Eric Berlow and Sean Gourley: Mapping Ideas Worth Spreading

We’re often connected by the ideas we share long before we ever meet. It’s something that Eric Berlow and Sean Gourley, both data scientists and TED Fellows, realized when they met and started to compare notes about similar talks they’d given. That dialogue sparked the idea to map the global conversations around connected topics, and these two were the perfect duo to do it. Using YouTube transcripts, they assimilated the mathematical structure underlying 24,000 TEDx Talks from around the world and used principles of physics to help them explore this global content. Through mapping and graphs, they created connections that helped to discover geographical priorities and how they related to the rest of the world’s concerns, “…to be a little bit more human, and hopefully a little smarter.”

Sean Gourley is a physicist, military theorist, Rhodes Scholar, and TED Fellow whose passions include working on nanoscale blue light lasers and self-assembled quantum nanowires. He spent the last 10 years at Oxford, where he worked on complex adaptive and collective intelligence systems, using data to understand the nature of human conflict. Though he originally hails from New Zealand, he now resides in San Francisco where he’s the co-founder and CTO of Quid, an organization that’s building a global intelligence platform.

Eric Berlow is an ecologist, network scientist, and TED Senior Fellow. He studies ecology and networks to expose the connectedness of our ecosystems to a variety of dynamics and influences including climate change, governments, and corporations. Through his work as founding director of the University of California’s environmental science center inside Yosemite National Park, he designs data-based approaches to manage natural ecosystems. In 2012, he founded Vibrant Data Labs to build data use tools that serve the common good. His current projects span a wide variety of endeavors—from helping to ignite an egalitarian personal data economy, to amphibian protection, to crowdsourcing insights related to human creativity. He holds a Ph.D. from Oregon State University in marine ecology. Watch their TED Talk: Mapping Ideas Worth Spreading.