TED2013: My Top 3 Wednesday TED Talks


29 Responses to “TED2013: My Top 3 Wednesday TED Talks”

  1. Edward says:

    De-Extinction sounds awsome, would love to be able to got to a zoo or wildlife preserve one day and see an Aurochs, the Tasmanian tigers or a woolly mammoth.

    • Brainspore says:

      I can’t wait for the return of the mammoths either. If our ancestors were willing to take down one of those beasts with nothing more than pointy sticks then they must be DELICIOUS.

    • saurabh says:

      Bringing back an individual is not the same as bringing back a species.  A species is a collection of genetically diverse individuals. Without this record of diversity, we’ll never be able to produce a breeding population; we’ll be able to produce a novelty clone.

      In my limited exposure to him, I find Stuart Brand annoying.

      • Kimmo says:

        Genetic diversity is only half of what’s missing.

        What about the organism’s culture?

        Seriously. I hear being a dingo is more cultural than genetic, and how about those British crows who figured out they could use red lights and car tyres to eat walnuts?

        Pretty sure instinct alone won’t cut it…

        I think if this gets much further this may become apparent.

  2. Marky says:

    Carolina Parakeets please…

  3. GeorgeMokray says:

    No love for Allan Savory?  He has a plausible idea for reversing desertification and removing carbon from the atmosphere.  Stewart (proper spelling) Brand needs to have a conversation with Savory about de-extinction.

  4. Don Lindsay says:

    I call bullshit.

    First, the idea’s been around for years. Ever hear of “Jurassic Park” ?

    Second, the technology isn’t really there yet. Which is why there are no successes these guys can point to. As in, zero.

    Third, even if we bring back one or two species, we won’t find the funds to bring back thousands, particularly since each one poses its own specific problems.

    And fourth, while we’re distracted with this fantasy, THOUSANDS OF SPECIES ARE ABOUT TO GO EXTINCT. Have some damn priorities.

    • Jonathan Roberts says:

      Even if they manage to do this with some species, how will it be possible to get the genetic diversity needed to make a group viable? If it’s just using this process with individuals, I wouldn’t really call it de-extinction.

    • We clearly haven’t learnt the lessons we need to learn from killing off so many other species to be looking at bringing them back – we don’t deserve that gift, not yet.

      Slightly off topic: I was reading through a Reddit thread just this morning that went something like:

      Person 1: You should buy decent eggs because battery farming is atrocious.

      Person 2: Are the eggs any better though? Honestly that’s all I care about.

      That second person had over 50 upvotes at the time. The fact that one person could be so inhuman and callous disturbed me, the fact that at least 50 people agreed with them full-on depressed me – and I’m sure if I knew the real numbers of people who’d agree with that statement I’d probably just go live in a cabin in the woods.

    • Luther Blissett says:


      Want to add_ there is *no* possible technical solution to the loss of biodiversity. For each species (including: populations, metapopulations, individuals, genes…), it took 4.5 billion years to evolve until now.

      You. Can. Not. Turn. Back. This. Clock.
      Nor is it sensible to try. Don’t just “have” priorities. Get your damn priorities straight.

    • Colin Curry says:


      There is also a very real debate in ecological and evolutionary circles about what rates of extinction are acceptable. Extinction is a natural process and while humans appear to have caused more than their fair share of them, this doesn’t mean that extinction is in and of itself a bad thing.

      Bring a species back, fine, but where do you put it? For most extinct species, their disappearance resulted from habitat loss as opposed to being ruthlessly murdered like passenger pigeons. Moreover, the ecosystems from which these species departed have evolved during their absence, and the effect of re-introducing species is unpredictable.

      At best, you could populate a zoo with now extinct specimens as a sort of cautionary tale. It’s interesting that we glorify what is gone and view what is left as boring and take it for granted.

      • “Extinction is a natural process and while humans appear to have caused more than their fair share of them, this doesn’t mean that extinction is in and of itself a bad thing.”

        It also depends on what you mean by ‘a bad thing’. I’m sure most of us are able to accept, that on a planetary level, us becoming extinct would provide some of the greatest ecological benefits of all. We also put more effort into prolonging our existence than we do the planets. It’s kind of messed up when looked at logically, but of course we’re not logical, we’re just another animal doing our thing, reproducing and all that shiznit.

        Not that I’ll be the one to propose the ‘Utopia’ solution :)

        • darrrrrrn says:

          Humans becoming extinct would provide ecological benefits in the short term, in the long term we are the only species in Earth’s long history capable of (eventually) facing space based threats such as asteroids and the death of our sun. Any species we haven’t wiped out by then will therefore benefit from our continued presence.

          • This is of course true! But also hypothetical. There’s nothing to say that there will be a threat for us to thwart, nor that we’ll be able to thwart it.

            But that certainly is the optimistic perspective!

            The death of the sun is of course inevitable, but without reversing entropy (yes, I have read Asimov’s Last Question :) ) we don’t have much chance of solving that riddle. We could of course relocate the other animals when we move to another solar system!

          • darrrrrrn says:

            I think we’d be certain to bring other species with us when we colonise other planets in this solar system or others. Many plant species are almost certainly guaranteed a ride, and depending on how easy space travel eventually becomes, we might end up transporting vast numbers of animal species to various other worlds.

            What I find fascinating about this is the evolutionary history of species that become useful or at least interesting enough for a technologically superior species to guarantee its long-term, (as in geologically-long-term) survival and bring it to other planets. Something that it has no intellectual comprehension of. It just found a really weird survival niche and kept surviving inside it.

          • True, interesting thought experiment!

            What I think we’d struggle with the most is knowing exactly what we needed to take with us.

            Nature has a very specific balance, and we could find that forgetting one seemingly insignificant creature, or even not bringing enough of something, or too much of something! We doom the entire future of the human race.

            But ye, I’m not going anywhere without my dog.

  5. Ryan Cooper says:

    Also, California Condor isn’t extinct. Not yet anyway. So the breeding program makes more sense for the time being.

    Anyway, call me when they make a real dinosaur.

  6. One day I’ll win the lottery and be able to afford to go to Ted.

  7. Doesn’t it suck enough to become extinct by humans, but to be brought back to be put in a zoo? or are they going to bring back habitats too?

  8. Archer Sully says:

    What gets lost in the discussion of extinction is that the extinct species are not themselves the problem, but only a symptom. The real problem is habitat loss due to development and pollution. Until you solve the underlying problem, bringing back the former inhabitants of a decimated ecosystem is simply vanity and hubris at best, and a dangerous distraction at worst. 

  9. chrisspurgeon says:

    I believe Mr. Brand’s first name is Stewart, not Stuart.

Leave a Reply