Four TED Talks That Changed My Understanding of the World

Photo by Justin Heap on Unsplash

While these are not the only talks that have changed my worldview, they are talks I see as being incredibly noteworthy in one way or another. Therefore, I feel a strong desire to share them with others. Please enjoy!

How electroshock therapy changed me

Speaker: Sherwin Nuland
Tags: Medicine, Psychiatry, Mental health, Depression
Why it matters: As someone who has been on 30+ medications for mental illness since age 18, I’ve been disappointed in a variety of unexpected ways by traditional medicine. Disappointed, not defeated, though; I’ve continually had the sense that it could be done better. I’m not against taking medication, and I do so on a daily basis, but I don’t want to limit myself.

What really happens when you mix medications

Speaker: Russ Altman
Tags: Data Science, Medicine
Why it matters: Well, I think it’s a really cool topic, but that’s just my opinion. It also demonstrates the potential for creativity in data science and how it can reveal surprising facts about things that were thought to be more or less understood already. I already knew some things about which medications should not be taken together, when it’s considered safe versus when it’s considered a general no-no. But this talk centers around a discovery made using big data about an SSRI and a statin that, when taken together, can cause serious blood sugar issues. (I gave my doctor a quick rundown of this talk’s subject matter, and it impressed her.)

We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on links

Speaker: Zynep Tufekci
Tags: Technology, Extremism, Algorithms
Why it matters: This talk was instrumental in helping me understand the importance of algorithms and how they can be misused, even when there is no intention of bad or malicious behavior on the part of the people who created them. My hope is that it helps people who develop algorithms and related tech to think more critically about any rabbit holes their work might lead unsuspecting users down.

The strange tale of the Norden bombsight

Speaker: Malcolm Gladwell
Tags: Inventions, History, War
Why it matters: Military weapons. History. Swiss engineers. Misplaced priorities. A whole country’s leadership failing to understand the problems of war and their relative significance. This talk goes places. I don’t know much about him as a person, but Malcolm Gladwell is a really good storyteller. And at the story ends with quite a bang that really ties it all together.

These are not the only talks I would recommend, but they've been on my mind a lot lately. One of the (many) reasons for that is COVID-19.

Not that this is the most important sin of the Trump administration re: COVID-19, but as a data science nerd, it upsets me that better data is not and can never be available due to the time-sensitive nature of the pandemic and the evolving status of COVID-19 as a mutable virus. These talks highlight aspects of our technological advancements as a global culture, including surprising discoveries related to data and statistics, and I believe that others can benefit in a similar way. When learning experiences instill a sense of wonder and curiosity, the natural drive for generating more knowledge and exploring new intellectual territory can be unlocked. Unlocked, as opposed to its being smothered. And I firmly believe that this drive can be life-changing.



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London Graves

London Graves

Queer vegan cryptid trying their best to survive late-stage capitalism while helping others do the same.