6 TED Talks Every Information and Data Lover Should Watch

TED talk - Ideas worth spreadingWant to get energized before tackling that big data project at the office? Feel like having your mind blown at the end of the day? Fumbling for a spark of information inspiration, but not getting grabbed by the blogosphere? No matter what your schedule odds are there's always time for a TED talk, the well-known public speaking platform where leaders of industry and small but sensible individuals share ideas through quick but powerful presentations. TED talks vary in subject and scope, all with the single premise: the talks, recorded with live audiences, are ideas worth sharing.

If you’re interested in some of the innovative ways the world is using data, or just want a different outlook on information’s place in the world, below are six TED Talks to get you started.

1. JP Rangaswami TED Talk- “Information is food”.

A personal favourite as one of the first TED talks I ever watched, Rangaswami's premises of the human brain needing information like the body needs nutrients is a powerful one, using a premise that all can understand and linking it to information habits. All it takes is one click to a social media site to see how the information age has shifted the nature of information consumption: from hunting and gathering new sources, to cultivating the constant stream of data now being churned out. Is our continuous hunger for more information a by-chance byproduct of modern technology, or is it within our genetic code to need that input; are we hardwired that our bodies need to devour information in a similar vain to regular meals? Should we be as conscious of the information we are consuming as we are the calories and nutrients in our daily diet? Eye-opening discussion, and definitely food for thought!

2. Frederic Kaplan TED Talk - “How to build an information time machine.”

GIS and history lovers, this talk will be top of your list. Looking at information through the lens of past to present, Kaplan describes what he calls the “information mushroom”: where so much more data about current activities exists then that available from the past, and how we might close this gap, using digitization, simulation and modelling. In particular, Kaplan’s presentations highlights the Venice Time Machine, a project by DHLAB that intends to open up history in a way never before possible. The problems the Venice Time Machine have encountered are both vast and familiar with anyone experienced in digitization initiatives, and DHLAB's solutions are in the right direction.

3. David McCandleuss TED Talk - "The beauty of data visualization.”

David McCandless brings to life why Infographics and visual representation of fact is becoming a growing trend in sharing information and data. His prime example, using U.S Government spending, is an apt one; showing how data visualization takes the reader beyond obscure number values and brings a better understanding of the subject by seeing the relationships first hand. If you have a concept you're struggling to have your target audience understand, McCandless's talk is worth the listen.

4. Gary Flake TED Talk - "Is Pivot a turning point for web exploration.” 

Gary Flake demonstrates 'Pivot', a program that turns the information within it's scope into a living Infographic. Showing the perfect balance between searching and browsing, going from wide subjects to narrow details, back to more broad subjects, Pivot is able to use it's unique spin on information retrieval to extract even more details on data than the original user considered. This talk is a must, but beware: plan on to taking some time to download Pivot and try it out afterwards!

5. Tim Berners-Lee TED Talk - The year open data went worldwide.” 

Using examples primarily from the U.K, Tim Berners-Lee shows the possibility when data, often hoarded by the original recorder, becomes available to the world and connected with other pieces. Connecting data to maps around the globe, Tim's talk shows how more open data can benefit the world around us. Of particular interest, and showing the real impact of open data is his ending, with look at how open data assisted post-2010 earthquake Haiti.

6. Philip Evans TED Talk - "How data will transform business."

A word of warning on Evan’s talk: this is not a light listen, with significant discussion on the math and theory behind business processes. Evans starts with a quick introduction into the history of business strategy, going from past and present to suggest how business channels are changing with the rise of inexpensive and accessible data. Data is a business disruptor, moving traditional process chains into a new way of doing business, and budding entrepreneurs need to be aware of those changes if they want their own plans to climb to the top.

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