Never heard of TED?

TED is a non-profit company started back in the 80’s to bring together the greatest thinkers in the world from their respective fields of technology, entertainment and design. Up until recently, TED was an invite-only conference where the world’s most interesting people came to give the talks of their lives on what they are most passionate about (in 18 minutes). After Chris Anderson took over TED in the early 2000’s, the organization went through rapid changes and began including people from every field imaginable. As of 2007, TED launched “TED Talks,” a website that streams the organizations best talks free to the world. From my understanding, it still costs around $5,000 to even attend a TED conference, but it seems well worth it to rub elbows with the greatest thinkers in the world. It is literally a melting pot of brilliant minds from numerous creative and intellectual fields.

So to summarize, when you watch a TED Video, you are watching some of the most brilliant, intellectual people in the world give the talks of their lives to an audience of the most brilliant, intellectual people in the world in an attempt to make whatever they have to say known, and to change the world in most cases! I watch these talks whenever I have down time and I always come away from them feeling smarter and better informed.

Below are some of my favorite TED Talks of all time. And they are not specific to the photography genre by any means.

Brene Brown on The Power of Vulnerability

Brene Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. After watching this incredible TED talk, I highly recommend listening to her interview on Tim Ferriss’s podcast.

Cameron Herold: Let’s raise kids to be entrepreneurs

Bored in school, failing classes, at odds with peers: This child might be an entrepreneur, says Cameron Herold. At TEDxEdmonton, he makes the case for parenting and education that helps would-be entrepreneurs flourish — as kids and as adults.

David Logan on tribal leadership

At TEDxUSC, David Logan talks about the five kinds of tribes that humans naturally form — in schools, workplaces, even the driver’s license bureau. By understanding our shared tribal tendencies, we can help lead each other to become better individuals.

Dan Barber: How I fell in love with a fish

Chef Dan Barber squares off with a dilemma facing many chefs today: how to keep fish on the menu. With impeccable research and deadpan humor, he chronicles his pursuit of a sustainable fish he could love, and the foodie’s honeymoon he’s enjoyed since discovering an outrageously delicious fish raised using a revolutionary farming method in Spain.

Mike deGruy: Hooked by an octopus

Underwater filmmaker Mike deGruy has spent decades looking intimately at the ocean. A consummate storyteller, he takes the stage at Mission Blue to share his awe and excitement — and his fears — about the blue heart of our planet.

Stefan Sagmeister: The power of time off

Every seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio for a yearlong sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook. He explains the often overlooked value of time off and shows the innovative projects inspired by his time in Bali.

Taryn Simon photographs secret sites

Taryn Simon exhibits her startling take on photography — to reveal worlds and people we would never see otherwise. She shares two projects: one documents otherworldly locations typically kept secret from the public, the other involves haunting portraits of men convicted for crimes they did not commit.

Michael Pritchard’s water filter turns filthy water drinkable

Too much of the world lacks access to clean drinking water. Engineer Michael Pritchard did something about it — inventing the portable Lifesaver filter, which can make the most revolting water drinkable in seconds. An amazing demo from TEDGlobal 2009.

Kevin Bales: How to combat modern slavery

In this moving yet pragmatic talk, Kevin Bales explains the business of modern slavery, a multibillion-dollar economy that underpins some of the worst industries on earth. He shares stats and personal stories from his on-the-ground research — and names the price of freeing every slave on earth right now.

Jill Bolte Taylor’s stoke of insight

Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one. An astonishing story.

Edward Burtynsky photographs the landscape of oil

In stunning large-format photographs, Edward Burtynsky follows the path of oil through modern society, from wellhead to pipeline to car engine — and then beyond to the projected peak-oil endgame.

Paul Debevec animates a photo-real digital face

At TEDxUSC, computer graphics trailblazer Paul Debevec explains the scene-stealing technology behind Digital Emily, a digitally constructed human face so realistic it stands up to multiple takes.