Learning Points from Matilda Ho’s TED Talk on “The Future of Good Food in China”

Good food in China? I thought that’s everywhere with the bevy of fine chinese dining restaurants splattered all around China. Turns out there is a larger issue at hand with the overuse of pesticides and chemicals. Matilda Ho, an entrepreneur, shares what she is doing about it.

She drew from the principle of patience, learnt from years of training in magic, to be applied to agriculture and food in general. Overuse of pesticides and chemicals is a direct result of farmers wanting to see results fast to outdo other farmers around them. By starting her own online market to bring organic and sustainable food to others, and insisting on no pesticides, chemicals, hormones and antibiotics, she hopes to provide for others in a responsible manner. Her ending statement where she said “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.” struck something in me. If people can be less selfish thinking about themselves, and think for their children and grandchildren, perhaps we won’t be at the state we are currently in.


Learning Points from Diane Kelly’s TED Talk on “What We Didn’t Know About Penis Anatomy”

What’s there to learn about penis anatomy? Well, how it becomes erect for example. Diane Kelly, a biologist, studies this and shares her findings.

It turns out that the wall tissues of the penis are arranged at 0° and 90° to the longitudinal axis, which gives it strength against compression, tension and bending, as opposed to cross helical structures arranged at 45° to the longitudinal axis which lengthens, shortens and bends easily to external forces. With this knowledge, perhaps there might be applications in other fields that require a certain rigidity in their structures, or perhaps structures which can vary their arrangements based on need, such as collapsible structures which need strength when under load, but otherwise collapsible under storage. I think there are wide ranging applications for such a discovery.

Learning Points from Bill Gross’s TED Talk on “The Single Biggest Reason Why Startups Succeed”

Before watching this TED talk, my guess was funding inadequacy. Perhaps my guess would have been right if the talk was titled “Why startups fail”. But the biggest reason surprised me just as Bill Gross, the creator of Idealabs, which helps create new businesses.

In order of importance, the reasons are:

1. Timing

2. Team/execution

3. Idea

4. Business model

5. Funding

Timing mattered the most as it dictated whether your market is ready for what you are pushing for. Take for example airbnb, which sprang up at the height of the recession. Homeowners needed money to the extent that renting out rooms on short term basis to strangers became an option, and an attractive one at that contrary to what most investors who passed on the idea felt. I think the key is to monitor megatrends in the world and capitalise on them, possibly improving on the early movers’ business models along the way, such as how Facebook built on the failures of MySpace and Friendster, in a bid to connect people using technology. 

Learning Points from Dan Bell’s TEDx Talk on “Inside America’s Dead Shopping Malls”

Dan Bell, a filmmaker, brings us through some of America’s dead shopping malls in this quirky TED talk.

I would imagine the videos produced would be somewhat like trips down memory lane for many people who used to frequent these malls. For a filmmaker like Dan Bell, it gave him the inspiration to create this new series on dead shopping malls, and I find it uplifting that inspiration can come from the weirdest places possible. I mean, of all places, an abandoned shopping mall to provide you with the inspirational spark? Who would believe that? You can see one of his works here.

It must have been depressing and sobering to be walking through one of these malls. Worse still if you happen to be the owner of one.

Learning Points from Colin Stokes’s TED Talk on “How Movies Teach Manhood”

What do movies teach us about manhood? Is it all about being a hero and saving the world? Rescuing the damsel in distress? Colin Stokes talks about these and the Bechdel test to check for the content of these movies.

The Bechdel test asks the following questions of the movie you are watching:

1. Is there more than one female character in the movie who has lines?

2. Do these women talk to each other at any point during the movie?

3. Is their conversation about something other than about the guy they both like?

Too many movies fail this test, and to use these to reflect the state of the world now is a misrepresentation of what the world should actually be. Men are no longer the only heroes, and women are not merely rewards the men collect after they finish their quest. A real man should be someone who trusts his sisters and respects them, and who stands up against the bad guys, who are the men that abuse women. Look out for more movies that pass the Bechdel test, and use them as teaching material on how manhood should actually be like.

Learning Points from Jack Andraka’s TED Talk on “A Promising Test for Pancreatic Cancer…from A Teenager”

A valiant effort from your run-of-the-mill teenager, Jack Andraka, who was spurred on to find better, cheaper and faster means of detecting pancreatic cancer following the death of an uncle-like figure.

Using antibodies which react with mesothelin infused onto a carbon nanotube, it is hypothesized that the reaction with the antibodies will change the conductivity of the nanotube, hence allowing detection of not just pancreatic cancer, but also ovarian and lung cancer. Despite there being hiccups in the journey to get it fully tested and implemented, take nothing away from the passion and determination shown by this young man to do something to change the world. Kudos to him!

Learning Points from Sal Khan’s TED Talk on “Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education”

Could this be the way forward for education? The education concept sounds similar to one of those proposed by Ricardo Semler which I reviewed earlier this year.

This free online classroom is already a reality, so in essence anyone with assess to an internet connection can really educate themselves (reasonably well I assume) to do well in life. I applaud the efforts of people like Sal Khan who do this for free, removing the financial barrier for education. The altruistic nature of some of these wonderful people who serve the world in this manner touches me. Humans are not that bad after all, it seems.