playlist

The most popular TED Talks of 2018

What. A. Year. These 25 TED Talks helped us make better decisions, taught us some fascinating science, gave us some hope for humanity and showed us what it's like to climb 3,000 feet ... without a rope.

  1. 11:49
    Alex Honnold How I climbed a 3,000-foot vertical cliff — without ropes

    Imagine being by yourself in the dead center of a 3,000-foot vertical cliff — without a rope to catch you if you fall. For professional rock climber Alex Honnold, this dizzying scene marked the culmination of a decade-long dream. In a hair-raising talk, he tells the story of how he summited Yosemite's El Capitan, completing one of the most dangerous free solo climbs ever.

  2. 13:02
    Wendy Suzuki The brain-changing benefits of exercise

    What's the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today? Exercise! says neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki. Get inspired to go to the gym as Suzuki discusses the science of how working out boosts your mood and memory — and protects your brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

  3. 11:48
    Dolly Chugh How to let go of being a "good" person — and become a better person

    What if your attachment to being a "good" person is holding you back from actually becoming a better person? In this accessible talk, social psychologist Dolly Chugh explains the puzzling psychology of ethical behavior — like why it's hard to spot your biases and acknowledge mistakes — and shows how the path to becoming better starts with owning your mistakes. "In every other part of our lives, we give ourselves room to grow — except in this one, where it matters most," Chugh says.

  4. 5:41
    Prosanta Chakrabarty Four billion years of evolution in six minutes

    Did humans evolve from monkeys or from fish? In this enlightening talk, ichthyologist and TED Fellow Prosanta Chakrabarty dispels some hardwired myths about evolution, encouraging us to remember that we're a small part of a complex, four-billion-year process — and not the end of the line. "We're not the goal of evolution," Chakrabarty says. "Think of us all as young leaves on this ancient and gigantic tree of life — connected by invisible branches not just to each other, but to our extinct relatives and our evolutionary ancestors."

  5. 14:12
    Lera Boroditsky How language shapes the way we think

    There are about 7,000 languages spoken around the world — and they all have different sounds, vocabularies and structures. But do they shape the way we think? Cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky shares examples of language — from an Aboriginal community in Australia that uses cardinal directions instead of left and right to the multiple words for blue in Russian — that suggest the answer is a resounding yes. "The beauty of linguistic diversity is that it reveals to us just how ingenious and how flexible the human mind is," Boroditsky says. "Human minds have invented not one cognitive universe, but 7,000."

  6. 11:47
    Tom Griffiths 3 ways to make better decisions — by thinking like a computer

    If you ever struggle to make decisions, here's a talk for you. Cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths shows how we can apply the logic of computers to untangle tricky human problems, sharing three practical strategies for making better decisions — on everything from finding a home to choosing which restaurant to go to tonight.

  7. 4:39
    Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil A rare galaxy that's challenging our understanding of the universe

    What's it like to discover a galaxy — and have it named after you? Astrophysicist and TED Fellow Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil lets us know in this quick talk about her team's surprising discovery of a mysterious new galaxy type.

  8. 15:24
    Christine Porath Why being respectful to your coworkers is good for business

    Looking to get ahead in your career? Start by being respectful to your coworkers, says leadership researcher Christine Porath. In this science-backed talk, she shares surprising insights about the costs of rudeness and shows how little acts of respect can boost your professional success — and your company's bottom line.

  9. 16:48
    Susan David The gift and power of emotional courage

    Psychologist Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility. A talk to share.

  10. 12:42
    Christoph Niemann You are fluent in this language (and don't even know it)

    Without realizing it, we're fluent in the language of pictures, says illustrator Christoph Niemann. In a charming talk packed with witty, whimsical drawings, Niemann takes us on a hilarious visual tour that shows how artists tap into our emotions and minds — all without words.

  11. 9:05
    Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu What your smart devices know (and share) about you

    Once your smart devices can talk to you, who else are they talking to? Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu wanted to find out — so they outfitted Hill's apartment with 18 different internet-connected devices and built a special router to track how often they contacted their servers and see what they were reporting back. The results were surprising — and more than a little bit creepy. Learn more about what the data from your smart devices reveals about your sleep schedule, TV binges and even your tooth-brushing habits — and how tech companies could use it to target and profile you. (This talk contains mature language.)

  12. 12:25
    Guy Winch How to fix a broken heart

    At some point in our lives, almost every one of us will have our heart broken. Imagine how different things would be if we paid more attention to this unique emotional pain. Psychologist Guy Winch reveals how recovering from heartbreak starts with a determination to fight our instincts to idealize and search for answers that aren't there — and offers a toolkit on how to, eventually, move on. Our hearts might sometimes be broken, but we don't have to break with them.

  13. 14:05
    Tanya Menon The secret to great opportunities? The person you haven't met yet

    We often find ourselves stuck in narrow social circles with similar people. What habits confine us, and how can we break them? Organizational psychologist Tanya Menon considers how we can be more intentional about expanding our social universes — and how it can lead to new ideas and opportunities.

  14. 13:18
    Stephen Webb Where are all the aliens?

    The universe is incredibly old, astoundingly vast and populated by trillions of planets — so where are all the aliens? Astronomer Stephen Webb has an explanation: we're alone in the universe. In a mind-expanding talk, he spells out the remarkable barriers a planet would need to clear in order to host an extraterrestrial civilization — and makes a case for the beauty of our potential cosmic loneliness. "The silence of the universe is shouting, 'We're the creatures who got lucky,'" Webb says.

  15. 4:57
    Kaitlyn Sadtler How we could teach our bodies to heal faster

    What if we could help our bodies heal faster and without scars, like Wolverine in X-Men? TED Fellow Kaitlyn Sadtler is working to make this dream a reality by developing new biomaterials that could change how our immune system responds to injuries. In this quick talk, she shows the different ways these products could help the body regenerate.

  16. 18:15
    Lisa Feldman Barrett You aren't at the mercy of your emotions — your brain creates them

    Can you look at someone's face and know what they're feeling? Does everyone experience happiness, sadness and anxiety the same way? What are emotions anyway? For the past 25 years, psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett has mapped facial expressions, scanned brains and analyzed hundreds of physiology studies to understand what emotions really are. She shares the results of her exhaustive research — and explains how we may have more control over our emotions than we think.

  17. 5:25
    Marily Oppezzo Want to be more creative? Go for a walk

    When trying to come up with a new idea, we all have times when we get stuck. But according to research by behavioral and learning scientist Marily Oppezzo, getting up and going for a walk might be all it takes to get your creative juices flowing. In this fun, fast talk, she explains how walking could help you get the most out of your next brainstorm.

  18. 16:32
    James Bridle The nightmare videos of children's YouTube — and what's wrong with the internet today

    Writer and artist James Bridle uncovers a dark, strange corner of the internet, where unknown people or groups on YouTube hack the brains of young children in return for advertising revenue. From "surprise egg" reveals and the "Finger Family Song" to algorithmically created mashups of familiar cartoon characters in violent situations, these videos exploit and terrify young minds — and they tell us something about where our increasingly data-driven world is headed. "We need to stop thinking about technology as a solution to all of our problems, but think of it as a guide to what those problems actually are, so we can start thinking about them properly and start to address them," Bridle says.

  19. 13:24
    Karen J. Meech The story of 'Oumuamua, the first visitor from another star system

    In October 2017, astrobiologist Karen J. Meech got the call every astronomer waits for: NASA had spotted the very first visitor from another star system. The interstellar comet — a half-mile-long object eventually named `Oumuamua, from the Hawaiian for "scout" or "messenger" — raised intriguing questions: Was it a chunk of rocky debris from a new star system, shredded material from a supernova explosion, evidence of alien technology or something else altogether? In this riveting talk, Meech tells the story of how her team raced against the clock to find answers about this unexpected gift from afar.

  20. 11:39
    Tina Seelig The little risks you can take to increase your luck

    Luck is rarely a lightning strike, isolated and dramatic — it's much more like the wind, blowing constantly. Catching more of it is easy but not obvious. In this insightful talk, Stanford engineering school professor Tina Seelig shares three unexpected ways to increase your luck — and your ability to see and seize opportunities.

  21. 11:51
    John Doerr Why the secret to success is setting the right goals

    Our leaders and institutions are failing us, but it's not always because they're bad or unethical, says venture capitalist John Doerr — often, it's simply because they're leading us toward the wrong objectives. In this practical talk, Doerr shows us how we can get back on track with "Objectives and Key Results," or OKRs — a goal-setting system that's been employed by the likes of Google, Intel and Bono to set and execute on audacious goals. Learn more about how setting the right goals can mean the difference between success and failure — and how we can use OKRs to hold our leaders and ourselves accountable.

  22. 11:57
    Simone Giertz Why you should make useless things

    In this joyful, heartfelt talk featuring demos of her wonderfully wacky creations, Simone Giertz shares her craft: making useless robots. Her inventions — designed to chop vegetables, cut hair, apply lipstick and more — rarely (if ever) succeed, and that's the point. "The true beauty of making useless things [is] this acknowledgment that you don't always know what the best answer is," Giertz says. "It turns off that voice in your head that tells you that you know exactly how the world works. Maybe a toothbrush helmet isn't the answer, but at least you're asking the question."

  23. 15:54
    Frans de Waal The surprising science of alpha males

    In this fascinating look at the "alpha male," primatologist Frans de Waal explores the privileges and costs of power while drawing surprising parallels between how humans and primates choose their leaders. His research reveals some of the unexpected capacities of alpha males — generosity, empathy, even peacekeeping — and sheds light on the power struggles of human politicians. "Someone who is big and strong and intimidates and insults everyone is not necessarily an alpha male," de Waal says.

  24. 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."

  25. 14:49
    Kai-Fu Lee How AI can save our humanity

    AI is massively transforming our world, but there's one thing it cannot do: love. In a visionary talk, computer scientist Kai-Fu Lee details how the US and China are driving a deep learning revolution — and shares a blueprint for how humans can thrive in the age of AI by harnessing compassion and creativity. "AI is serendipity," Lee says. "It is here to liberate us from routine jobs, and it is here to remind us what it is that makes us human."