Rank #1: Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers | Steven Pinker
Was 2017 really the "worst year ever," as some would have us believe? In his analysis of recent data on homicide, war, poverty, pollution and more, psychologist Steven Pinker finds that we're doing better now in every one of them when compared with 30 years ago. But progress isn't inevitable, and it doesn't mean everything gets better for everyone all the time, Pinker says. Instead, progress is problem-solving, and we should look at things like climate change and nuclear war as problems to be solved, not apocalypses in waiting. "We will never have a perfect world, and it would be dangerous to seek one," he says. "But there's no limit to the betterments we can attain if we continue to apply knowledge to enhance human flourishing."
Rank #2: How to tame your wandering mind | Amishi Jha
Amishi Jha studies how we pay attention: the process by which our brain decides what's important out of the constant stream of information it receives. Both external distractions (like stress) and internal ones (like mind-wandering) diminish our attention's power, Jha says -- but some simple techniques can boost it. "Pay attention to your attention," Jha says.
Rank #3: We should all be feminists | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
We teach girls that they can have ambition, but not too much ... to be successful, but not too successful, or they'll threaten men, says author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In this classic talk that started a worldwide conversation about feminism, Adichie asks that we begin to dream about and plan for a different, fairer world -- of happier men and women who are truer to themselves.
Rank #4: How to love criticism | WorkLife with Adam Grant
What if you could tell your co-workers what you really think of them? At the world's most successful hedge fund, everyone is rated and ranked constantly -- in front of everyone. They've figured out how to embrace negative feedback, and they swear it's essential to their success. Adam Grant shows how you can learn to take criticism well -- and get better at dishing it out. (Audio only)
Rank #5: What if we ended the injustice of bail? | Robin Steinberg
On any given night, more than 450,000 people in the United States are locked up in jail simply because they don't have enough money to pay bail. The sums in question are often around $500: easy for some to pay, impossible for others. This has real human consequences -- people lose jobs, homes and lives, and it drives racial disparities in the legal system. Robin Steinberg has a bold idea to change this. In this powerful talk, she outlines the plan for The Bail Project -- an unprecedented national revolving bail fund to fight mass incarceration. (This ambitious idea is part of The Audacious Project, TED's initiative to inspire and fund global change.)
Rank #6: Hamilton vs. Madison and the birth of American partisanship | Noah Feldman
The divisiveness plaguing American politics today is nothing new, says constitutional law scholar Noah Feldman. In fact, it dates back to the early days of the republic, when a dispute between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison led the two Founding Fathers to cut ties and form the country's first political parties. Join Feldman for some fascinating history of American factionalism -- and a hopeful reminder about how the Constitution has proven itself to be greater than partisanship.
Rank #7: 3 ways to build a happy marriage and avoid divorce | George Blair-West
Choosing to marry and share your life with someone is one of the most important decisions you can make in life. But with divorce rates approaching fifty percent in some parts of the world, it's clear we could use some help picking a partner. In an actionable, eye-opening talk, psychiatrist George Blair-West shares three keys to preventing divorce -- and spotting potential problems while you're still dating.
Rank #8: There's more to life than being happy | Emily Esfahani Smith
Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but what if there's a more fulfilling path? Happiness comes and goes, says writer Emily Esfahani Smith, but having meaning in life -- serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you -- gives you something to hold onto. Learn more about the difference between being happy and having meaning as Smith offers four pillars of a meaningful life.
Rank #9: How to let go of being a "good" person -- and become a better person | Dolly Chugh
What if your attachment to being a "good" person is holding you back from actually becoming a better person? In this accessible talk, social psychologist Dolly Chugh explains the puzzling psychology of ethical behavior -- like why it's hard to spot your biases and acknowledge mistakes -- and shows how the path to becoming better starts with owning your mistakes. "In every other part of our lives, we give ourselves room to grow -- except in this one, where it matters most," Chugh says.
Rank #10: 3 kinds of bias that shape your worldview | J. Marshall Shepherd
What shapes our perceptions (and misperceptions) about science? In an eye-opening talk, meteorologist J. Marshall Shepherd explains how confirmation bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect and cognitive dissonance impact what we think we know -- and shares ideas for how we can replace them with something much more powerful: knowledge.
Rank #11: 3 ways to make better decisions -- by thinking like a computer | Tom Griffiths
If you ever struggle to make decisions, here's a talk for you. Cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths shows how we can apply the logic of computers to untangle tricky human problems, sharing three practical strategies for making better decisions -- on everything from finding a home to choosing which restaurant to go to tonight.
Rank #12: A powerful way to unleash your natural creativity | Tim Harford
What can we learn from the world's most enduringly creative people? They "slow-motion multitask," actively juggling multiple projects and moving between topics as the mood strikes -- without feeling hurried. Author Tim Harford shares how innovators like Einstein, Darwin, Twyla Tharp and Michael Crichton found their inspiration and productivity through cross-training their minds.
Rank #13: How to speak up for yourself | Adam Galinsky
Speaking up is hard to do, even when you know you should. Learn how to assert yourself, navigate tricky social situations and expand your personal power with sage guidance from social psychologist Adam Galinsky.
Rank #14: Why the secret to success is setting the right goals | John Doerr
Our leaders and institutions are failing us, but it's not always because they're bad or unethical, says venture capitalist John Doerr -- often, it's simply because they're leading us toward the wrong objectives. In this practical talk, Doerr shows us how we can get back on track with "Objectives and Key Results," or OKRs -- a goal-setting system that's been employed by the likes of Google, Intel and Bono to set and execute on audacious goals. Learn more about how setting the right goals can mean the difference between success and failure -- and how we can use OKRs to hold our leaders and ourselves accountable.
Rank #15: You aren't at the mercy of your emotions -- your brain creates them | Lisa Feldman Barrett
Can you look at someone's face and know what they're feeling? Does everyone experience happiness, sadness and anxiety the same way? What are emotions anyway? For the past 25 years, psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett has mapped facial expressions, scanned brains and analyzed hundreds of physiology studies to understand what emotions really are. She shares the results of her exhaustive research -- and explains how we may have more control over our emotions than we think.
Rank #16: Your elusive creative genius | Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.
Rank #17: The uncomplicated truth about women's sexuality | Sarah Barmak
Is women's sexuality more complicated than men's? Well, not really, no, says author Sarah Barmak. In this frank, eye-opening talk, she shows how a flawed understanding of the female body has shaped this discussion for centuries. She debunks some age-old myths (you're welcome) and offers a richer definition of pleasure that gets closer to the simple truth about women's sexuality.
Rank #18: Let's get honest about our money problems | Tammy Lally
Struggling to budget and manage finances is common -- but talking honestly and openly about it isn't. Why do we hide our problems around money? In this thoughtful, personal talk, author Tammy Lally encourages us to break free of "money shame" and shows us how to stop equating our bank accounts with our self-worth.
Rank #19: An honest look at the personal finance crisis | Elizabeth White
Millions of baby boomers are moving into their senior years with empty pockets and declining choices to earn a living. And right behind them is a younger generation facing the same challenges. In this deeply personal talk, author Elizabeth White opens up an honest conversation about financial trouble and offers practical advice for how to live a richly textured life on a limited income.
Rank #20: The "dementia village" that's redefining elder care | Yvonne van Amerongen
How would you prefer to spend the last years of your life: in a sterile, hospital-like institution or in a village with a supermarket, pub, theater and park within easy walking distance? The answer seems obvious now, but when Yvonne van Amerongen helped develop the groundbreaking Hogeweyk dementia care center in Amsterdam 25 years ago, it was seen as a risky break from tradition. Journey with van Amerongen to Hogeweyk and get a glimpse at what a reimagined nursing home based on freedom, meaning and social life could look like.