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  • Eric Berlow: I'm an ecologist, and Sean's a physicist,

  • and we both study complex networks.

  • And we met a couple years ago when we discovered

  • that we had both given a short TED Talk

  • about the ecology of war,

  • and we realized that we were connected

  • by the ideas we shared before we ever met.

  • And then we thought, you know, there are thousands

  • of other talks out there, especially TEDx Talks,

  • that are popping up all over the world.

  • How are they connected,

  • and what does that global conversation look like?

  • So Sean's going to tell you a little bit about how we did that.

  • Sean Gourley: Exactly. So we took 24,000 TEDx Talks

  • from around the world, 147 different countries,

  • and we took these talks and we wanted to find

  • the mathematical structures that underly

  • the ideas behind them.

  • And we wanted to do that so we could see how

  • they connected with each other.

  • And so, of course, if you're going to do this kind of stuff,

  • you need a lot of data.

  • So the data that you've got is a great thing called YouTube,

  • and we can go down and basically pull

  • all the open information from YouTube,

  • all the comments, all the views, who's watching it,

  • where are they watching it, what are they saying in the comments.

  • But we can also pull up, using speech-to-text translation,

  • we can pull the entire transcript,

  • and that works even for people with kind of funny accents like myself.

  • So we can take their transcript

  • and actually do some pretty cool things.

  • We can take natural language processing algorithms

  • to kind of read through with a computer, line by line,

  • extracting key concepts from this.

  • And we take those key concepts and they sort of form

  • this mathematical structure of an idea.

  • And we call that the meme-ome.

  • And the meme-ome, you know, quite simply,

  • is the mathematics that underlies an idea,

  • and we can do some pretty interesting analysis with it,

  • which I want to share with you now.

  • So each idea has its own meme-ome,

  • and each idea is unique with that,

  • but of course, ideas, they borrow from each other,

  • they kind of steal sometimes,

  • and they certainly build on each other,

  • and we can go through mathematically

  • and take the meme-ome from one talk

  • and compare it to the meme-ome from every other talk,

  • and if there's a similarity between the two of them,

  • we can create a link and represent that as a graph,

  • just like Eric and I are connected.

  • So that's theory, that's great.

  • Let's see how it works in actual practice.

  • So what we've got here now is the global footprint

  • of all the TEDx Talks over the last four years

  • exploding out around the world

  • from New York all the way down to little old New Zealand in the corner.

  • And what we did on this is we analyzed the top 25 percent of these,

  • and we started to see where the connections occurred,

  • where they connected with each other.

  • Cameron Russell talking about image and beauty

  • connected over into Europe.

  • We've got a bigger conversation about Israel and Palestine

  • radiating outwards from the Middle East.

  • And we've got something a little broader

  • like big data with a truly global footprint

  • reminiscent of a conversation

  • that is happening everywhere.

  • So from this, we kind of run up against the limits

  • of what we can actually do with a geographic projection,

  • but luckily, computer technology allows us to go out

  • into multidimensional space.

  • So we can take in our network projection

  • and apply a physics engine to this,

  • and the similar talks kind of smash together,

  • and the different ones fly apart,

  • and what we're left with is something quite beautiful.

  • EB: So I want to just point out here that every node is a talk,

  • they're linked if they share similar ideas,

  • and that comes from a machine reading

  • of entire talk transcripts,

  • and then all these topics that pop out,

  • they're not from tags and keywords.

  • They come from the network structure

  • of interconnected ideas. Keep going.

  • SG: Absolutely. So I got a little quick on that,

  • but he's going to slow me down.

  • We've got education connected to storytelling

  • triangulated next to social media.

  • You've got, of course, the human brain right next to healthcare,

  • which you might expect,

  • but also you've got video games, which is sort of adjacent,

  • as those two spaces interface with each other.

  • But I want to take you into one cluster

  • that's particularly important to me, and that's the environment.

  • And I want to kind of zoom in on that

  • and see if we can get a little more resolution.

  • So as we go in here, what we start to see,

  • apply the physics engine again,

  • we see what's one conversation

  • is actually composed of many smaller ones.

  • The structure starts to emerge

  • where we see a kind of fractal behavior

  • of the words and the language that we use

  • to describe the things that are important to us

  • all around this world.

  • So you've got food economy and local food at the top,

  • you've got greenhouse gases, solar and nuclear waste.

  • What you're getting is a range of smaller conversations,

  • each connected to each other through the ideas

  • and the language they share,

  • creating a broader concept of the environment.

  • And of course, from here, we can go

  • and zoom in and see, well, what are young people looking at?

  • And they're looking at energy technology and nuclear fusion.

  • This is their kind of resonance

  • for the conversation around the environment.

  • If we split along gender lines,

  • we can see females resonating heavily

  • with food economy, but also out there in hope and optimism.

  • And so there's a lot of exciting stuff we can do here,

  • and I'll throw to Eric for the next part.

  • EB: Yeah, I mean, just to point out here,

  • you cannot get this kind of perspective

  • from a simple tag search on YouTube.

  • Let's now zoom back out to the entire global conversation

  • out of environment, and look at all the talks together.

  • Now often, when we're faced with this amount of content,

  • we do a couple of things to simplify it.

  • We might just say, well,

  • what are the most popular talks out there?

  • And a few rise to the surface.

  • There's a talk about gratitude.

  • There's another one about personal health and nutrition.

  • And of course, there's got to be one about porn, right?

  • And so then we might say, well, gratitude, that was last year.

  • What's trending now? What's the popular talk now?

  • And we can see that the new, emerging, top trending topic

  • is about digital privacy.

  • So this is great. It simplifies things.

  • But there's so much creative content

  • that's just buried at the bottom.

  • And I hate that. How do we bubble stuff up to the surface

  • that's maybe really creative and interesting?

  • Well, we can go back to the network structure of ideas

  • to do that.

  • Remember, it's that network structure

  • that is creating these emergent topics,

  • and let's say we could take two of them,

  • like cities and genetics, and say, well, are there any talks

  • that creatively bridge these two really different disciplines.

  • And that's -- Essentially, this kind of creative remix

  • is one of the hallmarks of innovation.

  • Well here's one by Jessica Green

  • about the microbial ecology of buildings.

  • It's literally defining a new field.

  • And we could go back to those topics and say, well,

  • what talks are central to those conversations?

  • In the cities cluster, one of the most central

  • was one by Mitch Joachim about ecological cities,

  • and in the genetics cluster,

  • we have a talk about synthetic biology by Craig Venter.

  • These are talks that are linking many talks within their discipline.

  • We could go the other direction and say, well,

  • what are talks that are broadly synthesizing

  • a lot of different kinds of fields.

  • We used a measure of ecological diversity to get this.

  • Like, a talk by Steven Pinker on the history of violence,

  • very synthetic.

  • And then, of course, there are talks that are so unique

  • they're kind of out in the stratosphere, in their own special place,

  • and we call that the Colleen Flanagan index.

  • And if you don't know Colleen, she's an artist,

  • and I asked her, "Well, what's it like out there

  • in the stratosphere of our idea space?"

  • And apparently it smells like bacon.

  • I wouldn't know.

  • So we're using these network motifs

  • to find talks that are unique,

  • ones that are creatively synthesizing a lot of different fields,

  • ones that are central to their topic,

  • and ones that are really creatively bridging disparate fields.

  • Okay? We never would have found those with our obsession

  • with what's trending now.

  • And all of this comes from the architecture of complexity,

  • or the patterns of how things are connected.

  • SG: So that's exactly right.

  • We've got ourselves in a world

  • that's massively complex,

  • and we've been using algorithms to kind of filter it down

  • so we can navigate through it.

  • And those algorithms, whilst being kind of useful,

  • are also very, very narrow, and we can do better than that,

  • because we can realize that their complexity is not random.

  • It has mathematical structure,

  • and we can use that mathematical structure

  • to go and explore things like the world of ideas

  • to see what's being said, to see what's not being said,

  • and to be a little bit more human

  • and, hopefully, a little smarter.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Eric Berlow: I'm an ecologist, and Sean's a physicist,

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【TED】Eric Berlow and Sean Gourley: Mapping ideas worth spreading (Eric Berlow and Sean Gourley: Mapping ideas worth spreading)

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    CUChou posted on 2015/04/09
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