TED Fellow – Follow Our Bliss?

In 2009, I was chosen to be a member of the TED Fellowship program and attend the TED conference in Long Beach, CA. As part of the inaugural class, I was the first Canadian TED Fellow. I continue to be a Fellow, which includes writing for the TED Fellows’ blog.

TED’s vision is about ‘ideas worth spreading’ and, as a skeptic, I certainly believe critical thinking is worth spreading. As a community, TED is interested in people and ideas that have the potential to make the world a better place. I’ve outlined some of my thoughts on how skepticism is an essential part of that endeavour, and moreover, how simply following our intuitions and feelings with the goal of being happy can actually detract from human wellbeing.

For those who may not be familiar with TED and its online video archive of talks, skeptics and promoters of scientific thinking have had pretty good representation at the conference. Counted as TEDsters are Brian Cox, James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Carolyn Porco, Michael Shermer, Sam Harris, and Michael Specter.

At the heart of skepticism is the assertion that the human mind is fallible and subject to cognitive errors. Our intuitions cannot be relied upon if we are looking for an accurate understanding of reality, but through systematic doubt and critical thinking, we can aim to bypass our flaws in cognition and reduce the influence of bias. This is how we can begin to make the world a better place; when we learn to continually ask ourselves “How can I distinguish what is true from what I simply want to be true?”

The entire article can be read here, on the TED Fellow blog.

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  • Sara E. Mayhew

    International award-winning mangaka and 2009 TED Fellowship member, Sara E. Mayhew is a Canadian writer and illustrator striving to produce manga that promotes skepticism and critical thinking. Canada's prestigious graphic arts magazine, Applied Arts, featured her in their Young Blood article on "new talent commanding our attention". She has spoken on the TED Fellows stage at the TED 2009 conference in Long Beach, CA, and more recently at TEDActive 2010 in Palm Springs, CA. Currently, Sara is working on producing a new series, Legend of the Ztarr, that aims to introduce manga readers to skeptical and humanist values through storytelling. Her blog, There Are Four Lights, combines art and skepticism, with occasional pepperings of general geekdom and random cuteness.