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## 1000 TEDTalks, 6 words | Sebastian Wernicke | TEDxZurich

• 0:06 - 0:10
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:
closed TED
Project:
TEDxTalks
Duration:
07:42
 TED Translators admin edited English subtitles for TEDxZurich - Sebastian Wernicke - 1000 TED Talks in 8 minutes TED Translators admin edited English subtitles for TEDxZurich - Sebastian Wernicke - 1000 TED Talks in 8 minutes

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