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X marks the spot: Hackers turn hijackers, plus this week’s TEDx Talks

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Hacker-hijackerThis week, during a computer security conference in Las Vegas, researchers Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller demonstrated how easily they could hack into the systems of moving cars using just a laptop computer. Illustrating that modern devices are worryingly vulnerable to hacking, Valasek and Miller showed their ability to jerk seatbelts, turn wheels and influence car breaks — all from afar.

Todd Humphreys: How to fool a GPS Todd Humphreys: How to fool a GPS With this news, the TEDx team was reminded of Todd Humphrey’s talk “How to fool a GPS,” given at TEDxAustin last year, in which he warned that cutting-edge technology also made ships, airplanes and even time vulnerable to hijacking. Read more about the connection on the TEDx blog »

In these developments, we can see the relevance and influence of TEDx events, dozens of which happen around the world every week. From these events, the TEDx team chooses four stellar presentations to highlight each week, showing just a few of the incredible ideas from the diverse TEDx community. This week’s talks range from morality and memory manipulation to dissertation-writing-iPhones.

Pills that improve morality: Julian Savulescu at TEDxBarcelona
At TEDxBarcelona, Julian Savulescu proposes that we can use drugs not only to improve our cognitive and physical capabilities, but also our moral dispositions. He suggests that it is imperative that we investigate this option of genetically engineering our moral dispositions in order to better problems — like terrorism and nuclear warfare — that we have created for ourselves.

How to manually change a memory: Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu at TEDxBoston
Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu explain their experiments to control and manipulate memory. The pair shoot laser beams into the brains of living mice to activate switches that control particular memories. In a funny and perhaps unnerving talk from TEDxBoston, Ramirez and Xu address both the scientific and potential ethical questions related to their research.

The three myths of terrorism: Raghu Raman at TEDxMehrauli
This is the question that Raghu Rahman asks in his talk from TEDxMahrauli. By outlining three myths of terrorism and exposing the small changes that acts of terror force to be implemented within government and security, Raman shows that everyone’s answer to this question should be yes.

The computer teaches you: Philip Parker at TEDxSeattle
Philip Parker suggests a solution for the difficult job of supplying expensively produced literature to developing countries — algorithms. At TEDxSeattle, Parker shows that the creation of algorithms to build formulaic texts such as crossword puzzles, dictionaries, poetry and educational video games can provide education in any language to underserved communities. This technology will, in the future, be able to improve agriculture in poor regions by giving details on soil and weather conditions and enable academics to use their iPhones to write dissertations for them.

Other great features on the TEDx blog this week: