In our new ConnecTED Speaking Series, TED-style speaking specialist Beverley Glick looks at examples of TED talks to see what we can learn from this powerful short-talk format.
Talk title: The danger of AI is weirder than you think
Speaker: Janelle Shane
Venue and date: TED2019, April 2019
Synopsis: The danger of artificial intelligence isn’t that it’s going to rebel against us, but that it’s going to do exactly what we ask it to do, says AI researcher Janelle Shane. Sharing the weird, sometimes alarming antics of AI algorithms as they try to solve human problems – such as creating new ice cream flavours or recognising cars on the road – Shane shows us why AI doesn’t yet measure up to real brains.
What we love about this talk:
- Janelle starts with a super-relatable example – new flavours of ice cream – to make her point about how an algorithm is only as good as the information we feed into it.
- Her voice has a pleasing musicality, and she paces the talk really well. She looks grounded and her stillness gives her an air of certainty (movement would have distracted from her visuals). Even though she’s holding a clicker, she uses gestures to evoke and emphasise her points.
- She makes the complex plain, and never lapses into using technical jargon. She also addresses a common fear – that AI is going to take over the world or rebel against us!
- All of her visuals are bold, simple and fun, and drive home her central theme about what happens if AI is given the wrong problem to solve and how it can become destructive without realising it. They also make the audience laugh!
- There’s a nice full circle moment when she returns to the image of the robot holding an ice cream cone, which appeared at the beginning of the talk.
Idea worth spreading: The AI we have right now is not the all-knowing AI of science fiction. It has a tiny little worm-brain, and we need to learn what it’s capable of and what it’s not.
What we would do to improve this talk: Get her to loosen up a little and have more fun with it – she tends to be a bit too serious during the parts that lend themselves to a lightness of touch. In terms of colour psychology, we’d invite her to bring more yellow and dial down the blue! For example, it would have had more impact if she had read out some of the funny names that the AI had come up with rather than just showing them on the slides.
Top marks for: Relatable examples, creativity, great visuals, making the complex plain, making the audience laugh.
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An award-winning public speaker and storytelling expert, Beverley is an experienced lead trainer who specialises in TED-style speaker coaching and training.