Earworms, Refugees, Poetic Patterns, and the Ethics of Self-Driving Cars

What do all of these topics have in common?

They were among the 31 lessons I learned as part of the TED-Ed July challenge.

The lessons consisted of watching a 3-5 minute video each day and then answering a series of multiple choice and short essay questions on the topic.

I found the lessons to be a nice change of pace from the kind of topics I usually read or watch a video about, such as:

  • I would have never known that an earworm is the technical term for a catchy song or tune that runs continually through a person’s mind.
  • It was also nice to be a little more informed about the very timely topic of refugees. I never knew that there is a fairly legal definition of what makes a person a refugee, and how a refugee is different than a migrant.
  • I’ve never really got poetry (it’s similar to the confusion I have about art), so I thought I would try to learn a little bit about poetic patterns. It was interesting, but I still don’t get poetry.
  • Self-driving cars have fascinated me since I first heard about them, and I have read a good deal about them. While there is a serious technology component to making self-driving cars a reality, there are also several legal and ethical issues that need to be discussed before the technology gets too far advanced. For example, what should a self-driving car do if it looks like it is about to crash into the car in front of it? Should it swerve to the right where there is a car with three passengers; swerve to the left where there is someone riding a motorcycle without a helmet; or just crash into the car in front of it? Not only do such issues need to be resolved, there is also the question about who should be making such decisions? The government? The companies that are designing self-driving cars? Or should individuals be allowed to customize the software that controls such decisions so that the car makes the decision you would make if you were controlling the car manually. Tough decisions, but I’m glad they are being discussed.

Other topics I learned a little bit about during July included what the term Orwellian means, how clouds got their names, robots and creativity (and the Lovelace test), the importance of biodiversity, the ancient origins of the Olympics, and why cats act so weird.

I found the lessons well done, and a nice intro to the topic at hand. It was a fun way and informative way to spend a few minutes each day, and I intend to keep a close eye on the other lessons that get posted to the TED-Ed web site.

If you are interested in taking any of the July lessons, here is a link to the archived set of lessons (as of right now the archive just includes the lessons from July 1- July23).

Finally, a big thank you to all the educators who took the time to put these lessons together, and to TED for providing a platform to deliver the lessons.

Published by

Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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