From the world of science to self-help, we’re all in search of challenging new ideas presented in motivational talks. Luckily, thanks to resources such as TED talks, we have unlimited inspiration and insight at our fingertips.

Are you keen to find out what ignited our curiosity over the last year? Some themes have captured our imagination and sent us on a ravenous search for more information. Climate change is one such area, with a massive increase of climate related Google searches over 2019 (the term “BBC climate change – the facts” for example, rose by 40,300 per cent in the UK). Searches around the topics of artificial intelligence and virtual reality have also rocketed in volume. Judging by these regular inquiries, it seems that people are more engaged and intrigued in the science and tech industry than ever.

The likes of TED talks make this sector more accessible than it has ever been before. Some challenging subjects have been opened up to the masses. People are clearly eager to learn about diverse subjects, and the viewing rates of 2019’s favourite tech related TED talks prove an unrivalled enthusiasm. Let’s take a look at our very favourite motivational speakers in the tech industry right now.

  1. Shohini Ghose

A beginner’s guide to quantum computing


Previously, many would have been intimidated by this title. This talk however, has made the riveting subject of quantum computing appealing and accessible. In this video, quantum physicist, Shohini Ghose tells us how new scientific techniques are leading us towards technology that “holds the potential to transform medicine, create unbreakable encryption and even teleport information.” No wonder viewers are tuning into this talk — quantum computing holds the key to some unimaginable developments!

  1. Margaret Heffernan

The human skills we need in an unpredictable world


Interestingly, this highly viewed talk is less ‘tech-positive’ than the rest. Focussing her attentions on the importance of human skills, Heffernan warns us against a complete tech reliance. In relation to the necessity to retain essential human values like bravery, she says “We are brave enough to invent things we’ve never seen before…We can make any future we choose.”

  1. Juliet Brophy

How a new species of ancestors is changing our theory of human evolution


Simply by the title, you know that this talk is going to be a game changer. Paleoanthropologist Juliet Brophy takes us right back to the beginning, questioning our ancestry and what it means to be human. This talk centres around the discovery of unusual fossils in South Africa in 2013. The fossils revealed a new species of ancient humans — a revelation that has put humanity as we know it into question. Judging by the popularity of this talk, it looks like science enthusiasts are as interested in looking into the past as they are the in envisioning future.

  1. Karissa Sanbonmatsu

The biology of gender, from DNA to the brain


Get ready to reject gender binaries as you know them once and for all. In this mind-blowing talk, structural biologist Karissa Sanbonmatsu unhinges the concept that gender is all about chromosomes. Studies on DNA activity have shown that genes can be altered and expressed in different ways because of social factors. This talk discusses these new concepts and uproots our very understanding of gender.

  1. Rob Reid

How synthetic biology could wipe out humanity — and how we can stop it


Any title that includes the words “wipe out humanity” is naturally going to grasp our attention, and this talk from Rob Reid holds us fixated throughout. The concept of doomsday bugs has so far stayed safely within the realms of dystopian fiction, but in this talk, Reid warns us that it is a very real threat. A terrifying thought, yet one we’re all keen to tune in to.

  1. Keith Kirkland

Wearable tech that helps you navigate by touch


Haptic Designer, Keith Kirkland, is bringing the idea of wearable tech to life — and we’re not just talking about smart watches. In this talk, he discusses the development of “haptic language”, which he has created as part of his work to develop smart clothing that could double up as a navigational device for the blind and visually impaired.

  1. Erika Hamden

What it takes to launch a telescope


Do you know what it takes to launch a telescope? No? Me neither. At least not until Astrophysicist Erika Hamdem talked us all through the decade-long journey. Her team are developing the FIREBall telescope, whose mission is to figure out how stars are created. TED talk viewers have been eagerly tuning in all year to learn about her mission.

  1. Andrew Marantz

Inside the bizarre world of internet trolls and propagandists


This story of how writer, Andrew Marantz, immersed himself in the world of internet trolls and propagandists gives us an unnerving insight into the most toxic areas of the internet. In the midst of a turbulent political landscape, this issue couldn’t be more topical, and thousands of viewers agree.

  1. Majd Mashharawi

How I’m making bricks out of ashes and rubble in Gaza


This innovative talk revolves around creating something important even in the most despairing of circumstances. Engineer and Entrepreneur, Majd Mashharawi, came up with the idea of turning rubble into new building materials and designed bricks made from ashes to help rebuild destroyed areas of war-torn Gaza. This project has captivated the imagination of thousands of viewers.

  1. Tiana Epps-Johnson

What’s needed to bring the US voting system into the 21st century


Although this final talk leans more towards politics, Tiana Epps-Johnson (Civic Engagement Champion) discusses how we can use tech to bring the US electoral system into the 21st century. With so many viewers from around the world, and the transcript available in 14 languages, it is clear that you don’t have to be from the US to feel invested in this topic.

Thanks to the accessible style of these videos, and the iconic event signage that makes TED talks recognisable to just about anyone, viewers have been able to engage with some diverse and unusual subjects. Interestingly, many of the most watched talks contain a prominent human element. This shows that we don’t only want to keep up with the latest developments in tech solutions, but we also want to understand our role within this rapidly advancing world.

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