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TED Theme: How the Mind Works

At a conference about ideas, it’s important to step back and consider the engine that creates them: the human mind. How exactly does the brain -- a three-pound snarl of electrochemically frantic nervous tissue -- create inspired inventions, the feeling of hunger, the experience of ...

At a conference about ideas, it’s important to step back and consider the engine that creates them: the human mind. How exactly does the brain -- a three-pound snarl of electrochemically frantic nervous tissue -- create inspired inventions, the feeling of hunger, the experience of beauty, or the sense of self -- and how reliable is it? Dan Dennett contemplates the mind as an ecosystem in which a new class of entities -- memes -- can compete, coexist, reproduce and flourish, and asks what sorts of nefarious things these entities might be up to. An enthusiastic Dan Gilbert presents his new research on the peculiar, counterintuitive -- and perhaps a smidge deflating -- secret to happiness. And Jeff Hawkins explains why a napkin-sized sheaf of cellular matter, wrinkled into a ball, will fundamentally change the direction of the computer industry.

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    Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu: A mouse. A laser beam. A manipulated memory.

    Can we edit the content of our memories? It’s a ...

    Can we edit the content of our memories? It’s a sci-fi-tinged question that Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu are asking in their lab at MIT. Essentially, the pair shoot a laser beam into the brain of a living mouse to activate and manipulate its memory. In this unexpectedly amusing talk they share not only how, but -- more importantly -- why they do this. (Filmed at TEDxBoston.)

    Aug 15, 2013 Read more
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    Eleanor Longden: The voices in my head

    To all appearances, Eleanor Longden was just like every other ...

    To all appearances, Eleanor Longden was just like every other student, heading to college full of promise and without a care in the world. That was until the voices in her head started talking. Initially innocuous, these internal narrators became increasingly antagonistic and dictatorial, turning her life into a living nightmare. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, drugged, Longden was discarded by a system that didn't know how to help her. Longden tells the moving tale of her years-long journey back to mental health, and makes the case that it was through learning to listen to her voices that she was able to survive.

    Aug 8, 2013 Read more
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    Alex Laskey: How behavioral science can lower your energy bill

    What's a proven way to lower your energy costs? Would ...

    What's a proven way to lower your energy costs? Would you believe: learning what your neighbor pays. Alex Laskey shows how a quirk of human behavior can make us all better, wiser energy users, with lower bills to prove it.

    Jun 4, 2013 Read more
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    Thomas Insel: Toward a new understanding of mental illness

    Today, thanks to better early detection, there are 63% fewer ...

    Today, thanks to better early detection, there are 63% fewer deaths from heart disease than there were just a few decades ago. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, wonders: Could we do the same for depression and schizophrenia? The first step in this new avenue of research, he says, is a crucial reframing: for us to stop thinking about “mental disorders” and start understanding them as “brain disorders.” (Filmed at TEDxCaltech.)

    Apr 16, 2013 Read more
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    Dan Ariely: What makes us feel good about our work?

    What motivates us to work? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it ...

    What motivates us to work? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn't just money. But it's not exactly joy either. It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work. (Filmed at TEDxRiodelaPlata.)

    Apr 10, 2013 Read more
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    Colin Camerer: Neuroscience, game theory, monkeys

    When two people are trying to make a deal -- ...

    When two people are trying to make a deal -- whether they’re competing or cooperating -- what’s really going on inside their brains? Behavioral economist Colin Camerer shows research that reveals just how little we’re able to predict what others are thinking. And he presents an unexpected study that shows chimpanzees might just be better at it than we are. (Filmed at TEDxCalTech.)

    Mar 28, 2013 Read more
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    Miguel Nicolelis: A monkey that controls a robot with its thoughts. No, really.

    Can we use our brains to directly control machines? Miguel ...

    Can we use our brains to directly control machines? Miguel Nicolelis suggests yes, showing how a clever monkey in the US learned to control a robot arm in Japan purely with its thoughts. The research has big implications for quadraplegic people -- and in fact, it powered the exoskeleton that kicked off the 2014 World Cup.

    Feb 18, 2013 Read more
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    Molly Crockett: Beware neuro-bunk

    Brains are ubiquitous in modern marketing: Headlines proclaim cheese sandwiches ...

    Brains are ubiquitous in modern marketing: Headlines proclaim cheese sandwiches help with decision-making, while a “neuro” drink claims to reduce stress. There’s just one problem, says neuroscientist Molly Crockett: The benefits of these "neuro-enhancements" are not proven scientifically. In this to-the-point talk, Crockett explains the limits of interpreting neuroscientific data, and why we should all be aware of them.

    Dec 18, 2012 Read more
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    David Pizarro: The strange politics of disgust

    What does a disgusting image have to do with how ...

    What does a disgusting image have to do with how you vote? Equipped with surveys and experiments, psychologist David Pizarro demonstrates a correlation between sensitivity to disgusting cues -- a photo of feces, an unpleasant odor -- and moral and political conservatism. (Filmed at TEDxEast.)

    Oct 23, 2012 Read more
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    Read Montague: What we're learning from 5,000 brains

    Mice, bugs and hamsters are no longer the only way ...

    Mice, bugs and hamsters are no longer the only way to study the brain. Functional MRI (fMRI) allows scientists to map brain activity in living, breathing, decision-making human beings. Read Montague gives an overview of how this technology is helping us understand the complicated ways in which we interact with each other.

    Sep 24, 2012 Read more
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