Whether you are seeking ideas, inspiration, or knowledge, TED Talks are an amazing place to begin. Over the years, thousands and thousands of the world’s best minds and achievers have delivered insightful TED talks on interesting topics. Folks at TED once asked Bill Gates to name his favorite TED talks. The Microsoft co-founder said there were just too many, but he ended up picking 13 talks as his favorites.
Bill Gates’ favorite TED talks cover a broad range of topics, some of which are specific to the billionaire philanthropist’s own interests. Each of these talks shed light on how we can make the world a better place for ourselves and the future generations. Check out the list of Bill Gates’ 13 favorite TED talks, in no particular order.
1- The best stats you’ve ever seen, by Hans Rosling
Noted physician Hans Rosling, who died a couple of years ago, presents data with a whole new perspective. You’ll feel a sense of urgency and suspense as Rosling busts the common myths about the “developing world.” The statistics guru uses unique presentation techniques to put the trends in health and economics in focus. No wonder the talk has been viewed by more than 14 million people.
2- The danger of science denial, by Michael Specter
The public’s growing fear and denial of scientific phenomena could hurt human progress in the future. Michael Specter, the author of Denialism, delves into why an increasing number of people have begun to fear scientific advances. The herbal cure craze, the ‘Frankenfood’ bans, and the claims of a link between vaccines and autism point to a growing public fear of science.
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3- The history of our world in 18 minutes, by David Christian
Historian David Christian uses illustrations to narrate the entire history of the universe right from the Big Bang 13 billion years ago to the present day, all in just 18 minutes! This TED talk will make you rethink the cosmos and our existence in it. Learning our history will better prepare us to tackle the challenges of the future.
4- Let’s put birth control back on the agenda, by Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates, the co-founder of Gates Foundation and wife of Bill Gates, talks about contraception. Amid the global population explosion, contraception has become one of the most important and most controversial topics. Melinda argues that many of the world’s social change problems could be solved by ensuring that women can control the rate of having kids.
5- How we’ll stop polio for good, by Bruce Aylward
Polio has been almost eradicated from our planet. But Canadian physician Bruce Aylward argues that almost is not good enough when you are fighting such a terrifying disease. I’m not surprised to see this in Bill Gates’ list of favorite TED talks. Bill himself has spent hundreds of millions of dollars helping eradicate polio from African and Asian countries. Bruce Aylward puts forth an actionable and realistic plan to fully eradicate polio.
6- How do we heal medicine, by Atul Gawande
Noted surgeon and author Atul Gawande has argued for years that the modern healthcare system is broken. While doctors are capable of providing extraordinary treatments, Gawande says that they have lost their core focus. He discusses how the modern medical system can be fixed by focusing on teams, new ways of coaching, and checklists.
7- The surprising decline in violence, by Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker is one of my favorite authors. He is a professor of cognitive science. In this TED talk, he sheds light on something highly counter-intuitive. Despite the massive violence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Sudan, and many other countries, violence has declined remarkably since Biblical times. Pinker says we are living in the most peaceful phase of human existence.
8- Could this laser zap malaria? by Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold is a polymath. It requires incredible creativity to solve difficult problems such as malaria. Myhrvold and his team invented devices that could tackle global health problems including malaria. He shows off a live demo of his mosquito-killing gizmo. It uses lasers to locate and kill disease-carrying mosquitoes.
9- Let’s use video to reinvent education, by Salman Khan
The founder of Khan Academy talks about how he came up with the idea of making tutorials on a wide range of subjects and putting it out there for all students. Khan demonstrates how interactive exercises through online videos can transform learning. He puts forth the idea that schools and colleges should let students learn by watching video lectures at home and do “homework” in the classroom where teachers can help them.
10- How PhotoSynth can connect the world’s images, by Blaise Aguera y Arcas
This is a short and to-the-point TED talk. Blaise Aguera y Arcas, a machine learning expert at Google, delivers an engaging demo of PhotoSynth, the software that could change the way we look at digital images. PhotoSynth culls web images to build amazing dreamscapes that you can navigate.
11- How I held by breath for 17 minutes, by David Blaine
Magician David Blaine says he challenges himself to do things that doctors say is impossible. He set the world record by holding his breath for 17 minutes underwater. Blaine did extensive research and consulted with doctors before taking up the challenge. He shares what the risky nature of his job means to him.
12- The power of introverts, by Susan Cain
This TED talk has been viewed by more than 24 million people (including me), and I believe most of them are introverts (just like me). Our society prizes extroverted, charismatic, outgoing, and social people. Most introverts feel undervalued. Susan Cain makes a strong case for why introverts should be encouraged and celebrated. Some of the most influential people in history, including Bill Gates, are introverts.
13- Robots that fly…and cooperate, by Vijay Kumar
Robotics expert Vijay Kumar is the dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering. He has created tiny, flying, and intelligent robots that can sense each other, form teams, and carry out tasks in coordination. These robots could be used in surveillance, construction, and rescue operations.
Each of them is worth your time. Do watch them.