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Best TED Talks For Technologists

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    If you enjoy watching Internet videos and you're in technology, there's a good chance you've wasted more than one afternoon binge-watching TED Talks.

    TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, began holding events back in 1984. Since then, this non-profit organization has become known for its TED Talks, which are short (18 minutes or less) presentations given by some of the most intelligent and inspirational speakers in the world. Thousands flock to TED events, and millions have watched the video replays available on YouTube or TED.com.

    TED Talks frequently deal with emerging technology. Some cover the intersection between technology and other fields, like design, education, healthcare, or sociology. Often the presentations include demos, many of which are simply amazing. And a lot of the presentations pose big questions or call on the audience to rethink some of their assumptions about how the world works.

    We've pulled together 10 of the best TED Talks related to technology. They are at times jaw-dropping, funny, persuasive, courageous, ingenious, fascinating, inspiring, beautiful, and informative -- which also happen to be the categories TED uses for organizing videos on its website. All of them live up to the TED motto: "Ideas worth spreading." Check them out on the following pages.

  • Daniele Quercia

    Happy Maps

    We've all used mapping tools on our mobile devices to help us find the shortest route between two points, but what about those times when you'd rather take the road less traveled? Daniele Quercia, a researcher at Yahoo Labs in Barcelona, had an epiphany when he happened to take an alternate route while biking to work in Cambridge, Mass. Using crowdsourcing technology, he developed a mapping app that can not only tell you the fastest route between two points, but also the happiest, the most beautiful, and the quietest paths. During [email protected] Berlin in November 2014, he quoted Albert Einstein, who said, "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

  • Markus Fischer

    A Robot That Flies Like A Bird

    At the heart of many great TED Talks is a great demo, and Markus Fischer had one of the most impressive. He and his team at Festo built SmartBird, a robot that flies by flapping its wings, just like a real bird. SmartBird soared over the audience twice during Fischer's speech. In flight, it looks a lot like a seagull, which was the model for the design. This presentation from TEDGlobal 2011 is one of the most watched of all time, with more than 5.6 million views, and the demo received a standing ovation from the attendees.

  • Jeff Han

    The Radical Promise Of The Multi-Touch Interface

    While it's always interesting to see the newest technology being presented at TEDTalks, it's also fun to go back and look at what used to be considered groundbreaking. Today it has become commonplace, but back in 2006, multi-touch seemed nothing short of amazing. Jeff Han, then a research scientist at New York University, demonstrated one of the first affordable systems to use multi-touch technology -- a rear-projected, touch-sensitive drafting table -- at TED 2006, and the audience went wild.

    He now seems like a prophet, having told the audience, "I really think this is going to really change the way we interact with machines from this point on."

  • Tan Le

    A Headset That Reads Your Brainwaves

    If multi-touch is the interface of today, could brain waves be the interface of tomorrow? During this presentation at TEDGlobal 2010, Tan Le, founder and CEO of Emotiv, demonstrated a headset that allows users to control computers with their thoughts. After only a few seconds of training the system, a volunteer can cause an object to move around on the screen and even temporarily disappear. Le explains that this technology could be used to play video games, fly a toy helicopter, manage appliances in a smart home, or even control an electric wheelchair.

  • Rana el Kaliouby

    This App Knows How You Feel -- From The Look On Your Face

    Like Tan Le, Rana el Kaliouby is interested in alternative methods of interfacing with computer systems. Kaliouby, who is co-founder of Affectiva, an MIT Media Lab spin-off, has developed a system that can detect emotions based on facial imagery. During TEDWomen 2015, she demonstrated the technology onstage using a test subject, and it did an admirable job identifying the quality and intensity of the emotion conveyed by the person's face. She predicted, "I think five years down the line, all our devices are going to have an emotion chip, and we won't remember what it was like when we couldn't just frown at our device and our device would say, 'Hmm, you didn't like that, did you?'"

  • Sugata Mitra

    Build A School In The Cloud

    In this inspiring talk from TED2013, Sugata Mitra shared the results of an interesting series of experiments. He set up computers in areas where underprivileged children congregated, and then he left. When he returned, usually a couple of months later, the results were astonishing. The children had not only taught themselves to use the computers, in some cases they had taught themselves how to speak English and even some of the intricacies of genetic science. Based on this research, he has developed a vision for a new type of education that would take place in what he calls "Self Organized Learning Environments."

  • Nick Bostrom

    What Happens When Our Computers Get Smarter Than We Are?

    As machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technology advances, it's a near certainty that someday we will create computers that are smarter than we are. In fact, AI experts say there's a 50% chance that we will reach that point by 2040 or 2050. In his talk at TED2015, Nick Bostrom considers what that would mean for humanity and the possibility of a future that looks something like the Terminator movies. "Making super-intelligent AI is a really hard challenge," he says. "Making super-intelligent AI that is safe involves some additional challenge on top of that. The risk is if somebody figures out how to crack the first challenge without also having cracked the additional challenge of ensuring perfect safety."

  • Joseph DeSimone

    What If 3D Printing Was 100x Faster?

    Like Nick Bostrom's talk, Joseph DeSimone's TED2015 presentation also owes something to the Terminator movies. But DeSimone isn't so concerned about computers taking over the world; he wants 3D printing to work more like the Terminator 2 scene where the T-1000 robot arises out of liquid metal. Traditional 3D printing is a very slow process, but during his talk DeSimone demonstrated his new technology that is 25 to 100 times faster. While he was on stage, a puddle of liquid evolved within minutes into a unique solid shape that can't be fabricated by traditional means.

  • Dame Stephanie Shirley

    Why Do Ambitious Women Have Flat Heads?

    Today's technology industry has become so male-dominated that it's easy to forget the pivotal roles that many women played in the early days of computing, particularly in the field of software development. Dame Stephanie Shirley is a living legend who was one of those early pioneers. At TED2015, she recounted her life history, which included escaping Nazi Europe, setting up her own software company that employed primarily female programmers, growing that company into a $3 billion enterprise, parenting an autistic child, and finding meaning through her work as a philanthropist. She closed by saying, "I learned that tomorrow's never going to be like today, and certainly nothing like yesterday. And that made me able to cope with change, indeed, eventually to welcome change, though I'm told I'm still very difficult."