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This week’s best questions, ideas and debates from TED Conversations

Posted by: Aja Bogdanoff

TED-Conversation-generic-imageTED Conversations is a unique space where any member of this community can get feedback on an idea, ask a question that they just can’t get out of their mind, or start a respectful debate on an issue they hold near and dear to their heart. This week, dozens of new conversations were started — from “What proof is there that electrons are particles?” to “Is a 4 year college always the right way to go?” Here, a sampling of the highlights from this week.

This week, long-time member Arkady Grudzinsky asked:  If this were the last day of your life, how would you spend it?  He writes:

It just occurred to me today that finishing my most urgent project at work wouldn’t be on my to do list. I would love to read some thoughts or stories.

To which Joanne Donovan responded:

I think this question is profoundly interesting because these ARE the last days of your life, you just do not, or cannot determine the exact amount of time you have left.

I have a friend who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is not a young man, in fact it could be said, he has lived most of his natural life anyway. Yet, just the mere fact that he has been given a loose parameter of time wherein his death might fall, has changed the quality of life he lives each day.  He now lives each moment to its fullest in complete joy. He does things everyday he may have been too lazy or disinterested to try before the diagnosis. In fact he lives now as we all should live, as if each breath we take is an eternal gift. The irony is, we often need an outside influence to put us into this perspective of happiness, and are often not able to find it ourselves. Why is that?

With 130 inspiring responses, this conversation is worth a read. View the full exchange » 

Meanwhile, Theodore Hoppe shared a fun reminder:  Let’s celebrate all the people that have participated in TEDx! Theodore writes:

Have you seen the list of TEDx events that people are holding all around the world? There are so many excellent speakers, and talks, that for one reason or another will never be added to this site. Many TEDx events are streamed on the internet live, others get taped and then uploaded to YouTube. I have watched over a dozen live TEDx events and have also watched over 100 TEDx videos. Who else watches these?

When Doug Watson responded that he’d love to be able to attend a TEDx event, but won’t be able to due to active military service, Theodore responded with a helpful link to TEDxAustin, the next TEDx event to host a free live stream on the web.  Thank you, Theodore!

Finally, a thought-provoking debate by Matias Haro is reaching its conclusion this week: What can governments do to end poverty in their countries? Is a solution possible under capitalism?  Matias asked:

Now, what do you think is the solution to stop this vicious circle of poverty? What is your Government doing about it?

Bear in mind that Latin America has just extreme poverty levels (not as much as Africa), but still much more than the First World countries. At least in my country there is a surprisingly high number of slums (check some photos in Wikipedia: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_miseria )

In my opinion, emphasis should be made on giving labour to these people outside-the-system. But for that, we need to offer public AND quality education. Yet I’m conscious that a malnourished child is not going to be able to be properly educated, is he?. So what can we do to ensure that child will have a better future? It’s difficult to come up with a solution, but we’re in the 21st Century now, it’s about time we stopped poverty.

The 229 responses include, from Mike Colera:

In every country there is poverty. Governments cannot cure poverty. If they could, it would have been done long ago. They can cause poverty, they can maintain people in a level of poverty as to provide political support as you have noted.

People are impoverished because they do not know to create wealth or they are prevented by outside forces. Capitalism is the easiest way for an individual to create wealth. He does this by taking his stuff transforming it to something that others want and exchanging it for what he needs. He gains wealth through his efforts. It’s really simple. The problem is that most people in poverty have lost the desire to escape, they live in despair and I know of no answer to that problem.

And, from Mahabalraj Singh Peshi:

I would suggest you read a book titled, Poor Economics by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflos. To get an idea of what is being done in the world to help reduce poverty.

This is a complex question with multiple compounding causes. There is no simple solution here and what works for one country may still fail in another country.

Check out lots more fascinating discussions and debates over at TED Conversations »