playlist

Making sense of too much data

It's the age of Big Data. But what, exactly, do we do with all this information? These talks explore practical, ethical — and spectacularly visual — ways to understand near-infinite data.

  1. 11:45
    Mona Chalabi 3 ways to spot a bad statistic

    Sometimes it's hard to know what statistics are worthy of trust. But we shouldn't count out stats altogether ... instead, we should learn to look behind them. In this delightful, hilarious talk, data journalist Mona Chalabi shares handy tips to help question, interpret and truly understand what the numbers are saying.

  2. 5:57
    Tommy McCall The simple genius of a good graphic

    In a talk that's part history lesson, part love letter to graphics, information designer Tommy McCall traces the centuries-long evolution of charts and diagrams — and shows how complex data can be sculpted into beautiful shapes. "Graphics that help us think faster, or see a book's worth of information on a single page, are the key to unlocking new discoveries," McCall says.

  3. 19:50
    Hans Rosling The best stats you've ever seen

    You've never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called "developing world."

  4. 7:04
    Jeanne Pinder What if all US health care costs were transparent?

    In the US, the very same blood test can cost $19 at one clinic and $522 at another clinic just blocks away — and nobody knows the difference until they get a bill weeks later. Journalist Jeanne Pinder says it doesn't have to be this way. She's built a platform that crowdsources the true costs of medical procedures and makes the data public, revealing the secrets of health care pricing. Learn how knowing what stuff costs in advance could make us healthier, save us money — and help fix a broken system.

  5. 17:27
    Amy Webb How I hacked online dating

    Amy Webb was having no luck with online dating. The dates she liked didn't write her back, and her own profile attracted crickets (and worse). So, as any fan of data would do: she started making a spreadsheet. Hear the story of how she went on to hack her online dating life — with frustrating, funny and life-changing results.

  6. 11:15
    Mallory Freeman Your company's data could help end world hunger

    Your company might have donated money to help solve humanitarian issues, but you could have something even more useful to offer: your data. Mallory Freeman shows us how private sector companies can help make real progress on big problems — from the refugee crisis to world hunger — by donating untapped data and decision scientists. What might your company be able to contribute?

  7. 19:52
    Deb Roy The birth of a word

    MIT researcher Deb Roy wanted to understand how his infant son learned language — so he wired up his house with videocameras to catch every moment (with exceptions) of his son's life, then parsed 90,000 hours of home video to watch "gaaaa" slowly turn into "water." Astonishing, data-rich research with deep implications for how we learn.

  8. 17:56
    David McCandless The beauty of data visualization

    David McCandless turns complex data sets (like worldwide military spending, media buzz, Facebook status updates) into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut — and it may just change the way we see the world.

  9. 12:12
    Shyam Sankar The rise of human-computer cooperation

    Brute computing force alone can't solve the world's problems. Data mining innovator Shyam Sankar explains why solving big problems (like catching terrorists or identifying huge hidden trends) is not a question of finding the right algorithm, but rather the right symbiotic relationship between computation and human creativity.

  10. 12:41
    Anne Milgram Why smart statistics are the key to fighting crime

    When she became the attorney general of New Jersey in 2007, Anne Milgram quickly discovered a few startling facts: not only did her team not really know who they were putting in jail, but they had no way of understanding if their decisions were actually making the public safer. And so began her ongoing, inspirational quest to bring data analytics and statistical analysis to the US criminal justice system.

  11. 18:18
    Aaron Koblin Visualizing ourselves ... with crowd-sourced data

    Artist Aaron Koblin takes vast amounts of data — and at times vast numbers of people — and weaves them into stunning visualizations. From elegant lines tracing airline flights to landscapes of cell phone data, from a Johnny Cash video assembled from crowd-sourced drawings to the "Wilderness Downtown" video that customizes for the user, his works brilliantly explore how modern technology can make us more human.

  12. 9:16
    Nate Silver Does racism affect how you vote?

    Nate Silver has data that answers big questions about race in politics. For instance, in the 2008 presidential race, did Obama's skin color actually keep him from getting votes in some parts of the country? Stats and myths collide in this fascinating talk that ends with a remarkable insight.

  13. 18:32
    Steven Pinker Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers

    Was 2017 really the "worst year ever," as some would have us believe? In his analysis of recent data on homicide, war, poverty, pollution and more, psychologist Steven Pinker finds that we're doing better now in every one of them when compared with 30 years ago. But progress isn't inevitable, and it doesn't mean everything gets better for everyone all the time, Pinker says. Instead, progress is problem-solving, and we should look at things like climate change and nuclear war as problems to be solved, not apocalypses in waiting. "We will never have a perfect world, and it would be dangerous to seek one," he says. "But there's no limit to the betterments we can attain if we continue to apply knowledge to enhance human flourishing."

  14. 11:14
    Chris Jordan Turning powerful stats into art

    Artist Chris Jordan shows us an arresting view of what Western culture looks like. His supersized images picture some almost unimaginable statistics — like the astonishing number of paper cups we use every single day.

  15. 4:19
    Nathalie Miebach Art made of storms

    Artist Nathalie Miebach takes weather data from massive storms and turns it into complex sculptures that embody the forces of nature and time. These sculptures then become musical scores for a string quartet to play.

  16. 9:55
    Jennifer Golbeck Your social media "likes" expose more than you think

    Do you like curly fries? Have you Liked them on Facebook? Watch this talk to find out the surprising things Facebook (and others) can guess about you from your random Likes and Shares. Computer scientist Jennifer Golbeck explains how this came about, how some applications of the technology are not so cute — and why she thinks we should return the control of information to its rightful owners.

  17. 16:12
    Tricia Wang The human insights missing from big data

    Why do so many companies make bad decisions, even with access to unprecedented amounts of data? With stories from Nokia to Netflix to the oracles of ancient Greece, Tricia Wang demystifies big data and identifies its pitfalls, suggesting that we focus instead on "thick data" — precious, unquantifiable insights from actual people — to make the right business decisions and thrive in the unknown.