Do you think parents should be able to select their children’s talents and personalities, or do you want to run and hide in the woods at the thought of it? Whatever your opinion, philosopher Julian Savulescu wants you to take the question seriously.

Julian is the director of The Oxford Centre for Neuroethics at Oxford University and his TEDxBarcelona talk — "Pills that improve morality" — proposes the fascinating idea that humans may have a moral imperative to use advancements in biology and psychology to augment and improve human morality.

Read more in the TED Blog’s interview with Julian»

Happy birthday, Camus! Or, life is meaningless and birthdays don’t even matter.

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Today would have been Albert Camus’s 100th birthday, and we want to celebrate, but we’re in a bit of a quandary — there’s something profoundly ironic about celebrating the birthday of one of the world’s most famous existentialists.

You see, Camus didn’t think there was much to celebrate. He spent his life torturing himself with one central question: Once we know that life lacks meaning, is it better to live or to die? (He was a super cheery guy.) Like others in the Existentialist tradition, Camus called out the absurdity of our lives—the activities we perform, the relationships we forge, the beliefs we hold. None of these things have any real meaning, says Camus. And if they lack meaning, can they have any value?

We don’t have a talk by Camus (stay tuned for TEDxBeyondtheGrave), but we do have this fabulous, vaguely related talk by Stephen Cave at TEDxBratislava. In his talk, Stephen asks us to think about what death means to us—and to consider how our feelings about death affect the way we live. From his talk:

“The characters of a book are not afraid of reaching the last page. Long John Silver is not afraid of you finishing your copy of Treasure Island. And so it should be with us. Imagine the book of your life. Its covers—its beginning and end—are your birth and your death. You can only know the moments in between, the moments which make up your life. It makes no sense for you to fear what is outside those covers, whether before your birth or after your death. And you needn’t worry how long the book is, or whether it’s a comic strip, or an epic. The only thing that matters is that you make it a good story.”

So, here’s to Camus, and the many good stories he made:

Our favorite tweets from Jeopardy Champion & TEDx speaker Ken Jennings

Where does our staff go for a laugh? Ken Jennings’ Twitter feed. We don’t always jive with everything he says, but we have to admit he cracks us up pretty much daily. Especially the staff blogger (Ahem, me. Hi.) who used to DVR Jeopardy every single weekday. Trivia is serious, my friends.

So, for $600, we’ll take Ken Jennings’ funniest tweets. Thanks, Alex.

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And if you’re looking for another way to nerd-out, check out Ken’s TEDxSeattleU talk, “Watson, Jeopardy and me, the obsolete know-it-all,” in which he laments his loss to Watson and tries to convince us to learn some facts we can conjure up without our iPhones.

TEDx Editors’ Picks: 10 great talks to fill the void left by Breaking Bad

imageHave you ever wondered who the people behind this blog are? Well, besides being extremely attractive, snazzy dressers, and, collectively, the viewers of over 10,000 TEDx Talks, we are very generous. So generous, even, that we’d like to share some of our favorite talks with you. So, without further ado, 10 of our personal favorites:

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HAILEY’S PICKS
Hailey writes stuff for the Internet. She prefers sweet potatoes.

Our shared condition - consciousness: John Searle @ TEDxCERN

John Searle is a BAMF. Can I say that? Well, I did. I love John Searle. He is the incredibly smart, sorta cantankerous grandfather I always wished I had — you know, the one who debates semantics at the dinner table? That one. At TEDxCERN, he argued that consciousness is as biological as photosynthesis, and challenged age-old ways of explaining it. I’m still not completely sure of my take on this talk, but that’s why I like it: It jump-starts further thought.

The right to understand: Sandra Fisher-Martins @ TEDxO’Porto

How many times have you read a legal document and thought, “Sorry, what?” In this talk, the witty and sharp Sandra Fisher-Martins makes the case for crafting readable documents, because it’s every person’s right to access vital information, but a privilege to have learned terms like “tempestive payment.” Her use of the heart-achingly accurate term “information apartheid” choked me up, made me angry, and reminded me why I so love Strunk & White.

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NADIA’S PICKS

Nadia edits stuff on the Internet. She’s a fan of the oxford comma.

The power of vulnerability: Brene Brown @ TEDxHouston

I’m a sucker for great psych talks. Brene Brown’s is one of my all-time favorites — it’s funny, poignant, and smart. I have a touch of her totally neurotic need to organize and explain things, so I love this reminder to embrace the messy and unknown.

Confessions of a depressed comic: Kevin Breel @ TEDxAmbleside

This next talk — inspirational psych talk #2! — is one of my favorites because Kevin so beautifully articulates his own struggle and the problems with our attitude toward mental health. It’s thought-provoking and heartbreaking and generally really wonderful.

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DAVID’S PICKS
David is the grandmaster of TEDx Talk screening. He is the owner of a sweater.

The three sides of corruption: Afra Raymond @ TEDxPortofSpain

My favorite talks are the ones that make me forget what I’m supposed to be doing (that is, assessing the talk) before making me go “heh.” Afra Raymond had that effect on me. He cares so much about what he’s talking about and understands it so deeply, but his anger feels so fresh and obliquely spun. He lives and works half a world away from me, but there’s nothing alien about the corruption he’s talking about.

Let the governed build the government: Étienne Chouard @ TEDxRepubliqueSquare

Étienne Chouard is another of my favorites. I love how shoddy the video quality is. Everything about this makes you feel like you’re in some comfortably anarchic 19th-century coffeehouse deliberating over utopian visions for a better world — at a time before utopian visions went so out of vogue. I can’t say I’m 100% behind the specific ideas in the talk, but he, at the very least, forces us to rethink once hallowed views of representation.

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HAMISH’S PICKS
Hamish is a tireless talk screener. He is easily overheated.

Your brain is more than a bag of chemicals: David Anderson @ TEDxCaltech

Caltech scientists in a lab feeding cocaine to fruit flies. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when that was happening, or when they were asking the DEA to let them handle narcotics. I love this talk because it gives a lucid explanation of a complex branch of neuroscience, and the research is leading to much more precise medical treatments for human psychiatric disorders.

•Emergency shelters made from paper: Shigeru Ban @ TEDxTokyo

Shigeru Ban designs houses built out of cardboard tubes. They’re intended as temporary disaster relief shelters, but the aesthetic beauty and functionality of his designs make them well-loved by people as far apart as New Zealand and Haiti. His quirkiness is both amusing and refreshing.

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ASIA’S PICKS

Asia screens TEDx Talks in foreign languages. She speaks many of them.

•More heroes: Brandon Spars @ TEDxSonomaCounty

This is one of the funniest talks I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot). It has everything: drama, suspense, travel, adventure, and a wicked twist at the end. Perhaps not a talk for the faint of heart, but well worth the effort. (WARNING: SATIRE AHEAD. TAKE ALL WORDS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. ALSO, WE BELIEVE IN EATING BABIES.)

The dance of the dung beetle: Marcus Byrne @ TEDxWitsUniversity

This is one of the first TEDx talks I ever watched, and it set the bar really high. At TEDxWitsUniversity, Professor Marcus Byrne weaves humor, scientific research, and genuine excitement into a talk about dung beetles — dung beetles!! I learned something, and I imagine you will too.