2016’s Top TED Talks Will Make You Smarter And A Better Man

Dozens of people took the TED stage in 2016 to share their wisdom, wit, curiosity, and creativity. Their talks were enlightening and heart-wrenching, thought-provoking and hilarious – regular reminders to do and be better this year and the next.

As December winds to a close, TED’s curator, Chris Anderson, and other members of the team have compiled the best TED talks of 2016 for your edification. These hand-picked gems got people talking over the last 12 months, and will help you usher in the next year with intelligence, inquisitiveness, and joy.

You’ll find 10 of their top selections below and the full list here. Settle in, open your mind, and prepare to welcome 2017 with a few fresh perspectives.

Inside The Mind Of A Master Procrastinator

Tim Urban

Tim Urban knows that procrastination doesn’t make sense, but he’s never been able to shake his habit of waiting until the last minute to get things done. In this hilarious and insightful talk, Urban takes us on a journey through YouTube binges, Wikipedia rabbit holes and bouts of staring out the window — and encourages us to think harder about what we’re really procrastinating on, before we run out of time.

Gene Editing Can Now Change An Entire Species – Forever

Jennifer Kahn

CRISPR gene drives allow scientists to change sequences of DNA and guarantee that the resulting edited genetic trait is inherited by future generations, opening up the possibility of altering entire species forever. More than anything, the technology has led to questions: How will this new power affect humanity? What are we going to use it to change? Are we gods now? Join journalist Jennifer Kahn as she ponders these questions and shares a potentially powerful application of gene drives: the development of disease-resistant mosquitoes that could knock out malaria and Zika.

A Prosecutor’s Vision For A Better Justice System

Adam Foss

When a kid commits a crime, the US justice system has a choice: prosecute to the full extent of the law, or take a step back and ask if saddling young people with criminal records is the right thing to do every time. In this searching talk, Adam Foss, a prosecutor with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in Boston, makes his case for a reformed justice system that replaces wrath with opportunity, changing people’s lives for the better instead of ruining them.

Hunting For Dinosaurs Showed Me Our Place In The Universe

Kenneth Lacovara

What happens when you discover a dinosaur? Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara details his unearthing of Dreadnoughtus — a 77-million-year-old sauropod that was as tall as a two-storey house and as heavy as a jumbo jet — and considers how amazingly improbable it is that a tiny mammal living in the cracks of the dinosaur world could evolve into a sentient being capable of understanding these magnificent creatures. Join him in a celebration of the Earth’s geological history and contemplate our place in deep time.

You Have No Idea Where Camels Really Come From

Latif Nasser

Camels are so well adapted to the desert that it’s hard to imagine them living anywhere else. But what if we have them pegged all wrong? What if those big humps, feet and eyes were evolved for a different climate and a different time? In this talk, join Radiolab’s Latif Nasser as he tells the surprising story of how a very tiny, very strange fossil upended the way he sees camels, and the world.

What Do You Think When You Look At Me?

Dalia Mogahed

When you look at Muslim scholar Dalia Mogahed, what do you see: a woman of faith? a scholar, a mom, a sister? or an oppressed, brainwashed, potential terrorist? In this personal, powerful talk, Mogahed asks us, in this polarising time, to fight negative perceptions of her faith in the media — and to choose empathy over prejudice.

Insightful Human Portraits Made From Data

R. Luke DuBois

Artist R. Luke DuBois makes unique portraits of presidents, cities, himself and even Britney Spears using data and personality. In this talk, he shares nine projects — from maps of the country built using information taken from millions of dating profiles to a gun that fires a blank every time a shooting is reported in New Orleans. His point: the way we use technology reflects on us and our culture, and we reduce others to data points at our own peril.

The Gospel Of Doubt

Casey Gerald

What do you do when your firmly held beliefs turn out not to be true? When Casey Gerald’s religion failed him, he searched for something new to believe in — in business, in government, in philanthropy — but found only false saviors. In this moving talk, Gerald urges us all to question our beliefs and embrace uncertainty.

Meet The Dazzling Flying Machines Of The Future

Raffaello D’Andrea

When you hear the word “drone,” you probably think of something either very useful or very scary. But could they have aesthetic value? Autonomous systems expert Raffaello D’Andrea develops flying machines, and his latest projects are pushing the boundaries of autonomous flight — from a flying wing that can hover and recover from disturbance to an eight-propeller craft that’s ambivalent to orientation… to a swarm of tiny coordinated micro-quadcopters. Prepare to be dazzled by a dreamy, swirling array of flying machines as they dance like fireflies above the TED stage.

How Humans Could Evolve To Survive In Space

Lisa Nip

If we hope to one day leave Earth and explore the universe, our bodies are going to have to get a lot better at surviving the harsh conditions of space. Using synthetic biology, Lisa Nip hopes to harness special powers from microbes on Earth — such as the ability to withstand radiation — to make humans more fit for exploring space. “We’re approaching a time during which we’ll have the capacity to decide our own genetic destiny,” Nip says. “Augmenting the human body with new abilities is no longer a question of how, but of when.”

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