As I mentioned in my post about electronic appliances, my Mac had a major accident and a fairly long recovery time. Not having a functioning computer was challenging and especially boring. I am a biologist, not a computer science major and yet without my computer I was powerless and useless both academically and socially since most of my interactions (especially when they involves long-distance relationships) are electronically mediated. Thus, long story short, I was bored to death especially during lunch and dinner time when my house was filled solely by the sound of the metal contracting and expanding as a consequence of the heating system. luckily enough a gentle heart provided me with a temporary tablet. I couldn’t really work on it but at least I was able to connect with the rest of the world via internet.
However a tablet isn’t exactly a computer and for a technology impaired person as myself anything that need “setting” is clearly way too outside my comfort zone. So forget java and flashplayer drivers to install to see movies and TV shows online.
My inability in dealing with hardware and software allow the birth of a new exciting and culturally enriching habit, TED talks. They are easy to watch, most of them stays just the time of my lunch break (usually around 30 minutes plus 10 further minutes to report quotes from the talk on my always-at-my-side notebook).
Here are some examples of what I’ve learned during my new fancy lunch breaks.
Matt Ridley gave an interesting talk called: when ideas have sex (http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_ridley_when_ideas_have_sex.html) in which he defined progress as the outcome of our ability to share ideas and skills. Bates in its Ecology of Mind, similarly argues that connectivity is what shape the meaning of an idea or even the concept of an object itself. Authorative and esteemed professors confirm what this average IQ little girl always experience but never wrap her mind around in a comprehensible fashion. Nothing has a value if not shared. Nothing even exists if not communicated. The experiences we have reach a further level of meaning when shared or told. Meaning comes from common views and norms that are developed by sharing ideas. According to Ridley, what makes Homo sapiens different from other hominids is the unique ability to share culture among groups, not the skills to create an object but the increase in productivity that arise from exchanging and adopting different and possibly more profitable techniques.
I always felt the need to share the underline importance of an event. It can be questioned the relative perception of importance in relation to specific events but in general I was right. Maybe I am not as weird as they always pictured me, maybe I am just a genius in an incredible efficient disguise. So much in disguise that even I don’t know it. I always assumed I was wrong just because others always seemed so tremendously sure that they were right. …said the problem of this world is that the wise people are always in doubt while… are always so sure.
I really enjoy Dan Ariely talks on economic decisions and I owe him the discoveries of the mind-blowing field of behavioural economic. Some of my favourites are http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_on_our_buggy_moral_code.html; http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_asks_are_we_in_control_of_our_own_decisions.html and http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_what_makes_us_feel_good_about_our_work.html.
On a side note, the more TED talks I watch, the more I found significant correlation between the interest of the talks and the importance of the speaker’s nose.
I also really enjoyed Dr. Barry Schwartz talk on choices and happiness and I pulled out a couple of quotes from it: “ the more options there are, the easier is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose”; “opportunity’s cost substracts from the satisfaction we get out of what we choose even when what we choose is terrific”. I can relate in particular with this second statement, probably because I chose a life that lead me to several goodbyes. I chose to follow my dreams but at the cost of being far from home and family. However every choice implies a loss, the mere existence of options means that something will be gained and something will be not gain. Dr. Schwartz argues that too many options increase expectation and turn into dissatisfaction. Even more guilt creeps in as a consequence of expectations. Whenever you take a decision and something goes wrong than is YOUR FAULT since you expect your choice to be perfect.
Dr. Schwartz also said something that I hug tight “everybody needs a fish ball”. Maybe is what others call roots, that safe refuge with no choices, in which you are stuck but protected and thus can focus on the very best it can offers.
TED talks also made me think how ebook are practicle but way less awesome than paper books. You can’t smell the unique combination of paper and ink fragrance, the subtle differences among printing … you can’t write on them, take notes at the side or flip the upper right corner to remark the importance of a page. Ebooks are statics, they don’t follow the course of time, don’t age along with you by turning color. They don’t physically reflect the eras of your soul. You can’t stare at them on a bookshelf while waiting for your friend to get ready and shape a mental image of its preferences and intellectual flexibility. Technology can be personalized but ultimately is dry because it involves less of your senses and if we consider how memories and motions are connected with the sense of smell then an ebook becomes an interesting reading but part of you.
But mostly I liked talks that inspired me and filled me with the kind of joy and hopes I always experience in the field. This is what Hal Whitehead (mentor and former supervisor of mine) talk on animal culture did (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uyGXoMaXns). E.O. Wilson (one of the most famous invertebrate expert and reknown ethologist) reminded me that every ethologist has a place in the world regardless of their skills or field of expertise or the opportunities that others will give (http://www.ted.com/talks/e_o_wilson_advice_to_young_scientists.html).
So I can just say thanks to all these amazingly inspirational people for teaching me so much during every lunch break and keeping me inspired when everything else seem to simply goes wrong.