If you’re looking for mind-blowing earfuls of innovation and philosophy, the first place to go would be the TED website, where you can look through archived speeches from past TED conferences on the left brain-right brain relationship, how to grow tiny forests, and the hard problem of consciousness. Below, David Chalmers takes interested listeners into the arena of minded philosophers by laying out the boundaries of what he means by ‘consciousness,’ the history behind our current beliefs surrounding how consciousness exists, and ends with a few crazy ideas that hope to start explaining the whats, hows, and whys of consciousness. Take a look, because he can explain minded philosophy way better than I can:
I can imagine being in that audience, listening to a stranger describe to me “reductionist brain-based theories of consciousness” and hear empty dial tones in my head. Some of his crazy ideas are hard to swallow if you’re new to the topic of study. If Chalmers wasn’t standing on a stage with professional lighting and sound equipment, in an amphitheater full of people, in a video hosted on a site I know to be legitimate, I would write him off as a crazy. If he still had his long hair…
…then I’d definitely write him off as a philosophical radical. I But I can’t stick my head in the sand if it’s a TED talk—people take these seriously. They have a reputation, and so I take the time to focus and stay with his slow pace. At least he doesn’t speak the way most philosophers write—he drops a little jargon in between easily understood analogies and generously holds our hands through the metaphysical journey. I would imagine that people in the audience, as well as those watching the video, aren’t always as well-versed in mindedness as his peer discourse community and so they too appreciate his calm way of speaking, collected body language, and inclusive gestures.
Unlike audiences sitting in the conference, those who watch TED videos have even more opportunities to really understand the speakers. We can watch with captions, read the transcription, and even pause to look up the more unfamiliar terms. Just like Youtube, ted.com allows you to rate, favorite, share, embed, e-mail, and download the video; I found it interesting that ted.com has all the interactive elements of Youtube and more (I was surprised they allowed for downloads and embed codes!) without the clutter of user generated content. People visiting the TED site know what they’re looking for: something interesting, something smart, something new, something mind-blowing. When they visit the website, the content they desire is that much more accessible if only because there’s less user-generated trash cluttering the archives. Furthermore, when users download and share the talks, that only generates more advertising for TED conferences, since each video has the TED logo and speakers are standing on TED stages (duh!).
Those interested in learning about minded philosophy might very well start their journey with this speech before going deeper. Chalmers gives a launching point for further discussion—users can comment below the video or join TED discussion forums to learn more. Or they can read the speech recap of Chalmers’ performance on the TED Blog, which gives links to related videos. Since TED talks are much like performance speeches, heavy topics are more easily digested than informational books. And although Chalmers would have benefited from more dynamic pacing and slightly more performative charisma, the speech itself was nicely laid out.
The world of philosophy might be full of ‘crazy ideas,’ but as long as TED speakers are tackling them, we’ll accept crazy as having potential.