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1000 TEDTalks, 6 words | Sebastian Wernicke | TEDxZurich

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    There's currently over a thousand
    TED Talks on the TED website.
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    And I guess many of you here
    think that this is quite fantastic,
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    except for me, I don't agree with this.
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    I think we have a situation here.
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    Because if you think about it,
    1,000 TED Talks,
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    that's over 1,000 ideas worth spreading.
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    How on earth are you going
    to spread a thousand ideas?
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    Even if you just try
    to get all of those ideas into your head
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    by watching all those thousand TED videos,
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    it would actually currently take you
    over 250 hours to do so.
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    And I did a little calculation of this.
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    The damage to the economy for each one
    who does this is around $15,000.
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    So having seen this danger to the economy,
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    I thought, we need to find
    a solution to this problem.
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    Here's my approach to it all.
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    If you look at the current situation,
    you have a thousand TED Talks.
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    Each of those TED Talks has
    an average length of about 2,300 words.
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    Now take this together, and you end up
    with 2.3 million words of TED Talks,
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    which is about
    three Bibles-worth of content.
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    (Laughter)
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    The obvious question here is,
    does a TED Talk really need 2,300 words?
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    Isn't there something shorter?
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    I mean, if you have
    an idea worth spreading,
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    surely you can put it
    into something shorter than 2,300 words.
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    The only question is,
    how short can you get?
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    What's the minimum amount of words
    you would need to do a TED Talk?
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    While I was pondering this question,
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    I came across this urban legend
    about Ernest Hemingway,
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    who allegedly said
    that these six words here:
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    "For sale: baby shoes, never worn,"
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    were the best novel he had ever written.
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    And I also encountered a project
    called Six-Word Memoirs
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    where people were asked,
    take your whole life
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    and please sum this up
    into six words, such as these here:
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    "Found true love, married someone else."
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    Or "Living in existential
    vacuum; it sucks."
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    I actually like that one.
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    So if a novel can be put into six words
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    and a whole memoir can be put
    into six words,
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    you don't need more than six
    words for a TED Talk.
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    We could have been done by lunch here.
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    (Laughter)
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    And if you did this
    for all thousand TED Talks,
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    you would get from 2.3 million
    words down to 6,000.
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    So I thought this was quite worthwhile.
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    So I started asking all my friends,
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    please take your favorite TED Talk
    and put that into six words.
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    So here are some of the results
    that I received.
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    I think they're quite nice.
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    For example, Dan Pink's talk
    on motivation, which was pretty good,
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    if you haven't seen it:
    "Drop carrot. Drop stick. Bring meaning."
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    It's what he's basically talking about
    in those 18,5 minutes.
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    Or some even included references
    to the speakers,
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    such as Nathan Myhrvold's speaking style,
    or the one of Tim Ferriss,
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    which might be considered
    a bit strenuous at times.
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    The challenge here is,
    if I try to systematically do this,
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    I would probably end up
    with a lot of summaries,
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    but not with many friends in the end.
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    So I had to find a different method,
    preferably involving total strangers.
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    And luckily, there's a website for that,
    called Mechanical Turk,
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    which is a website
    where you can post tasks
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    that you don't want to do yourself,
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    such as "Please summarize this text
    for me in six words."
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    And I didn't allow any low-cost
    countries to work on this,
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    but I found out I could get
    a six-word summary for just 10 cents,
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    which I think is a pretty good price.
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    Even then, unfortunately,
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    it's not possible to summarize
    each TED Talk individually.
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    Because if you do the math,
    you have a thousand TED Talks,
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    you pay 10 cents each;
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    you have to do more than one summary
    for each of those talks,
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    because some of them will probably
    be, or are, really bad.
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    So I would end up paying
    hundreds of dollars.
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    So I thought of a different way,
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    by thinking, well, the talks
    revolve around certain themes.
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    So what if I don't let people summarize
    individual TED Talks to six words,
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    but give them 10 TED Talks
    at the same time
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    and say, "Please do a six-word
    summary for that one."
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    I would cut my costs by 90 percent.
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    So for $60,
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    I could summarize a thousand TED Talks
    into just 600 summaries,
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    which would actually be quite nice.
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    Obviously, some people that did that -
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    of course, I payed everyone the 10 cents -
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    Some of you might actually
    right now be thinking,
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    it's downright crazy to have 10 TED Talks
    summarized into just six words.
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    But it's actually not,
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    because there's an example
    by statistics professor Hans Rosling.
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    I guess many of you have seen
    one or more of his talks.
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    He's got eight talks online,
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    and those can basically be summed up
    into just four words,
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    because that's all he's basically
    showing us, our intuition is really bad.
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    He always proves us wrong.
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    So people on the Internet,
    some didn't do so well.
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    And when I asked them to summarize
    the 10 TED Talks at the same time,
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    some took the easy route out.
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    They just had some general comment.
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    Others -
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    There were others --
    and I found this quite cheeky --
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    They used their six words
    to talk back to me
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    and ask me if I'd been too much
    on Google lately.
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    (Laughter)
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    And finally also, I never understood this,
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    some people really came up
    with their own version of the truth.
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    I don't know any TED Talk
    that contains this.
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    But, oh well.
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    In the end, however,
    and this is really amazing,
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    for each of those 10 TED Talk
    clusters that I submitted,
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    I actually received meaningful summaries.
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    Here are some of my favorites.
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    For example, for the TED Talks about food,
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    someone summed this up into: "Food shaping
    body, brains and environment,"
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    which I think is pretty good.
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    Or happiness: "Striving toward happiness =
    moving toward unhappiness."
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    So here I was.
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    I had started out
    with a thousand TED Talks
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    and I had 600 six-word
    summaries for those.
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    Actually, it sounded nice
    in the beginning,
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    but when you look at 600 summaries,
    it's quite a lot, it's a huge list.
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    (Laughter)
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    So I thought, I probably have
    to take this one step further here
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    and create summaries of the summaries,
    and this is exactly what I did.
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    So I took the 600 summaries that I had,
    put them into nine groups
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    according to the ratings that the talks
    had originally received on TED.com
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    and asked people to do summaries of those.
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    Again, there were some misunderstandings.
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    For example, when I had a cluster
    of all the "Beautiful" talks,
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    someone thought I was just trying
    to find the ultimate pick-up line.
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    But in the end, amazingly,
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    again, people were able to do it.
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    For example, all the courageous TED Talks:
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    "People dying" or "People
    suffering" was also one,
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    "with easy solutions around."
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    Or the recipe for the ultimate
    jaw-dropping TED Talk:
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    "Flickr photos of intergalactic
    classical composer."
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    I mean that's the essence of it all.
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    Now I had my nine groups, but, I mean,
    it's already quite a reduction.
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    But of course, once you are that far,
    you're not really satisfied.
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    I wanted to go all the way,
    all the way down the distillery,
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    starting out with a thousand TED Talks.
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    I wanted to have a thousand TED Talks
    summarized into just six words --
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    which would be a 99.9997 percent
    reduction in content.
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    And I would only pay $99.50 --
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    so stay even below $100 for it.
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    So I had 50 overall summaries done.
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    This time I paid 25 cents
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    because I thought the task
    was a bit harder.
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    And unfortunately,
    when I first received the answers --
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    and here, you'll see six of the answers --
    I was a bit disappointed.
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    Because I think you'll agree,
    they all summarize some aspect of TED,
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    but to me, they felt a bit bland,
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    or they just had
    a certain aspect of TED in them.
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    So I was almost ready to give up
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    when one night, I played around
    with these sentences
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    and found out that there's actually
    a beautiful solution in here.
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    So here it is,
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    a crowd-sourced, six-word
    summary of a thousand TED Talks
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    at the value of $99.50:
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    "Why the worry? I'd rather wonder."
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    Thank you very much.
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    (Applause)
Title:
1000 TEDTalks, 6 words | Sebastian Wernicke | TEDxZurich
Description:

Sebastian Wernicke thinks every TEDTalk can be summarized in six words. At TEDxZurich, he shows how to do just that -- and less.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDxTalks
Duration:
07:42

English subtitles

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