There’s a difference between your friend telling you something and hearing it from someone who’s spent their life studying it. Here are some of my experts and classes to learn from:
And the Winner is…
It’s amazing how some of the best lectures are now available online. Here’s a few of them:
- The Turing Award. The “Nobel Prize of Computer Science.”
- The Peabody Awards. The best media of the year.
- The Pulitzer Prize. The best reporting of the year.
- Nobel Prize Lectures. It’s not organized well but the Nobel prize has a Youtube channel.
- Online Learning. The Floating University was a Yale class that aimed to provide a liberal arts education in 12 hours. I don’t think they quite hit their goal but the lectures are pretty great.
- On Debate. A few years ago there was a lot of debate on the topic of free speech and renaming monuments. I wrote a piece about how scholars at Yale have thought about free speech and created a useful framework for free speech on campus.
- Working with Computers. I learned a lot from Gary Kasparov about how humans+computers are better than the best computers or the best people.
- Blockchain. I finally understand a little bit about blockchain! Professor David Yermack, head of the Finance Department at NYU gave a great overview of the technology. Yermack teaches a course on blockchain at NYU. He references a number of useful articles like The Trust Machine and Digital Currencies, Decentralized Ledgers, and the Future of Central Banking in the syllabus.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI). Dr. Spector is the former head of Google research and been in AI for decades. He was also one of the first people to see the modern use of Deep Learning at Google. He has an insightful talk on The Opportunities and Perils of Data Science.
- Google Searching. Daniel Russell is Google’s Senior Research Scientist for Search Quality and User Happiness. In short, he’s the guy at Google who teaches people how to search. He has a book, TEDx video on searching, and a summary of his experience Adventures in Teaching People How to Search.
- Excel. Joel Spolsky, the founder of Trello and Stack Overflow, worked on Excel in the 1990s. I learned a lot from his entertaining talk, You Suck at Excel. My favorite part was how R1C1 notation explains how Excel “magic” works.
- Be Vulnerable to Build Stronger Connections with Friends: My favorite self-help recording is Brene Brown’s seminar The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage. To get a taste of Brene, check out her animated shorts on Empathy and Blame from this presentation. She also gave some great TED talks on The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame.
- Trigger Yourself to Stay on Track. Marshall Goldsmith wrote a great book called Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts — Becoming the Person You Want to Be. He talks about how we react to our environment more frequently and powerfully than we’d like to admit. So Goldsmith places triggers in the environment each day to help drive progress on key goals. I’ve been doing this for about a year and it’s really life changing. If you’d like to try it yourself you can take his basic survey at Ask Me Every.
- Writing. At Yale, there’s a famous century-old class called Daily Themes. It’s a simple but powerful class where everyone writes an essay each day. My friend Aaron Gertler has some great information on the class including some writing prompts.
- Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants. I used to be afraid of Michael Pollan. I didn’t want to read his books and be afraid of what I would learn and never be able to eat meat again, which is why I still won’t read The Omnivore’s Dilemma. But I listened to his audiobook Caffeine this year and realized that what we think of as food isn’t necessarily food. Caffeine may be the best example of this. It’s a drug that we eat like a food. When I read his article Unhappy Meals and his book Food Rules about what to eat, I was impressed by the simplicity of Pollan’s food mantra: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. (Added 2020)
People to Learn From (2016)
- Ze Frank is one of the most interesting Internet artists. There’s a great retrospective of his work that he did as a TED talk. An early TED talk is equally entertaining if a bit dated. He’s also done two web series (A Show and The Show). And he did a fascinating interview about Social Media at the Paley center.
- Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize winning physicist who wrote one of the most interesting memoirs of scientific inquiry in Surely You Must be Joking Mr. Feyman. For a real treat listen to Feynman’s telling of his time of Lost Alamos From Below. Feynman was one of the best explainers of science. For a taste of this take a look at Physics is Fun to Imagine where Feynman talks about things like why mirrors reverse left and right and how fire is just stored sunlight.
- Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize for Economics — becoming the first non-Economist to win that distinction. He summarized the field in a wonderful tome called Thinking Fast and Slow. The basic thrust of the book is that we have a number of unconscious heuristics and biases that drive our decision making — which work well MOST of the time but not ALL of the time. On a different note, Kahneman gave a fascinating TED talk about happiness that’s well worth watching. Kahnemann’s book is a fantastic tome but a little long for the people new to the field. If you want something that’s a little quicker on the topic, check out Dan Ariely’s books Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality. I wrote a few hundred words summarizing Ariely’s work on default settings as well. For more of a financial look at this, check out Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s books Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan.
- John Maeda is a Partner at Kleiner Perkins who is just an amazing personality. John is putting together an annual Design in Tech (here’s the 2015 video) report similar to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report. Maeda has done some really interesting work on STEM to STEAM – combining STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) with Art. He’s also done some great TED talks and came up with some fascinating stuff in the 1990s around interactive books. Though I might just like him for things like the following. When he was the head of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) he was quoted as saying, “America is a weird country. It’s like I was a waitress somewhere, and now I’m in a movie—a futuristic astronaut cast in a new kind of Wild West picture. [At RISD] I get to make, like, a space Western,” in Fast Company.
- Neil Degrasse Tyson, head of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, is a fascinating human being. I’ve really enjoyed listening to his audiobook The Pluto Files and the course The Inexplicable Universe. But here’s a guy who is the head of the Planetarium and hosted the remake of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos who also puts on a Science/Comedy show that Abigail and I saw live! He also does a mean moonwalk.