Lectures for a New Year: Fourth Week in Review

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For the month of January I'm bringing you a great lecture every weekday. This week I picked my favorite RSA Animate Talks, along with their associated full lectures. In case you missed one, here's a review of the lectures posted this week.

Our Broken Educational System

First up, an “RSA Animate” talk — a whiteboard drawing done by hand (although edited a bit to speed it up), along with the audio from a lecture by Sir Ken Robinson. The lecture, like all of Robinson’s work, discusses what’s wrong with our educational system, at a deep level — in a very brief talk, he lays out a cogent argument that our educational system is predicated on systems of thought that are hundreds of years out of date, and thus fundamentally flawed. The whole thing is very active — it moves rapidly, is full of jokes, and is just eleven minutes long. But at the same time, there’s a lot to dig into here. If you enjoy this, you’ll also like Robinson’s talk highlighted last week, How Schools Fail Creative Kids, or the hour-long source lecture that this animation was based on (see below).

Read more and watch the lecture.

We are Empathic Monkeys

Economist Jeremy Rifkin discusses emerging research on empathy. It’s a fast-paced, smart talk — and it deals with the core question what is empathy? More than wondering what it is, Rifkin discusses how we observe it arise in each human (anyone who has been around kids has observed this progression), research on animals that demonstrates the neurological basis of empathy, and the philosophical implications of empathy for our world. Why does empathy matter? Ultimately because we’re all gonna die — and we might as well make the world a nice place to share.

Read more and watch the lecture.

The Divided Brain

Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist explains how our notion of the hemispheres of the brain being ultra-separate is a drastic oversimplification, and has had consequences for how we think about our behavior, our culture, and our society. This talk complements Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk (posted in this series two weeks back), in which she discusses the profoundly different minds present in her own hemispheres — and how she experienced the world differently during and after her stroke. McGilchrist comes across in this condensed animation as exceedingly academic — I frankly felt a bit lost at times — which is why, under ‘Bonus Points’ below, I’ve included the somewhat longer original talk, which isn’t condensed, and thus does a better job of making these points without hurrying. My advice: if you watch this animation and find it intriguing but confusing, just switch to the next video. You’ll get a lot out of it.

Read more and watch the lecture.

Is Time on Your Side?

As Zimbardo says, “Most of us are here because we’re future-oriented. We have learned to work, rather than play — to resist temptation. But there’s another way to be future-oriented. Depending on your religion, life begins after the death of the mortal body. To be future-oriented, you have to trust that when you make a decision about the future, it’s gonna carry out.” He proceeds to discuss how in different cultures, people have different paces of life, different time orientations, and how that affects their societies’ function. He also goes into a detailed discussion of how computers and technology change our perception of time, and what that means for things like technology. Basically, Zimbardo makes a powerful argument that our individual (and collective) perception of time affects our health, wellbeing, and work habits. This is great stuff.

Read more and watch the lecture.

What Motivates Us, Aside from Money

Author and former Al Gore speechwriter Dan Pink discusses a series of studies about what motivates people — and more practically, what motivates workers. He takes apart the simplistic notion that monetary rewards result in better performance; such rewards do improve performance for purely mechanical tasks, but when you get into knowledge work, it’s not just about the money. In this talk, Pink lays out a simple set of guidelines that will help any worker or employer understand what actually improves performance — and that could lead to a better workplace for all of us. Have a look! Also, keep an eye open for an onscreen misspelling of “weird.”

Read more and watch the lecture.

Up Next

Sadly, January comes to a close next week. I have an enormous back catalogue of lectures that didn't make it into this month's experiment. I'll show you a few of those favorites, then we can get to talking about what happens next on the lecture front.

Suggest a Lecture

Got a favorite lecture? Is it online in some video format? Leave a comment and we'll check it out!

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January 28, 2012 - 8:14am
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