Must-watch TED Talks for data enthusiasts

One of the best aspects in the ever-growing world of data is that no matter your level of expertise, there is always something new out there to learn. While new tools and technologies are obviously vital to keep up with, listening to industry experts share their own findings, stories, and teachings can also bring us lessons that are just as important. To help share some examples of this incredible knowledge, the Bear Cognition analytics team has rounded up some of our favorite TED Talks regarding data visualization, project processes, and even artificial intelligence. Whether you’re an experienced veteran of data analysis or completely new to the idea, there’s a valuable takeaway for you to discover in each one of these videos!

Quick Hits: ~5 Minute Talks

Tommy McCall: The simple genius of a good graphic

What better way to start off this list than by taking a quick look back at the history of data visualization? In this talk, Tommy McCall takes viewers through a short journey on how visual displays of data have evolved from handwritten graphs to the dynamic and actionable charts that are so prevalent in our current world. His presentation then pivots to do a wonderful job of highlighting how simpler visualizations can often be the most effective for decision-makers.

Lea Gaslowitz: How to spot a misleading graph

“Numbers don’t lie” is a cold hard fact; however, there are a multitude of ways that numbers can be represented in a way to intentionally mislead the audience. In this animated TED Talk, Lea Gaslowitz shows us all just how frequently businesses, politicians, and other organizations will attempt to fool people while showing numbers that are technically true. There are a number of deceptive tricks to accomplish this by modifying, cropping, or even hiding a chart’s axis; thankfully, Gaslowitz is here to teach viewers how to easily identify these instances.

Double Digits: ~12 Minute Talks

Alan Smith: Why you should love statistics

If you’re looking for an example about how powerful data visualization truly is, Alan Smith’s TED Talk is exactly where you’ll find it. Using results from a demographics poll that he released to the public, Smith uses visualization to highlight and address human bias. His application first asked poll users to guess the demographics in their own neighborhood, then used interactivity to compare them to the actual demographic numbers. Watching the real-time change happen via visuals rather than straight-up numbers is astonishingly effective.

Jessica Donohue: The upside of data

(Click here to go to this talk on the TED website)

In one of the more technical talks on this list, Jessica Donohue speaks on the importance of four key elements in the data analysis process: tools, discovery, humans, and expectations. For each of these aspects, she stresses their necessity by calling on age-old industry lessons as well as her own personal experience. The presentation’s structure naturally progresses through every step of an analysis project, and by the end every viewer regardless of their technical know-how will have learned multiple lessons to carry with them.

Full Presentations: 18+ Minute Talks

Hans Rosling: The best stats you've ever seen

Don’t let the date of 2006 fool you: this TED Talk and its takeaways still hold up incredibly well today and always will. This appears to be the first ever TED Talk regarding data analysis, and Hans Rosling puts the effectiveness of dynamic data visualization on full display. As he shows the audience various graphs that move along with time, Rosling himself brings a level of excitement to his presentation style that complements the energy of the on-screen actions perfectly. Although this talk is recorded over a few different free-hand cameras with early-2000s picture quality, I would argue that it somehow just adds to the charm of what is arguably the most entertaining talk on this list.

David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization

David McCandless’s entire presentation here essentially stands as a powerful argument for why data visualization is absolutely necessary in our world. Using everyday examples such as news headlines, video game popularity, and Facebook status updates, McCandless showcases how easily it is to identify insights and trends inside of something by mapping the data into a visualization rather than looking at numbers in a table. While a couple of other talks on this list incorporate this to some extent, McCandless’s TED Talk is clearly the best at getting that message across to the audience.

Sebastian Thrun and Chris Anderson: What AI is -- and isn't

Breaking away from all of the single-speaker presentations above, this TED Talk features a conversation between two people: technologist Sebastian Thrun and “head of TED” Chris Anderson. In a talk so intriguing that the editors at TED featured it on the home page of their website, Thrun speaks on the history of machine learning from its roots 60 years ago to where it stands at the recording of this discussion (2017). He goes on to stress the positive aspects of artificial intelligence and explains his imagination of a world where all mundane tasks are performed automatically by computers, leaving humans more time to be innovative with ideas. Whether you’re new to the concept of AI or well-versed in it, this talk highlighting the benefits of machine learning is well worth your time.

Our analytics team here found good value in all of these videos, and we hope that you do as well! If you’re looking to discover how data analysis can be used to unlock new insights and drive your business forward, contact us today so that we can help begin your data journey.

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