TED Conversations

Jake Maddox

Field Service Engineer,


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Do you find it difficult to engage in intellectual conversations with people in general?

It happens to me all the time. My wife encourages me to have dinner with her friend and her friend's husband. "It's the opportunity to socialize and meet new interesting people!", she proclaims. And yet the same boring conversations unfold. The guy rambles on about how many yards this guy ran, and how many interceptions this guy threw, and did you see how many spiders that guy ate on Fear Factor, etc, etc. I ask something like, "Hey, did you see that they possibly discovered the Higgs Boson at the LHC?" And the guy looks at me like I'm from Mars, "The LH what?". Then my wife makes a comment like I'm a nerd then everyone laughs. I'm far from a social misfit or hobbit, I just prefer to discuss things that stimulate me intellectually. I hope I don't offend anyone for saying so, but most of the time I feel like I'm surrounded by people that are intellectually challenged, to put it kindly. And maybe that's just it, if you consider that the average intellectual quotient is around 100. They're easily entertained and amuzed to watch television shows cataloging the "real world" of college kids living in a house together, arguing over who got the most trashed the night before at the club.


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  • Aug 31 2012: I've been thinking about this same question myself lately as I have recently started a new job. Part of getting acclimated to a knew job is getting to know my new co-workers.

    I'm in that phase now, and I'm a little disturbed.

    Disturbed because the process has forced to make a realization that I have long put off.... the selfish gene DOES exist and it is flourishing!

    As an avid fisherman you have seen proof of the 80/20 rule, 20% of the fisherman catch 80% of the fish, (although I think it's really more like 90/10) well the same thing applies to intellectualism.

    You just have to find the 20% that cares because I think 'not learning' equals 'not caring' and as possible stewards of the planet it should be our responsibility to learn.

    my favorite song.. you'll love it too ..its about the LHC

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      Aug 31 2012: Hahahahahaha! That song is awesome! I think she covered everything! See now I wish I could find those types, i.e. funny, cool, nerds. Lol. It's the C to the E to the R to the N...coming straight outta Geneva (in the Stephen Hawking voice) Lol Classic.

      Check this out, even uses a TED talk (Brian Cox):

    • Aug 31 2012: I was in that phase too. And I could have been considered to be a bit cocky. So I tried not to have intellectual conversations with my peers in order not to offend them. There was a time when the people I tried to have a conversation with embarrassed me. An instructor asked students to pick a topic for a presentation, and each one of students could choose any topics. I chose philosophy, and it was about utilitarianism. They were like, "utili...what?! What the heck is that?" It was pretty embarrassing. Ever since then I’ve never talked about that kind of philosophical thing with them again. By the way, I have a question for you guys. I often try to be careful when I say something to people--especially to older ones—in order not to be seemed to be arrogant and to fit in with them. However, whenever I do that I realize that is not what I want, and I find myself miserable. (Don’t get me wrong.) Sometimes I really don't know what to do. Ironically, when I am with some people who are smarter and more intellectual than I am, I would fear them, but simultaneously, I start to admire them and want to talk with them more frequently since there must be a lot of things I can learn from them. So, it depends on people's attitudes. Whether they are intellectual or not, if they are open to any intellectual conversations, they can be quite agreeable people to talk with.
      Making proper environment for intellectual conversations also matters. Unlike Americans, many Koreans tend to think that people should be not only polite, but also modest when it comes to expressing their opinions. Even though fundamentally, it's a pretty considerate attitude, sometimes, it can be a huge barrier that hinders true, and intellectual conversations. It seems to me that being able to have good intellectual conversations depend on how well I keep the balance between relationships and intellectual desires. I really hope… I can satisfy both of desires.
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        Aug 31 2012: My dear Elizabeth,
        You can hold your own in any intellectual conversations with anyone!!!

        So, what do you mean by this..."I often try to be careful when I say something to people--especially to older ones—in order not to be seemed to be arrogant and to fit in with them. However, whenever I do that I realize that is not what I want, and I find myself miserable. (Don’t get me wrong.)"

        I think/feel that to "fit in" is a skill that benefits all of us. The ideal, is to "fit in" while sharing our own thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and beliefs, which you do exceptionally well Elizabeth.

        The part of your statement I am not understanding is..."I find myself miserable"....why/how do you feel miserable....I don't understand.
        • Sep 1 2012: Dear Colleen :) ,You might not be able to understand that part because you might not know how it feels like to be too different from other people—I recently realized that actually I am not, btw. lol It sounds strange, isn’t it? I've met a lot of people, and have had a lot of--meaningless--conversations with them. Mostly, I was disappointed in the people and myself because we weren't able to have fruitful, intellectual and meaningful conversations—doesn’t always need to be intellectual, though.
          Well, I would have some fruitful debates with a few wonderful people from time to time(and those days were the most thrilling time I'd ever had.) But I realized that I couldn't quench my thirst from having conversations with most people I know of. Quite a lot of people I know of are too engrossed in their appearances, celebrities, bf/gf, money-making, gossiping, computer games, and smartphone....Even though I respect their affairs and their matter of interest, if those are all they want to talk about, I would get sick and tired of talking about superficial things..but they are just satisfied with the conversations even though they are really intelligent people in different ways.... I may seem to be—outwardly--fond of talking with them, but at my heart, I don’t get them. I am sometimes disgusted with myself when I force myself to enjoy having those conversations with them with an insincere smile….I often try to change the subject, but doesn't last long. Btw, by which I mean by ‘miserable’ is because of this. This complicated feeling.....I constantly ask myself, “Am I looking down on them? Am I being arrogant? They and I are not that different! Same people… with same culture!” That makes me feel a bit guilty. But I’ve been changing..with more sincere open attitude:)
          And, btw, TED is a hole I can always breathe through. It’s kindof a funny way to put it, right? lol I can quench my thirst on this website...and you're one of the most amazing TED friends I can enjoy talking to. :)
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        Sep 2 2012: Hi Sweet Elizabeth,
        I will never totally understand you, because we are different people. That being said, however, we are the same in many respects, one being the feelings that we all share as human beings.

        You say that I might not know how it feels to be different...maybe I do a little bit:>)

        My father was very violent and abusive, and when I was a young person, I was embarrassed for our family...I felt shame, and "abnormal" because of my father's behavior. My seven siblings and I kept our violent experiences in our home to ourselves as much as possible. When I was interacting with my friends, they didn't know anything about the abuse/violence, so I felt different. I felt like everyone had a beautiful loving home experience except me. I tried to spend as much time as possible in the homes of my friends, to "escape" my own home, and I was grateful that their families welcomed me into their homes like I was part of THEIR families. I often wonder if they knew about my home environment and nobody spoke about it? Who knows....that was 60 years ago!

        I also worked from the time I was 11....babysitting. By 13, I was babysitting for a family of 3 children under the age of 6, for 5 days a week while their parents worked . I did that in the summer, and attended school the rest of the year. That was different from my firends.

        At age 17, I was hired as an operating room assistant for the summer, and on call for emergency surgeries on weekends and week nights during my last year of high school. That was very different from my friends who were always concerned about the dance, the football game, who had a date for the weekend, etc. etc. etc. I often got impatient with the friends for being so incredibly concerned about this trivia, as I was observing and assisting for life/death surgeries.

        I enjoyed the trivia and superficial talk with friends because it gave me a break from other life experiences.

        We may be more the same than different? Sending you love my friend:>)
    • Aug 31 2012: Anyway, this conversation is really awesome. Here, people can speak up without worrying about hurting people’s feelings or using euphemism lol

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