Thoughts on TEDx

I gave a TED talk!  OK, not exactly — I gave a TEDx talk, which is the locally organized, non-branded version, but same idea.  18 minutes or less, somewhat sloganistic, a flavor of self-improvement and inspiration.

I was skeptical of the format.  18 minutes!  How can you do anything?  You can really just say one thing.  No opportunity to digress.  Since digression is my usual organizational strategy, this was a challenge.

And there’s a format.  The organizers explained it to me.  Not to be hewed to exactly but taken very seriously.  A personal vignette, to show you’re a human.  A one-sentence takeaway.  General positivity.  A visual prop is good.  The organizers were lovely and gave me lots of good advice when I practiced the talk for them.  I was very motivated to deliver it the way they wanted it.

And in the end, I found the restrictiveness of the format to be really useful.  It’s like a sonnet.  Sonnets are, in certain ways, all the same, by force; and yet there’s a wild diversity of sonnets.  So too for TED talks.  No two of the talks at TEDxMadison were really the same.  And none of them was really like Steve’s TED talk (though I did read a poem like Steve) or Amanda Palmer’s TED talk or (thank goodness) like the moleeds TED talk.

No room in the talk to play the Housemartins song “Sitting on a Fence,” which plays a key role in the longer version of the argument in How Not To Be Wrong.  So here it is now.

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts on TEDx

  1. Park says:

    I wonder if you can explain further the difference between your first example of estimating Tuberculosis in 2050 and later example of predicting the presidential elections.

    In the example, I think you make it clear that we should say we don’t know about Tuberculosis in 2050 and can say something probabilistically about elections. However, I think the two share similarities in terms of methodology. A lot of other estimates that we encounter in life are somewhere between the two examples, using the same types of math. When should we say that some estimation is more like your Tuberculosis example, despite the math, and when should we say that some estimation is like predicting elections and should be embraced?

  2. JSE says:

    I think they are indeed similar. The difference is that the data is a lot better for a Presidential election that’s two months away than it is for tuberculosis incidence 50 years from now. If you ask me “Who’s going to be elected President of the US in 2024?” I think it would be hard to say anything meaningful about it.

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