Monday, December 31, 2007

TED Talks!!!

I made a selection of five TED Talks that I liked a lot. They add up to about a feature-length film, and cover a diverse range of topics.

I hope you find them interesting, I most certainly have!


1. World Demographic Economics: Hans Rosling (2006) 20:36
2. Breakdancing etc.: Kenichi Ebina (2007) 5:29
3. Journalistic theatre: Anna Deavere-Smith (2005) 23:50
4. War Photography : James Nachtwey (2007) 23:42
5. TEDTalks : Vusi Mahlasela (2007) 12:03


1. TEDTalks : Hans Rosling (2006) video 20:36
You've never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called "developing world" using extraordinary animation software developed by his Gapminder Foundation.

The Trendalyzer software (recently acquired by Google) turns complex global trends into lively animations, making decades of data pop.

Asian countries, as colorful bubbles, float across the grid -- toward better national health and wealth. Animated bell curves representing national income distribution squish and flatten.

In Rosling's hands, global trends -- life expectancy, child mortality, poverty rates -- become clear, intuitive and even playful.

More at:

2. TEDTalks : Kenichi Ebina (2007) 5:29
From inside a deceptively floppy red tracksuit, Kenichi Ebina serves a dazzling blend of hip-hop and contemporary dance. And he has a few tricks up his sleeve.

3. TEDTalks : Anna Deavere-Smith (2005) 23:50
Anna Deavere-Smith brings the TED audience to their feet as she brings to life a series of quintessential Americans. The chameleon-like Deveare-Smith transforms herself in and out of character, as she embodies legendary author Studs Terkel, followed by convict Paulette Jenkins, a Korean merchant in Los Angeles after the ’92 Riots, and finally a rodeo bull rider. The monologues - adapted verbatim from tape recordings - are drawn from interviews she conducted for “On the Road: A Search for American Character.” Each is a response to a probing question, such as, “What is a defining moment in history?”

4. TEDTalks : James Nachtwey (2007) video 23:42
Accepting his 2007 TED Prize, James Nachtwey shows his searing, powerful photographs of war, and makes his wish: to help him cover a not-yet-named story that must be brought to the world's attention.

5. TEDTalks : Vusi Mahlasela (2007) 12:03
South African singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela dedicates his song, "Thula Mama," to all women -- with a special mention for his grandmother, who showed spine-tingling bravery in the face of apartheid-era police oppression.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Department of Everything Else

(TED talk by Thomas Barnett.) Especially the two minutes after 13:30

He wants to split the military in half:
- a Leviathan force (Hobbesian, like we have right now, to shoot and bomb)
- a System Administrator force (Eventually a civilian force run by the army, well-equipped, trained, and acculturated to transparently process "politically bankrupt states" like the IMF does for the financially strapped.)

He discusses how the USA Constitution provides for a Department of Armed Forces, "Armies" and a Deparment of Everything Else, "Navies". I found this distinction interesting and googled it up. The Constitution just says bluntly that we should form a "Navy". We don't look at the Navy as very different from the Army, nowadays, and maybe the Coast Guard is different. But the Federalist papers have an interesting discussions of it. All the discussions of the navy are about economics!

See the purpose of the Navy as described by John Jay in this link, and Alexander Hamilton in this link.

Jay and Hamilton argue for a national "fleet" to protect the USA's trade routes and to regulate our commerce. It's about keeping other nations happy with us. Jay's and Hamilton's essays do seem to support Barnett's conclusions that this fleet should be more diverse, acculturated, and civilian.

Barnett seems to have a point.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

TED talks: Hans Rosling

For the past three weeks, every time someone asked me "What have you been up to lately," and I could convince myself that they actually wanted me to tell a brief story, I talked about Hans Rosling's 2006 talk on (link).

Simply amazing, this video. I haven't met a single person that wasn't amazed and interested by it.

Gapminder's animated charts make understanding complex statistics about the world's populations...
...easier than falling off a log.

There's no hand-holding, persuasion, or moralizing here. Just automatically graphed and animated data.

Yes, Gapminder fixes up multidimensional datasets of public health, economics, demographics, and geography, so we can actually read it ourselves! Normal people, reading complicated data. Easily.

The average annual income in the USA is $47,000, and the average annual income in Laos is $572. But what about each of these countries neighbors? How are these incomes distributed around the countries? How has it been changing over time? How do the changes in income relate to changes in child survival within 5 years of birth?

Without the answers to these questions, the one-sentence data is too fuzzy to act on. And wordy analysis is confusing and tiring.

A picture is worth a thousand words.