Two TED videos to watch: living with crows and what truly motivates people

Friday, November 13, 2009

I stumbled across two videos on TED last night that are definitely worth watching if you haven't already, and not only because the videos themselves are worth watching but because TED videos are the best ones out there in terms of access to subtitles in various languages. In addition to this it's also fun to watch the linguistic stats here, where you can follow the progress made by various languages as their speakers translate talks and upload them to the site. The first thing that jumps out is that the less populous Germanic languages just don't have much content - Norwegian has only three, Danish ten. Considering the high English ability of the average person it's a bit more of a vanity exercise (especially considering how easy it is to understand a TED speaker) compared to another language like Spanish or French where there is a true need for translations.

Taking a look at the list of languages then, the ones you would expect to be on the very top are at the top: Spanish is first with 342 translations, Portuguese (Brazil + Portugal added together) has 262. But check out who's in third:

Yep, it's Bulgarian with a total of 231. It also has the largest number of recent translations added (that's why it's in a darker orange) with 78 recent translations, far more than any other language. Some people are working very hard at adding Bulgarian translations at the moment, and in addition to that there are an extra 12 in Macedonian, which is mutually intelligible with Bulgarian (some say they're the same language but let's not get into that discussion at the moment).

The first video is with Joshua Klein about the intelligence of crows and the conclusion is something I particularly agree with. Crows and octopuses (especially the Indonesian mimic octopus) are two highly intelligent animals I really like that I wish had more respect from humans.

The second one is about motivation. This is a video that many bosses need to watch because of the effect the simplistic carrot and stick system of management has on employees. The concept he talks about in the video also applies to schools, and the high school I attended (Alternative High School in Calgary) resembles one of the companies he (Dan Pink) details in the talk. Note the very important fact that he's not making an emotional or philosophical appeal in the video - he deals with hard facts and hard facts alone. This isn't a la la la hey guys let's love and respect each other because it's the right thing to do kind of video.

Ah, and the other group that came to mind upon watching the video: the United Federation of Planets. Watching the video one can kind of see how the Ferengi in Star Trek never really manage to succeed where others are always leaps and bounds ahead of them. They're using the wrong philosophy.

Edit: I should note here though that the role of money with the Federation is always a matter of debate - considering that they still had to interact with other species that made use of money there's no reason to suppose the Federation ever "got past" using some sort of currency - at most they probably just minimized its role and the lack of need + ability for professional advancement made it less and less important for the average individual. It's probably analogous to the fact that a Google employee only makes an average of $56,000 a year, much less than a lot of other jobs considering the education required to work there, but the attraction to working at Google more than makes up the difference.


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