TED Conversations

Michael McWatters

UX Architect, TED


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If you could choose any historical figure to give a TED Talk, who would it be and why?

This one is pretty open-ended. I'm curious to know who you would choose for a TED Talk, why, and maybe what you think their "idea worth spreading" might be.

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    Apr 8 2013: Leonardo Da Vinci. Let's just keep this simple: The man is amazing.
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    Apr 12 2013: Nikola Tesla.. definitively ! So many of his projects are hidden, forgotten & unfinished.
  • Apr 15 2013: Nikola Tesla-The man ahead of his time.!
    Why- To tell the world to invent the things not for the money but for humanity..!
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    Apr 13 2013: Albert Einstein. He was obviously intelligent, but what distinguished him was his willingness and ability to accept new interpretations of the universe. He looked at what obviously was the universe and recognized how it could be interpreted in a new way and thus, understood on a deeper level.
  • Apr 9 2013: Jesus. That'd help a lot of people more appropriately place their faith.
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    Apr 15 2013: Mother Theresa. I've always been a fan...Interesting to note, I asked my 4th graders this same question. In fact, we created an entire mock TEDx classroom symposium on the question, and they created TED talks & performances based on the lives of the following people: Eleanor Roosevelt, The Wright Brothers, Benjamin Netanyahu (prime minister of israel), Marion Anderson, Amelia Earhart, Ruby Bridges, Jackie Robinson, Kamehameha the Great, and Sacagawea...just to name a few. Their task was to identify the purpose of their speech (to entertain, inform, persuade, or all three), and base their talks on the "innovative" idea that each represented at that time in history. It was pretty cool so see what they came up with. My favorite was the lip sync of Marian Anderson as she sang the National Anthem at the inauguration of Presiden Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957!
  • Apr 13 2013: Buddha...
    Idea worthspreading : Self actualisation aka Enlightenment.
    His commentary on the way we live today would be most interesting, too.
    If you intend to invite him...!!! ;) :) suggest he speak English, please.
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    • Apr 13 2013: interesting, please elaborate?
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        • Apr 14 2013: I agree that Jesus would be a thrilling speaker - but for a different reason. He wanted to teach us that its possible to have a system of truth-based governance (the Kingdom he kept describing) that leads to a depth of knowledge that empowers us as human beings to overcome disease, hunger, war, and much of the ignorance we still have over how the earth and physical world we live in really works; and how as humans if we understood our own design, we could better influence physical outcomes. Now that would be one fascinating talk!!
        • Apr 15 2013: what do you mean by "levels of consciousness"?

          exactly how is reincarnation and resurrection fact?

          exactly who did you learn all of this from?

          excuse all the questions, just so far it sounds a little bit like you've mixed a couple of unrelated books into a single idea, though perhaps if you explained it would clearer.
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    Apr 12 2013: Definitely the greats: Buddha, Jesus and Moses.

    I mean, what we are calling religion now were merely Ideas that captured the imagination of people and it spread like wildfire, changing the consciousness of man for thousands of years. Jesus, love others as you love yourself. That was new then. Jesus was the first humanitarian. Including the samaritans despite them being outsiders of the flock. Buddha, x=X (individual consciousness = collective consciousness). Moses, there is only one God (the forces we see around are a product of one universal phenomena)

    Most scientists like Newton, and Johannes Kepler and even Darwin are quiet eccentric people who most likely don't look you in the eye. I would go for the luminaries!
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    • Apr 13 2013: Absolutely disagree Darwin and Newton were stand up guys. The other guys are legends. Many scholars believe Pythagoras was actually a handful of differant people whos works are attributed to one name. I would say the same thing about Jesus Buddha and Moses. These figures embody a movement not a single human vessel.
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    Apr 10 2013: Nicola Tesla. He truely was the best geek to ever walked the earth.
  • Apr 14 2013: @Chris - I agree that Jesus would be a thrilling speaker - but for a different reason. He wanted to teach us that its possible to have a system of truth-based governance (the Kingdom he kept describing) that leads to a depth of knowledge that empowers us as human beings to overcome disease, hunger, war, and much of the ignorance we still have over how the earth and physical world we live in really works; and how as humans if we understood our own design, we could better influence physical outcomes. Now that would be one fascinating talk!!
  • Apr 14 2013: Who? Nelson Mandela. Why? To discuss his experience in using forgiveness and empathy to attain widespread influence and impact. And for him to explore how we might all tap into that mind-set that has no dogma but sees with clarity, all the time, what it is that really matters.
  • Apr 13 2013: Churchill
  • Apr 13 2013: Thomas Hobbes (interesting ideas on government, great speaker apparently)
    Samuel Johnson (charismatic, quirky worldview, intellectual titan)
    Montaigne (original and accessible philosopher)
    Gerrard Winstanley (founder of the Levellers, early democratic movement)
    Howard Hughes (what a life!)
    Keynes v. Hayek (two views of the economic crisis)
    Mikhail Bakunin (founding father of anarchism)
    Sophie Scholl (died rather than condone the Nazi regime)
    Martin Niemoller (another individual with exceptional moral courage)
    Olaudah Equiano (how important really was the role of black activists in abolishing the slave trade?)
    Isambard Kingdom Brunel (indefatigable engineer of genius)
    Thomas More (a man who died for his philosophy).
    • Apr 13 2013: If we could bring back Sophie Scholl, I would be in favor of having her talk. She was a brave woman, the very essence of humanity that fascist regimes hate and eliminate.
  • Apr 13 2013: Teddy Roosevelt-It would be neat to see his "current " take on conservation, military intervention, business, taxation, and our current misguided Ideas on gun control.

    "Mr. President what are your thoughts on gun control?"

    "Very much in favor of hitting what I am shooting at..Bully!"
    • Apr 13 2013: ROOSEVELT would certainly support the 2nd Amendment, after all he was a huge hunting enthusiast. Many say he was a "PROGRESSIVE," but today he would probably be a LIBERTARIAN. I think even the republican party is far to "PROGRESSIVE," for even him.
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      Apr 15 2013: William the Silent, prince of orange and of the Netherlands, their Washington and Lincoln rolled into one, defender of freedom of conscience and the rights of the people.
  • Apr 13 2013: Ben Franklin, he was a true renegade and the iconic Renaissance Man. From science to politics he was an overall well rounded guy. He was also quite the ladies man, definately got it how he lived...
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      Apr 13 2013: A truly intelligent man whose wisdom oozed out from all the shouting of the founding fathers and illuminated the way. But he did seem to "cherchez the femmes" when he was in France. I loved his letter to a young man about the advantages of marrying an older woman. He had an excellent sense of humor, too!
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    Apr 12 2013: I'd ask for a three-way between Galileo, Copernicus, and Thomas S. Kuhn. They could discuss Ted's shocking lack of forward thinking in the recent scandal about Ted coming out against scientists who aren't full of everyday, established talk and therefore must be labeled "pseudoscientists." I must be naive, because I was REALLY surprised to find out about this.

    Would you guys let Kuhn (Harvard) talk about paradigm in science belief and history? Would Tim Leary (Harvard) be given 18 minutes to discuss the effects of LSD on the brain? What would you have told Mark Zuckerberg if he'd come of age in 1983 and explained how this wacky thing called a "social network" might take over the whole danged world? I guess you'd have pooh-poohed it.

    I'm interested in new, exploratory ideas in addition to some old-hat fun stuff about fascinating subjects. That's why I'm part of the TED community, though I considered quitting after reading about this. I don't think it's up to TED to decide for me whether Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock have interesting views on interesting subjects, views I should consider and further research.

    I sincerely hope you will not censor this comment.
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        Apr 12 2013: I want to add that I have no particular skin in the game about whether Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock are right in their views. I do know they have credentials, they provoke discussion, and if TED is supposed to be so fabulous and embracing of a new idea culture, the organization should act like it!
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          Apr 13 2013: Its a process, on the one hand TED will not be a respected entity if everything is passable. I always say these are market forces. Its very difficult to take consciousness seriously because we can't even agree on what consciousness is. Everybody claims to be conscious, but wonder what the word really means outside of our...err...consciousness. We could be tiny little ants.
    • Apr 13 2013: really? ted has a problem with scientists who aren't scientific? the nerve!
      open minds are good, but it shouldn't be so open that any unsupported rubbish can get in.
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        • Apr 14 2013: no that's exactly not what science is. personal experience is deceptive, and science goes to great lengths to avoid it and the misunderstanding it fosters.
    • Apr 13 2013: One of the first talks I heard on TED back in 2008 was that of Jill Bolte Taylor.
      And I was hooked on TED!
      Because of the Consciousness that Jill Bolte had experienced in her left brain after a stroke. What she experienced was not "Materialistic Science"! Nevertheless till now, for me, it is among the most amazing talks I have heard because of the nature of consciousness... So when Graham Hancock's and Rupert Sheldrake's talks were removed from TEDx I considered quitting... I totally agree with Tiffany Lee Brown.
      • Apr 13 2013: There are a lot of people who entertain the illusion that they have their fingers on the button. Control freaks :) The ideas worth spreading are spreading and whether TED likes it or not, it is also in the business of spreading 'pseudoscientific ' ( the most advanced ) ideas sometimes.
        There are some talks worth listening :)
        • Apr 14 2013: unfortunately ideas not worth spreading are given 'worthy' status by people who don't understand, and also spread. i support ted's stance against comforting balderdash.
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    Apr 12 2013: I would like to hear John Stuart Mill giving a TED talk on the dead dogma of freedom. Although he is one of the main supporters of individual freedom that history has seen, he also argues in "On Liberty" that no principle should become a dead dogma. It seems to me that "freedom" itself has become a dead dogma and I would like to hear what he thinks about it. Something similar to a response to Barry Schwartz's "the paradox of choice" TED talk.
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    Apr 12 2013: Let's get some entertainers up on the stage.

    Enrico Caruso
    Scott Joplin
    Maria Callas
    Buster Keaton
    Igor Stravinsky
    Sally Rand
  • Apr 10 2013: ben franklin. got wealthy thanks to his printing business, realised he had more than enough income to live very comfortably and retired rather than going after more and more money. he decided to spend his time and money instead on scientific pursuits, the developments from which he deliberately chose not to patent, so that all citizens could enjoy improvement in their standard of living rather than holding it hostage for cash. capitalism but with an upper limit on wealth, pushing forward science and benefits to everybody - now that is an idea worth spreading!
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      Apr 11 2013: Great answer! I actually signed in to this conversation to say Ben Franklin, but you've made such a wonderful case that I will let yours stand, and pick a new speaker ...
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      Apr 12 2013: Ben most capitalists are similar to Franklin. Gates, Buffet, Rockefeller, etc.
      • Apr 12 2013: most? you've come up with 3, do tell me how 3 people among the richest 100,000 people leads to the conclusion that most capitalists are like franklin? and even among those 3 they've continued to work until well past becoming super rich, and have patented their work.

        not only do most of the rich not quit when they have enough and give back to the citizens to which their success depended on, they usually don't even pay the minimum amount that they are legally obliged to pay as their fair share. $100bn in taxes are avoided in america alone by the super rich who hide their funds in offshore bank accounts.


        i encourage everyone to engage in the debate, but please do some basic fact-checking before chiming in with such codswallop; support your statements with evidence or provide sources to where this evidence can be found.
      • Apr 13 2013: please elaborate?
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          Apr 13 2013: If you get what I'm saying no explanation is necessary if you don't none is possible
      • Apr 15 2013: the only things that can't be explained are those that aren't true.
      • Apr 15 2013: and what led you to change your mind?
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    Apr 9 2013: Albert Einstein would be my #1 choice. Fascinating person.
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  • Apr 14 2013: My ideal lecturer would be George Orwell, the time of the lecture either just before WWII, or 2013. Orwell's was an uncompromising and sharp brain, with an ability to SEE the big picture, and to put his visions into words.
  • Apr 14 2013: TED Talk should interview this SMALL Brasilian Girl Isadora Faber (http://www.facebook.com/DiariodeClasseSC?fref=ts).
    She is fighting for GOOD PUBLIC EDUCATION in Brasil and some (power) people are trying to make her shut up.
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    Apr 13 2013: Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte - because he was misunderstood even while he lived, and certainly after he died, and because his vision for a unified Europe brought together under a common market, common legal and government system and common monetary system was not only bold, but also far ahead of its time. A TED Talk would not only allow him to clear his name for the record of history, but to also inspire others to aspire to higher ideals and not settle for what was easy, even if you disagreed with his methods and believe him to be a tyrannical figure.
  • Apr 13 2013: Marshall McLuhan.
  • Apr 13 2013: inspirational:Abraham Lincoln,Jesus, Robert E. Lee, George Wahington,Gandhi
    artisti/literature:Mary Cassatt, Michelangelo,Raphael,Walt Whitman,Ralph Waldo Emerson
    funny:Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
    science/exploration:Madame Curie, Enest Shackleton