The Top Ted Talks Every Engineer Needs to Watch
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While engineers come in many different shapes and sizes, the one thing common to them all is a curiosity about how things work. And yet, in our modern, fast-paced world, the engineering discipline is developing quicker than ever, and it can be difficult to stay abreast of cutting-edge technologies. That's where TED Talks comes in! TED is a non-profit organisation that was created in 1984 as a platform for spreading ideas, primarily in design, entertainment and technology. Ever since then it has expanded to almost every topic, and its videos routinely attract hundreds of thousands of viewers. Many of them are suitable for engineers - that is to say, they'll scratch the aforementioned curiosity itch, while giving you space to do your own, deeper research into the topic. With that in mind, we've listed some of the most essential ones for engineers to watch.
1. The Wonderful and Terrifying Implications of Computers that can Learn - Jeremy Howards
This 20-minute talk gives a brief overview of machine learning, a method of teaching computers to learn by doing. This is most easily demonstrated by software that is designed to play games such as chess, checkers or Go. The software learns how to be better by playing against itself thousands of times and then learning from each mistake or triumph. Machine learning is however far more powerful than such simple examples, and has applications in almost all fields, from medical to self-driving vehicles. If you have heard of machine learning but do not understand its implications, this is a good place to start.
2. The Next Manufacturing Revolution is Here - Speaker: Olivier Scalabre
This Ted Talk focuses on how the last three major industrial revolutions resulted in a massive surge in economic growth. Olivier explains why we are on the verge of the 4th manufacturing revolution, and current and past trends in manufacturing are discussed. Their failures and weaknesses are highlighted with reference to their less than stellar improvements in overall productivity. Some of the technologies highlighted as the drivers of the next industrial revolution are advanced robotics, additive manufacturing and big data. This is an insightful talk on what we as engineers can expect in the coming years.
3. The Future we’re Building - and Boring - Speaker: Elon Musk
Elon Musk is often in the news for the successes and failures of his numerous companies. At 40 minutes, this is a relatively long talk but is packed full of insight on what Elon Musk plans for the future. The talk covers everything from a 3D network of tunnels that would be designed to alleviate traffic, hyperloops, electric cars and humanity’s future in space. Elon Musk is an incredibly inspiring individual. This Ted Talk will make you excited about the future that he is creating for humanity.
4. The Astounding Athletic Power of Quadcopters - Raffaello D’Andrea
This is an incredibly impressive demonstration of the abilities of quadcopters. In this Ted Talk, the drones do all the talking as they perform highly complex manoeuvres both by themselves as well as in tandem. This is a relatively old Ted Talk (2013), but its impressiveness is not diluted by time. If this was the state of drone technology 5 years ago then we can only imagine what is currently being developed. This talk is interesting as it demonstrates what can be achieved when hardware and software are pushed to their limits.
5. What a Driverless World Could Look Like - Wanis Kabbaj
We have all had the misfortune of sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. This Ted Talk paints a future where traffic is a thing of the past and we have a wider variety of transport modes available to us. Some methods discussed include autonomous flying taxis, monorails and a network of 3D traffic tunnels. One of the more interesting driverless methods in this talk is a type of dynamic and modularised mass transport system where individual carriages can detach from the main vehicle and drive passengers closer to their destination, if not right to their doorsteps. Another more well-publicised method is to replace all personal vehicles with fully autonomous vehicles that don’t need to adhere to normal traffic rules, but can rather allow traffic to flow more organically and efficiently with the help of AI enhanced vehicles.