TED speakers are often those who outline the future and make us think critically about what's next. They challenge our beliefs and sometimes instill new ones.
They spend months or even years working on making their talks as tightly focused and maximally impactful as possible--and we reap the benefits.
Here are the top ten TED talks of 2018:
Speaker: Kai-Fu Lee
Computer scientist and philosopher Lee says, "AI is serendipity ... It is here to liberate us from routine jobs, and it is here to remind us what it is that makes us human." So what does make us human? Lee gives a practical description of what AI will actually do in the world, and simultaneously makes a graceful and compelling argument for what really matters.
Speaker: Jaron Lanier
Lanier pulls no punches as he outlines the "globally tragic, astoundingly ridiculous mistake" companies like Facebook and Google made as they founded our current digital culture. Lanier lays out the risks of continuing down our current path, and the possibilities inherent in changing it.
Speaker: Ozlem Cekic
Ozlem Cekic is the first Muslim woman ever to win a seat in the Danish parliament. At first she deleted the (many) hate e-mails she received, but when a friend suggested she instead invite the senders to coffee, she tried it. Hundreds of "dialogue coffee" meet-ups later, she has something remarkable to say about the power of disagreement, redemption, and shared humanity.
Speaker: Karen J. Meech
Astrobiologist Karen J. Meech got the call in October 2017: NASA had seen what could be the first-ever visitor from another star system. They named it 'Oumuamua (Hawaiian for "scout"). But what was it, really? Was it evidence of aliens technology? Detritus from a supernova? Or something else? In this riveting talk, Meech describes her team's urgent race to find the answers before the mystery disappeared.
Speaker: Stephen Webb
Continuing in the alien theme, Stephen Webb has an interesting perspective on life elsewhere in our universe. Are we truly alone in this and other galaxies, and if so, what are the implications of that?
Speaker: Steven Pinker
You might think 2017 was the "worst year ever" but the numbers say different. Rates of murder, pollution, war, and poverty are lower than they've been in 30 years. Pinker argues that instead of seeing things like climate change as inevitable apocalypses-to-be, we should view them as problems to be solved. "We will never have a perfect world ... but there's no limit to the betterments we can attain if we continue to apply knowledge to enhance human flourishing."
Speaker: Will Macaskill
Speaking of massive, life-threatening issues like climate change, nuclear war, malnutrition and poverty, what should we focus on first? Philosopher Will MacAskill outlines a way of answering this question intelligently, based on the philosophy of "effective altruism."
Speaker: Kate Raworth
Anyone who deeply considers the state of the world knows that our economic systems are the backbone of both problems and solutions. Here, Raworth argues that an economy should not be made to grow at all costs. Instead, it should be shaped like a donut. Hear her explain why.
Speaker: Robin Steinberg
Every night, close to half a million Americans are locked up in jail because they can't afford bail. The usual sum? Around $500--affordable for some, impossible for others. This has dire consequences--people lose jobs and homes, for example. Steinberg has a concrete plan to change this. It's called The Bail Project, and its aim is to fight mass incarceration. It's also one of the first ideas to come out of The Audacious Project, a new TED initiative to drive global change.
Speaker: Zachary R. Wood
We're all familiar with tuning out someone you disagree with (especially coming off the holidays with family). But Wood says we actually get stronger by genuinely considering both people and ideas we disagree. "Tuning out opposing viewpoints doesn't make them go away," Wood argues. And progress depends on our ability to empathize and truly grasp the "other side." Relevant for today's world.