Global Issues TED Talks

11 talks that freaked us out in 2012

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Vicki Arroyo’s hometown is New Orleans, and after Hurricane Katrina struck, she knew firsthand the looming threat of climate change. In this eye-opening talk from TEDGlobal 2012, “Let’s prepare for our new climate,” Arroyo reveals the startling truths about droughts, rising water levels and natural disasters — that they may only get worse.

In 2012, we have seen the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the ravaging floods and monsoons of the Philippines, as well as the Sahel Drought that spanned across eight African nations and affected 18 million people. But we may find, in the coming years, that these disasters become more common than ever before – and Arroyo tells us just how we can prepare.

While many TED Talks are hopeful for the future, some take hard looks at sobering realities. And so the TED staff was asked: What talk from 2012 made you feel just a little gulp about the future?

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“Marc Goodman’s vision on crimes for the future. I mean, 3D printed guns? Scary!” Jennifer Gilhooley, Partnership Development

“I’ve been so excited this year thinking about the potential for personalized medicine. But Marc Goodman popped that bubble, pointing out that if medicine can be targeted to an individual, so could a biological attack. Still, his talk is so important. Just because new technology can be used for evil doesn’t mean we should change course. We just have to think about how to weight it toward use for good.” —Kate Torgovnick, Writer

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“Frank Warren’s ‘Half a million secrets.’ It’s a gorgeous talk, one of my all-time favorites.  But there’s something about the intensity of the secrets people share on his website that freaked me out. One was ‘everyone who knew me before 9/11 thinks I’m dead.’” Ben Lillie, Writer/Editor

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“Generally speaking, I exhibit a positively optimistic demeanor. However, I think it’s important to be reminded that the world is not always an ideal place. Lisa Kristine’s ‘Photos that bear witness to modern slavery’ alerted me to some injustices that exist, and apart from freaking me out, it made me thankful for where I am and what I have. It also challenged me to give myself to causes that are making a good change.” —Jordan Reeves, TED-Ed Program Facilitator

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“If I had any remaining hopes that anything I said or did was private, they were gone by the end of this talk by Malte Spitz. I feel grateful that Verizon doesn’t (yet) seem to be selling my secrets to the highest bidder, but I’m hoping we can agree on some new laws and social practices that address our surveillance vulnerability in meaningful ways.” —Morton Bast, editorial assistant

“Malte Spitz completely scared me. He talked about the data that our mobile phone company keeps, and how very much it conveys about our lives and habits. I worry about the end of privacy, and specifically about how that might compromise activists around the world.” —Shanna Carpenter, Community Engagement Manager

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Sherry Turkle’s talk, about how technology is changing the way we relate to other people. She quotes one young boy who says: ‘Someday, I want to learn how to have conversations.’ The idea that people could one day forget to have a normal conversation? That’s disconcerting.” —Becky Chung, Customer Support Specialist

“In a talk given earlier this year, meteorologist Jeff Masters presented the nine most devastating natural disasters likely to happen in the United States in the next 30 years. I didn’t discover this talk until right after Hurricane Sandy — which is number six on his list. Number four is happening too, right this second.” David Webber, TEDxTalks Manager

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Jason McCue’s ‘Terrorism is a failed brand.’ Because he tried to (fake) blow us up.” Emily McManus, Editor

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“Todd Humphreys’ talk, ‘How to fool a GPS.’ At the end, he didn’t have much in the way of solutions. He basically said, the police can’t stop it and neither can you or I.” Thu-Huong Ha, Editorial Projects Specialist

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“David Pizarro’s ‘The strange politics of disgust’ freaked me out for an unusual reason: We had his name as ‘Dave’ in the titles until basically the last minute.” Gwen Schroeder, Media Production Coordinator

Carl Zimmer’s talk from TEDYouth about zombie cockroaches completely fascinated and horrified me. It’s not out yet, but I am actually shivering right now just thinking about it!” Susan Zimmerman, Executive Assistant to the Curator

Carl Zimmer's zombie cockroach. Photo: Ryan Lash

Carl Zimmer’s zombie cockroach. Photo: Ryan Lash