Sunday, December 11, 2011

TED - Get excited about science!

TED is a scientific conference - sounds boring and complicated right? But it's not an ordinary conference. All videos from the talks are free for everyone to watch, download, copy etc. All the talks are meant for audience used to YouTube - speakers don't expect too much prior knowledge, but they try to show, amaze and inspire - in max. 20 minutes. I have discovered TED just a few months ago, but it's already my new passion.

Topics of TED talks are really broad - not just about computers and technology as you might think. I really enjoy talks about psychology, education, food or architecture. Every college student can find talks from their respective field. And the speakers are really the smartest people on the planet - top scientists or famous people like Stephen Hawking or Larry Page.

You see a speaker on a stage and get sleepy because of your experience of boring 1.5 hour lectures at university? It's different! Time limit is 20 minutes, that's like one episode of Big Bang Theory (and that's what I do now, when I'm out of new TV series). Speakers are not trying to explain how things work in detail, but rather show new ideas, possibilities and accomplishments. Speakers' goal is to inspire and start a global conversation about their idea. For that their videos need to go viral - and any video doesn't go viral when it's boring or too technical.

Yeah, but what about if your English is not that good enough to understand talks about science? Good news, talks are using crowd-sourced translations of subtitles. Most of the talks are translated to many languages, including Czech. But I watch it usually with English subtitles, Czech ones distract me :-)

OK, so you might check out a talk or two? Start with these ones - my favorites. All of them are really "jaw-dropping":
  • How algorithms shape our world - you thought that artifitial inteligence is sci-fi or not significant? Complex algorithms are moving vast amounts of money right now. 
  • Best stats you've ever seen - third-world countries are not that poor as you might think - shown in a beautiful visualization.
  • Why work doesn't happen at work - If you want your employees to be creative, the workplace needs to change. Ever wondered why Google invests so much into offices? You will learn why banning Facebook at work is a WRONG idea.
  • The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology - wide-opening concept of new ways of interacting with machines and taking online into offline world.
  • Surprising science of motivation - traditional reward-punishment system doesn't work when you want your employees to be creative. Higher salary doesn't automatically mean better performance. Learn why.
  • Let's use video to reinvent education - great way how to teach kids really anything at school - use technology to humanize lessons! I wish I was learning with help of those videos.
  • A headset that reads your brainwaves - control computer with your thoughts - I like most how flexible is it - you can train it to react to any thoughts, not just some predefined ones.
  • The game layer on top of the world - great talk about gamification - how to use gaming principles in real-life software and influence people. Now I understand ideas behind Foursquare much better.

What's your favorite TED talk? Share in comments.

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