Inspirational Women in Tech

The stories of inspirational women in tech and how they got to this point in their careers is as fascinating as the industry itself. There’s no better platform for sharing these inspirational stories than TED Talks.  We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites below:

Say hello to the decentralized economy — the blockchain is about to change everything. In this lucid explainer of the complex (and confusing) technology, Bettina Warburg describes how the blockchain will eliminate the need for centralized institutions like banks or governments to facilitate trade, evolving age-old models of commerce and finance into something far more interesting: a distributed, transparent, autonomous system for exchanging value.

 

When a very young child looks at a picture, she can identify simple elements: “cat,” “book,” “chair.” Now, computers are getting smart enough to do that too. What’s next? In a thrilling talk, computer vision expert Fei-Fei Li describes the state of the art — including the database of 15 million photos her team built to “teach” a computer to understand pictures — and the key insights yet to come.

 

Tan Le’s astonishing new computer interface reads its user’s brainwaves, making it possible to control virtual objects, and even physical electronics, with mere thoughts (and a little concentration). She demos the headset, and talks about its far-reaching applications.

 

MIT grad student Joy Buolamwini was working with facial analysis software when she noticed a problem: the software didn’t detect her face — because the people who coded the algorithm hadn’t taught it to identify a broad range of skin tones and facial structures. Now she’s on a mission to fight bias in machine learning, a phenomenon she calls the “coded gaze.” It’s an eye-opening talk about the need for accountability in coding … as algorithms take over more and more aspects of our lives.

 

Our emotions influence every aspect of our lives — how we learn, how we communicate, how we make decisions. Yet they’re absent from our digital lives; the devices and apps we interact with have no way of knowing how we feel. Scientist Rana el Kaliouby aims to change that. She demos a powerful new technology that reads your facial expressions and matches them to corresponding emotions. This “emotion engine” has big implications, she says, and could change not just how we interact with machines — but with each other.

 

At the heart of the Milky Way, there’s a supermassive black hole that feeds off a spinning disk of hot gas, sucking up anything that ventures too close — even light. We can’t see it, but its event horizon casts a shadow, and an image of that shadow could help answer some important questions about the universe. Scientists used to think that making such an image would require a telescope the size of Earth — until Katie Bouman and a team of astronomers came up with a clever alternative. Bouman explains how we can take a picture of the ultimate dark using the Event Horizon Telescope.

 

Your company might have donated money to help solve humanitarian issues, but you could have something even more useful to offer: your data. Mallory Soldner shows us how private sector companies can help make real progress on big problems — from the refugee crisis to world hunger — by donating untapped data and decision scientists. What might your company be able to contribute?

 

TED Resident Fawn Qiu designs fun, low-cost projects that use familiar materials like paper and fabric to introduce engineering to kids. In this quick, clever talk, she shares how nontraditional workshops like hers can change the perception of technology and inspire students to participate in creating it.