luther King Jr quote.

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

Arithmetic, population and energy: sustainability 101

Who is talking? Albert Bartlett, physics professor.

What is he on about? The same thing he has been on about since he first gave this infamous lecture in 1969: the inevitability of overpopulation; its disastrous consequences in a world of finite resources; and the fact that the US is the prime culprit in terms of per capita resource use.

Is he right? Yeah. Although he does not really offer a solution.

Highlight: The sheer weight of intellect and evidence marshaled.

Use this knowledge to: Reconsider progress; check your consumption; become a nihilist.

Depression in the US

Who is talking? Robert Sapolsky, a professor at Stanford University.

What is he on about? Depression. Specifically, major depression. Which he defines as “a biochemical disorder with a genetic component, with early-experience influences, where somebody can not appreciate sunsets.” Sapolsky argues that it must be recognized as a disease as real as diabetes or cancer. And he says it is absurd and ignorant to suggest that people with severe depression simply need to “pull themselves together.”

Is he right? Yeah.

Highlight: Sapolsky’s captivating beard.

Use this knowledge to: Sympathize with sufferers; banish ignorance; appreciate beards.

Listening to shame

Who is talking? Brene Brown, a professor of social work.

What is she on about? The power of shame. Brown’s first talk for TED was on the power of vulnerability. It has been viewed over 10 million times. In her second, she returns to her roots as a researcher into shame, which she argues “is an epidemic in our culture.”

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