Worthy Words

I've gathered here the very finest talks that I've yet seen on the internet. The most entertaining, the most informative, the most erudite. So let's get started.

Feynman Explains: In this 12 part series Feynman explains a great number of concepts in his usual elucidating manner. I don't think there's every been anyone quite so good at making complex and often counterintuitive concepts readily graspable as Feynman.

Christopher Hitchens on Jefferson: Of all the talks that Hitchens has given available on youtube this is my favorite. The subject is, as the title suggests, Jefferson. But, the talk ranges through the entire history of the United States and the Q&A afterwards is even more educating, though tragically truncated.

John Cleese on Creativity: A wonderful tour of research done on how to nurture creativity and find interesting solutions to problems. Supported entertainingly with anecdotes from Cleese's work in comedy.

Clive James and Stephen Fry: Whenever two such fantastically intelligent and informed people come together for a discussion it never fails to be interesting. Highlights include contrasting the culture of Britain, America, and Australia, particularly where attitudes toward education are concerned, and the nature of depression.

Conan O'Brien and Jack White: Again, two fascinating people having a conversation. Here the discussion tends to revolve around the incredible amount of work it takes to be successfully creative.

Grant Morrison at DisinformationCon: The most 'out there' talk of the bunch, but at the very least Morrison never fails to entertain. Here the primary subject is sigil magic and while he goes farther down the path of esotericism than my credulity extends his general point is a fascinating one. Because when he says sigil magic what he's truly talking about is the incredible power symbols have over peoples psyche. The definition of magic is the ability to shape the outside world through supernatural means. Now, I don't believe in the supernatural, but, in many ways shaping the minds of others, particularly without their realizing it, IS shaping the outside world and that can be done through the incredibly influential force of symbols and language. Where Morrison loses me is his belief that you can shape peoples minds without them even seeing those words and symbols, which of course would be actual magic, but his larger points about the influence of symbols and the disturbing fact that almost all symbols in the world today are corporate is worth mulling over. This talk was given in 2000 and unfortunately much of his unbridled optimism for the future was proven flawed in September of the next year, but much of what he says remains remarkably relevant. Note, the first few seconds are a bit loud.

Bret Victor on the Future of Programming: I find this talk fascinating, but, it is very technical. Probably too technical for anyone without a background in programming to watch in it's entirety. The conceit of this video is that Bret is giving the talk as if it's still the 1970s. He does this to talk about some trends in programming that looked incredibly promising at the time but we know to have fallen by the wayside. But, they didn't have to die. For the most part people just abandoned them because it was easier to keep doing what they already knew. However, these tragically short lived ideas were in so many ways better then what grew to become the standard and the norm. And Bret paints a wonderful picture of how fundamentally different the world could be if those trends had been explored for the past 30 years instead of being almost entirely forgotten. It makes a potent antidote to the common belief that the history of technology is a smooth and inevitable path of progress. There have been innumerable avenues of research discarded over the years that could have taken the world to very different places.

Noam Chomsky on Totalitarian Culture in a Free Society: Far and away the longest video of the bunch. I know I ended up watching it in segments. But, it is worth watching to the end. Chomsky seems to understand better than anyone the subtle and intricate ways that power is accumulated and used inside of a democratic society and in this talk he tears apart many illusions that have been created about the structure of that society.