The 5 Best TED Talks On: Science & Technology

August 28, 2014

Whether it be finding new and unique ways of interacting with our surroundings, combining our physical world with the metaphysical digital world, building complex algorithms to automate every process and task, or challenging the biggest problems we face today – the world of science and tech is at a mind blowing precipice wherin technological marvels that would have not even been thought plausible merely decades ago are now slowly becoming a reality and at a pace faster than ever.

Luckily, to help share these millenial marvels with the wider public, TED has attracted the most inventive, creative and astoundingly genius minds in the world to come and share their ideas for new applications of science and technology; applications that have the potential to revolutionise the way we use and think about the world. Tools that have the ability to make our lives easier and ideas that help us to not look at a computer screen in the same way ever again.

So if you’re looking for the latest in technological breakthroughs from some of the most prominent minds on the planet – or perhaps you are looking for some inspiration in hiring a science speaker – here are some of the best TED talks on science and technology around today that prove that Moore's law is more than just an observation.

Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world

Ever consider that the New York stock market nowadays is nothing more than a TV set with a few blinking screens piled up with numbers? Ever wonder how Netflix knows what to recommend next after your Breaking Bad binge? And have you ever considered that a computer can write a movie script better than you? Well, that one I have.

Kevin Slavin knows algorithms. He discusses the story of Hungarian physicist who used to work on hi-tech stealth imagery now works on the stock market – like almost 2 000 others of the same ilk – and how algorithmic Black Box trading controls almost every trade on a miniscule level. He talks about how a company has devised a movie script that can work out if your movie will be a million dollar hit or a critically panned flop and most importantly, he discusses how algorithms pervade almost every aspect of our lives – often without our knowledge.

Marco Tempest: A cyber-magic card trick like no other

Marco Tempest is a self-labelled 21st century illusionist. He specialises in using augmented reality to push the boundaries of what we consider magic and how illusions and technology can often be not too far removed from each other.

In this talk he weaves a fascinating tale of moon cycles, rigged hands, and ponderous thoughts using only his deck of 52 cards. Oh, and an augmented reality set up that transmits a live feed of his technological pageantry directly to the viewer.

Trust me, it makes more sense when you watch it.

Taylor Wilson: Yup, I built a nuclear fusion reactor when I was 14

So what did you want to achieve when you were 14? Good marks at school? Learning how to write competently with both hands? Finally completing Ocarina Of Time? Building a working nuclear fusion reactor?

If you answered yes to anything but the last one – congratulations, you were an average child. If, however, you answered yes to the latter and managed to build a working nuclear fusion reactor because you felt like you wanted to recreate a star in your garage, where's your TED talk?

Taylor Wilson, now 17, talks about how he built a working nuclear reactor in his garage when he was 14 and not even three years later had already developed new technology for the US goverment and showcased his inventions to President Obama. 

Rodney Brooks: Why we will rely on robots

Rodney Brooks is a roboticist. He builds, thinks, and dreams about robots. He knows how robots help in hospitals, defuse bombs and even do our work for us.

In this talk, Brooks recalls a famous quote from Arthur C Clarke that says we 'overestimate technology in the short term, and underestimate technology in the long term'.

He transposes this thought into the wider applications of robotics in the world today and challenges fears that an ageing, baby-boomer, population with the threat of being replaced by industrial robots may be offset by finding new ways to utilise new developments in robotic technology to help and enrich our lives.

Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology

Calling computer scientist and technological wizard Pranav Mistry simply a genius is an understatement several magnitudes greater than saying 'the sun is hot'.

In this absolutely astounding TED talk from India, Mistry showcases his vision to merge the physical world – our objects and actions – with the digital world using his proprietary technology, SixthSense.

This technology has the ability to use a piece of paper as a laptop, it can sense the boarding pass in your hand and tell you how many minutes your flight has been delayed by and it has the potential to do so much more.

Watch this talk and try and stop yourself from thinking of ideas for it.

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By Stephen Warr