5 Must-Watch TED Talks on Data and Statistics

5 Must-Watch TED Talks on Data and Statistics

Whether you are a seasoned data analyst or a curious novice, TED talks offer a diverse wealth of knowledge and inspiration on how data and statistics shape our understanding of the world. From visualizing complex data to recognizing the pitfalls of bad statistics, these five must-watch TED talks will not only enhance your appreciation for statistics, but also equip you with the tools to critically evaluate data.

Alan Smith: Why you should love statistics

This presentation by Alan Smith, a data visualization expert, focuses on the mismatch between what people think they know and what the data actually shows about the world. By going through some examples, he demonstrates how statistics can surprise us by showing differences between perceptions and reality. Smith also pushes back against the idea of “math people” by discussing the universal appeal of statistics and data. Rather than statistics simply being the study of uncertainty, it instead is a field based in increasing understanding of human behavior and society as a whole.

Peter Donnelly: How juries are fooled by statistics

Often, running statistical tests and analyses is the easy part, but properly interpreting the results is more challenging. This TED Talk focuses on common mistakes people make when interpreting statistical information and the serious consequences these errors can have. This talk focuses mostly on probability theory and how theoretical statistical concepts can and should be applied to real world situations. Statistical methods are used in a wide range of fields, but it is critical to avoid common fallacies and pitfalls that can impact the interpretation and application of these methods.

Mona Chalabi: 3 ways to spot a bad statistic

Mona Chalabi is a data journalist and this talk explores how best to distinguish between reliable and unreliable statistics, particularly given social skepticism towards statistical data. The three techniques suggested for how to spot a bad statistic are: considering the sample size, looking for transparency, and questioning how data is presented. Overall, this talk highlights the prevalence of misleading data and emphasizes how important it is to be vigilant and skeptical, particularly when presenting your own statistical results.

David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization

The human brain is better wired to process visual information rather than numbers, so the ability to create effective data visualizations is critical for anyone working with statistics and data. This talk showcases a variety of examples of how data visualization can simplify complex data and improve storytelling. Effective visualizations help with understanding the bigger picture form the data and making better data-driven decisions.

Tricia Wang: The human insights missing from big data

Big data has grown in popularity in recent years because of the vast amount of information it can provide. However, this TED Talk argues that while this data can be broad and helpful, it often overlooks qualitative human insights that are necessary to have depth and context when making inferences from the data. Instead, Wang introduces “thick data,” which also has insights gained from human stories and experiences that data alone cannot capture. This talk is a powerful reminder of the limitations of big data and the necessity of incorporating human-driven context into any data analysis project.

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