How does knowledge grow? Sometimes it begins with one insight and grows into many branches. Infographics expert Manuel Lima explores the thousand-year history of mapping data -- from languages to dynasties -- using trees of information. It's a fascinating history of visualizations, and a look into humanity's urge to map what we know.
César visits the RSA to present a new view of the relationship between individual and collective knowledge, linking information theory, economics and biology to explain the deep evolution of social and economic systems. In a radical rethink of what an economy is, one of WIRED magazine’s 50 People Who Could Change the World, César Hidalgo argues that it is the measure of a nation’s cultural complexity – the nexus of people, ideas and invention - rather than its GDP or per-capita income, that explains the success or failure of its economic performance. To understand the growth of economies, Hidalgo argues, we first need to understand the growth of order itself.
Statistically, the least reliable part of the car is ... the driver. Chris Urmson heads up Google's driverless car program, one of several efforts to remove humans from the driver's seat. He talks about where his program is right now, and shares fascinating footage that shows how the car sees the road and makes autonomous decisions about what to do next.
How do babies learn so much from so little so quickly? In a fun, experiment-filled talk, cognitive scientist Laura Schulz shows how our young ones make decisions with a surprisingly strong sense of logic, well before they can talk.
Christian Schwägerl, science and environment writer, and co-founder of The Anthropocene Project; Tony Juniper, writer, campaigner, environmentalist and sustainability adviser We live at a moment of deep change, between one geological epoch and another, between the Holocene and the present - an era we are beginning to call the Anthropocene. It is only recently that we have come to understand that our actions have already altered the planet, that we now shape nature, and that we have the power to create a positive geological record. Alongside current ecological crises are countless examples of new thinking, such as smart cities, cultivated life forms and landscapes with human-induced biodiversity. Popular movements are fighting for their local ecologies, globally-connected pressure groups are forcing political change, and there is a growing recognition that diverse communities have an equal right to a say in this planet’s future. Award-winning science and environment writer Christian Schwägerl visits the RSA to trace our co-evolution on this planet and the growth of ideas about the Anthropocene concept.
So one way of thinking about complexity is adaptive, many body systems. The sun is not an adaptive system; the sun doesn’t really learn. These do; these are learning systems. And we’ve never really successfully had a theory for many body learning systems. So just to make that a little clearer, the brain would be an example. There are many neurons interacting adaptively to form a representation, for example, of a visual scene; in economy, there are many individual agents deciding on the price of a good, and so forth; a political system voting for the next president. All of these systems have individual entities that are heterogeneous and acquire information according to a unique history about the world in which they live. That is not a world that Newton could deal with. There’s a very famous quote where he says something like, I have been able to understand the motion of the planets, but I will never understand the madness of men. What Newton was saying is, I don’t understand complexity.
Collective compassion has meant an overall decrease in global poverty since the 1980s, says civil rights lawyer Gary Haugen. Yet for all the world's aid money, there's a pervasive hidden problem keeping poverty alive. Haugen reveals the dark underlying cause we must recognize and act on now.
Rob Knight is a pioneer in studying human microbes, the community of tiny single-cell organisms living inside our bodies that have a huge — and largely unexplored — role in our health. “The three pounds of microbes that you carry around with you might be more important than every single gene you carry around in your genome,” he says. Find out why.
Human societies use complexity -- within their institutions and technologies -- to address their various problems, and they need high-quality energy to create and sustain this complexity. But now greater complexity is producing diminishing returns in wellbeing, while the energetic cost of key sources of energy is rising fast. Simultaneously, humankind's problems are becoming vastly harder, which requires societies to deliver yet more complexity and thus consume yet more energy. Resolving this paradox is the central challenge of the 21st century. Thomas Homer-Dixon holds the CIGI Chair of Global Systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Canada, and is a Professor at the University of Waterloo.
Seventy thousand years ago, our human ancestors were insignificant animals, just minding their own business in a corner of Africa with all the other animals. But now, few would disagree that humans dominate planet Earth; we've spread to every continent, and our actions determine the fate of other animals (and possibly Earth itself). How did we get from there to here? Historian Yuval Noah Harari suggests a surprising reason for the rise of humanity.
Cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman is trying to answer a big question: Do we experience the world as it really is ... or as we need it to be? In this ever so slightly mind-blowing talk, he ponders how our minds construct reality for us.
Liver cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to detect, but synthetic biologist Tal Danino had a left-field thought: What if we could create a probiotic, edible bacteria that was "programmed" to find liver tumors? His insight exploits something we're just beginning to understand about bacteria: their power of quorum sensing, or doing something together once they reach critical mass. Danino, a TED Fellow, explains how quorum sensing works — and how clever bacteria working together could someday change cancer treatment.
So which explanation captures the dynamics that led to the crash? Could an ordinary order in the futures market or a lone market manipulator really cause the crash? The simple answer is that this is the wrong question to ask. From the perspective of the joint report and the enforcement action, the Flash Crash was a fluke, an idiosyncratic event caused by an unexpected glitch in the markets. But it was far from being a fluke. Instead, the Flash Crash reveals that we need a fundamentally different understanding of how modern financial markets work. We believe that it shows us that markets are governed by the same principle as earthquakes and avalanches: self-organized criticality.
Finding the right mate is no cakewalk -- but is it even mathematically likely? In a charming talk, mathematician Hannah Fry shows patterns in how we look for love, and gives her top three tips (verified by math!) for finding that special someone.
While we like to imagine little green men, it’s far more likely that life on other planets will be microbial. Planetary scientist Nathalie Cabrol takes us inside the search for microbes on Mars, a hunt which counterintuitively leads us to the remote lakes of the Andes mountains. This extreme environment — with its thin atmosphere and scorched land — approximates the surface of Mars about 3.5 billion years ago. How microbes adapt to survive here may just show us where to look on Mars — and could
The news of society's growing inequality makes all of us uneasy. But why? Dan Ariely reveals some new, surprising research on what we think is fair, as far as how wealth is distributed over societies ... then shows how it stacks up to the real stats.
When a very young child looks at a picture, she can identify simple elements: "cat," "book," "chair." Now, computers are getting smart enough to do that too. What's next? In a thrilling talk, computer vision expert Fei-Fei Li describes the state of the art -- including the database of 15 million photos her team built to "teach" a computer to understand pictures -- and the key insights yet to come.
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