Paper Towns | John Green | TEDxIndianapolis

Paper Towns | John Green | TEDxIndianapolis

Translator: Sara Xiao Fei
Reviewer: Sebastian Betti So, this is a map of New York State that was made in 1937
by the General Drafting Company. It’s an extremely famous map
among cartography nerds, because down here at the bottom
of the Catskill Mountains there is a little town called Roscoe – actually, this will go easier
if I just put it up here – There’s Roscoe, and then,
right above Roscoe, is Rockland, New York, and then right above that
is the tiny town of Agloe, New York. Agloe, New York,
is very famous to cartographers, because it’s a paper town. It’s also known as a copyright trap. Because my map of New York
and your map of New York are going to look very similar,
on account of the shape of New York. Often, map makers will insert
fake places onto their maps, in order to protect their copyright,
because then, if my fake place shows up on your map, I can be well and truly sure
that you have robbed me. Agloe is a scrabblization of the initials
of the two guys who made this map Ernest G. Alpers and Otto Lindberg, and they released this map in 1937. Decades later, Rand McNally releases a map with Agloe, New York, on it,
at the same exact intersection of two dirt roads
in the middle of nowhere. Well, you can imagine the delight
over at General Drafting. They immediately called
Rand McNally, and they say, “We’ve caught you!
We made Agloe, New York, up. It is a fake place. It’s a paper town. We’re going to sue your pants off!” And Rand McNally says,
“No, no, no, no, Agloe is real.” Because people kept going
to that intersection of two dirt roads (Laughter) in the middle of nowhere, expecting there
to be a place called Agloe, someone built a place
called Agloe, New York. It had a gas station, a general store,
two houses at its peak. (Laughter) And this is of course a completely
irresistible metaphor to a novelist, because we would all like to believe
that the stuff that we write down on paper can change the actual world
in which we’re actually living – which is why my third book
is called “Paper Towns”. But what interests me ultimately more
than the medium in which this happened is the phenomenon itself. It’s easy enough to say that the world
shapes our maps of the world, right? Like the overall shape of the world
is obviously going to affect our maps. But what I find a lot
more interesting is the way that the manner in which we map
the world changes the world. Because the world would truly be
a different place if North were down. And the world would be a truly
different place if Alaska and Russia weren’t on opposite sides of the map. And the world would be a different place if we projected Europe
to show it in its actual size. The world is changed
by our maps of the world. The way that we choose to, sort of,
our personal cartographic enterprise also shapes the map of our lives, and that in turn shapes our lives. I believe that what we map
changes the life we lead. And I don’t mean that in some, like,
secrecy Oprah’s Angels network, like, you-can-think-your-way-out
-of-cancer sense. But I do believe that while maps
don’t show you where you will go in your life, they show you where you might go. You very rarely go to a place
that isn’t on your personal map. So I was a really terrible
student when I was a kid. My GPA was consistently in the low 2s, and I think the reason
that I was such a terrible student is that I felt like education
was just a series of hurdles that had been erected before me, and I had to jump over
in order to achieve adulthood. And I didn’t really want
to jump over these hurdles, because they seemed completely arbitrary,
so I often wouldn’t, and then people would threaten me,
you know, they’d threaten me with
“this going on my permanent record”, or “you’ll never get a good job”. I didn’t want a good job! As far as I could tell
at eleven or twelve years old, like, people with good jobs woke up
very early in the morning, (Laughter) and the men who had good jobs,
one of the first things they did was tie a strangulation item
of clothing around their necks. They literally put nooses on themselves, and then they went off to their jobs,
whatever they were. That’s not a recipe for a happy life. These people – in my, symbol-obsessed,
twelve-year-old imagination, these people who are strangling themselves as one of the first things
they do each morning, they can’t possibly be happy. Why would I want to jump over
all these hurdles and have that be the end? That’s a terrible end! And then, when I was in tenth grade,
I went to this school, Indian Springs School,
a small boarding school, outside of Birmingham, Alabama, and all at once I became a learner. And I became a learner,
because I found myself in a community of learners. I found myself surrounded by people who celebrated intellectualism
and engagement, and who thought that my ironic
oh-so-cool disengagement wasn’t clever, or funny, but, like, it was a simple
and unspectacular response to very complicated
and compelling problems. And so I started to learn,
because learning was cool. I learned that some infinite sets
are bigger than other infinite sets, and I learned what iambic pentameter is
and why it sounds so good to human ears. I learned that the Civil War
was a nationalizing conflict, I learned some physics, I learned that correlation
shouldn’t be confused with causation – all of these things, by the way, enriched my life
on a literally daily basis. And it’s true that I don’t use
most of them for my “job”, but that’s not what it’s about for me. It’s about cartography. What is the process of cartography? It’s, you know, sailing upon some land,
and thinking “I think I’ll draw that bit of land”, and then wondering,
“Maybe there’s some more land to draw”. And that’s when learning
really began for me. It’s true that I had teachers
that didn’t give up on me, and I was very fortunate
to have those teachers, because I often gave them cause to think
there was no reason to invest in me. But a lot of the learning
that I did in high school wasn’t about what happened
inside the classroom, it was about what happened
outside of the classroom. For instance, I can tell you that, “There’s a certain slant of light,
[On] winter afternoons, That oppresses, like the heft [weight]
Of cathedral tunes”, not because I memorized
Emily Dickinson in school, when I was in high school, but because there was a girl,
when I was in high school, and her name was Amanda, and I had a crush on her,
and she liked Emily Dickinson poetry. The reason I can tell you
what opportunity cost is, is because one day when I was playing
Super Mario Kart on my couch, my friend Emmet walked in, and he said, “How long have you been playing
Super Mario Kart?”, and I said, “I don’t know,
like, six hours?”, and he said, “You realize that if you’d worked
at Baskin-Robbins those six hours, you could have made thirty dollars,
so in some ways, you just paid thirty dollars
to play Super Mario Kart”, and I was, like, “I’ll take that deal.”
(Laughter) But I learned what opportunity cost is, and along the way, the map of my life got better,
it got bigger, it contained more places. There were more things that might happen,
more futures I might have. It wasn’t a formal
organized learning process, and I’m happy to admit that. It was spotty, it was inconsistent,
there was a lot I didn’t know. I might know, you know,
that Cantor’s idea that some infinite sets are larger
than other infinite sets, but I didn’t really understand
the calculus behind that idea. I might know the idea of opportunity cost, but I didn’t know the law
of diminishing returns. But the great thing about imagining
learning as cartography, instead of imagining it
as arbitrary hurdles that you have to jump over is that you see a bit of coast line,
and that makes you want to see more. And so now I do know
at least some of the calculus that underlies all of that stuff. So, I had one learning community
in high school, then I went to another for college, and then I went to another,
when I started working at a magazine called “Booklist”, where I was an assistant surrounded by astonishingly
well-read people, and then I wrote a book,
and like all authors dream of doing, I promptly quit my job. And for the first time since high school, I found myself
without a learning community, and it was miserable. I hated it. I read many, many books
during this two-year period. I read books about Stalin, and books about how the Uzbek people
came to identify as Muslims, and I read books about
how to make atomic bombs, but it just felt like
I was creating my own hurdles, and then jumping over them myself,
instead of feeling the excitement of being part of a community of learners,
a community of people who are engaged together
in a cartographic enterprise of trying to better understand
and map the world around us. And then, in 2006, I met that guy. His name is Ze Frank. I didn’t actually meet him,
just on the Internet. Ze Frank was running, at the time,
a show called “The Show with Ze Frank”, and that was my way back
into being a community learner again. Here’s Ze talking about Las Vegas: (Video) Ze Frank: Las Vegas was built
in the middle of a huge hot desert, almost everything here
was brought from somewhere else – the sort of rocks,
the trees, the waterfalls. These fish are almost as out of place
as my pig that flew. Contrasted to the scorching desert
that surrounds this place, so are these people. Things from all over the world
have been rebuilt here, away from their histories, and the people
that experience them differently. Sometimes, improvements were made. Even the Sphinx got a nose job. Here, what you see is what you get, and there’s no reason to feel
like you’re missing anything. This New York means the same to me
as it does to everyone else. Everything is out of context, and that means
context allows for everything. Self Parking, Events Center, Shark Reef. This fabrication of place could be one
of the world’s greatest achievements, because no one belongs here,
everyone does. As I walked around this morning,
I noticed most of the buildings were huge mirrors reflecting
the sun back into the desert. But unlike most mirrors,
which present you with an outside view of yourself embedded in a place,
these mirrors come back empty. John Green:
It makes me nostalgic for the days when you could see
the pixels in online video. (Laughter) Ze isn’t just a great public intellectual,
he’s also a brilliant community builder, and the community of people that built up around these videos was in many ways
a community of learners, so we played Ze Frank at chess
collaboratively, and we beat him. We organized ourselves to take a young man
on a road trip across the United States. We turned the Earth into a sandwich by having one person hold a piece of bread
at one point on the Earth, and on the exact opposite point
of the Earth having another person
holding a piece of bread. I realize that these are silly ideas,
but they are also ‘learny’ ideas, and that was what was so exciting to me, and if you go online, you can find
communities like this all over the place. Follow the calculus tag on Tumblr,
and yes, you will see people complaining
about calculus, but you’ll also see people
re-blogging those complaints, making the argument that calculus
is interesting and beautiful, and here’s a way in to thinking about
the problem that you find unsolvable. You can go to places like Reddit,
and find sub-Reddits, like ‘Ask a Historian’, or ‘Ask Science’, where you can ask people
who are in these fields a wide range of questions, from very serious ones to very silly ones. But to me, the most interesting
communities of learners that are growing up on the Internet
right now are on YouTube, and admittedly I am biased. But I think in a lot of ways,
the YouTube page resembles a classroom. Look for instance at “Minute Physics”, a guy who’s teaching
the world about physics. (Video) Let’s cut to the chase. As of July 4th, 2012, the Higgs Boson
is the last fundamental piece of the standard model of particle physics
to be discovered experimentally. But, you might ask,
why was the Higgs Boson included in the standard model, alongside well-known particles
like electrons and photons and quarks, if it hadn’t been discovered
back then in the 1970s? Good question.
There are two main reasons. First, just like the electron
is an excitation in the electron field, the Higgs Boson is simply a particle
which is an excitation of the everywhere-permeating Higgs field. The Higgs field in turn
plays an integral role in our model for the weak nuclear force. In particular, the Higgs field
helps explain why it’s so weak. We’ll talk more about this
in a later video, but even though weak nuclear theory
was confirmed in the 1980s, in the equations, the Higgs field is so inextricably jumbled
with the weak force, that until now we’ve been unable
to confirm its actual and independent existence. JG: Or here’s a video that I made as part of my show “Crash Course”,
talking about World War I: (Video) The immediate cause was of course
the assassination in Sarajevo of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand,
on June 28, 1914, by a Bosnian-Serb nationalist
named Gavrilo Princip. Quick aside: it’s worth noting
that the first big war of the twentieth century
began with an act of terrorism. So Franz Ferdinand
wasn’t particularly well-liked by his uncle, the emperor Franz Joseph – now that is a moustache! – but even so, the assassination led Austria
to issue an ultimatum to Serbia, whereupon Serbia accepted some,
but not all, of Austria’s demands, leading Austria to declare
war against Serbia. And then Russia, due to its alliance
with the Serbs, mobilized its army. Germany, because it had an alliance
with Austria, told Russia to stop mobilizing, which Russia failed to do,
so then Germany mobilized its own army, declared war on Russia,
cemented an alliance with the Ottomans, and then declared war on France,
because, you know – France! (Laughter) And it’s not just physics
and world history that people are choosing to learn
through YouTube. Here’s a video about abstract mathematics. (Video) So you’re me,
and you’re in math class yet again, because they make you go,
like, every single day. And you’re learning about, I don’t know,
the sums of infinite series. That’s a high school topic, right?
Which is odd, because it’s a cool topic, but they
somehow manage to ruin it anyway. So I guess that’s why they allow
infinite series in the curriculum. So, in a quite understandable need
for distraction, you’re doodling and thinking more about what the plural of “series” should be
than about the topic at hand. “Serieses,” “seriese,”
“seriesen,” and “serii?” Or is it that the singular
should be changed? One “serie,” or “serus,” or “serum?” Just like the singular
of “sheep” should be “shoop.” But the whole concept of things like 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 and so on,
approaching one, is useful if, say, you want
to draw a line of elephants each holding the tail of the next one: normal elephant, young elephant,
baby elephant, dog-sized elephant,
puppy-sized elephant… All the way down to Mr. Tusks and beyond. Which is at least a tiny bit awesome, because you can get an infinite number
of elephants in a line and still have it fit across
a single notebook page. JG: And lastly, here’s Destin,
from “Smarter Every Day”, talking about the conservation
of angular momentum and, since it’s YouTube, cats: (Video) Hey, it’s me, Destin.
Welcome back to “Smarter Every Day”. So you’ve probably observed that cats
almost always land on their feet. Today’s question is why? Like most simple questions,
there’s a very complex answer. For instance, let me
reword this question: How does a cat go from feet up
to feet down in a falling reference frame without violating the conservation
of angular momentum? JG: So, here’s something
all of these videos have in common: they all have more than
half a million views on YouTube. And those are people
watching not in classrooms, but because they are part
of the communities of learning that are being set up
by these channels. And I said earlier that YouTube
is like a classroom to me, and in many ways it is,
because here is the instructor – it’s like the old-fashioned classroom –
here’s the instructor, and then beneath the instructor
is the students, and they’re all having a conversation. And I know that YouTube Comments have a very bad reputation
in the world of the Internet, but in fact, if you go
on comments for these channels, what you’ll find is people
engaging the subject matter, asking difficult, complicated questions
that are about the subject matter, and then other people
answering those questions. And because the YouTube page is set up so that the place
in which I’m talking to you is on the exact same page as your comments,
you are participating in a live and real and active way
in the conversation. And because I’m in comments usually,
I get to participate with you, and you find this
whether it’s world history, or mathematics, or science,
or whatever it is. You also see young people using the tools and the sort of genres of the Internet
in order to create places for intellectual engagement
instead of the ironic detachment that maybe most of us associate
with memes and other Internet conventions, you know “Got bored – Invented calculus”, or here’s Honey Boo Boo
criticizing industrial capitalism [“Liberal capitalism is not at all
the Good of humanity. Quite the contrary; it is the vehicle
of savage destructive nihilism”]. In case you can’t see what she says…
Yeah. I really believe that
these spaces, these communities have become, for a new generation
of learners, the kind of communities,
the kind of cartographic communities that I had when I was in high school,
and then again when I was in college. And as an adult,
re-finding these communities has re-introduced me
to a community of learners, and has encouraged me to continue
to be a learner even in my adulthood, so that I no longer feel like learning
is something reserved for the young. Vi Hart and “Minute Physics” introduced me to all kinds of things
that I didn’t know before. And I know that we all hearken back to the days of the Parisian salon
in the Enlightenment, or to the Algonquin Round Table, and wish, “Oh, I wish I could have been
a part of that, I wish I could have laughed
at Dorothy Parker’s jokes”. But I’m here to tell you
that these places exist, they still exist. They exist in corners of the Internet,
where old men fear to tread. (Laughter) And I truly, truly believe that when
we invented Agloe, New York, in the 1960s, when we made Agloe real,
we were just getting started. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Paper Towns | John Green | TEDxIndianapolis”

  1. I just love that even in front of people at TED instead of a camera, John Green still manages to remember to be awesome. 

  2. But what if you are not a part of a community of learning at school, and because of that your interest and time to learn takes a complete downfall? 

  3. Can we take all of my teachers and switch them out for him please? I can listen and learn from him with ease!

  4. Several very good points were brought up here.  I've often felt that sense of jumping over hurdles to achieve adulthood that John talks about.  Similarly, I also grew out of that mindset and strive to learn and not be entirely ignorant about the world around me.  However, I wish there was a way to encourage the "internet" type learning within traditional "institutional" type learning.  I remember most of my High School classes being so focused on material covered in standardize testing that we, the students, never had a chance to explore the subject matter.  I remember stressing out because I had to finish my regulation 40 lab minimum and just accepting the information at face value just to get my credit.  I wish I had been encouraged to ask for deeper explanations of the material and how it applies to broader topics.

  5. John Green, looking dapper in his lavender shirt, says where you place yourself on your cognitive map is where you'll end up in reality. Not joking, the idea of life being a series of hurdles came to mind a few days ago!

  6. The puppy sized elephants are actually a nerdfighter phenomenon altogether. In "The Return of Question Tuesdays" John answers wherther he'd like to have a puppy sized elephant or an elephant sized puppy. The answer is obvious. For further information, take a look at "A Short History of the PUPPY SIZED ELEPHANT".

  7. I disliked Paper Towns the novel but I thoroughly enjoyed Paper Towns the Ted Talk. Interesting

  8. im so confused… i dont think john green has a lisp but there were definitely some shhh sounds where ssssss should have been

  9. It would be awesome if John had a list of recommended learning communities (channels) on YouTube. There's so much crap out there!

  10. I love the community of learners concept. I think I will show most of this to my 8th grade students this fall. I want my classroom to be a community of learners who inquire, search, and share. Thanks, John Green.

  11. Thank you John and Chris. John for all your videos that helped me to understand some point in history that never made sense to me. And to Chris for lining up the ted talks to get me interested in ever more things that I am woahfully unqualified to explain to my friends, but you both end up sending me into the labrinth of the Internet trying to learn even more about whatever I learn because of either of you, directly or indirectly. Thank you both

  12. I saw this first on the TED app. But it was only apt that I watched it again on YouTube and left a comment on this. I am one of those very keen not-so-young learners. In fact, I have learnt more from Ted, YouTube and the Internet in general. Not to mention courses on Coursera and Futurelearn. Well said John Green!

  13. I loved the speech, this should be showed to everyone as it explains so well how internet and its communities can be so educative and inspiring.

  14. John green….I just love you…. You put into words exactly what I've needed to say for so long! I get made fun of by family members for being in my phone constantly instead of studying… When in reality, I'm learning. I follow trails that lead me to a deeper understanding of the world and satisfy my own curiosities through YouTube, Google, and all kinds of kool things like that. I love to learn and within the traditional school system I didn't know that…. I was just jumping hurdles trying desperately not to fail, but now I crave more knowledge and ask more questions and just thank you…

  15. [9:26] That? THAT…was the ordinary voice of "True Facts Narrator" Ze Frank?!

  16. Loved this. But the Mario Kart and Baskin-Robbins logic would make sense only if he enjoyed working at Baskin-Robbins as much as playing Mario Kart XD

  17. John, you and your books are the best thing to happen for kids… and well, everyone. Thank you for your contribution to our lives. Xo

  18. Love that vi is in this I love this whole talk and I love that I'm sat here watching this at 11:30pm even though I've already seen it because I find it interesting and I feel I learn something new when rewatch videos after a while

  19. this reminds me of the map of my hometown. Bogota, Colombia. The maps of bogota usually have the north on the left, this because the first maps of the city came from Indigenous people, who draw the mountains on the top (east).

  20. I always look at it the other way, me playing a game reduces its opportunity cost

    I have spent 67 hours playing a game called Reassembly, a game I got for 15 dollars, I have spent .22 cents per hour of enjoyment I have extracted from this particular game, and honestly that is completely fine with me. Yeah absolutely if I spent that 67 hours doing nothing but a job at minimum wage I could of bought this game like 32 times over but I wasn't at my job when I was playing it, I was doing this in my leisure time to relax and unwind from work and it wasn't all at once. hell it makes more sense to watch or play something more because it brings the cost down. You go to the cinema to watch a movie for 17 dollars? if that's an hour and a half movie it just cost you like 11 dollars to go do that once, when if you just waited for the movie to come out to dvd you could of gotten it for like 7 bucks, and watch it as much as you want.

  21. I have been noticing that my interest in learning has heightened since I found these learning communities John Green was talking about. I love that I have so much information and ideas at my fingertips. It is truly amazing and inspirational. 🙂

  22. "They literally put nooses on themselves and went to their jobs"

    Hey, John, mind if I use this quote?

  23. This really puts an answer to the questions of where and when inspiration strikes me and why I am much more drawn to these videos than some simple homeworks. Sitting at home doing nothing results in no art created while my mind is free to doodle in my college environment.

  24. When he started talking about infinities I almost started crying because I just finished the fault in our stars for the 3rd time

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