The Best One-Liners From TED 2014 So Far

Mar 19, 2014 at 2:30 PM ET

What do you get when a bunch of alpha-humans and do-gooders gather together to share their ideas for changing the world? A stream of sound bites made to inspire us, or at least remind us of our own ineptitude. (Seriously, why are you reading this article instead of inventing a revolutionary medical device or refreezing polar ice caps?)

We’re talking about TED 2014, the rarefied annual conference where groundbreakers stand onstage to deliver carefully curated talks about everything from introverts to cockroaches to orgasms, with the aim of enlightening normals. Of course, most of us bottom-feeders cannot afford to cough up the $7,500 to actually attend the conference, held this year in Vancouver, so we have to settle for tweets and video clips and blog posts from the anointed. Below, some of the best snippets from the symposium thus far, including astronaut Chris Hadfield’s advice for overcoming fear, a robo-Edward Snowden on digital freedom, and Sting on the benefits of pulling your head out of your ass.

Of course, most of these sound bites conveniently clock in under 140 characters, so they practically tweet themselves. Now go spread some ideas.

“People ask me, what did I do to make Malala so bold and courageous? I did not clip her wings.” —Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Pakistan’s education-equality crusader, Malala

“Architecture is about the visceral emotional connections we feel to the places we occupy.” —Marc Kushner, architect

“We live in the post-sampling era. We take things we love and build on them. It’s a chance to be part of the evolution.” —Mark Ronson, DJ and producer

“By looking at the difference between perceived danger and actual danger, you can fundamentally change your reaction.” —Chris Hadfield, astronaut

“Human beings are wired to solve—to make order out of chaos.” —David Kwong, New York Times crossword editor and illusionist

“A successful city is like a fabulous party—people stay because they’re having a great time.” —Amanda Burden, director of the NYC Department of City Planning

“Tools need not take the form of what we use them for.” —Matthew Carter, typographer

“We differ from other animals only by degree.” —Laurel Braitman, animal expert and author of Animal Madness

“Our basic freedoms are not a partisan issue.” —Edward Snowden

“[Visionaries] not only believe that the impossible can be done, but that it must be done.” —Bran Ferren, designer and technologist

“In 1995, I said that newspapers and magazines would be sold over the Internet. Newsweek said, ‘Yeah, right!'” —Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MediaLab

“There’s something about letting a moment happen. Your best-laid plans cannot exceed what happens spontaneously.” —Brian Henson, puppeteer and son of Jim Henson

“We have a tendency to make the measurable important instead of the important measurable.” —Sir Ken Robinson, author and educator  

“What are you willing to give up to become who you really need to be?” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

“Take everything great about cockroaches and apply that to robots, and the possibilities are endless.” —Robert Full, Berkeley professor of biomechanics and physiology

“The most important thing we extract from the ocean is our existence. If you like to breathe, take care of the ocean.” —Sylvia Earle, marine biologist

“If you don’t have an effective teacher in front of the classroom, you won’t change the trajectory for students.” —Melinda Gates

“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” —Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans Inc.

“Perhaps your best work comes when you sidestep your ego and [focus on] someone else’s story.” —Sting