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TED Talks on data science
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11 Must-Watch TED Talks on Data Science

6 minute read | October 24, 2018
T.J. DeGroat

Written by:
T.J. DeGroat

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TED Talks provide some of the most interesting resources for information on a diverse range of topics, from big data to cybersecurity to the psychology of sociopaths. As the data science field has grown in recent years, so too has the number of TED Talks focusing on this area of the tech space.

Related: 12 Awesome TED Talks on UX Design

Whether you’re already a data scientist or are just interested in the field, we’ve rounded up inspiring and interesting data science TED Talks that we’re sure will pique your interest.

The Best Ted Talks on Data Science

The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen

To most of the world, statistics and data science can be dry and difficult to understand due to the complexity and use of jargon. However, this classic TED Talk by Hans Rosling presents data with the drama and urgency of a sportscaster and breaks down the mythology and common misconceptions about the world as it is through the use of data analytics.

The Beauty of Data Visualization

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One of the most renowned data journalists in the world, David McCandless’ love for complex data sets and appealing data visualizations shines through in this TED Talk, as he makes use of data and design to create value by reducing information silos from a wide range of sources. Through this presentation, you’ll find data navigation more interesting than ever.  

Why Smart Statistics Are the Key to Fighting Crime

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Data science is never practiced in a vacuum, and many interesting TED Talks focus on exactly this aspect of the field: the applications of data analytics. In this talk, Anne Milgram, a seasoned criminal prosecutor in the U.S., explains how data analytics can be used in the prosecution process to not only streamline it but also to prevent bias and erroneous conclusions, promoting the use of data-driven methods of solving criminal cases.

Relationship Analytics and Business

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Zack Johnson took up social network analysis for his higher education studies, and through his understanding of the data, has had the opportunity to work with NASA, the U.S. Army, and many other influential organizations. Through his brainchild Syndio, this TED Talk speaker connects the applications of data analysis to human behavior and employee relationships, illustrating the power that data science has on the business world.

How I Hacked Online Dating

Aside from the business aspect of relationships, the human component can also be deeply impacted by data science. Quantitative futurist Amy Webb, this TED Talk’s speaker, has had no luck with online dating (at least at the time she delivered this presentation), with potential dates never writing back and her own profile attracting a limited pool. To rectify this problem, Webb turned to a spreadsheet. In this humorous talk, data science is linked intricately with the speaker’s love life, leading to some interesting and life-changing results.

We’re All Data Scientists

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In this talk, Rebecca Nugent concentrates on how data science has changed education at a fundamental level, empowering students and employees from all backgrounds, including the humanities and social sciences. In fact, according to Nugent, data science is the “science of the people,” as the power of data can be harnessed by everyone regardless of what field they are in.

Who Controls the World?

What can a swarm of birds, or rather the pattern of their movements and the complexity of their community, tell us about the economy? Quite a bit, it turns out. James Glattfelder delves into the study of complexity, how data in interconnected systems can reveal a lot about the way society and the economy works. This idea that a system is more than the sum of its parts can even be applied to our system of politics, providing some rather telling insights of data’s impact on our lives.

Your Social Media “likes” Expose More than You Think

Computer scientist Jennifer Golbeck believes your random likes and shares on Facebook can have more impact than you might expect. This TED Talk reveals several surprising facts about Facebook’s data and system, as Golbeck explains how the technology came about and how some of its applications and implications may not necessarily be as rosy as they seem on the outside. By harnessing important data and information, this talk dives deep into the concepts of data privacy and security as it relates to society.

Big Data is Better Data

The term “big data” is now very much ubiquitous, even in traditional media, as technological advancements put it at the forefront. In this talk, data analyst for The Economist Kenneth Cukier explains that data has not just allowed us to see far into the future, but it has also equipped us with new tools to view the world we live in very differently. In fact, he argues that big data is our biggest hope for the futurea tool that can change the world and solve some of the biggest challenges humanity faces, as it activates other technological tools like machine learning.

How We Found the Worst Place to Park in New York City — Using Big Data

In a place like New York, a good parking spot can be extremely hard to find. Yet, advancements in data science promise to help you avoid every parking ticket trap in town. Data scientist Ben Wellington brings us down the familiar trail of parking tickets and data analytics to display how data sharing can not only benefit our own pockets, but also those throughout New York City and the world.

The Human Insight Missing from Big Data

With the amount of data available to us today, why do some companies still make bad decisions? With examples ranging from Netflix and Nokia to ancient Greek mythology, Tricia Wang talks about the often neglected side of data science: the pitfalls of using data erroneously. The focus of data science should, according to Wang, be on the unquantifiable insights from real people, in order to effectively drive business decisions in the right direction.


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Let’s face it, data science can be… boring. Steeped in complex formulas and algorithms, the industry is not always very welcoming to newcomers, let alone the general public looking for answers. However, these TED Talks give a good overview of data science and its various applications, providing thought-provoking insights into the technology as well as society at large. Furthermore, by watching these TED Talks, you will learn about various ideas, suggestions, and viewpoints expressed by experienced data scientists that will assist you in the long run.

Also, if you’re more into reading than watching, we’ve put together 20 of the top data science and AI newsletters here!

Since you’re here…Are you interested in this career track? Investigate with our free guide to what a data professional actually does. When you’re ready to build a CV that will make hiring managers melt, join our Data Science Bootcamp which will help you land a job or your tuition back!

This post was written by Tammi Chng. Tammi is a freelance writer based in Singapore. Specializing in healthcare and technology, she’s never without her head stuck in a book and her mind on the run.

About T.J. DeGroat

T.J. is a writer and editor waging war against unnecessary capitalization. You can follow him on Twitter @tjdegroat.