Sit down with author and podcaster Steven Johnson to hear from leading thinkers and creators from around the world. The TED Interview is a space for guests to further delve into their groundbreaking work, give us a peek into how they discover and explore fascinating ideas, and, in some cases, even defend their thinking. This season, we’re looking at the future of intelligence. Ponder how we can train ourselves to see into the future with Jane McGonigal, find the humanities in science with Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, and listen in on the thought processes of Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan. Welcome to your front-row seat to great conversations with the world’s brightest minds.
How to predict the future with Jane McGonigal
Future forecaster and game designer Jane McGonigal ran a social simulation game in 2008 that had players dealing with the effects of a respiratory pandemic set to happen in the next decade. She wasn’t literally predicting the 2020 pandemic—but she got eerily close. Her game, set in 2019, featured scenarios we're now familiar with (like masking and social distancing), and participant reactions gave her a sense of what the world could—and eventually, did—look like. How did she do it? And what can we learn from this experiment to predict—and prepare for—the future ourselves? In this episode, Jane teaches us how to be futurists, and talks about the role of imagination—and gaming—in shaping a future that we’re truly excited about. Jane’s new book, Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything―Even Things That Seem Impossible Today is available now.
Steven Johnson wants to know how enlightenment happens
It’s official, the TED Interview has a new host! In Chris’s last episode as head of the show, he interviews his successor, bestselling science and technology author Steven Johnson. Two self-described intellectual soulmates, Chris and Steven take a deep dive in discussing where ideas come from, how optimism benefits creative ideation, the complex and even controversial process of discovery, and the beauty of what they call the “adjacent possible.”
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Unlocking the mysteries of our brain | David Eagleman
The way that our brain perceives the world is profoundly informed by our senses–so what would happen if we could heighten them—or even create a whole NEW sense? In one of his last episodes as host of the show, Chris Anderson kicks off our series on the future of intelligence by interviewing neuroscientist and author David Eagleman. They’ll decode the mysteries of the brain, consider consciousness and what it means to be human, and dig deep into David’s ground-breaking research on how wearable technology can bypass sensory impairment, translating sound into patterns of vibration for the deaf and hard of hearing.
What’s on Elon Musk’s mind?
What will it take to build a future worth being excited about? Elon Musk believes we already have the tools that will help us create one, but we must take bold action to get there. In conversation with head of TED Chris Anderson, Musk details how the radical new innovations he’s working on—Tesla’s intelligent humanoid robot Optimus, SpaceX’s otherworldly Starship and Neuralink’s brain-machine interfaces—could help maximize the lifespan of humanity and create a world where goods and services are abundant and accessible for all.
This episode was recorded on April 6, 2022. To talk about recent developments including his bid to buy Twitter, Elon joined Chris on stage at TED 2022 on April 14. You can listen to that interview now by following TED Talks Daily wherever you’re listening to this.
The limitless potential of human knowledge | David Deutsch
In an ever expanding world, it can be easy to think of our lives as insignificant. But according to David Deutsch, we all possess one skill that gives each of us infinite reach: our ability to attain knowledge. In the final episode of this season dedicated to making a case for optimism, Chris revisits his interview with the father of quantum computing to explore how knowledge first developed, how it sets us apart and how we can use it to shape a more hopeful future.
Critical yet comprehensive, the podcast is an important addition to TED
I am writing here a review just to share that I think highly of the interview podcast. It is inspiring, at times fundamentally so, to listen in. Many episodes leave me more hopeful, or more ambitious, or with a quickened heartbeat. It comes partly from the content of the talks, for I have always loved learning, and many strike a chord with me, so that they often come up in conversations for weeks after. But just as much is it valuable to me to see people who to such a degree participate in shaping the world around them for the better. It gives, at times, a surge of motivation strong enough that the only really hard question is which of the many ways to strengthen our world I could suit the best. And I am grateful for that.
This is also true, to a degree, for the ordinary shorter talks. But I think there are decisive advantages to the podcast format. The longer time allows for more depth, but also breadth and nuance. That it is pure audio also makes it more convenient, especially for traveling. And the podcast also naturally offers a varied selection of some important speakers from the rather large amount of TED talks, which I can otherwise find a bit too overwhelming to know what to pick from.
But most importantly, the conversation format affords a much more critical view to the standpoints of the speakers. The ordinary talks are short and polished, and often without many alternative viewpoints, counterarguments or more pessimistic assessments of methodology and technical aspects. While I don’t necessarily think this could or should be much different, it does mean that it can be hard to take a critical stance to the presented ideas, especially as a layman. Realizing this has in turn made it hard for me to know which claims to trust in especially the more technical talks - and this had somewhat lessened my interest in the TED project. But in these podcasts, the speakers are presented together with, and are allowed to give answers to, many of their critiques, and speak in a freer forum out of which comes a more comprehensive picture of their whole person and general worldview. It does not entirely resolve the issue, for the speakers are of course eloquent and convincing people, and it is easy to simply listen and be excited. But it does go a long way to present ideas and to inspire while keeping me as a listener active and aware. This is also not least due to Chris Anderson’s commendable ability to question clearly and critically but humanely and without antagonizing. He provides a face and vision for the sometimes seemingly anonymous TED organization, which in fact becomes itself inspiring as an idea on par with those of the speakers.
These podcasts have shown me new areas of issues and questions, inspired me deeply although to so many things that it is difficult to choose, and in the bargain done much to revive my enthusiasm for the TED project. And for that, I warmly recommend them.
And who knows. Maybe some day I would be able to be part of a cause as interesting and worthwhile as some of those of the TED speakers, or even TED itself.
Going more in-depth, but into what?
I really like the TED interviews. I like to get a bit of background about the speaker, that you discuss the subject in depth and the questions and wonderigns about them, and the informality of the conversation as well.
However, I would like a better starting point. Even though it becomes clear during the interview, at the beginning there is only a hint of the original TED talk(-s), on which the interview is based. And since I have only heard/seen a few TED talks, I have a distinct disadvantage regarding this “detail”. Would it be possible to add the original TED talk(-s) to this series? Or maybe just a link to them?