Time for a little TED

I know, I know--you're tired of looking at my toast. I'm sorry. What can I say? I just started a new job at MarketWatch - yes, Dow Jones' MarketWatch - the electronic financial broadsheet many predict will soon be owned and operated by the man Americans love to hate almost as much as W. and his henchmen: Rupert Murdoch.

I can't say I'm proud that my checks may soon be signed by the man responsible for keeping Bill O'Reilly in bread and butter. But, in my defense, when I accepted the job, it really looked like the Bancroft's were going to tell the media tyrant to buzz off. Now - well - not so much. Oy.

On the flip side, I am working for a consummate professional - one of the lions of financial journalism and an old school gentleman to boot - Marshall Loeb. Among other things, Marshall was the editor-in-chief of the Columbia Journalism Review and the head of Fortune. These days, he's a senior columnist for the folks at MarketWatch. But that's just part of his job. Every six months or so he picks a new mentee. This time he picked me. Color me stunned.

Marshall's been keeping me so busy for the last couple of weeks, I haven't had as much time to devote to the blog--hence the sorry lack of content . . . and the toast.

What does this have to do with neuroscience and psychology, you ask? Quite frankly, not very much, so let's get on with it already.

The TED archives: Fun with experts

For the uninitiated, the TED (Technology Entertainment Design) Conference is a semi-annual get together for "remarkable people that gather to exchange ideas of incalculable value." Yes, I'm aware that sounds off-puttingly pretentious, but try not to let it get in your way. TED speakers are generally the best and the brightest in their fields--and their fields are wide ranging. The all-star list includes thinkers as diverse as Richard Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, Malcolm Gladwell, Robert Wright and Stephen Levitt (the funniest economist I've ever encountered).

For a long time, this intellectual orgy was member-only, meaning you had to pay a staggering fee to attend. Now, many of the TED talks are available on line for free, and it's worth taking the time to watch some of them.

I particularly enjoyed Harvard Psychologist Daniel Gilbert's presentation on his bestseller Stumbling on Happiness. I, like virtually everyone else in the country, bought Gilbert's book, read the first 50 pages, got distracted and forgot about it. (I blame it on self-diagnosed adult onset ADD.) If you want to get a sense of Gilbert's work, without going through the effort of actually reading, I'd highly recommend watching this.

**Gilbert gets extra bonus points for citing a brilliant quote by Adam Smith (the father of modern capitalism), a man who is not noted in the history books for his psychological insight, far as I know:

The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life seems to arise for over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Some of these situations may no doubt deserve to be preferred to others, but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardor which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice or to corrupt the future tranquility of our minds either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly or by the remorse for the horror of our own injustice.

Okay, it's not exactly poetical, but it is insightful.

And this demonstration by Software Architect Blaise Aguera will make all you Sci-Fi junkies out there think you've died and gone to heaven. (Hang in there. It take a couple of minutes to get to the really good stuff.)

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Gotta tell you - Ireally enjoyed the toast thing.
Congrats on the job!
Lee Ann