Some of the most inspiring data can be found in an unexpected place… TED Talks. Here are the best talks on everything data science.

Big data and data science appear on both sides of a coin: they are driving forces behind both business and science, yet they are also a kind of modern art. Data narratives combine technology and seemingly futuristic machine learning to create something unique, and even beautiful. It’s no surprise how many TED Talks exist on the topic.

Several of the most popular TED Talks on data are highly specific, but we wanted a list that combined use cases and inspirational stories, as well as tools for business and math lovers.

Happy watching.

The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen

Hans Rosling (10,341,000 views)
Hans Rosling just had to be first on this list. He has multiple TED Talks, all of which have become hits. Viewing statistics can’t be done in a vacuum. People always bring their world view and notions along. In order to conduct proper analysis, people need to begin thinking differently. Rosling makes a great argument for liberating data and, as the title implies, shares some mesmerizing statistics. Not to mention, the statistician/academic/professional public speaker is absolutely captivating. There’s no arguing with over 10 million views.

The Beauty of Data Visualization

David McCandless (2,264,000 views)
McCandless does not like how data and numbers can be rendered meaningless. In response, he has turned otherwise hard-to-grasp information into gorgeous diagrams. These allow viewers to readily understand the information, and invite them to make patterns and connections. In this talk, he discusses human fears, the military, and even CO2—all of which is does hilariously and perfectly spot-on. This talk will help viewers better appreciate data and the role of proper presentation. He makes it clear that knowledge is never just about numbers.

The Wonderful and Terrifying Implications of Computers That Can Learn

Jeremy Howard (1,580,000 views)
This is THE talk about machine learning. Howard discusses a broad range of machine learning applications—not just Google, but even language translation, and medicine. For those needing to better understand the importance and evolution of machine learning, this is the go-to TedTalk.

How Data Will Transform Business

Philip Evans (1,174,000 views)
This isn’t a trendy “how to employ data to make money.” Rather, it’s a look at fundamental ideas behind business and technology. Big data means big scaling and adapting. Business, Evans argues, has always been based around assumptions on technology. As shifts in technology become bigger and bolder, our very understanding of business strategy may shift as well.

“What do we do with all this Big Data?”

Susan Etlinger (1,044,000 views)
Data doesn’t mean anything on its own. This talk is about the line where science and arts intersect in data analysis. It’s said that liberal arts students have skills many of their peers do not: namely, critical thinking. And that’s what we really need to understand data. In this particularly inspirational talk, Etlinger manages to perfectly walk the line between art and science in the big data discussion.

Big Data is Better Data

Kenneth Cukier (1,021,000 views)
What’s America’s favorite pie? Yes, Cukier uses data and analysis to find the unexpected answer. More importantly, he explains that big data isn’t just a large amount of data. It’s a different kind of data. Real insight is in the details that only exist in big datasets. He also delves into how big data is going to shape our future. This inspiring talk is a mixture of history, science and the future from the eyes of data lovers.

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

Ben Wellington (901,000 views)
The importance of this talk isn’t just public transportation and the way data can change it. The real point is ordinary folks having access to data. Realizing that government agencies have a multitude of data and, oftentimes, little idea what to do with, the real challenge is finding the manpower and approach to put it to use. Opening up data may be the best way to bring on an exciting new world.

The Birth of a Word

Deb Roy (2,209,000 views)
Data-rich research. Human learning. Babies. This Talk follows a certain research project performed by Deb Roy, an MIT professor and Chief Media Scientist at Twitter. Roy captured some 90,000 hours of home video in hopes of understanding how his son learned language. He not only captured the first time his child used the word “water,” but he mapped how, when, and where the child began to internalize new words. Full of mind-blowing visualizations, this talk is bizarrely amazing.

The Weight of Data

Jer Thorp (203,000 views)
Thorp is an artist whose work has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, Scientific American, The New Yorker, and CBC. He turns data into amazing visuals that are both informational and incredible. Quirky and entertaining, Thorp plots people waking up and saying “good morning” all around the world, as well as visualizing how content travels on the internet.

Big Data in the Service of Humanity

Jake Porway (21,000 views)
Here’s a small TEDx video to get you looking forward to a happier data-rich world (“TEDx are independently organized talks inspired by TED Talks). Porway wants to inspire people to get into data and understand its full potential. Yes, it can be used to make money, and even to make better products, but it isn’t easy to maneuver. How can the little guy (or “littler” guys) utilize data to make the world better?

Big Data Dystopia

Kenneth Cukier (8,000 views)
For every data enthusiast there is a data doubter, and it’s important to hear both sides of the argument. The outlook of this TEDx Talk is very serious and a tad bleak, but Cukier, data editor for The Economist, voices many fears much the populace has. He also discusses how to balance data usage and skepticism by changing the way we think about data.

image credit: TED Conference

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