The Best of TED 2017

After 16 years of attending TED, I still leave the week wide-eyed and inspired. Last week was no exception. In fact, the majority of people I spoke to thought this was one of the better TEDs ever.

Of course, like every year, Chris Anderson and the TED crew try out some changes. This year, they set aside a few sessions that went deep on specific topics ranging from mental math to sustainability. Each TEDster could pick the topic to attend. I heard lots of happy campers on these. This was the second year where they held a series of topic-specific dinners as well (Jeffersonian style dinners). I love these. This year, I spent an amazing evening talking about clean energy. With all these positive changes, I was disappointed that TED University was no longer on the agenda. TEDU has been a part of TED as long as I can remember. This unique session is filled with actual attendees presenting their own talks. These tend to be less produced, more authentic and more quirky than the main stage TED. TEDU has always been my very favorite part of the week so I’m hoping to see these again in future years.

Here is a very brief list of this year’s highlights (in no particular order except for the last one, Elon Musk)…

OK GO on Creativity


You’ve probably seen many of these amazing music videos: Here it Goes Again, The One Moment and This Too Shall Pass, . The OK GO band came on stage, played some awesome live songs and explained how they achieve such amazing creativity. Hint: they “discover it.”

Anne Lamott on “12 Things I Know For Sure”

I admit it. I’d never heard of Anne Lamott before. She is called the Patron Saint of Struggling Writers. She was as warm and inspiring as she was direct and hilarious. Her talk covered 12 truths she’s figured out including number two:

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes.

A techie truth that fully applies to life.

Tim Ferriss on Stoicism


Part self-help-guru, part personal guinea pig, and full-on inspiring guy, Tim Ferriss talked about how to handle fear, make tough decisions and live a full life. My favorite quote of the week came from Tim’s talk:

Easy decisions, hard life. Hard decisions, easy life.

The VOID 2.0

Back for the second year, TED brought the VOID virtual reality experience to the halls of the Vancouver Conference center. Last year, it was an engaging Indiana-Jones-like walk through. This year, it was a proton beam blasting Ghost Busters experience including fending off an attack by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Mark Raibert, CEO of Boston Dynamics Robots

Robots are cool. Every year, I complain that there aren’t enough robots at TED. Everyone loves seeing robots, right? It’s not just me, is it? Either way, at TED 2017, robots rocked the red circle. Boston Dynamics was acquired by Google in 2013 and they are now rumored to be trying to sell them off. Regardless, the Boston Dynamics CEO demo’d their latest and greatest, the SpotMini. It was as creepy and eerie as it was wicked cool. Until TED posts the talk, you can check out these videos from YouTube.

Other Amazing Talks

These are just a few of the many incredible talks at TED 2017. A few others that were equally awesome that you should check out when they come online:

  • Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks – a deeply moving talk on moving from a world of “me” to “us”.
  • Noah Feldman – the US political systems may seem divisive and broken but it’s been like this before and we can survive it again.
  • The Pope – yes, the Pope actually phoned in his own TED talk. Pretty inspiring.
  • Garry Kasparov – the world’s greatest human chess player talks about AI.
  • Richard Browning – answers the age old question, how do you strap jet packs to your arms and legs and fly like Ironman?
  • Annika Paulson – a college-age woman talks about finding herself through music. See if you can get through this one without getting choked up. Amazing.

I also captured a few cool quotes:

  • “On spacecraft Earth, their are no passengers, just crew members” – Marshall McLuhan (as quoted by TED speaker David Titley)
  • The only people that refer to their customers as users are technologists and drug dealers” – Manoush Zomorodi

ELON MUSK – Best Ever

Elon Musk talks about digging tunnels to solve traffic problems, about building the largest rocket ever built, about solar shingles, about semi-trucks, about… (there’s too much here – just watch the video).

Hands down, this was my favorite talk from TED 2017. It’s already live.

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