Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers | Steven Pinker
Was 2017 really the "worst year ever," as some would have us believe? In his analysis of recent data on homicide, war, poverty, pollution and more, psychologist Steven Pinker finds that we're doing better now in every one of them when compared with 30 years ago. But progress isn't inevitable, and it doesn't mean everything gets better for everyone all the time, Pinker says. Instead, progress is problem-solving, and we should look at things like climate change and nuclear war as problems to be solved, not apocalypses in waiting. "We will never have a perfect world, and it would be dangerous to seek one," he says. "But there's no limit to the betterments we can attain if we continue to apply knowledge to enhance human flourishing."
How a long-forgotten virus could help us solve the antibiotics crisis | Alexander Belcredi
Viruses have a bad reputation -- but some of them could one day save your life, says biotech entrepreneur Alexander Belcredi. In this fascinating talk, he introduces us to phages, naturally-occurring viruses that hunt and kill harmful bacteria with deadly precision, and shows how these once-forgotten organisms could provide new hope against the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
A librarian's case against overdue book fines | Dawn Wacek
Libraries have the power to create a better world; they connect communities, promote literacy and spark lifelong learners. But there's one thing that keeps people away: the fear of overdue book fines. In this thought-provoking talk, librarian Dawn Wacek makes the case that fines don't actually do what we think they do. What if your library just ... stopped asking for them altogether?
Is civility a sham? | Teresa Bejan
What exactly is civility, and what does it require? In a talk packed with historical insights, political theorist Teresa Bejan explains how civility has been used as both the foundation of tolerant societies and as a way for political partisans to silence and dismiss opposing views. Bejan suggests that we should instead try for "mere civility": the virtue of being able to disagree fundamentally with others without destroying the possibility of a common life tomorrow. (This talk contains mature language.)
My journey to thank all the people responsible for my morning coffee | AJ Jacobs
Author AJ Jacobs embarked on a quest with a deceptively simple idea at its heart: to personally thank every person who helped make his morning cup of coffee. More than one thousand "thank yous" later, Jacobs reflects on the globe-trotting journey that ensued -- and shares the life-altering wisdom he picked up along the way. "I discovered that my coffee would not be possible without hundreds of people I take for granted," Jacobs says.