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Bigger Bandwidth = Faster World Brain, with TED's Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson, curator of TED Talks, explains how the plummeting price of bandwidth about a decade ago opened opportunities for new innovation to grow.

Chris Anderson: Well, TED really was made by a major technological disruption. It happened about 10 years ago. The price of bandwidth plummeted. Back in 2004, the cost of sending a lecture from person A to person B on the other side of the world was effectively $2 just for one piece of communication. You'd have to copy it onto a DVD, mail it across the world and then they'd view it. And then internet bandwidth plummeted in cost and suddenly it was possible to do this thing called online video. And so within literally not much more than a year, the real-world cost of sharing 15 minutes of spoken information plummeted from a couple dollars to about a penny or two. Now that was an astonishing shift because it suddenly meant that a sponsor could cover that cost if need be, effectively the cost of sending an idea was free. And so we tried an experiment to put a few talks up online. To our astonishment, they went viral and suddenly TED turned on its head. And instead of being a once-a-year conference in California it became this online idea of ideas worth spreading.

The interesting thing about technology is that it's a mixture of surprises and predictability. I mean the most famous piece of predictability is something like Moore's Law where over many years you see a trend that almost becomes a self-fulfilling thing where an entire industry acts as if Moore's Law were true and thereby in a sense makes it come true because that creates the market to justify the investment in ever-more powerful computer chips, et cetera. And so there are definite trends that you can look at. It's been obvious for a while that the internet was changing everything. And there's a roadmap out there right now that is actually an amazing roadmap and possibly underappreciated that the internet is spreading to every corner of the planet and will be low-cost, high-bandwidth everywhere. Companies like Facebook and Google are investing billions of dollars to make sure that this is so and that's a complete game changer. That means for the first time in history not 1 billion but 7 billion people-plus will be interconnected.

What does that mean? Who knows, but it's possible to dream about that future because the technological landscape is set out and it's clear. So that's certainly something that we're thinking about. It changes our strategy. What is the TED Talk of the future? What would you say if you could have 18 minutes to talk to the girl in the village, the boy in the slum? We don't know the answers to those questions, but we sure as hell need to figure them out.

 

This video is part of Big Think's collaboration with Singularity University on Exponential Technology. Chris Anderson, curator of TED Talks, explains how the plummeting price of bandwidth about a decade ago opened opportunities for new innovation to grow. Suddenly it was possible for TED to transmit its talks via the web at virtually no cost. This was just one example of Moore's Law in action. Similar breakthroughs have consistently changed the face of communications with low-cost, high-bandwidth internet opening doors for Facebook and Google, among others.


In late January 2015, Big Think, where the world’s leading thinkers examine the most essential ideas of our age, and Singularity University, a teaching organization and accelerator, came together to find definitive answers to what constitutes exponential leadership — true leadership for the age of exponential disruption. Chris Anderson is featured in the resulting 2015 Exponential Leaders List.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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R.P. Eddy wrote about a coming pandemic in 2017. Why didn't we listen?

In his book with Richard Clarke, "Warnings," Eddy made clear this was inevitable.

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Coronavirus
  • In their 2017 book, "Warnings," R.P. Eddy and Richard Clarke warned about a coming pandemic.
  • "You never get credit for correctly predicting an outbreak," says science journalist Laurie Garrett in the book.
  • In this interview with Big Think, R.P. Eddy explains why people don't listen to warnings—and how to try to get them to listen.
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Creativity: The science behind the madness

Human brains evolved for creativity. We just have to learn how to access it.

Videos
  • An all-star cast of Big Thinkers—actors Rainn Wilson and Ethan Hawke; composer Anthony Brandt; neuroscientists David Eagleman, Wendy Suzuki, and Beau Lotto; and psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman—share how they define creativity and explain how our brains uniquely evolved for the phenomenon.
  • According to Eagleman, during evolution there was an increase in space between our brain's input and output that allows information more time to percolate. We also grew a larger prefrontal cortex which "allows us to simulate what ifs, to separate ourselves from our location in space and time and think about possibilities."
  • Scott Barry Kaufman details 3 brain networks involved in creative thinking, and Wendy Suzuki busts the famous left-brain, right-brain myth.

What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
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New study explores how to navigate 'desire discrepancies' in long term relationships

With the most common form of female sexual dysfunction impacting 1 in 10 women, this important study dives into how to keep a relationship going despite having different needs and wants in the bedroom.

NDAB Creativity / Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • A new study highlights the difficulties faced by women who struggle with decreased sexual desire, and explains how to navigate desire discrepancies in long-term relationships.
  • Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is one of the most common forms of female sexual dysfunction, impacting an estimated 1 in 10 women.
  • Finding other ways to promote intimacy in your relationship is one of the keys to ensuring happiness on both sides.

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