Ever wonder how people get chosen to speak at TED? Well, it's curator Chris Anderson's job to weed through the thousands upon thousands of possibilities and choose who will appear on the event's prestigious main stage. Clearly, the guy is amazing at separating the wheat from the intellectual chaff.

Which is why TED fans (or anyone looking to make themselves smarter and more aware in easily digestible 20-minute chunks) should pay attention to Anderson's picks for the 10 best TED talks of 2018. Touching on topics ranging from astronomy to social justice to artificial intelligence, they are guaranteed to change how you think about the world.  

1. "How we need to remake the internet," by Jaron Lanier

"In this visionary talk, Lanier reflects on a 'globally tragic, astoundingly ridiculous mistake' companies like Google and Facebook made at the foundation of digital culture -- and how we can undo it," explains TED.

2. "A healthy economy should be designed to thrive, not grow," by Kate Raworth  

What would an ideal and sustainable economy look like? "Like a doughnut," answers Oxford economist Kate Raworth in this intriguing talk.

3. "Is the world better or worse? A look at the numbers," by Steven Pinker

Bill Gates's favorite author used data to make the case that, despite what you might see on the evening news, the world really is getting better. And if we approach problems correctly, we can make it even better still.

4. "What are the most important moral problems of our time?" by Will MacAskill

Humanity has no shortage of problems. In this talk, the Oxford philosopher and "effective altruism" advocate ponders an important question: Which should we tackle first?

5. "What if we ended the injustice of bail?" by Robin Steinberg

"On any given night, more than 450,000 people in the United States are locked up in jail simply because they do not have enough money to pay bail," reports TED. Is that just?

6. "Why I have coffee with people who send me hate mail," by Ozlem Cekic​

When Ozlem Cekic was elected in 2007 as the first female Muslim woman to serve in the Danish parliament, her email inbox was flooded with hate mail. At first she ignored it, but then she struck on a radical idea: Why not reach out to the senders and grab a coffee?

7. "Why it's worth listening to people you disagree with," by Zachary R. Wood

"Tuning out opposite viewpoints doesn't make them go away," Wood points out in this talked well suited to our polarized age. "To achieve progress in the face of adversity, we need a genuine commitment to gaining a deeper understanding of our humanity."

8. "Where are all the aliens?" by Stephen Webb

The appeal of this one is pretty well summed up by its title. If you've ever wondered why, with billions of stars in the sky, we don't have regular alien visitors, astronomer Stephen Wood offers a bracing answer: We're actually alone in the universe.

9. "The story of 'Oumuamua, the first visitor from another star system," by Karen J. Meech ​

Another one for astronomy fans and star gazers. The tale of how Karen J. Meech and her team raced to understand 'Oumuamua, the first interstellar object detected passing through our solar system from somewhere beyond. Is it a hunk of an alien craft, the leftovers of supernova, or something else entirely?  

10. "How AI can save our humanity," by Kai-Fu Lee

"In a visionary talk, computer scientist Kai-Fu Lee details how the U.S. and China are driving a deep learning revolution -- and shares a blueprint for how humans can thrive in the age of AI by harnessing compassion and creativity," explains TED.

What was your favorite talk of the year?

Published on: Dec 17, 2018