How cities can serve as a model for social media platforms to build better community spaces

Eli Pariser is the author of The Filter Bubble, a book which lent its name to a recent Congressional bill about social media transparency. He’s also one of the co-founders of Upworthy (and, full disclosure, my former boss).

In other words, Pariser has spent most of his professional life obsessing over how to harness the power of the internet for good, particularly when it comes to positive community building. In a new TED Talk (below), he takes an almost anthropological approach to solving the many, many issues faced by major social media companies right now. It’s a useful and insightful perspective, particularly for a time when Facebook is cowering under the pressure of conservative conspiracy theorists, while Twitter took the approach and ended up empowering oil companies by throttling climate activists.

I think there’s something to be said about building online communities in the same way we build urban ones. As much as people might long for the peace and quiet of a nice home in the suburbs, it also changes your relationship to the people around you. Look at cars, for example—they’re a necessity in most places, and undeniably convenient, but they also isolate us in our commuter bubbles. By contrast, public transportation forces you to interact with other kinds of people who you might otherwise not cross paths with. That can help create empathic bonds (even if that bond is built upon complaints about public transportation). This is not to say that one is necessarily better than the other; in his speech, Pariser also cites the community meetings he attended growing up in a small town in Maine as one model for building mutual respect, even when people are being obnoxious. Read the rest

Simone Giertz on why we all should be making useless things

Donning a rad vest made with googly eyes, Shitty Robots' inventor extraordinaire Simone Giertz (who recently announced she has a brain tumor) makes a solid case for creating "useless" things in a TED Talk (!) she gave in April.

In this joyful, heartfelt talk featuring demos of her wonderfully wacky creations, Simone Giertz shares her craft: making useless robots. Her inventions -- designed to chop vegetables, cut hair, apply lipstick and more -- rarely (if ever) succeed, and that's the point. "The true beauty of making useless things [is] this acknowledgment that you don't always know what the best answer is," Giertz says. "It turns off that voice in your head that tells you that you know exactly how the world works. Maybe a toothbrush helmet isn't the answer, but at least you're asking the question."

Bonus: In her behind-the-TED-Talk-scenes video, she shares how she made that googly eyes vest (because you do need to know):

Read the rest

Fashion insider offers creative ways to tackle the industry's big pollution problem

These stats are just staggering.

According to Amit Kalra, the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, right behind oil and gas.

He says that in the United States alone, 85% of unsold apparel, a whopping 13 million tons a year, ends up in landfills instead of being donated or recycled.

In his November 2017 TED@Tommy Talk, he offered three creative ways to deal with this issue. Kalra suggests methods for making garments more recyclable and even compostable, and for using spices and herbs to dye fabric instead of the harmful chemical colors that are currently being used.

"There's no fix-all, and there's no one-step solution. But we can get started by designing clothes with their death in mind. The fashion industry is the perfect industry to experiment with and embrace change that can one day get us to the sustainable future we so desperately need."

Read the rest

Neuroscientist explains how your brain hallucinates your conscious reality

In this recently released TED Talk, neuroscientist Anil Seth explains the intricacies of human consciousness and how we all are constantly hallucinating:

Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience -- and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it. How does this happen? According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we're all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it "reality." Join Seth for a delightfully disorienting talk that may leave you questioning the very nature of your existence.

Read the rest

Will Stephen gives a TED Talk about absolutely nothing

Will Stephen is an SNL writer who manages to pull off a five-and-a-half minute TED talk that isn't about anything except the talk itself. Through gestures and emotions, he makes it interesting.

Read the rest