Actor, producer and activist Priyanka Chopra Jonas cohosts session 5 of the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
It’s time to take action. This closing session of the Countdown Global Launch explored the road ahead: How to think urgently and long-term about climate change. How to take into account the interests of future generations in today’s decisions. How we as individuals, communities and organizations can contribute to shaping a better future.
Session 5 was cohosted by the actors and activists Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Chris Hemsworth, exploring the many facets of climate action. The session also featured a number of highlights: a stunning spoken word piece by poet Amanda Gorman on ending the devastation of climate change; a call to action from filmmaker and writer Ava DuVernay about “voting for the planet” and electing sustainability-oriented leaders into office; a short video from Make My Money Matter titled “Woolly Man,” urging us to check where our pension money is going; and an announcement of the launch of Count Us In, a global movement focused on 16 steps we can all take to protect the Earth.
Finally, head of TED Chris Anderson and head of Future Stewards Lindsay Levin closed the show, laying out the path forward for Countdown — including next year’s Countdown Summit (October 12-15, 2021, Edinburgh, Scotland), where we’ll share an actionable blueprint for a net-zero future and celebrate the progress that’s already been made. The Countdown is on!
Actor Chris Hemsworth cohosts session 5 of the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
The talks in brief:
Roman Krznaric, long-view philosopher
Big idea: We don’t own the future — our descendants do. We need to strive to become good ancestors to future generations and leave behind a legacy of sustainability, justice and radical care for the planet.
How? Though they have no influence or say now, our decisions and actions have a tremendous impact on the lives of future generations. A growing movement of people across the world are looking beyond our short-term timelines and envisioning how we can create change that benefits us and our descendants. In Japan, the Future Design Movement structures community-led town and city planning sessions in a remarkable way: half of the residents participate as themselves in the present day, and the other half are tasked with imagining themselves as future citizens from 2060. By prioritizing the needs of their descendents, participants are empowered to pitch bold and ambitious solutions for climate change, health care and more. From a global campaign to grant legal personhood to nature to a groundbreaking lawsuit by a coalition of young activists suing for the right to a safe climate for future generations, the movement to restore broken ecosystems and protect the future is fierce and flourishing. Roman Krznaric names these visionaries “Time Rebels” and invites us to join them in redefining our lifespans, pursuing intergenerational justice and practicing deep love for the planet.
Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner of Wales
Big idea: When well-being is the measure of a society’s success, governments will naturally trend towards lowering carbon, promoting wellness and nurturing social justice. What if a nation could create an agency to promote well-being rather than economic growth?
How? Wales is one of the first governments to enshrine well-being as a measure of a society’s success, and the first government to create an independent agency dedicated to the security of future generations. Sophie Howe, the world’s only future generations commissioner, tells us that such an agency must involve the people in decision-making. In Wales, the people have mandated policies to lower carbon emissions, promote wellness and cultivate justice. With the principles of well-being spelled out in laws that every institution in the country must follow, Wales is “acting today for a better tomorrow.” “Make it your mission to maximize your contribution to well-being,” Howe says.
Miao Wang, United Nations Young Champion of the Earth; Alok Sharma, president of COP26; and Nigel Topping, UK High Level Climate Action Champion, COP26
Big idea: Join Race To Zero, a global campaign to get businesses, cities, regions and investors to commit to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, at the latest.
How? Three participants of Race To Zero give us the lay of the land. To begin, marine conservationist Miao Wang discusses how young people worldwide are calling for change, demanding that leaders act with speed and urgency to create a world that’s healthier, fairer and more sustainable. Next, Alok Sharma talks about how organizations and institutions are already stepping up their climate ambition as they rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, making specific and science-based commitments to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. And finally Nigel Topping describes the exponential growth in sustainability commitments that we’re seeing in sector after sector of the economy, as leaders work to transform their supply chains. At this rate, he says, we can expect to see the transition to net-zero carbon emissions within 10 years — but it will take all of us to get there. Can we count you in?
Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, discusses the company’s ambitious commitment for a net-zero emissions supply chain by 2030. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Lisa Jackson, environment and social VP at Apple, in conversation with urbanist and spatial justice activist Liz Ogbu
Big idea: Under the leadership of Lisa Jackson, former head of the EPA and now Apple’s environment and social VP, the company is already carbon neutral within their own corporate and retail boundaries. By 2030, they hope to extend carbon neutrality to their supply chain and consumers. In conversation with urbanist and spatial justice activist Liz Ogbu, Jackson shares thoughts on leadership, tech, the environment and building a green economy.
How? In conversation with urbanist and spatial justice activist Liz Ogbu, Jackson shares Apple’s green goals, saying there’s no substitute for leadership in the climate change battle. She believes that if Apple leads by example, the nation and world will follow. Apple’s transformation starts with recycling — repurposing materials rather than mining the world’s rare earth elements and “conflict metals” — but it doesn’t end there. We will not win the ecological battle without a vision of climate justice that involves the at-risk communities who stand at the front lines of environmental disaster, Jackson says. She believes that racism and climate justice are inexorably linked, and in order for the whole world to get where it needs to be, Apple (and everyone else) must tackle injustice first, and a green economy will follow. “[There’s] always been this weird belief that we’re taught … that you can either be successful, or you can do the right thing,” Jackson says. “There’s no difference between the two. It’s a false choice.”
“Our conscience tells us that we cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of those in need, to the growing economic inequalities and social injustices,” says His Holiness Pope Francis. He speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
His Holiness Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome
Big idea: We have a choice to make: either continue to ignore the looming environmental crisis, or transform the way we act at every level of society in order to protect the planet and promote the dignity of everyone on it.
How? His Holiness Pope Francis invites us on a journey of transformation and action in a visionary TED Talk delivered from Vatican City. Referencing ideas from his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, the spiritual leader calls our attention to a global socio-environmental crisis — one marked by growing economic inequalities, social injustices and planetary harm. “We are faced with the moral imperative, and the practical urgency, to rethink many things,” he says. He proposes three courses of action to transform in the face of our precarious future: an education based on scientific data and an ethical approach; a focus on making sure everyone has safe drinking water and nutrition; and a transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, particularly by refraining from investing in companies that do not advance sustainability, social justice and the common good. Watch the full talk on TED.com.
Andri Snær Magnason, writer, poet
Big idea: We need to connect to the future in an intimate and urgent way in order to stabilize the Earth for generations to come.
How? In 2019, the Earth lost its first glacier to climate change: the Okjökull glacier in Borgarfjörður, Iceland. “In the next 200 years, we expect all our glaciers to follow the same pattern,” says Andri Snær Magnason. He wrote “A letter to the future” — a memorial placed at the base of where Okjökull once stood — in poetic, poignant form: “This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.” Magnason invites us to recognize how glaciers connect us to the past, present and future. These icy bodies, that once felt eternal to people like his glacier-exploring grandparents only decades ago, are now at risk of vanishing. “The year 2100 is not a distant future — it is practically tomorrow,” Magnason says. Now is the time to act, so that future generations look back on us with pride and gratitude, because we helped secure their future.
Actor and singer Cynthia Erivo performs “What a Wonderful World,” accompanied by pianist Gary Motley, at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
In a moment of musical beauty that calls for reflection, Cynthia Erivo performs a moving rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” accompanied by pianist Gary Motley. With her words and voice, Erivo urges us all to do better for the Earth and the generations to come.
His Holiness Pope Francis speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
The speaker sits in front of a bookshelf, notes in hand, a deliberate tone to his voice. As we live through a pandemic and see an even bigger socio-environmental crisis quickly approaching, he says, we all face a choice: “The choice between what matters, and what doesn’t.”
The head of the Roman Catholic Church is not new to the TED stage: he gave his first TED Talk in 2017, surprising the audience at TED’s annual conference in Vancouver via video. His acceptance to give a second TED Talk highlights his strong advocacy for action on climate change. We asked Bruno Giussani, TED’s Global Curator, who led the team that developed the Countdown program, to share the genesis of the talk.
What about the present moment made it the right time for Pope Francis to give a second TED Talk?
Bruno Giussani: In 2015, Pope Francis published an important Encyclical letter (a book) about the environment or, in his words, about “caring for our common home.” It is called “Laudato Si'” (“Praise be to You”), and it received global attention. In it he put forward the concept of “integral ecology,” and wrote: “Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the 21st century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities.” That same year, 195 countries signed the historic Paris Agreement committing to do their part to keep the increase in global temperature under 1.5 degrees Celsius and well below 2 degrees, to lower the risk of dramatic impacts of climate change.
Five years later, fires, floods, droughts and hurricanes occupy the front pages. Science has never been so rich in data and so conclusive about what’s going on: we humans and our activities are changing the climate. Yet, as the data and the analysis that we have shared during Countdown show, the world is not on track to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement, and we have not really started shouldering the responsibilities the Pope wrote about.
Pope Francis has repeatedly referenced the need for real action and advocated for science, and I have the feeling he harbors impatience for the lack of progress. Actually, just one week before the Countdown Global Launch, he published a new Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti (Brothers All). It is a vast analysis of the current moment, discussing the twin climate and social crises, the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the way forward, and a renewed call for solidarity as well as personal and collective responsibility. All of these themes intersect with the intentions and goals of Countdown.
What are the core messages of Pope Francis’s second TED Talk?
BG: He asks us to listen to the science. He underscores the urgency of confronting climate change and social inequity. He conveys how we won’t come out the same from the COVID-19 crisis. And he invites us to partake in what he calls “a journey of transformation and of action.”
He also voices three very concrete suggestions concerning education, access to food and water, and transitioning to clean energy sources. On the latter, he makes the case for divesting from “those companies that do not meet the parameters of integral ecology,” which I understand to mean first and foremost fossil fuel companies.
To whom is this talk addressed?
BG: As he says himself, it’s addressed to “all people of Faith, Christian or not, and all people of goodwill.”
How important is it that a major religious leader is speaking on climate change?
BG: We live in a world where everything has become politics or profit. Face masks become a political battleground and vaccines become a race for profit, to use current examples. The role of spiritual and religious leaders in social and environmental activism is to remind us of the essential values that reside above politics and profit: those of the common good, of dialogue, inclusion and compassion.
At the end of the talk, Pope Francis speaks of the future being built “not in isolation, but rather in community and in harmony.” Over the years he has convened several gatherings of scientists, businesspeople and interfaith dialogues, and he has launched many other initiatives focused on the climate.
Nor is this a Catholic exclusive. From the Dalai Lama to Indigenous spiritual leaders, from the Church of England to the Bahá’í, there is a lot of religious engagement for the protection of the planet and of those who live on it. In the US, there is a group of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, for instance, and in India a few years ago, a Hindu Declaration on Climate Change was issued. But it is true that the voice of Pope Francis is of particular power and resonates well beyond the confines of the Catholic Church.
How does one go about inviting the Pope to give a TED Talk?
BG: One goes through contacts established throughout the years and benefits from the generosity of people who opened doors and made introductions. Pope Francis gave his first TED Talk in 2017, so many at the Vatican are now familiar with TED. The demands on the Pope’s time are plenty, and we are enormously appreciative of his kindness in considering our invitation and in engaging with Countdown.
How was the talk prepared? TED curators usually work closely with the speakers.
BG: We worked with several of Pope Francis’s collaborators over a period of months, discussing ideas, options and framing. In the end, of course, Pope Francis decided what he wanted to say in the talk. He was filmed by a crew from the Vatican Television Center, and then the talk was subtitled in several languages by a group of TED Translators.
The Pope spoke from a private study on the ground floor of the guesthouse where he lives in Vatican City. It is a rather unpretentious building called Domus Sanctae Marthae. When he became Pope, he decided to live there instead of occupying the papal apartments above St. Peter’s Square. I believe this choice manifests a genuine preference for a simpler life. But it also sends a message: that just because things have been done a certain way in the past doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be changed. Which, of course, is a message that maps perfectly onto the climate crisis.
Can you tell us a little about your observations of Francis, the man? Does he have a sense of humor?
BG: He certainly does. He’s warm and evidently cares for people, who they are and what they think. He’s an acute observer and quick-witted. I had the privilege to be invited, together with a couple dozen other people, to the early-morning Mass that he celebrates in the private chapel at Domus Sanctae Marthae. When I met him afterwards, he pointed out immediately that he had noticed my nodding at certain passages in his sermon. I had nodded indeed: his words related to the themes of his first TED Talk. He’s also 83 years old and carries the double weight of being the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics and at the same time the head of the Church’s complex hierarchy.
Digital content creator Prajakta Koli, aka MostlySane, cohosts session 4 of the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
The world around us is mainly made of two things: nature and the materials that we extract from it. To fight climate change, we need to protect and regenerate nature and transform materials into low- or zero-carbon alternatives. Session 4 explored the nexus of protection, regeneration and transformation, using powerful examples.
This penultimate session was hosted by digital content creators Hannah Stocking and Prajakta Koli, who highlighted the global span of Countdown and the innovative climate solutions already in existence. The session also featured a TED-Ed Lesson, created by educator Brent Loken, which asked: Can we create the “perfect” farm? And finally, we heard from TEDx organizers across the globe — including Kampala, Uganda; Putalisadak, Nepal; Almaty, Khazikstan; Darlinghurst, Australia; Rome, Italy; and Sana’a, Yemen, among others — who are hosting TEDx Countdown events today. In total, more than 600 TEDx Countdown events are happening across 86 countries.
Creator Hannah Stocking cohosts session 4 of the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
The talks in brief:
Thomas Crowther, ecosystem ecology professor
Big Idea: Across the world, people are working together to restore the natural glory of biodiverse ecosystems. By gathering and openly sharing these projects, we can unite a robust movement of responsible environmental stewardship and restoration.
How? Restor is a data platform that aims to connect and share the learnings of environmental conservationists who are developing micro- or macro-level projects that reintroduce biodiversity to essential landscapes worldwide. It evolved from another climate change solution — the Trillion Trees movement, which Thomas Crowther helped bring to the mainstream. Research showed that planting a trillion trees worldwide could help capture up to 30 percent of the excess carbon in the atmosphere; however, following criticism that the Trillion Trees movement sought to simply offset carbon emissions, Crowther realized that solving the climate crisis is going to take more than planting trees. We need solutions as diverse as our ecosystems themselves. With Restor, conservationists can learn about key biodiversity restoration projects from around the world, and with machine learning, we can glean insights that will help us develop more resilient and effective solutions.
“We can’t fight the climate emergency if we cannot protect and regenerate our land,” says climate and gender activist Ernestine Leikeki Sevidzem. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Ernestine Leikeki Sevidzem, climate and gender activist
Big idea: We need to care for and live in harmony with the environment.
How? By nurturing a generation — young and old — to protect the nature that provides for them: a forest generation, as Sevidzem calls it. In her native Cameroon, she teaches her community a nature-first dedication to restoring the 20,000-hectare Kilum-Ijim forest that sustains and supplies livelihood for hundreds of thousands of people. Her organization also helps develop gender equality by training people as beekeepers to harness the economic opportunities present in harvesting and selling products from honey and beeswax. In educating both children and adults on what it means to love and preserve the Earth, Sevidzem stands by the need for all of us to foster generations that will inherit a mindset that works with nature, not against it. “We can’t fight the climate emergency if we can’t protect and regenerate our land,” she says.
John Doerr, engineer and investor, in conversation with Hal Harvey, climate policy expert
Big idea: Humanity has to act globally, at speed and at scale, if there’s any hope of cutting the world’s carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030.
How? While it’s difficult to remain optimistic in the face of ever-increasing carbon production, countries like Germany and China have implemented energy policies that have reduced solar costs by 80 percent and wind by half. As a result, it’s now cheaper to generate clean energy than it is to burn dirty fossil fuels. If the 20 largest-emitting countries — which are responsible for 75 percent of the world’s emissions — commit to green grids, electric transportation and efficient homes and factories, then scalable energy solutions could become a global reality. Although Doerr estimates that we only have 70-80 percent of the energy technology we need to avoid climate catastrophe, he and Harvey believe that committed governments and investment in amazing entrepreneurs could turn things around. “The good news is it’s now clearly cheaper to save the planet than to ruin it,” Doerr says. “The bad news is we are fast running out of time.”
Cement researcher Karen Scrivener shares a breakthrough that could lower concrete’s CO2 emissions by 40 percent. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Karen Scrivener, cement researcher
Big idea: We can cut down the CO2 emissions of concrete — the second most-used substance on Earth (behind water), responsible for eight percent of the world’s carbon footprint.
How? If concrete were a country, it would rank third for emissions, after China and the USA, says Karen Scrivener, who is working on new, greener ways to make this crucial building material. When concrete cools after it’s mixed, the limestone that helps hold it together breaks down, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And while we can’t make concrete without a bonding material, it’s possible we could replace concrete with things like LC3 — a concrete-like mixture of calcine clay, limestone and cement that doesn’t require heating the limestone, slashing concrete’s carbon emissions by 40 percent. Despite its enormous emissions, concrete is still the lowest-impact building material we have, emitting less carbon than iron, steel or bricks. “The possibility to replace portland cement with a different material with [the] same properties … but with a much lighter carbon footprint, is really crucial to confront climate change,” Scrivener says. “It can be done fast, and it can be done on a very large scale, with the possibility to eliminate more that 400 million tons of CO2 every year.”
Tom Schuler, cement entrepreneur
Big idea: Over the last 2,000 years, the art of mixing cement and using it to bind concrete hasn’t changed very much — but the sad truth is that concrete, which is all around us, is one of the biggest emitters of carbon, both when it’s made and when it’s destroyed. But there’s an opportunity to take the carbon out of our infrastructure.
How? One of the key ingredients of concrete is cement, and portland cement is made of limestone — which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when it breaks down as it is heated and cured (or destroyed). Tom Schuler’s company has figured out a way to use less limestone in making cement — and even repurpose waste carbon dioxide as a catalyst for curing concrete. This innovation could potentially save trillions of gallons of water, use existing processes and factories, and even make concrete carbon negative, cutting emissions from concrete by as much as 70 percent.
Rahwa Ghirmatzion and Zelalem Adefris, climate activists, in a video narrated by actor, author and director Don Cheadle
Big idea: Under-resourced communities are the most vulnerable to the instability of climate change — and the best equipped to create new, sustainable, resilient solutions for those challenges.
How? The rising threats of natural disasters, extreme temperatures and polluted environments are driving up energy costs and exacerbating housing insecurity across the United States. In response, marginalized communities across the country are coming together to design people-powered projects that address the issues of climate catastrophe and social inequality. These problems are all connected, and the solutions will be too, says Don Cheadle, introducing social and climate justice advocates Rahwa Ghirmatzion and Zelalem Adefris. In Buffalo, New York, Ghirmatzion shows how the nonprofit PUSH Buffalo mobilized 800 residents to transform an abandoned school into a solar-powered community center, offering affordable housing units to the elderly and mutual aid resources throughout the pandemic. And at Catalyst Miami in Florida, Adefris shares how she’s helping to build a coalition of local partners working to ensure housing is affordable and energy-efficient. One collective, Konscious Kontractors, formed in 2017 to help restore and fortify neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Irma. To mitigate the impacts of the changing climate, we will need to work alongside our neighbors in our communities to create solutions that are inclusive, innovative and long-lasting.
From under the boughs of an ancient oak tree on the grounds of Windsor Castle, Prince William calls for an Earthshot to repair the planet. He speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge
Big idea: Fixing climate change is possible if we urgently focus human ingenuity and purpose on repairing our planet.
How: Speaking from beneath a nearly 1,000-year-old oak tree on the grounds at Windsor Castle, Prince William issues a challenge to every person around the globe: to show leadership on climate change. With just 10 years to fix the climate before its effects damage the Earth beyond repair, he calls this new decade the most consequential period in history, saying, “The science is irrefutable. If we do not act in this decade, the damage that we have done will be irreversible. And the effects felt not just by future generations but by all of us alive today.” But the same speed of human innovation that accelerated climate change is precisely what makes him optimistic about our future. Inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s audacious “Moonshot” mission, Prince William now calls on us to rise to our greatest challenge ever: the Earthshot. A set of ambitious goals targeted across industries and sectors, they include: protecting and restoring nature, cleaning the air, reviving oceans, building a waste-free world and fixing the climate … all in the next decade. To do it, we will need people in every corner of the globe working together with urgency, creativity and the belief that it is possible. If we succeed, we win the health of our planet for all. Watch the full talk on TED.com.
Sigrid performs “Home to You” and “Don’t Kill My Vibe” at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED
Norwegian singer-songwriter Sigrid, standing in front of a stunning view of a forest lake, delights with uplifting vocals, warm guitar strums and delicate melodies in a performance of her songs “Home to You” and “Don’t Kill My Vibe.”
Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
In a park close to Windsor Castle, to the West of London, is an old oak with a large protruding root. It’s sitting on that root that Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, gives his first TED Talk as part of Countdown, TED’s climate initiative launched on October 10, 2020.
Prince William’s climate engagement is known. Just two days before the Countdown Global Launch, he escalated his commitment by announcing the Earthshot Prize, a new global award for the environment to incentivize change and help repair our planet over the next ten years — a critical period for changing climate change. “The science is irrefutable. If we do not act in this decade, the damage that we have done will be irreversible and the effects felt not just by future generations, but by all of us alive today,” Prince William says in his thoughtful talk.
A talk of this nature requires careful preparation. We asked Bruno Giussani, TED’s global curator and the person responsible for the Countdown program, how it came to be.
What are the core messages of The Duke’s TED Talk?
Bruno Giussani: It is an optimistic talk. Very clear on the nature and the scope of the climate challenge, but also optimistic that we can rise to the biggest challenges of our time. He takes inspiration from President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot in the 1960s, which catalyzed, around the goal of putting a man on the Moon within a decade, the development of solutions and technologies that have then percolated into daily lives. Think, for instance, of breathing equipment, CAT scanners and solar panels. Prince William urges us to harness that same spirit of human ingenuity and purpose, and turn it, to use his words, towards “the most pressing challenge we have ever faced: repairing the planet.”
From Moonshot to Earthshot. Tell us about the Earthshot Prize.
BG: It is a compelling and ambitious vision. The Prize is centered around five clear goals — or Earthshots — underpinned by science-based targets to trigger and accelerate new ways of thinking as well as new technologies, policies and solutions for the planet. The five goals are: protect and restore nature; clean our air; revive the oceans; build a waste-free world; and fix our climate. Starting next year and until 2030, the Prize will be awarded every year to five winners, one per Earthshot. The awards are each worth £1 million GBP (about $1.3 million USD).
And the Earthshot Prize is a strategic partner of Countdown.
BG: Yes, the two initiatives are quite complementary, both global in nature, built on a collaborative approach and rooted in science. We look forward to continuing the collaboration with Prince William and The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
How does one go about inviting Prince William to give a TED Talk?
BG: We had been thinking about inviting Prince William for a while, we were just waiting for the right opportunity. When a member of the TED community alerted us about the work The Duke’s team is doing on the Earthshot Prize and how it mapped onto the aims of Countdown, we felt that the moment had come. We engaged preliminary discussions with his brilliant team, which rapidly led to his decision to accept the invitation.
Why do you think he agreed to doing this talk?
BG: He is very focused right now on the climate and ecological emergency. The Earthshot Prize has a real chance to contribute to accelerating solutions, and it could change the narrative to one of excitement and opportunity. In the talk, Prince William was able to set out his vision of how we can bring a sense of optimism and hope to meet the challenge of this moment. In his own words: “I’m determined to both start and end this decade as an optimist”.
Did Prince William write his own talk?
BG: Like every person in his position, The Duke has collaborators helping prepare his public speeches. This was no different. We discussed ideas, drafts and framing, and we had a very productive discussion with him — via videoconference of course. At the end, obviously, he decided what he wanted to keep in the talk and what not. If you watch it, you will immediately appreciate the genuine and deeply felt nature of the message he’s conveying from under that old oak.
What is The Duke of Cambridge like?
BG: Prince William is remarkably humble and approachable for someone who has spent his whole life in the public eye. His constant focus on how to get things done gives the strong impression of someone who is very determined to make an impact on the world and will use all resources he has available to him to do it. He asks good questions and listens carefully to the answers.
Who filmed the talk?
BG: You are right to point that out: the talk is filmed in an intensely simple — a man under a tree — yet very powerful way. It was filmed by great British documentary producer, Alastair Fothergill. Among other titles to his credit, he was the series producer of world-famous nature documentaries such as The Blue Planet and Planet Earth.
Actor and activist Jane Fonda cohosts session 3 of the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Transforming big systems is a huge task. Energy, transportation, industry and infrastructure all pose their own challenges. And yet that transformation is already happening. The experts in Session 3 showed us how and where, and offered powerful ideas for accelerating it: developing an economy without coal, decarbonizing fossil fuels, electrifying mobility and more.
This session was cohosted by actor and activist Jane Fonda and climate activist Xiye Bastida, who kicked off the hour by discussing what it means to fight for climate justice and how to ignite large-scale change.
Climate activist Xiye Bastida cohosts session 3 of the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
The talks in brief:
Varun Sivaram, clean energy executive, physicist, author
Big idea: India has a historic opportunity to power its industrialization with clean energy.
How? In a country where fossil fuels are still a luxury for many (only six percent of Indians own cars, and only two percent have air conditioning), India has a unique opportunity to build a new, green energy infrastructure from the ground up. An incredible 70 percent of India’s infrastructure of 2030 hasn’t been built yet, says Varun Sivaram, CTO of India’s largest renewable energy company, presenting the nation with a historic opportunity to industrialize using clean energy. By making renewable energy “the beating heart of a reimagined economy,” Sivaram thinks India can add thousands of gigawatts of solar and wind production capacity, green the country’s power grid and transportation system, and radically improve energy efficiency — electrifying communities that remain beyond the reach of the power grid.
Myles Allen, climate science scholar
Big idea: The fossil fuel industry can play a central role in solving climate change by decarbonizing their product. Oil and gas companies know how to decarbonize their fuels, and they have the money to do it. Now, they need the will.
How? The fossil fuel industry contributes 85 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. To stop global warming, oil and gas companies need to stop dumping carbon into the atmosphere — but that doesn’t mean they have to stop selling their product altogether, says climate scientist Myles Allen. In lieu of a total ban on fossil fuels, which would harm the growth of developing countries (and is frankly unrealistic), Allen proposes a bold plan for fossil fuel companies to progressively decarbonize their product and reach net zero emissions by 2050. Engineers at energy companies have known how to decarbonize fossil fuels for years: collect CO2 as it burns, purify and compress it, and inject it deep into the Earth from which it came, where it can be stored for thousands of years. This process is expensive, so fuel companies haven’t done it yet at scale. But Allen puts forth a progressive decarbonization model in which 10 percent of fuels can be decarbonized by 2030, 50 percent by 2040 and 100 percent by 2050, allowing companies time to build a robust carbon dioxide disposal industry that works for everyone. With the know-how, money and plan to get to net zero emissions, all fossil fuel companies need now is will power.
“Africa and other poor nations deserve to get the balance of what’s remaining in the world’s carbon budget,” says energy researcher Rose M. Mutiso. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Rose M. Mutiso, energy researcher
Big idea: The world must reach a zero emission future. On the way there, Africa deserves its fair share of the carbon budget to make that transition possible and equitable.
Why? 48 African countries, combined, are responsible for less than one percent of the world’s carbon footprint, says Rose M. Mutiso. Pointing to this stark divide between those with limited energy access and those who have it in abundance, she highlights why Africa’s energy needs must be prioritized when reimagining the global carbon budget. The solution may sound counterintuitive, but to achieve a zero emission future, Africa needs to produce more carbon in the short term in order to develop in the long term — all while wealthier continents drastically cut their own emissions. For climate adaptation to be possible, Mutiso says, the world must recognize the vulnerability of developing countries and grant them the resources needed to build resilient infrastructures.
Monica Araya, electrification advocate
Big idea: The global shift to 100-percent clean transportation is under way.
How? People around the world are demanding clean air — and cities are responding, says Monica Araya. In her home base of Amsterdam, for instance, the city is rolling out a plan to make all transportation fully emission-free by 2030. The city will ban petrol and diesel vehicles, starting with public buses and working up to all kinds of traffic, from taxis, trucks and ferries to personal cars and motorcycles. Other cities across the globe are following suit by electrifying transportation options and championing sustainable forms of travel. There is (and will be) resistance to change, Araya notes — our addiction to fossil fuels runs deep. So we need clever combinations of finance and policy. Whether we can create healthy cities, while meeting our transportation needs, all depends on the choices we make this decade. “The end of the internal combustion engine is within sight,” Araya says. “The question is no longer whether this will happen, but when.”
Al Gore and climate activists Ximena Loría, Nana Firman, Gloria Kasang Bulus and Tim Guinee
Big idea: It’s been almost 15 years since Al Gore sounded the alarm on climate change with An Inconvenient Truth. Today, with the Climate Reality Project, he’s helping mold future leaders to build the movement for climate survival and social justice from the ground up.
How? Gore introduces us to four of the graduates of the Climate Reality Project, who each confront climate change on their own terms and on their own doorsteps: Ximena Loría, founder of Misión 2 Grados, an NGO influencing public policy in Central America; Nana Firman, “daughter of the rainforest” and advocate for climate justice among Indigenous peoples; Gloria Kasang Bulus, a Nigerian activist for women and education; and Tim Guinee, a first responder and climate change fighter in upstate New York. Together, they’re gathering local actors into a global, grass-roots movement that aims to turn the climate fight around. “The global pandemic, structural and institutional racism with its horrific violence, the worsening impacts of the climate crisis: all of these have accelerated the emergence of a new and widespread collective understanding of our connection to the natural world, the consequences of ignoring science and our sacred obligation to build a just society for all,” Gore says.
Photographer Stephen Wilkes distills time in a single image by capturing the transformation of a landscape over the course of a single day. He presents his work at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Stephen Wilkes, photographer
Big idea: When we look at a landscape in the wild, we see only a moment in time. Photographer Stephen Wikes seeks to grasp the complex choreography of the natural world as it transitions from day to night — and to more deeply feel the impacts the human race is having on Earth’s ecosystems.
How? Using a special technique that captures the passage of time from day to night in a single image, Stephen Wilkes is able to photograph vanishing habitats and species in astonishing detail. These narrative images reveal how Earth changes over time, in all its beautiful complexity, and drive home the impacts of climate change with unprecedented force — from the threat of melting ice to the Arctic food chain to the disruption of flamingo migrations in Africa. “Our planet is changing before our eyes, but to witness that change is also to witness the remarkable relationships between all of nature — to see the infinite beauty of it, to learn how much bigger than us it is, and why it is worth fighting for,” Wilkes says.
Raye Zaragoza sings “Fight For You,” a song dedicated to everyone who stands up for the Earth, at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
With an acoustic guitar on her knee, folk songwriter Raye Zaragoza sings her original song “Fight For You,” dedicated to everyone who stands up for the Earth. Later in the session, musician and actor Yemi Alade returns to sing “Africa,” a celebration song for a continent already experiencing the harmful effects of climate change.
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Actor, musician and activist Jaden Smith cohosts session 2 of the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
The climate crisis demands leadership at every level. Governments, cities and businesses are three key players in designing and implementing the necessary transition. In Session 2 of the Countdown Global Launch, cohosted by climate advocate Al Gore and actor, musician and activist Jaden Smith, speakers discussed putting climate back on the political and social agenda, rethinking cities and what businesses can do to transform.
Gore and Smith opened the session by talking about how young people are at the forefront of climate activism, and discussed the global art collaboration between Countdown and Fine Acts: ten public artworks on the topic of climate change, аll launching on 10.10.2020 in ten cities around the world, all created by TED Fellows.
Climate advocate Al Gore cohosts session 2 of the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
The talks in brief:
Severn Cullis-Suzuki, environmental educator
Big idea: Nearly 30 years ago, 12-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki spoke at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit in hopes of reversing the planet’s slide into ecological disaster. Some at the summit listened, producing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, among other then-radical documents. But for the rest of the world, it was business, politics and full-steam-ahead economic growth. Now in 2020, with the Paris Agreement once again stoking the fervor to fight climate change, it’s time to make sure governments actually listen.
How? Cullis-Suzuki believes that crises can show us not only the potential for societies to react decisively against existential threats, but also expose the inequities, injustices and weaknesses of our infrastructure. COVID-19 is one such crisis: it has sparked calls for social justice and shown just how deadly indecision can be. Cullis-Suzuki believes it’s a warning. She reminds us that if we don’t change, next time could be far worse. This time, if we can make our actions reflect our words around climate change, we can work towards a better world for our children.
Ursula von der Leyen discusses the EU’s ambitious plan to become the first carbon-free continent by 2050. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
Big idea: The European Union has committed to becoming the first carbon-free continent by 2050, with the goal of reducing emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030. These ambitious goals are vital — and possible — and they require everyone’s participation.
How? The evidence of climate change is unfolding before us: melting glaciers, forest fires, unpredictable weather. This is only the beginning. Such extreme circumstances call for extreme action, and that is exactly what Ursula von der Leyen has laid out in response. Resolving not to be derailed by COVID-19, the EU’s commitment to climate action milestones is now stronger than ever, von der Leyen says. She details some of the 50 actions in the European Green Deal aimed at building a more sustainable world, such as planting trees, creating a circular economy, recycling and more. With the crisis escalating every day, she calls for action from every direction.
Olafur Eliasson, artist
Big idea: Known for big, attention-grabbing installations — like his four towering waterfalls in New York’s East River — Olafur Eliasson has scaled down his latest project: an art platform for kids designed to spur budding climate activists to lead discussions on some of the biggest issues on the planet.
How? Inspired by world-shaping movements helmed by the planet’s youngest environmentalists, Eliasson built Earth Speakr, an app that helps concerned kids get serious messages in front of adults in a fun, novel way. The app uses AR to let kids animate photos of anything — trees, rocks, water — and record a message from nature, speaking in their own voices. These recorded messages help get the word out about the issues kids care about most — conservation, climate change, pollution and more.
Rebecca Henderson, capitalism rethinker
Big idea: Capitalism is driving climate change — but for-profit businesses can also help fix it.
How? “We let capitalism morph into something monstrous,” says economist Rebecca Henderson. Companies emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases that wreck the environment and harm human health, and governments don’t hold them accountable to pay for the damages. If governments won’t do it, Henderson says, it’s time for businesses themselves to step up on their own. Sound counterintuitive? Henderson thinks it may be the only option: it’ll be hard to stay in business if the world continues to be rocked by the negative effects of climate change. She’s confident that business leaders can start to marshal change with a four-pronged framework: start paying for the climate damage they cause; persuade competitors to do the same; let investors know there’s money to be made in a clean economy; and convince governments to implement these changes far and wide. “The truth is: business is screwed if we don’t fix climate change,” Henderson says.
If trees could talk, what would they say? Novelist Elif Shafak shares her answer at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Elif Shafak, novelist and political scientist
Big idea: There is a sublime art at the heart of storytelling: the art of foregrounding silence, bringing to light things that we don’t talk about, and using these things to “speak louder than demagoguery and apathy.” Writers can learn to voice the unspoken loudly enough to inspire action.
How? “One of the many beauties of the art of storytelling is to imagine yourself inside someone else’s voice,” says writer Elif Shafak. Surprisingly, we can learn a lot from imagining the voices of trees, whose experience of time, stillness and impermanence are utterly different than our own. Listen to the trees, she says, and discover that “hidden inside [their] story is the past and the future of humanity.”
Jesper Brodin, CEO of Ingka Group (IKEA), in conversation with Pia Heidenmark Cook, CSO of Ingka Group (IKEA)
Big idea: Success in business doesn’t mean being at odds with the Earth. What’s good for climate can be good for business, too.
How? Jesper Brodin and Pia Heidenmark Cook discuss the company’s ambitious commitment to go climate positive (going beyond net-zero emissions by actually removing carbon from the atmosphere) by 2030 — and still remain profitable. The popular Swedish furniture and design company is rethinking how to make their entire business sustainable, from their raw materials and supply chain and to their products’ disposal. Their plan includes sourcing sustainable cotton for fabrics, buying wood from solely sustainable sources by the end of 2020 and committing to fully renewable and recycled materials for all their products by 2030. They’re also thinking about how to extend the life of products, once people have already bought them, through reuse, repurposing or recycling. The exciting part about their plan, Brodin and Cook say, is that none of these innovations will affect the quality, form, function and affordability of their products.
Dave Clark, SVP of worldwide operations at Amazon, and Kara Hurst, head of worldwide sustainability at Amazon
Big idea: Amazon is making a commitment to sustainability across its expansive array of businesses — and inviting other companies to do the same.
How? In 2019, Amazon cofounded the Climate Pledge, a commitment to become a net-zero carbon company by 2040. Dave Clark and Kara Hurst discuss how they’re working together to reduce Amazon’s carbon footprint across all aspects of business, from embedding sustainability teams throughout the organization to rethinking entire supply chains. For instance, last year Amazon ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from the startup Rivian in an effort to begin converting the company’s fleet to renewable energy. The scale of transformation will be massive, Clark and Hurst say, and they’re encouraging other companies to follow suit. “One thing we know about the scale of the urgent challenge we have in front of us is that it’s going to take everyone. We cannot do it alone,” Hurst says, “It’s going to take companies and governments, communities and individuals, to come up with solutions, new innovations and technologies.”
Aparna Nancherla, comedian
Big idea: Taking out the trash can be fun.
Why? If you love garbage, you can get an endless supply with “the stuff that our modernist, consumer, carbon-powered culture makes us buy endlessly, and often for no good reason,” says Aparna Nancherla. She runs through the pleasure and pain of garbage, from “micro-decluttering” by throwing things away, to the fact that only 10 percent of our plastic gets recycled. Nancherla shares the dire state of our recycling industry (imagining the Pacific garbage patch as a wedding destination), but there’s also plenty of humor around just how hard it is to stay green in a world that’s choking on ever-larger piles of trash.
Carlos Moreno introduces the 15-minute city: a new way of redesigning urban spaces that puts people’s basic needs within a 15-minute walk, at all times. He speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Carlos Moreno, scientific director, Panthéon Sorbonne University-IAE Paris
Big idea: Urban areas should be built to function as “15-minute cities,” so that inhabitants have access to all services they need to live, learn and thrive within their immediate vicinity.
How? City life has become more inconvenient than ever, with long commutes, underutilized spaces and lack of access. Our acceptance of this dysfunction has reached a peak. Carlos Moreno invites us to ask ourselves: “What do we need to create a 15-minute city?” This would mean access to necessities like school, work, parks, cultural centers, shops and living space all within a 15-minute walk, at all times. Moreno’s ideas to create cities like this are guided by four principles: ecology, proximity, solidarity and participation, with inhabitants actively taking part in their neighborhoods’ transformations. He calls for urban areas to adapt to humans, not the other way around.
Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, the Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, shares how her city is planting one million trees in just two years. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone
Big idea: Trees offer us a crucial way to trap carbon and save the climate. Get planting.
How? Driving home one day outside Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr gazed out at the landscape in horror. The lush green forest she used to know had disappeared, replaced with barren hills. The shock wasn’t merely visual. Without trees standing as a critical bulwark against land erosion, the citizens of Freetown — where more than 70 informal settlements have sprung up in the last two decades — are at great risk of catastrophic effects of climate change, a fact driven home in August 2017, when a massive landslide killed 1,000 people there in less than five minutes. In that moment, Aki-Sawyerr vowed to save her city in the most direct way she could — she ran for mayor, won and has now committed to making Freetown a “tree town” once again. She’s on track to increase vegetation cover in the city by 50 percent by the end of her term in 2022, planting one million trees along the way. Freetown citizens have planted half a million seedlings so far, all tracked using a custom app, setting the stage for a safer environment and stirring collective civic pride. “A million trees is our city’s small contribution to increasing the much-needed global carbon sink,” Aki-Sawyerr says.
Actress and musician Yemi Alade performs “True Love” at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Actress and musician Yemi Alade joins the show to close out the session, singing and dancing to the upbeat tune “True Love.”
Actor, author and director Don Cheadle cohosts session 1 of the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Today, 10.10.2020, is the climate’s day of destiny: the Countdown Global Launch, a call to action on climate change and the first-ever free TED conference.
Launching Countdown means asking ourselves the big questions: What’s the state of the climate today? How are we going to achieve a net-zero future? How do we center climate justice in our work? We heard from experts, policymakers and activists in this opening session, cohosted by actor and director Don Cheadle and actor and climate change advocate Mark Ruffalo, who reflected on their own love for the environment, as people who grew up in the midwestern United States.
The opening remarks were followed by an introduction from head of TED Chris Anderson and head of Future Stewards Lindsay Levin, who teamed up to create Countdown a year ago. They laid out what we’re hoping to achieve at the Countdown Global Launch: taking a deep look at what it will take to tackle climate change, specifically by harnessing creativity and innovation to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 and get to net-zero by 2050.
Actor, director and climate change advocate Mark Ruffalo cohosts session 1 of the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
The talks in brief:
Johan Rockström, climate impact scholar
Big idea: Earth’s climate has reached a global crisis point. We have 10 years to avoid irreparably destabilizing the planet.
How? In his TED Talk from 2010, Johan Rockström outlined nine planetary boundaries that keep earth’s ecosystems in a state of stability, allowing humanity to prosper. At that time, evidence showed that just one planetary boundary was at risk of being breached: Arctic sea ice. A decade later, Rockström warns us that nine out of the 15 big biophysical systems that regulate climate — from the permafrost of Siberia to the great forests of the North to the Amazon rainforest — are approaching tipping points, which would create a “hot-house Earth” largely uninhabitable for humanity. “These systems are all linked like dominoes: you cross one tipping point, you lurch closer to others,” Rockström says. So what are we to do? Over the next 10 years, we need to get serious about stabilizing the planet. Rockström proposes a model of “planetary stewardship” rooted in science-based targets for all global commons (i.e., the ecosystems that support the planet’s stability) and an economy based on well-being, which would decarbonize big systems like energy, industry, transport and buildings. “This is our mission,” he says. “To protect our children’s future.”
“Cities are starting to flip the script on climate change, proving to be part of the solution and not just the problem,” says climate and data scientist Angel Hsu. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Angel Hsu, climate and data scientist
Big idea: Tackling climate change must start in cities, and many around the world are already implementing ambitious plans.
How? Cities are at the highest risk of the damaging effects of climate change: all-time temperature highs, sweltering humidity, rising sea levels, suffocating air pollution. The irony is that cities are also the biggest offenders in causing this shift in climate, says Angel Hsu. Cities pump out 70 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions and gobble up between 60 to 80 percent of global energy resources. The good news, Hsu says, is that cities are quickly becoming leaders in the fight against climate change by forging new, low-emission pathways. Already, 10,000 cities have pledged to undertake sweeping climate initiatives. Now Hsu asks: What impact could we make if 20,000 cities made these same efforts? At the same time, she points out that cities must fairly and equitably implement these initiatives across all populations, especially for those most at risk. For example, expanded bike paths in Latin America will connect more people to jobs, schools and parks, while in Africa, green power grids have the ability to electrify nearly 73 million power-deficient households. Cities may be causing climate change, but they also have the power to mitigate it while raising the quality of life for their populations.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Big idea: The race to a zero emission world is under way. If we don’t act now, this coming century may be one of humanity’s last.
How? As the world continues to struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic, António Guterres urges us to use this moment to rebuild with ambitious climate action in mind. Momentum is increasing, he says, as companies, cities and countries commit to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. He outlines six actions that governments can take to keep ramping up their climate ambitions: invest in green jobs, drop polluting industries, end fossil fuel subsidies, put a price on carbon, take climate risks into account in all financial and policy considerations and work together in solidarity — leaving no one behind. During next year’s Countdown Summit (October 12-15, 2021, Edinburgh, Scotland), Guterres expects to share an actionable blueprint for a net-zero future and celebrate the progress that’s already been made. “We can only win the race to zero together,” he says. “So I urge you all to get on board. The countdown has begun.”
Climate Action Tracker, an interactive online map that monitors the climate commitments of countries worldwide
Big idea: With the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, 197 countries agreed to set emission targets that would limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by capping greenhouse emissions at “net zero” — or absorbing as much carbon as they emit — by 2050. So far, only two countries (Gambia and Morocco) are hitting their targets, while the biggest emitters are falling flat, or ignoring their goals entirely. How can we hold these countries accountable?
How? Enter the Climate Action Tracker, an interactive tool that allows citizens to track the climate commitments and actions of the 36 countries that emit 86 percent of global greenhouse gases. Emissions are still rising, according to the Tracker, and there’s more bad news: the US has withdrawn from the Paris Agreements, and while China’s goals alone could drop global warming by .3 degrees, their actions are troubling, as they continue to invest in new coal plants while touting green energy. The good news: the Tracker reveals that many cities and businesses within some of the biggest economies are committed to green electricity and emission-free transportation and construction.
“The exploitation of our planet’s natural resources has always been tied to the exploitation of people of color,” says member of the UK Parliament David Lammy. He speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
David Lammy, Member of Parliament, UK
Big idea: There cannot be true climate justice without addressing racial, social and intergenerational issues. The global community must invite Black voices to lead in repairing our systems, society and planet.
Why? Black people and people of color are most at risk of climate change due to cheap housing, polluted neighborhoods and other systemic inequities. So where are all the Black climate activists? According to David Lammy, the first Black MP to hold the Justice post in British Parliament, racial justice and climate justice have been viewed as distinct problems, with equality advocates seeing environmentalism as elitist while white climate activists rarely enlist the support of Black voices. Lammy sees the climate emergency as the direct result of generations of violent abuse, disregard and theft of minority communities. “The climate crisis is colonialism’s natural conclusion,” he says. To repair the Earth, we must solve the racial, social and economic injustices that plague communities of color. Lammy calls for environmental groups, international organizations, the press and everyone in between to support Black leaders on climate, including awarding scholarships for people of color, enacting stronger international laws to support vulnerable communities and even moving company headquarters to the urban areas most affected by the climate emergency.
“From my father, I learned stubborn optimism, the mindset that is necessary to transform the reality we’re given into the reality we want,” says climate advocate Christiana Figueres. She speaks at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Christiana Figueres, stubborn optimist
Big idea: To face a problem as big as climate change, the world needs to adopt a new mindset: stubborn optimism.
How? Christiana Figueres, the climate leader who helped broker the historic Paris Agreement in 2015, learned stubborn optimism from her father, José Figueres Ferrer. He refused to give up on his country, Costa Rica, when it was thrown into political crisis in 1948. Instead, he took action, set out to restore democracy and bring peace to his homeland and was elected as the country’s president three times. Today, in the face of an extreme climate crisis that threatens the globe, Figueres champions her father’s special brand of optimism. “Our optimism cannot be a sunny day attitude,” she says. “It has to be gritty, determined, relentless. It is a choice we have to make every single day. Every barrier must be an indication to try a different way. ” With a remarkable fighting spirit and an unwillingness to accept defeat, she urges everyone to envision the future they want for humanity — and work to make it reality.
Prince Royce performs four fan favorites at the Countdown Global Launch on October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Bronx-raised Latin music superstar Prince Royce also adds his voice to the call for action on climate. “Climate change is the defining issue of our time,” he says. “History is defined by moments when people rise up and cause change. The decisions we make as individuals add to this collective forward motion.” Backed by his band (donning face masks), he performs fan favorites “Luna Negra,” “Carita de Inocente,” Corazón Sin Cara” and “Darte un Beso.”
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The Global Launch kicks off Countdown, an initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. Presented by TED and Future Stewards, this special event featured more than 50 speakers, activists, actors and musicians in five curated sessions of actionable and science-backed ideas, paired with moments of wonder, inspiration and optimism.
Watch the full 5-session livestream on YouTube, featuring hosts Jane Fonda, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Al Gore, Xiye Bastida, Prajakta Koli, Hannah Stocking and Jaden Smith; and speakers Prince William, His Holiness Pope Francis, Monica Araya, Jesper Brodin, David Lammy, Christiana Figueres, Kara Hurst, Lisa Jackson, Rose M. Mutiso, Johan Rockström, António Guterres, Ursula von der Leyen and many more; with special musical performances by Prince Royce, Yemi Alade, Raye Zaragoza, Sigrid and Cynthia Erivo.
For more information and to #JoinTheCountdown, visit countdown.ted.com.
global launch square
Grab your friends and family, and tune in to YouTube.com/TED for the Countdown Global Launch this Saturday, October 10, 2020 at 11am ET.
TED’s first-ever free conference, the Global Launch kicks off Countdown, a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. This weekend’s virtual event will explain why the climate crisis is so urgent, share ideas from experts in a range of fields and call on leaders and citizens everywhere to take action. Expect a day packed with more than 50 speakers, activists, actors and musicians in five curated sessions of actionable and science-backed ideas paired with moments of wonder, inspiration and optimism.
This special event will feature hosts Jane Fonda, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Al Gore, Xiye Bastida, Prajakta Koli, Hannah Stocking and Jaden Smith; and speakers Prince William, His Holiness Pope Francis, Monica Araya, Jesper Brodin, Dave Clark, Christiana Figueres, Kara Hurst, Lisa Jackson, Rose M. Mutiso, Johan Rockström, Nigel Topping, Ursula von der Leyen and many more; with special musical performances by Prince Royce, Sigrid and Yemi Alade.
The Countdown Global Launch, presented by TED and Future Stewards, will run from 11am – 5pm ET. Segments from the event, including the biggest talks and performances, will be made available immediately across TED’s digital platforms.
Escape with host Saleem Reshamwala and journey across the globe in search of the world’s most surprising and imaginative ideas. Pindrop isn’t a travel show, exactly. It’s a deep dive into the ideas that shape a particular spot on the map, brought to you by the people who live there.
New episodes will take listeners to Lima, Peru, where hip-hop artists are trying to save an endangered language (and restore the nation’s pride along the way); then over to Rapa Nui (aka Easter Island), one of the most remote places on earth, where the pandemic has inspired a complete reimagining of island life; and on a road trip to find a real-life Black utopia in North Carolina — and the possibilities it inspires for future generations.
Pindrop returns with four new episodes beginning October 14.
Design Matters joins the family
A show about how incredibly creative people design the arc of their lives, the iconic Design Matters with Debbie Millman will join the TED family in October. It’s the world’s first podcast about design: an inquiry into the broader world of creative culture through wide-ranging conversations with designers, writers, artists, curators, musicians and other luminaries of contemporary thought. Design Matters will continue to be produced independently, with TED amplifying the podcast to its global audience.
Design Matters episodes are available on TED platforms in October.
Sincerely, X is free and available to the public
Some ideas are too risky to share in the open. Sincerely, X is a space to share those controversial ideas anonymously. Hosted by poet, performer and educator Sarah Kay, this powerful show is a window into stories that usually stay hidden, an honest look at experiences typically too painful or difficult to share.
Previously only on the Luminary app, season two is being made available on all podcast platforms. In the first episode, we hear from a small-town preacher in the Deep South with a radical secret: he doesn’t believe in hell. We’ll also meet a sociopath who reveals what society can learn from her condition; a former cult member who teaches us how to let go of the past; and much more.
Sincerely, X episodes drop on TED’s platforms October 22, with a new episode every week for 10 weeks.
Also from TED…
TED Business, hosted by Modupe Akinola, associate professor of management at Columbia Business School, will take listeners through some of the most creative and surprising TED Talks that illuminate the business world. Strictly business topics are just the beginning: TED Business will also dig into relevant talks on psychology, science, design, democracy — stretching listeners’ sense of what really matters in business.
Episodes available weekly, starting October 12
TED Health provides a curated selection of the best health-related TED Talks. From smart daily habits to new medical breakthroughs, doctors and researchers share discoveries and ideas about medicine and well-being.
Episodes available weekly, starting October 13
Twenty Thousand Hertz is hosted by Dallas Taylor, creative director of Defacto Sound. The lovingly crafted podcast reveals the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds. In upcoming episodes, modern paleontology shares what dinosaurs really sound like (October 7) and how we might create a sonic utopia in the future (November 11).
New episodes available every other Wednesday
TED Talks Daily, TED’s flagship podcast, will begin publishing talks from Countdown — a global initiative to combat climate change — beginning in mid-October. The first TED Talk to publish will be from Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, followed by talks from climate impact scholar Johan Rockström, electrification advocate Monica Araya and UK parliament member David Lammy. These talks will also be published in a special Countdown podcast to showcase the most exciting ideas about fighting climate change.
Talks from Countdown will begin publishing October 10
TED Radio Hour investigates the biggest questions of our time with the help of the world’s greatest thinkers. Can we preserve our humanity in the digital age? Where does creativity come from? And what’s the secret to living longer? In each episode, host Manoush Zomorodi explores a big idea through a series of TED Talks and original interviews, inspiring us to learn more about the world, our communities and, most importantly, ourselves.
In October, TED Radio Hour will release an exciting episode featuring the cohost of NPR’s All Things Considered Mary Louise Kelly, biophysicist and neuroscientist Jim Hudspeth, writer and “part-time cyborg” Rebecca Knill, musician and acoustic engineer Renzo Vitale and TED’s own Dallas Taylor, the host of Twenty Thousand Hertz.
New episodes available every Friday
Our partners: TED strives to tell partner stories in the form of authentic, story-driven content developed in real time and aligned with the editorial process — finding and exploring brilliant ideas from all over the world. This season’s podcasts are made possible with support from Change Healthcare, Lexus, Marriott Hotels, Women Will, a Grow with Google program, and more.
Danielle Torley, who unexpectedly became a fire dancer, demonstrates her mastery of the flames. She speaks at TED@PMI on September 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Everyone celebrates the thought leader. But thoughts alone won’t solve the world’s biggest challenges. In the face of disruptive change, TED and The Project Management Institute (PMI) have partnered to share the ideas behind awe-inspiring business projects, creative pursuits and innovative collaborations. Below, a recap of the six speakers who spoke at day one. (Check out the day two recap as well.)
The event: TED@PMI, a two-day virtual event showcasing project leaders who turn ideas into action and impact. Hosted by PMI President and Chief Executive Officer Sunil Prashara and TED curator Sally Kohn
Performance by: Allison Russell, a multi-instrumentalist, singer, poet, activist and writer
Special offstage moments: A TED event goes beyond the talks. For the first day of TED@PMI, pre- and post-event virtual activities included coffee and cocktails (to delight people across time zones), a chakra-balancing sound bath, a speaker panel discussion and a dance party hosted by DJ Jenk Oz.
The talks in brief:
YeYoon Kim, former kindergarten teacher
Big idea: Asking for help is a powerful and courageous thing to do.
Why? Kids do some things better than grown-ups, says YeYoon Kim. For instance: asking for help. This act of vulnerability is a gift, she says: not only do you show your trust in another person, but you also give them the opportunity to experience the joy that comes from helping. Kim found out the hard way that, even as adults, it’s important to reach out to loved ones for help. During one of the most difficult periods in her life, Kim wasn’t able to open herself up to receiving care until a friend actively stepped in to support her. Now, she recognizes the courage that lies in seeking help — and encourages the rest of us to start asking for it more often.
Quote of the talk: “Being asked for help is a privilege: a gift for you to do something for someone.”
Kathy Mendias, childbirth and lactation educator
Big idea: Crying isn’t necessarily a ringing alarm bell — it’s a way of fully experiencing your emotions, and it can bring you closer to your family, your significant other and yourself.
How? As a childbirth educator and mother of four, Kathy Mendias understands the deep emotional changes that pregnancy can spark for the pregnant person — and for those supporting the pregnant person. With those emotional peaks and valleys often come tears, which Mendias encourages to let flow freely. Tears can contain high concentrations of stress hormones and endorphins, so crying can strengthen the bond between your body and mind, she explains. Crying isn’t something to be afraid or ashamed of, she says: it’s a natural expression of your emotional landscape, a soothing physical release of joy, grief, love, anxiety or any other combination of feelings. Mendias believes that we all need to have a healthier relationship with our tears.
Quote of the talk: “Crying offers us an opportunity for physical relief, for intimacy between two individuals, and ultimately, it promotes physical and mental well-being. Crying is a natural functionality of our amazing bodies.”
“All of our children deserve protection and help. Staying silent doesn’t make this better,” says community activist Wale Elegbede. He speaks at TED@PMI on September 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Wale Elegbede, leadership strategist, community activist
Big idea: Stop seeing discrimination as “their” problem. It’s our problem — and we all have a role to play in stopping it.
Why? “I’m an American Muslim of Nigerian descent and, growing up, my parents instilled in me the importance of community and serving others,” says Wale Elegbede. In his household, caring for the entire community was a given: his mother provided meals not just for their family but to other children in the neighborhood who needed to eat as well. Elegbede still lives by this community-care approach, and he sees it as a key facet to ending discrimination. He reflects on how, after the attacks of 9/11, his family was traumatized alongside countless others — and how they faced microaggressions and Islamophobia to the point that they considered leaving their adopted homeland. But Elegbede decided to stay and try to bridge these religious and racial divides, helping bring together a diverse group of people (spanning religions, races and ages) in his community. He shows us how a mentality of caring for your community, and making their problems your problems, can make life better for everyone.
Quote of the talk: “All of our children deserve protection and help, and staying silent doesn’t make this better. So let’s make our community and world a better place by making standing up to discrimination and hate everyone’s business.”
Mounina Tounkara, IT engineer
Big idea: To end racism, we must change how we see each other.
How? Since she was a child, Mounina Tounkara’s grandmother instilled in her the African philosophy of ubuntu: a perspective of interconnectedness — which, while natural at home, was a foreign concept elsewhere. Tounkara recounts her experiences finding a whole new world of racism and discrimination while pursuing education abroad, and how the experience changed the trajectory of her life. To eradicate the cruel and unforgiving ways people treat one another based on their origins or appearance, she suggests adopting the teachings of ubuntu in three steps: learning to be empathetic; believing in our capacity for change; and rethinking justice to be restorative.
Quote of the talk: “If the lifestyle of ubuntu is practiced all over the world, humanity will be the great winner — and that means you.”
“Strength doesn’t mean facing challenges or dark feelings alone,” says Kristin Jones. She speaks at TED@PMI on September 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Kristin Jones, social media specialist
Big idea: By fostering open conversations without shame or judgement, we can better inform and protect our children from sexual violence.
How? For years, Kristin Jones lived in fear and shame over the sexual abuse she experienced in her teens; she says that the shame associated with sexual abuse can silence victims and stop them from seeking help. Now, as a mother, Jones shares key insights on how to educate children on the reality of sexual violence without shaming or blaming victims. Instead of relying on phrases like “Just say no,” or implying that it’s their responsibility not to “become a victim,” Jones says it’s vital to emphasize to children that sexual abuse, in any form, is never the victim’s fault, and that they can always ask for help. Sexual abuse is a devastating reality, and it’s terrifying for parents to imagine not being able to protect their children. By nurturing open conversations about abuse, parents can provide children with the environment, knowledge and support to reach out for help, if they ever need to.
Quote of the talk: “I make sure my children know that strength doesn’t mean facing challenges or dark feelings alone. In fact, there’s strength in numbers and strength in asking for help … I want my kids to know that courageous, strong people ask for help.”
Danielle Torley, fire performer and artist
Big idea: There is hope for healing after experiencing grief, trauma or hardship.
How? After losing her mother in a house fire when she was just six years old, Danielle Torley saw two paths before her: a life full of fear, or one that promised recovery and new potential. While backpacking through Central America years after that harrowing night, a fellow traveler introduced her to the art of fire dancing, and she was instantly captivated. Despite her past trauma with fire, she was inexplicably drawn to this unique art form that allowed her to flow with the flames. Making a conscious decision to choose the path of healing, she began to practice her own form of exposure therapy — learning to master the flames and transforming her grief into beauty.
Quote of the talk: “When I learned to dance with fire, I learned to reconcile the traumatic part of my life with the totality of my life as it was still unfolding. Fire became more than just trauma, but beauty and art as well.”
Multi-instrumentalist and singer Allison Russell performs at TED@PMI on September 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Billy Samuel Mwape talks about an innovative way he uses project management to support his son’s special needs. He speaks at TED@PMI on September 26, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
At day two of TED@PMI, six speakers shared ideas about creating change, shifting perspectives and connecting across diverse communities. (Check out the day one recap as well.)
The event: TED@PMI, a two-day virtual event showcasing project leaders who turn ideas into action and impact. Hosted by PMI President and Chief Executive Officer Sunil Prashara and TED curator Sally Kohn
Performance by: ARKAI, a violin-cello duo that channels the diversity of the world through genre-bending music
Special offstage moments: TED@PMI attendees also experienced meditation and mindfulness training; a conversation with TED arts and design curator Chee Pearlman and lifestyle expert Shira Gill; a speaker panel moderated by PMI brand specialist Ryan Brooks; a workout session with celebrity trainer Ngo Okafor; and a dance party with DJ Mad Marj.
The talks in brief:
Billy Samuel Mwape, project management professional
Big idea: Project management can help you tackle life’s biggest challenges.
How? After his son Lubuto was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Billy Samuel Mwape realized that his project management skills might be put to use to support his son’s needs. Project management — the process of leading a team’s work in order to achieve specific goals within a specific period of time — uses quick “sprints” to gradually create big results. In this case, the goal was to encourage Lubuto’s neuroplasticity before he reached the age of five. So Mwape gathered an agile team: his wife (and, later, their newborn daughter) along with a speech therapist, occupational therapist and physical therapist. Over the course of five years, with persistent effort and courage, Lubuto has seen incredible progress in his independent movement, balance and coordination.
Quote of the talk: “We’ve been blown away by the amazing results we’ve witnessed as a result of this experimental methodology. And now we proudly call ourselves ‘agile parents.'”
Betsy Kauffman, leadership coach
Big idea: To build healthier and more productive workplaces, we need to develop the courage to have more honest and blunt conversations.
How? It can be difficult to disagree with colleagues during work meetings, even if you know others feel the same. That discomfort often keeps people silent, slowing down progress and stifling innovation. Betsy Kauffman believes we need to stop grumbling around the water cooler and instead gather the courage to be blunter where and when it counts. She offers four tips to successfully kickstart more honest conversations at work: build up your confidence; be clear in your intentions and goals; ensure your delivery is simple, factual and without targeted blame; and keep a laser focus on possible solutions. Instead of staying quiet when you disagree with a work decision or notice a flaw within project management, Kauffman encourages us to voice our insights and ideas. Workplace honesty doesn’t have to be hurtful or spiteful — in fact, it can empower others to speak up and help develop a culture of innovation and collaboration.
Quote of the talk: “The best organizations are full of people, at all levels, that have the courage to tackle tough topics. By being open and honest, we are not only helping ourselves, but also our organizations to have these conversations — and those are the ones that are needed the most.”
Violin-cello duo ARKAI gives a genre-bending performance at TED@PMI on September 26, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Chiwuike Amaechi, subsea engineer
Big idea: Storytelling is a powerful tool to create a cohesive and productive team.
How? How can teams become more engaged and self-driven? To answer this question, Chiwuike Amaechi reflects on what he learned while working offshore as a subsea engineer, applying early-career lessons to the office environment. At sea, he says, teams worked together because every member was part of a common story. Each campaign had a beginning and an end with a clear objective that required them to work together to overcome often dangerous obstacles. Although office workers aren’t typically faced with treacherous subsea conditions, leaders can create a sense of unity by communicating the story of projects, deadlines and goals with all team members, giving everyone a role and purpose in the tale. This shared narrative, he says, drives a positive response to change — not just from the top down but from the bottom up.
Quote of the talk: “We are familiar with the organizational pyramid: the mission and vision often are clear at the top, though sometimes nobody bothers to share the story with the folks in the basement.”
Dinae Knox, author, youth leadership advocate
Big idea: We must confront what fuels our egos, cultivate those learnings and transform them into the fertile ground needed to become our best selves.
How? It’s not as simple or rosy as turning lemons into lemonade, but Knox offers a process for grappling with and ultimately thriving from — to be straightforward, in the spirit of the talk — the “shit” life throws your way. She uses her own life as an example, citing the trauma and adversity that robbed her childhood and helped form an ego that protected herself and prickled others. The exercise, or as she calls them “ego EQ check-ins,” was inspired by a work conversation and a video about an innovative business, which initiated a course of deep self-reflection — one that she’s happy to share. Knox walks us through the mindset shift necessary to develop and maintain a healthy ego. It’s up to you whether you change or stay the same.
Quote of the talk: “The shit life throws at you, drops on your head, allows you to step in — [it] can be life’s way of preparing you for your best life ever … a you that blossomed despite the shit you had to grow through.”
What can Mongolian nomads teach us about living sustainably? Khulan Batkhuyag shares her answer at TED@PMI on September 26, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Khulan Batkhuyag, environmental activist
Big idea: By learning from the nomadic people of rural Mongolia, we can fortify our sense of community, restore our relationship with the earth and learn to live more sustainably.
How? Mongolian nomads can teach us a lot about how to survive in the years and decades to come, says Khulan Batkhuyag. On travels through the country’s stunning rural landscape — which remains virtually untouched across large areas — she learned how Mongolian nomads have survived in remote areas for thousands of years. The secret? By persevering as a community (Mongolian nomads welcome into their homes anyone in need of help) and by virtue of some truly incredible, earth-friendly, zero-waste innovations (for instance: burning dried cow dung, instead of fuel, to keep warm). This is a different form of sophistication than developed countries, Batkhuyag says, but no less valuable. Indeed, there’s wisdom here for all of us on how to live more minimally, sustainably and in harmony with Mother Nature.
Quote of the talk: “We’re all guests in this world. So let’s do right by the earth, and by each other.”
Jess Woods, performance psychologist
Big idea: By regulating your emotions, you can avoid “prickly” situations and perform at your peak.
How? While hiking in the Arizona desert, Jess Woods came across a fluffy-looking plant — only to discover that it was actually the jumping cholla cactus. When touched, this cactus detaches from its base plant and (quite painfully) latches onto unsuspecting victims. Amid the physical discomfort, Woods saw a metaphor: much like the prickly spikes, emotions — when left unsupervised — can get under the skin, cause harm and mess with performance. The solution? Using specific strategies to regulate your reactions. By practicing “cognitive reappraisal” for instance — reframing how you interpret a situation — you can learn to accept a moment for what it is, as opposed to what you want it to be. In this way, you can gain self-awareness over your emotions and regain control of your actions.
Quote of the talk: “You can catch the emotions of other people and then take them on as your own. The problem is that most of us are highly susceptible to other people’s emotions, which means even the smallest external factor can impact how we perform at work, on the field and even at home.”
Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief, and head of TED Chris Anderson debut Countdown at the TED World Theater on December 4, 2019. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)
The launch of Countdown, a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis, is just a few weeks away. Initiated by TED and Future Stewards, Countdown is a global initiative that aims to mobilize millions to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Speakers will outline what a healthy, abundant, zero-emission future can look like — and how we can build a world that is safer, cleaner and fairer for everyone. Tune in to the free, five-hour virtual event on Saturday, October 10, 2020 from 11am – 5pm ET on TED’s YouTube channel. View the full program and speaker lineup here.
Many Countdown speakers have already shared ideas with TED. Below is a list of their talks to get you thinking in the leadup to the event:
Al Gore, climate advocate
Angel Hsu, climate and data scientist
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Christiana Figueres, stubborn optimist
Elif Shafak, novelist, political scientist
His Holiness Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome
Johan Rockström, climate impact scholar
John Doerr, engineer, investor
Liz Ogbu, designer, urbanist, spatial justice activist
Monica Araya, electrification advocate
Nigel Topping, UK’s High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26
Olafur Eliasson, artist
Rose M. Mutiso, energy researcher
Stephen Wilkes, photographer
Tom Crowther, ecosystem ecology professor
Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown
Varun Sivaram, clean-energy executive
View the full list of talks in this playlist on YouTube.
Prince William, His Holiness Pope Francis, Yemi Alade, Monica Araya, Xiye Bastida, Jesper Brodin, Don Cheadle, Dave Clark, Christiana Figueres, Al Gore, António Guterres, Chris Hemsworth, Kara Hurst, Lisa Jackson, Rose Mutiso, Johan Rockström, Prince Royce, Mark Ruffalo, Sigrid, Jaden Smith, Nigel Topping and Ursula von der Leyen join scientists, activists, artists, schools and leaders from business and government to accelerate and amplify solutions
Countdown, a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis, will launch on October 10, 2020 with a free five-hour live virtual event featuring leading thinkers and doers. This is the moment to act, and they will outline what a healthy, abundant, zero-emission future can look like—turning ideas into action. The event will combine TED’s signature blend of actionable and research-backed ideas, cutting-edge science, and moments of wonder and inspiration. Countdown is one part of a broader series of actions and events this fall including the Bloomberg Green Festival, Climate Week NYC and others, all with the collective objective of informing and activating millions in the lead-up to a successful UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021.
The Countdown launch will be streamed live on TED’s YouTube channel. This global event will be the first-ever TED conference that is free and open to the public. Segments from the event, including the biggest talks and performances, will be made available immediately across all digital platforms. The program includes 50+ pieces of content—talks, performances, animations and more. Speakers will touch on topics such as:
Climate science and the climate crisis: Where are we today?
Why climate justice matters
Putting climate back on the political and social agenda
What businesses can do—and are doing—to transform and transition
Rethinking our cities
Stepping up at work and at home
The path to a safer, cleaner, fairer future for people and the planet
A full agenda and speaker list can be found here.
In addition to the live global event, over 500 TEDx Countdown virtual events in nine languages are planned around the world, encouraging communities and citizens to take action locally while also feeding local solutions and ideas into the global conversation. Countdown has also convened a global Youth Council of recognized activists who will help shape the Countdown agenda throughout the year. Additionally, Countdown is working to engage people through art with ten public art installations in global cities around the 10.10.20 event and open calls for art––illustration and photography––to run throughout the year on the Countdown website.
“The moment to act on climate change has been upon us for too long, and now is the time to unite all levels of society—business leaders, courageous political actors, scientists and individuals—to get to net-zero emissions before 2050,” said Chris Anderson, Countdown founding partner and Head of TED. “Climate is a top priority for TED and members of our community, and we are proud to fully dedicate our organization in the fight for our collective future.”
“Countdown brings together a powerful collaboration of partners from all sectors to act on climate change,” said Lindsay Levin, Countdown founding partner and CEO of Leaders’ Quest. “We need to work together with courage and compassion to deliver a healthy, fair, resilient future for everyone.”
With so many people who have already committed to addressing climate change, Countdown is about radical collaboration—convening all stakeholders to build on the critical work already underway and bringing existing, powerful solutions to an even broader audience. Powered by TED and Future Stewards, Countdown aims to answer five fundamental, interconnected questions that inform a blueprint for a better future:
ENERGY: How rapidly can we switch to 100% clean power?
TRANSPORT: How can we upgrade the way we move people and things?
MATERIALS: How can we re-imagine and re-make the stuff around us?
FOOD: How can we spark a worldwide shift to healthier food systems?
NATURE: How do we better protect and re-green the earth?
Countdown is asking companies and organizations to join the Race to Zero through Business Ambition for 1.5°C, which is a commitment to set science-based targets aligned with limiting global warming to 1.5°C, and through The Climate Pledge, which calls on signatories to be net-zero carbon by 2040—a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement goal of 2050.
“We can inspire others through action and example, because there is no hope without action,” said 17-year-old climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, a lead organizer of the Fridays for Future youth climate strike movement. “We are fighting to ensure this planet survives and flourishes for future generations, which requires intergenerational cooperation. Countdown is about coming together across ages and sectors to protect the earth and ensure we leave it better than we found it.”
“Five years after the unanimous signing of the Paris Agreement, many countries, companies and citizens are doing what they can about the climate crisis. But this is not enough,” said Christiana Figueres, former UN climate chief (2010-2016), now co-founder of Global Optimism. “We have this decisive decade to achieve what is necessary—cutting global emissions in half over the next ten years is vital to meeting the goal of net zero by 2050. I am delighted to partner with Countdown to increase the global stock of stubborn optimism that is needed to push every company and country—and engage citizens—in actions that decouple carbon from our economy and way of life in this decade.”
Following the launch, Countdown will facilitate a number of sector leader working groups along with the initiative’s network of partner organizations through November 2021. These will focus on delivering breakthrough progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. During next year’s Countdown Summit (October 12-15, 2021, Edinburgh, Scotland), the initiative will share an actionable blueprint for a net-zero future and celebrate the progress that’s already been made.
Citizens are the critical component of this initiative and anyone can #JoinTheCountdown by:
Joining us—sign up to become part of the movement
Bringing Countdown to your community—by hosting your own TEDx event
Tuning in on 10.10.2020—for the live event
Spreading the word on your own social media and throughout your networks
Connect at Countdown@ted.com
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, often in the form of short talks delivered by leading thinkers and doers. Many of these talks are given at TED conferences, intimate TED Salons and thousands of independently organized TEDx events around the world. Videos of these talks are made available, free, on TED.com and other platforms. Audio versions of TED Talks are published to TED Talks Daily, available on all podcast platforms.
About Future Stewards
Future Stewards is a coalition of partners (Leaders’ Quest, Global Optimism and We Mean Business) working together to build a regenerative future – where we meet the needs of all, within the means of the planet. Founded after the Paris Agreement, Future Stewards equips individuals, businesses and communities with the awareness and tools required to tackle systemic problems, scale what works and build cross-sector collaboration.
Is that afternoon coffee having a major impact on your sleep hours later? Does sleeping longer mean living longer?
In TED’s newest original video series, Sleeping with Science, sleep scientist Matt Walker dives into the latest research on sleep — and explains what you need to know to get a better night’s rest.
While you’re dreaming, your body works overtime to repair your immune system, file your memories and literally clean your brain, so you can wake up ready for the day. But not all sleep is created equal. Walker sheds light on the mysterious mechanics of slumber in eight brief, information-packed episodes featuring colorful illustrations of the wondrous inner workings of your brain on sleep — and what happens when you don’t get enough of it.
Stroll through the stages of sleep with Walker as he finally puts to rest tired misconceptions about sleep and uncovers some surprising findings, including how coffee and alcohol really affect your sleep, how to boost your immune system with sleep, new research into the link between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease and how to hack your memory with sleep. This series was made possible with the support of Beautyrest.
Take a walk through the stages of sleep:
A look at how you might be paying for that nightcap with your sleep:
Studying for a big test? Learn how sleep boosts your memory:
Could better sleep hold the key to lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s disease:
Feeling cranky? Understand how sleep — or the lack of it — changes your feelings during the day:
Explore the connection between rest and your health:
Find out if you’re getting enough sleep:
And finally, try these tips for a better snooze:
Check out the full series on TED.com.
Sir Ken Robinson speaks at TED2010 in Long Beach, California. (TED / James Duncan Davidson)
In February 2006, author and educator Sir Ken Robinson stepped on to the TED stage and posed a provocative question: “Do schools kill creativity?” What followed was a masterclass in public speaking — 19 minutes that sparkled with wit, deep thinking and a fearless confidence in human potential. Since then, Sir Ken’s talk has taken on a life of its own. It was among the first six TED Talks to be released online in 2006, and it remains the most-viewed talk of all time, having been seen more than 65 million times.
Sir Ken died Friday, August 21, 2020, after an extraordinary life as one of the world’s leading thinkers on creativity and innovation. He was critical of contemporary educational systems, which he believed educated students to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. He advocated instead for a personal approach, one that treats kids as unique individuals with a diversity of talents. “We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture,” he said in the follow-up to his 2006 talk. “We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.”
Sir Ken dedicated his career to nurturing this type of personalized approach to learning, working with governments, educators, corporations and cultural organizations to unlock people’s creativity. A native of Liverpool, UK, he led the British government’s 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, which looked into the significance of creativity in education and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements. He authored or coauthored a wide range of books including the breakthrough The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, a New York Times bestseller that has been translated into 23 languages.
Sir Ken’s work lives on in the minds of millions. At his core, he believed that creativity is the essential act of living, of navigating a fundamentally unpredictable world. As he said to head of TED Chris Anderson in their 2018 interview: “The best evidence of human creativity is our trajectory through life. We create our own lives. And these powers of creativity, manifested in all the ways in which human beings operate, are at the very heart of what it is to be a human being.”
He will be much missed.
In the midst of this global pandemic, the TED Fellows program is more committed than ever to finding and amplifying individuals making a vital impact in their communities and doing the work of future-making. Read on to learn how to apply, and how the TED Fellows program is meeting this moment.
Since launching the TED Fellows program, we’ve gotten to know and support some of the brightest, most ambitious thinkers, change-makers and culture-shakers from nearly every discipline and corner of the world.
Whether it’s discovering new galaxies, leading social movements or making waves in environmental conservation, with the support of TED, Fellows are dedicated to making the world a better place through their innovative work. And you could be one of them.
Apply to be a TED Fellow now through August 24, 2020 — that’s coming up soon, so don’t procrastinate!! We do not accept late submissions!
What happens when I’m chosen as a TED Fellow?
What are the requirements?
What do you have to lose?
Nothing! Apply today. The deadline is August 24, 2020 at 11:59pm UTC. We do not accept late applications, so don’t wait until the last minute!
It’s been an unforgettable eight weeks of TED2020, the first-ever virtual TED conference. For the final session: a call to moral leadership, a rethink on what it means to be a citizen, some pointers on how to make a good argument from a Supreme Court litigator and much more. Below, read a recap of the inspiring ideas by amazing speakers (and check out the full coverage of the conference here).
“If you make a good argument, it has the power to outlive you, to stretch beyond your core, to reach future minds,” says Supreme Court litigator Neal Katyal. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on July 9, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Neal Katyal, Supreme Court litigator
Big idea: Empathy and long-term drive are key to crafting persuasive and successful arguments.
Why? Winning an argument isn’t just about drowning out an opponent or proving them wrong — it’s about leveraging empathy and human connection to draw a comprehensive understanding of the circumstance and, ultimately, highlight the most just solution. As a Supreme Court litigator, Neal Katyal has argued some of the most impactful cases of recent history, including the case against the 2017 Muslim travel ban and the case against waterboarding and Guantanamo Bay military tribunals. In his experience, he realized that while good courtroom practices include extensive practice and avoiding displays of emotion, crafting a successful argument takes more. Sometimes arguments fail — and it’s at that moment of failure that empathy is most important. Katyal hasn’t won every case he’s argued, but through failure he’s been able to better understand the core of his work and refine his arguments to resonate more deeply. By drawing strength and drive from our personal histories and principles, we can identify why our arguments advance justice and how we can articulate it more clearly to our opponents. “The question is not how to win every argument — it’s how to get back up when we lose,” Katyal says. “In the long run, good arguments will win out. If you make a good argument, it has the power to outlive you, to stretch beyond your core, to reach future minds. Even if you don’t win right now, if you make a good argument, history will prove you right.”
“America is above all an idea, however unrealized and imperfect, one that only exists because the first settlers came here freely without worry of citizenship,” says immigrant rights advocate Jose Antonio Vargas. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on July 9, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Jose Antonio Vargas, immigrant rights advocate
Big idea: Americans need to identify their own immigrant narratives — and overturn their preconceived notions of what it means to be a citizen.
How? If you live in the United States and are not a Native American (whose ancestors were already in North America when the first European settlers arrived) or an African American (whose ancestors were brought to the US by force), you are the descendant of an immigrant — and chances are you haven’t thought enough about what American citizenship means, says Jose Antonio Vargas. “What most people don’t understand about immigration is what they don’t understand about themselves — their family’s old migration stories and the processes they had to go through before green cards and walls even existed, or what shaped their understanding of citizenship itself,” he says. By asking yourself three questions — “Where did you come from?” “How did you get here?” and “Who paid?” — Vargas believes that people can come to realize that citizenship doesn’t mean simply being accepted into a society by an accident of birth or a rule of law; it also means participating in and contributing to a community, and educating others. And it demands that we become something greater than ourselves: citizens who are ultimately responsible to each other.
Abena Koomson-Davis performs “People Get Ready” and “Love’s in Need of Love” at TED2020: Uncharted on July 9, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Performer, educator and wordsmith Abena Koomson Davis keeps the session moving with performances of “People Get Ready” and “Love’s in Need of Love.”
“Let this be our moment to move forward with the fierce urgency of a new generation, fortified with our most profound and collective wisdom,” says Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on July 9, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen
Big idea: We must start the hard, long work of moral revolution, putting our shared humanity and the sustainability of the earth at the center of our systems and prioritizing the collective instead of the individual.
How? Our problems are interdependent and entangled. To fix them, we need more than a systems shift — we need a mindshift, says Jacqueline Novogratz. Pulling from her storied career empowering people in underdeveloped communities worldwide, she shares some of the wisdom and knowledge she’s earned in transforming her own unbridled optimism into hard-edged hope and lasting change. For humanity to spark its own moral revolution, we need an entirely new set of operating principles, of which she offers three to start: moral imagination, in seeing people equal to ourselves, neither idealizing or victimizing; holding opposing values in tension, with leaders cultivating trust by making important decisions in service of others, not themselves; and accompaniment, encouraging others to join in and walk along the side of morality. This work may seem tough, but Novogratz reminds us that we don’t change in the easy times, we change in the difficult times. Discomfort can be seen as a proxy for progress. “Let this be our moment to move forward with the fierce urgency of a new generation, fortified with our most profound and collective wisdom” she says. “And ask yourself: What can you do with the rest of today, and the rest of your life, to give back to the world more than you take?”
Eric Whitacre introduces “Sing Gently,” an original composition performed by a virtual choir made up of singers from across the globe. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on July 9, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Eric Whitacre, composer and conductor
Big idea: A virtual choir — representing 17,572 singers across 129 countries — can show us how connected we all still are.
How? When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Whitacre felt compelled to create a virtual choir. (Check out his epic performance from TED2013 to hear what that sounds like.) He wanted to make a kind of music to help the world heal, to encourage a gentle way of living with each other. So he composed “Sing Gently,” a piece inspired by the Japanese art form kintsugi — the art of repairing broken pottery with gilded epoxies, thereby illuminating the pottery’s “wounds,” as opposed to hiding them. Whitacre hopes that his staggeringly large virtual choir, spliced together with contributions of singers across the globe, will have the same kind of effect on our torn social fabric. “When we are through all of this, we will be stronger and more beautiful because of it,” he says.
“I truly feel that if all of us took care of the earth as a practice, as a culture, none of us would have to be full-time climate activists,” says Xiye Bastida. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on July 9, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Xiye Bastida, climate activist
Big idea: Humanity needs to cultivate the heart and courage to love the world.
How? In a letter to her abuela, Xiye Bastida reflects on being a leading voice of youth climate activism and Indigenous and immigrant visibility. Bastida’s days are occupied with mobilizing masses in New York City to join the climate movement, joining Greta Thunberg’s global climate strike and becoming fluent in climate science (all while sacrificing the normal activities of a teenager). “I do this work because you showed me that resilience, love and knowledge are enough to make a difference,” she writes to her abuela. Bastida shows us that, with unwavering commitment rooted in love, we are capable of igniting far more than we can imagine. “People make it so easy for me to talk to them, but they make it so hard for me to teach them,” Bastida says. “I want them to have the confidence to always do their best. I want them to have the heart and the courage to love the world.”
TED and Qatar Foundation have launched TEDinArabic. The joint two-year initiative, featuring an ideas search, live event and custom digital destination, will provide a global platform for thinkers, researchers, artists and change-makers across the Arabic-speaking world to share their ideas with a global audience.
As part of its mission of “ideas worth spreading,” TED is committed to enabling inspiring ideas to crisscross languages and borders. TEDinArabic is TED’s first initiative to focus on sharing solutions, inventions and stories in the Arabic language. Qatar Foundation — a nonprofit organization supporting Qatar on its journey to becoming a diversified and sustainable economy — believes in unlocking human potential. It is committed to preserving, promoting and celebrating the Arabic language and providing platforms for people to share their knowledge, perspectives and ideas.
TEDinArabic is where these two beliefs meet. Recognizing the value of diverse perspectives, TEDinArabic will spread the ideas of Arabic speakers to new audiences, magnifying their reach and impact.
“We are thrilled to partner with Qatar Foundation to bring ideas from Arabic-speaking regions to the world,” said Chris Anderson, head of TED. “We at TED have always valued the power of delivering talks in one’s native language, and the nuance and richness that comes with doing so. The TEDinArabic initiative is an important step in that journey. As we bring this program to life, together with Qatar Foundation, we are grateful for the support of an organization that shares our passion and dedication to education and ideas.”
Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, said: “Language is more than just a means of communication: it influences the way we think and how we frame our perceptions on a subconscious level. With TEDinArabic, I hope we can continue the process of amplifying ideas from our region to a global audience in a language that is synonymous with innovation and new thinking. We are proud to be partnering with TED, with whom we share the belief that everyone’s mind and voice can make a difference, as together we aim to build a new culture of idea-generation that stretches across the Arab world and beyond.”
A foundational part of the initiative’s engagement approach is an ideas search spanning the Middle East, during which selected ideas will be celebrated at regional events throughout 2021. The idea search will result in the selection of 16 speakers to give TED Talks at the partnership’s culminating flagship event in Doha, Qatar, in 2022. This event will offer the TED conference experience in the heart of the Middle East, and showcase the boldest and most inspiring ideas to emerge from the Arabic-speaking world.
To house the initiative’s content library, TED has built a custom digital destination. Content will focus on topics that matter to the Arabic-speaking world and will include a combination of TED-original and TED-translated content, such as blog articles, TED-Ed video lessons and custom video content.
The impact of TEDinArabic is intended to endure long after this two-year partnership, with the digital destination and its content remaining live after the culmination of this partnership.
You can find out more at TEDinArabic.ted.com. Or, check out a conversation hosted as part of TED2020: Uncharted, in which TED global curator Bruno Giussani sat down with Dr. Ahmad M. Hasnah of Qatar Foundation’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University to discuss education amid the pandemic.
The final week of TED2020 featured conversations with experts on work, tech, government, activism and more, who shared thoughts on how we can build back better after the pandemic. Below, a recap of insights shared throughout the week.
“We are living through the tech-enabled unraveling of full-time employment itself,” says anthropologist Mary L. Gray. She speaks with TED business curator Corey Hajim at TED2020: Uncharted on July 6, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Mary L. Gray, anthropologist
Big idea: AI-driven, service-on-demand companies like TaskRabbit, Amara and Amazon have built a new, invisible workforce.
How? The COVID-19 pandemic has sharply accelerated the world’s online services economy, and it’s amplifying a transition to a distributed workforce. If the thousands of jobs with no benefits, health care or safety net are any indication, society has yet to figure out how to treat the isolated human service provider, says Mary L. Gray. Over the next five years, we’ll need to fill millions of new tech jobs, most of which are built around solving the problems artificial intelligence can’t handle. How will we safeguard the new, abundant and diverse workforce that will fill these jobs, while ensuring that our changing economy is both equitable and sustainable? We often don’t value the people behind the scenes, but Gray believes it’s in society’s best interest to help workers thrive in a chaotic career landscape by providing the social services that companies don’t. “The marketplace alone can’t make the future of AI-enabled service work equitable or sustainable,” Gray says. “That’s up to us.”
Zoom CEO Eric Yuan discusses the company’s explosive growth in conversation with TED technology curator Simone Ross at TED2020: Uncharted on July 6, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Eric Yuan, CEO, Zoom
Big idea: Although we might be physically separated by distance, we can still create connection.
How? When coronavirus hit, Zoom’s business exploded overnight. Originally built for business meetings and remote work, the software is now used by people all over the world to teach school classes, do yoga with friends and even get married. Zoom CEO Eric Yuan discusses how the company met this new demand and their plans to grow quickly, explaining how Zoom created the most popular video chat software by listening to its users and creating a product to suit their needs. He envisions a Zoom of the future that will be even more user-centric, by providing an experience that rivals face-to-face gatherings with things like digital handshakes and real-time language translations. After the pandemic, Yuan doesn’t think all business and events should be conducted over Zoom. Instead, he predicts a hybrid model where people work from home more often but still go into the office for social interaction and connection. Addressing recent security concerns, he explains that the company will design a simplified security package for first-time users to protect their privacy online. “We are going to keep working as hard as we can to make the world a better place,” he says.
“UV is like hitting the RNA of the virus with a sledgehammer,” says radiation scientist David Brenner, discussing how far-UVC light could be used to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2. He speaks with TED science curator David Biello at TED2020: Uncharted on July 7, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
David Brenner, radiation scientist
Big idea: We can use far-UVC light to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.
How? Far-UVC light is a wavelength of ultraviolet light that kills bacteria and, crucially, is safe to use around humans. Over the past five years, Brenner and colleagues have conducted studies showing that far-UVC light doesn’t penetrate human skin or eyes but does have powerful germicidal capacities, killing coronaviruses at a highly effective rate. (He first laid out that idea for us in his talk from TED2017.) His team is now testing far-UVC light against SARS-CoV-2, paving the way for a potentially game-changing tool in the fight against COVID-19 and future coronavirus pandemics. Here’s how it would work: we’d install far-UVC lights in ceilings (just like normal lights) and keep them on continuously throughout the day — in hospital waiting rooms, subways and other indoor spaces — to maintain a sterilization effect. This doesn’t mean we would stop wearing masks or social distancing, Brenner notes, but we would have a powerful new weapon against the novel coronavirus. The primary challenge now lies in ramping up production of far-UVC products, Brenner says, though he’s hopeful a plethora of them will be available by the end of the year — providing a ray of hope in these pandemic times. “UV is like hitting the RNA of the virus with a sledgehammer,” he says.
“If you change your city, you’re changing the world,” says Eric Garcetti, chair of C40 Cities and mayor of City of Los Angeles. He speaks with TED current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers at TED2020: Uncharted on July 7, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Eric Garcetti, chair of C40 Cities and mayor of City of Los Angeles
Big idea: We need to rebuild our cities to be inclusive, green and sustainable.
How? In this moment of rebuilding, Garcetti shares the tangible ways Los Angeles and other cities around the world are working towards economic and social justice and climate action while battling COVID-19. By focusing on greening infrastructure, transportation and energy production, cities are turning this moment into an opportunity. “If we don’t have a just economy, the social fabric will tear apart … whether that’s based on racial prejudice and racism that’s historic, whether it’s based on economic discrimination caste systems, whether it’s looking at the way that the economy is putting more and more wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people,” Garcetti says. “We really see an opportunity to bring these together because the big mega industries of tomorrow are green industries.” By setting the responsibility of racial and gender equality on the shoulders of leadership, measuring progress and holding them accountable, he thinks we can create a more inclusive and prosperous future.
“There’s never that moment where you feel: ‘OK this the right moment to challenge the system.’ Because you might end up waiting your whole life,” says education activist Malala Yousafzai. She speaks with TED current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers at TED2020: Uncharted on July 8, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Malala Yousafzai, education activist
Big idea: In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, things won’t be the same. But it’s an important opportunity for change — with Gen Z leading the way.
How? Let’s start with Yousafzai herself: a recent graduate of Oxford University and the youngest person to ever win a Nobel Peace Prize, whose biggest dream and current activism encompasses gender equality. Her activism is grounded in education for girls, with the hope that it transforms the world into a place where women are empowered to positively impact every corner of society. Before COVID-19 and between classes, she traveled on behalf of her organization, the Malala Fund, to help create a platform for girls to speak out and urge leaders to eradicate unfair treatment based on gender. Now she’s concerned about the many girls who will lose their access to education because of the pandemic, and she maintains that we must continue to fight for them as the world changes. She has fears just like everyone else but holds on to hope through examples of Gen Z activists and change-makers taking the lead across the world to fight for a better future for all. A few ways to help now? Support activists and organizations working in your community, organize social media campaigns and start writing letters to your political leaders demanding progress, so that you too can join in fixing what’s broken.
For the penultimate session of TED2020, an exploration of amazing forces shaping the future — from cancer-fighting venom to spacecraft powered by lasers and much more. Below, a recap of the night’s talks and performances.
Amanda Gorman shares a powerful spoken-word poem about ending the devastation of climate change. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on July 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Amanda Gorman, poet
Big idea: We all have the power to end the devastation of climate change. Let’s get to work.
How? In a stunning spoken word poem, Gorman calls on us all to recognize the urgency of climate action. She weaves vivid imagery and metaphors to underscore searing insights on the state of global environmental damage, and hope for a sustainable future. Gorman encourages us to use our unique abilities and expertise to reverse the harm of climate change, and says that we all have a place in the movement. “We see the face of a planet anew, we relish the view … which inspires us to ask deeply, wholly, what can we do,” she says.
“Someday, snail venom might just save your life,” says molecular chemist Mandë Holford. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on July 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Mandë Holford, molecular chemist
Big Idea: Venom can kill … or it can cure. We’re now learning how it can be used as a force for good.
How: Chemist Mandë Holford is investigating the power of venom to treat diseases and disorders, like certain cancers. Beyond common venomous snakes and spiders, Holford introduces us to the underbelly of the animal kingdom: killer snails, deadly platypuses and assassin Gila monsters. But she sees these creatures as both the supervillain and superhero, and she’s harnessing their venom to transform lives. She explains that venom’s power lies in its complex mixture of deadly peptides — a “cluster bomb” that attacks specific physiological targets like the blood, brains or membranes of the victim. Holford’s research focuses on discovering and utilizing these peptides to create therapeutics that disrupt cancer cells communications, particularly liver cancer. Venomics, or the study of venom, is an especially attractive area of research because poison has been honed and tested by nature over millennia, making for particularly potent, successful concoctions. “Someday, snail venom might just save your life,” Holford says.
Physicist Philip Lubin investigates how to use concentrated light as a propellant for spacecraft. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on July 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Philip Lubin, physicist
Big idea: By using massive quantities of concentrated light as a propellant, we can fuel spacecraft to journey to explore solar systems beyond our own.
How? We’re making huge strides in the field of laser technology that will enable us to transform how we launch and fuel spacecraft. Much like wind in a sailboat, light can be concentrated as energy to push spacecraft towards new and farther destinations. This would work by synchronizing enormous numbers of lasers into “phased arrays”, which may be as large as a city, to build up the power necessary for inter-solar system flight. Though spacecraft may initially only be as big as a human hand, the discoveries this technology could reveal are awe-inspiring. Traveling to another solar system could alter our fundamental understanding of life itself — and breakthroughs in this technology could revolutionize how we live on Earth as well. “Everything is profound in life. The same is true of the lowly photon which we use to see every day,” says Lubin, “But when we look outside and imagine something vastly greater, we can imagine things which are extraordinary. The ability to go to another star is one of those extraordinary capabilities.”
Antonio Muñoz Fernández plays “Taranta” and “Calblanque” at TED2020: Uncharted on July 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Guitarist and composer Antonio Muñoz Fernández keeps the session moving and lively with performances of plays “Taranta” and “Calblanque.”
“What would America look like if everyone had a seat at the table?” asks Shari Davis, executive director of the Participatory Budgeting Project. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on July 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Shari Davis, executive director, Participatory Budgeting Project
Big idea: We have to throw out the top-down processes that have hobbled democracy, and throw the doors of government open so wide that all kinds of people will be inspired to claim the reins.
How? For most of US history, government has overwhelmingly consisted of rich white men, who installed systems rewarding people like themselves, says Davis. “What would America look like if everyone had a seat at the table?” she asks. Participatory budgeting is a grassroots democratic initiative that empowers marginalized voices from young queer communities, communities of color and the economically disenfranchised, by giving them chunks of city budgets to solve problems close to their hearts. In Boston, this came about via Youth Lead the Change, an initiative to increase education, expand technology access to students and give graffiti artists a space to legally practice their art. By nurturing new political leaders drawn from those historically denied governmental access, participatory budgeting has become a global phenomenon with the potential to transform democracy. “Participatory budgeting is actually about collective radical imagination,” Davis says. Everyone has a role to play in PB, and it works because it allows community members to craft real solutions to real problems. It provides the infrastructure for the promise of government.”
“If machines can learn, or process memories, can they also dream, hallucinate, involuntarily remember or make connections between multiple people’s dreams?” asks media artist Refik Anadol. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on July 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Refik Anadol, media artist
Big idea: What does it mean to be an AI in the 21st century?
How? The year is simultaneously 1991 and 2019, media artist Refik Anadol having just seen Blade Runner and its sci-fi future for the first time — an experience which sets in motion his inspired career of using architectural spaces as canvases to make buildings dream and hallucinate via AI. Anadol brings us on a journey from that formative childhood moment to his studio’s collaborations with architects, data scientists, neuroscientists, musicians and storytellers in experimenting with ways of augmenting our perceptions to collide the virtual and physical worlds. Each project showcases the poetic, ethereal and dynamic power of data — such as “Archive Dreaming,” conceptualizing vast knowledge in the age of AI; “Machine Hallucination,” an exploration of time and space; and “Melting Memories,” which visualizes the moment of remembering — evoking a meditative experience beyond human imagination while simultaneously enveloping you into the mind of the machine. “If machines can learn, or process memories, can they also dream, hallucinate, involuntarily remember or make connections between multiple people’s dreams?” Anadol asks.
“Most people think technology and they think that’s going to lead to unethical behavior. I think it’s exactly the opposite: I think new technologies lead to more ethical behaviors,” says futurist Juan Enriquez. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on July 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Juan Enriquez, futurist
Big idea: Tech doesn’t always lead to unethical behavior.
How? By making problematic systems obsolete, technology is actually a powerful force for ethical change. If we embrace these changes, we’ll put ourselves on the right side of history for issues like civil rights, climate change and economic justice. As ethics continue to evolve over time, technology’s explosive growth will lead to an exponential transformation of culture. Some examples: our tolerance of wasteful meat production will soon change with lab-created, cruelty-free beef, and as tech revolutionizes renewable energy, we will naturally leave behind coal and oil. “Technology is moving at exponential rates,” Enriquez says. “Technology is changing ethics, and therefore one might expect ethics could change exponentially, and that means your notion of right and wrong changes exponentially.”
Week 7 of TED2020 featured conversations on where the coronavirus pandemic is heading, the case for reparations, how we can better connect with each other and how capitalism must change to build a more equitable society. Below, a recap of insights shared throughout the week.
Bill Gates discusses where the coronavirus pandemic is heading, in conversation with head of TED Chris Anderson at TED2020: Uncharted on June 29, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Bill Gates, technologist, philanthropist
Big idea: The coronavirus pandemic isn’t close to being over, but we’re making scientific progress to mitigate its impact.
How? Bill Gates talks best (and worst) case scenarios for the coronavirus pandemic in the months ahead. This fall could be quite bad in the United States, he admits, as there is speculation among researchers that COVID-19 may be seasonal and its force of infection will increase as the weather cools. But there’s also good progress on the innovation track, he says: the steroid dexamethasone was found to have benefits for critically ill patients, and monoclonal antibodies seem promising, as well. In short: we’ll have some additional support for the fall if things do indeed get worse. Gates also explains the challenges of reducing virus transmission (namely, the difficulty of identifying “superspreaders”); provides an update on promising vaccine candidates; offers his thoughts on reopening; takes a moment to address conspiracy theories circulating about himself; and issues a critical call to fellow philanthropists to ramp up their action, ambition and awareness to create a better world for all.
Chloé Valdary shares the thinking behind the “theory of enchantment,” a framework that uses pop culture as an educational tool. She speaks with TED business curator Corey Hajim at TED2020: Uncharted on June 30, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Chloé Valdary, writer, entrepreneur
Big Idea: Pop culture can show us how to love ourselves and one another, the first step in creating systemic change.
How? Chloé Valdary developed the “theory of enchantment,” a social-emotional learning program that applies pop culture to teach people how to meet the hardships of life by developing tools for resilience, including learning to love oneself. This love for oneself, she believes, is foundational to loving others. Built on the idea of “enchantment” — the process by which you delight someone with a concept, idea, personality or thing — the program uses beloved characters like Disney’s Moana, lyrics from Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé and even trusted brands like Nike to teach three principles: treat people like human beings, not political abstractions; never criticize a person to tear them down, only to uplift and empower them; and root everything you do in love and compassion. The program aims to engender love and ultimately advance social change. “If you don’t understand the importance of loving yourself and loving others, you’re more prone to descend into rage and to map into madness and become that bad actor and to treat people unfairly, unkindly,” she says. “As a result that will, of course, contribute to a lot of the systemic injustice that we’re seeing today.”
Economist and author William “Sandy” Darity makes the case for reparations — and explains why they must be structured to eliminate the racial wealth gap in the United States. He speaks with TED current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers at TED2020: Uncharted on June 30, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
William “Sandy” Darity, economist, author
Big Idea: The time has come to seriously talk about reparations: direct financial payments to the descendants of slaves for hundreds of years of injustice.
How? A growing consciousness of America’s systemic white supremacy (built on mass incarceration, police violence, discrimination in markets and the immense wealth gap between black and white communities) has brought contemporary politics to a boil. How does the country dismantle the intertwined legacies of slavery and the unequal, trans-generational wealth distribution that has overwhelmingly benefited white people? Reparations are not only a practical means to address the harm visited upon Black Americans by centuries of economic exclusion, but also a chance for white America to acknowledge the damage that has been done — a crucial step to reconciliation and true equality. To truly redress the harm done to descendants of slavery, reparations must seek to eliminate the racial wealth gap. Darity believes that, for the first time since Reconstruction promised formerly enslaves people “40 acres and a mule,” reparations are entering the mainstream political discussion, and a once wildly speculative idea seems to lie within the realm of possibility. “It’s always an urgent time to adopt reparations,” Darity says. “It has been an urgent time for the 155 years since the end of American slavery, where no restitution has been provided. It’s time for the nation to pay the debt; it’s time for racial justice.”
“Hope is the oxygen of democracy and we, through inequality and the economic injustice, we see far too much of an America literally asphyxiating hope,” says Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. He speaks with head of TED Chris Anderson at TED2020: Uncharted on July 1, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation
Big idea: We need to consider a new kind of philanthropy and capitalism rooted in accountability and equity.
Why? Darren Walker says wealthy philanthropists shouldn’t ask themselves, “What do I do to give back?” — but rather, “What am I willing to give up?” Discussing how comfort and privilege intermix to contribute to injustice, Walker shows why for true progress to be made, tax policies must be changed for wealthier citizens and entitlement cast aside. In a country full of exhaustion, grief and anger, Walker calls for nuance in handling complex ideas like defunding the police. In order for change to be long-lasting, we must eliminate tokenism and hold corporations accountable long after they fade from the day’s headlines. Quoting Langston Hughes, Walker says: “I believe that we no longer can wait for that ‘someday’ — that this generation should not have to say ‘someday in the future, America will be America.’ The time for America to be America is today.”
Quote of the talk: “Hope is the oxygen of democracy and we, through inequality and the economic injustice, we see far too much of an America literally asphyxiating hope. Just as we saw the murder of George Floyd, the breath was taken out of his body by a man who was there to protect and promote. It’s a metaphor for what is happening in our society, where people who are Black and Brown, queer, marginalized are literally being asphyxiated by a system that does not recognize their humanity. If we are to build back better, that must change.”
We’re six weeks into TED2020! For session 6: a celebration of beauty on every level, from planet-trekking feats of engineering to art that deeply examines our past, present, future — and much more.
Planetary scientist Elizabeth “Zibi” Turtle shows off the work behind Dragonfly: a rotorcraft being developed to explore Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, by air. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Elizabeth “Zibi” Turtle, planetary scientist
Big idea: The Dragonfly Mission, set to launch in 2026, will study Titan, the largest moon orbiting Saturn. Through this mission, scientists may discover the secrets of the solar system’s origin, the history of life on Earth — and even the potential for life beyond our planet.
How? Launched in 1997, the Cassini-Huygens Mission provided scientists with incredible information about Titan, a water-based moon with remarkable similarities to Earth. We learned that Titan’s geography includes sand dunes, craters and mountains, and that vast oceans of water — perhaps 10 times as large as Earth’s total supply — lie deep underneath Titan’s surface. In many ways, Titan is the closest parallel to pre-life, early Earth, Elizabeth Turtle explains. The Cassini-Huygens Mission ended in 2017, and now hundreds of scientists across the world are working on the Dragonfly Mission, which will dramatically expand our knowledge of Titan. Unlike the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, Dragonfly will live within Titan’s atmosphere, flying across the moon to gather samples and study its chemical makeup, weather and geography. The data Dragonfly sends back may bring us closer to thrilling discoveries on the makeup of the solar system, the habitability of other planets and the beginnings of life itself. “Dragonfly is a search for greater understanding — not just of Titan and the mysteries of our solar system, but of our own origins,” Turtle says.
“Do you think human creativity matters?” asks actor, writer and director Ethan Hawke. He gives us his compelling answer at TED2020: Uncharted on June 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Ethan Hawke, actor, writer, director
Big idea: Creativity isn’t a luxury; it’s vital to the human experience.
How? We often struggle to give ourselves permission to be creative because we’re all a little suspect of our own talent, says Ethan Hawke. Recounting his own journey of creative discovery over a 30-year career in acting — along with the beauty he sees in everyday moments with his family — Hawke encourages us to reframe this counterproductive definition of human creativity. Creative expression has nothing to do with talent, he says, but rather is a process of learning who you are and how you connect to other people. Instead of giving in to the pull of old habits and avoiding new experiences — maybe you’re hesitant to enroll in that poetry course or cook that complicated 20-step recipe — Hawke urges us to engage in a rich variety of creative outlets and, most importantly, embrace feeling foolish along the way. “I think most of us really want to offer the world something of quality, something that the world will consider good or important — and that’s really the enemy,” Hawke says. “Because it’s not up to us whether what we do is any good. And if history has taught us anything, the world is an extremely unreliable critic. So, you have to ask yourself, do you think human creativity matters?”
Singer-songwriter and multiinstrumentalist Bob Schneider performs for TED2020: Uncharted on June 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Keeping the beauty of the session flowing, singer-songwriter Bob Schneider performs “Joey’s Song,” “The Other Side” and “Lorena.”
“We have thousands of years of ancient knowledge that we just need to listen to and allow it to expand our thinking about designing symbiotically with nature,” says architect Julia Watson. “By listening, we’ll only become wiser and ready for those 21st-century challenges that we know will endanger our people and our planet.” She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Julia Watson, architect, landscape designer, author
Big idea: Ancient Indigenous technology can teach us how to design with nature, instead of against it, when facing challenges. We just need to look and listen.
How? In her global search for ancient design systems and solutions, Julia Watson has encountered wondrous innovations to counter climate challenges that we all can learn from. “High-tech solutions are definitely going to help us solve some of these problems, but in our rush towards the future, we tend to forget about the past in other parts of the world,” she says. Watson takes us to the villages of Khasi, India, where people have built living bridges woven from ancient roots that strengthen over time to enable travel when monsoon season hits. She introduces us to a water-based civilization in the Mesopotamian Marshlands, where for 6,000 years, the Maʻdān people have lived on manmade islands built from harvested reeds. And she shows us a floating African city in Benin, where buildings are stilted above flooded land. “I’m an architect, and I’ve been trained to seek solutions in permanence, concrete, steel, glass. These are all used to build a fortress against nature,” Watson says. “But my search for ancient systems and Indigenous technologies has been different. It’s been inspired by an idea that we can seed creativity in crisis.”
TED Fellow and theater artist Daniel Alexander Jones lights up the stage at TED2020: Uncharted on June 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
TED Fellow and theater artist Daniel Alexander Jones lights up the (virtual) stage by channeling Jomama Jones, a mystical alter ego who shares some much-needed wisdom. “What if I told you, ‘You will surprise yourself’?” Jomama asks. “What if I told you, ‘You will be brave enough’?”
“It takes creativity to be able to imagine a future that is so different from the one before you,” says artist Titus Kaphar. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Titus Kaphar, artist
Big idea: Beauty can open our hearts to difficult conversations.
How? A painting’s color, form or composition pulls you in, functioning as a kind of Trojan horse out of which difficult conversations can emerge, says artist Titus Kaphar. (See for yourself in his unforgettable live workshop from TED2017.) Two weeks after George Floyd’s death and the Movement for Black Lives protests that followed, Kaphar reflects on his evolution as an artist and takes us on a tour of his work — from The Jerome Project, which examines the US criminal justice system through the lens of 18th- and 19th-century American portraiture, to his newest series, From a Tropical Space, a haunting body of work about Black mothers whose children have disappeared. In addition to painting, Kaphar shares the work and idea behind NXTHVN, an arts incubator and creative community for young people in his hometown of Dixwell, Connecticut. “It takes creativity to be able to imagine a future that is so different from the one before you,” he says.
For week 6 of TED2020, experts in the economy and climate put a future driven by sustainable transformation into focus. Below, a recap of insights shared throughout the week.
Economist Mariana Mazzucato talks about how to make sure the trillions we’re investing in COVID-19 recovery are actually put to good use — and explores how innovative public-private partnerships can drive change. She speaks with TED Global curator Bruno Giussani at TED2020: Uncharted on June 22, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Mariana Mazzucato, economist
Big idea: Government can (and should) play a bold, dynamic and proactive role in shaping markets and sparking innovation — working together with the private sector to drive deep structural change.
How? In the face of three simultaneous crises — health, finance and climate — we need to address underlying structural problems instead of hopping from one crisis to the next, says Mariana Mazzucato. She calls for us to rethink how government and financial systems work, shifting towards a system in which the public sector creates value and take risks. (Learn more about value creation in Mazzucato’s talk from 2019.) “We need a different [economic] framing, one that’s much more about market cocreation and market-shaping, not market fixing,” she says. How do you shape a market? Actively invest in essential systems like health care and public education, instead of justing responding once the system is already broken. Mazzucato calls for businesses and government to work together around a new social contract — one that brings purpose and stakeholder value to the center of the ecosystem. To motivate this, she makes the case for a mission-oriented approach, whereby public entities, corporations and small businesses focus their various efforts on a big problem like climate change or COVID-19. It starts with an inspirational challenge, Mazzucato says, paving the way for projects that galvanize innovation and bottom-up experimentation.
“When survival is at stake, and when our children and future generations are at stake, we’re capable of more than we sometimes allow ourselves to think we can do,” says climate advocate Al Gore. “This is such a time. I believe we will rise to the occasion and we will create a bright, clean, prosperous, just and fair future. I believe it with all my heart.” Al Gore speaks with head of TED Chris Anderson at TED2020: Uncharted on June 23, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Al Gore, climate advocate
Big idea: To continue lowering emissions, we must focus on transitioning manufacturing, transportation and agriculture to wind- and solar-powered electricity.
How? As coronavirus put much of the world on pause, carbon emissions dropped by five percent. But keeping those rates down to reach the Paris Climate Agreement goal of zero emissions by 2050 will require active change in our biggest industries, says climate advocate Al Gore. He discusses how the steadily declining cost of wind- and solar-generated electricity will transform transportation, manufacturing and agriculture, while creating millions of new jobs and offering a cleaner and cheaper alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear energy. He offers specific measures we can implement, such as retrofitting inefficient buildings, actively managing forests and oceans and adopting regenerative agriculture like sequestering carbon in topsoil. With serious national plans, a focused global effort and a new generation of young people putting pressure on their employers and political parties, Gore is optimistic about tackling climate change. “When survival is at stake, and when our children and future generations are at stake, we’re capable of more than we sometimes allow ourselves to think we can do,” he says. “This is such a time. I believe we will rise to the occasion and we will create a bright, clean, prosperous, just and fair future. I believe it with all my heart.” Watch the full conversation here.
“We collectively own the capital market, and we are all universal owners,” says financier Hiro Mizuno says. “So let’s work together to make the whole capital market and business more sustainable and protect our own investment and our own planet.” He speaks with TED business curator Corey Hajim at TED2020: Uncharted on June 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Hiro Mizuno, financier and former chief investment officer of Japan’s Government Investment Pension Fund
Big idea: For investors embracing ESG principles (responsible investing in ecology, social and governance), it’s not enough to “break up” with the bad actors in our portfolios. If we really want zero-carbon markets, we must also tilt towards the good global business citizens and incentivize sustainability for the market as a whole.
How? Hiro Mizuno believes that fund managers have two main tools at their disposal to help build a more sustainable market. First, steer funds towards businesses that are transforming to become more sustainable — because if we just punish those that aren’t, we’re merely allowing irresponsible investors to reap their profits. Second, fund managers must take a more active role in the governance of companies via proxy voting in order to lead the fight against climate change. “We collectively own the capital market, and we are all universal owners,” Mizuno says. “So let’s work together to make the whole capital market and business more sustainable and protect our own investment and our own planet.”
What would happen if we shifted our stock-market mindset to encompass decades, lifetimes or even generations? Michelle Greene, president of the Long-Term Stock Exchange, explores that idea in conversation with Chris Anderson and Corey Hajim as part of TED2020: Uncharted on June 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Michelle Greene, president of the Long-Term Stock Exchange
Big idea: In today’s markets, investors tend to think in daily and quarterly numbers — and as a result, we have a system that rewards short-term decisions that harm the long-term health of our economy and the planet. What would happen if we shifted that mindset to encompass decades, lifetimes or even generations?
How? In order to change how companies “show up” in the world, we need to change the playing field entirely. And since the stock exchange makes the rules that govern listed companies, why not create a new one? By holding companies to binding rules, the Long-Term Stock Exchange does just that, with mandatory listing standards built around core principles like diversity and inclusion, investment in employees and environmental responsibility. “What we’re trying to do is create a place where companies can maintain their focus on their long-term mission and vision, and at the same time be accountable for their impact on the broader world,” Greene says.
The Audacious Project, a funding initiative housed at TED, is continuing its support of solutions tailored to COVID-19 rapid response and long-term recovery. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, The Audacious Project is committed to targeting key systems in crisis and supporting them as they rebuild better and with greater resilience. In this phase, more than 55 million dollars have been catalyzed towards Fast Grants, an initiative to accelerate COVID-19 related scientific research; GiveDirectly, which distributes unconditional cash transfers to those most in need; and Harlem Children’s Zone, one of the pioneers in neighborhood-specific “cradle-to-career” programs in support of low-income children and communities in the United States.
“Accelerating our scientific understanding of COVID-19 and providing immediate relief to communities hardest hit by the virus are just two of the myriad challenges we must address in the face of this pandemic,” said Anna Verghese, Executive Director of The Audacious Project. “With our COVID-19 rapid response cohort, we are supporting organizations with real-world solutions that are actionable now. But that aid should extend beyond recovery, which is why we look forward to the work these organizations will continue to do to ensure better systems for the future.”
Funding directed toward these three new initiatives is in addition to the more than 30 million dollars that was dedicated to Partners In Health, Project ECHO and World Central Kitchen for their COVID-19 rapid response work earlier this year.
Announcing three new projects in the Audacious COVID-19 response cohort
Fast Grants aims to accelerate funding for the development of treatments and vaccines and to further scientific understanding of COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Fast Grants)
The big idea: Though significant inroads have been made to advance our understanding of how the novel coronavirus spreads, and encouraging progress is underway in the development of vaccines and treatments, there are still many unknowns. We need to speed up the pace of scientific discovery in this area now more than ever, but the current systems for funding research do not meet this urgent need. Fast Grants is looking to solve that problem. They have created and are deploying a highly credible model to accelerate funding for the development of treatments and vaccines and to further scientific understanding of COVID-19. By targeting projects that demand greater speed and flexibility than traditional funding methods can offer, they will accelerate scientific discovery that can have an immediate impact and provide follow-on funding for promising early-stage discoveries.
How they’ll do it: Since March, Fast Grants has distributed 22 million dollars to fund 127 projects, leveraging a diverse panel of 20 experts to vet and review projects across a broad range of scientific disciplines. With Audacious funding, they will catalyze 80 to 115 research projects, accelerate timelines by as much as six to nine months and, in many cases, support projects that would otherwise go unfunded. This will accelerate research in testing, treatments, vaccines and many other areas critically needed to save lives and safely reopen economies. They will also build a community to share results and track progress while also connecting scientists to other funding platforms and research teams that can further advance the work.
GiveDirectly helps families living in extreme poverty by making unconditional cash transfers to them via mobile phones. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)
The big idea: The COVID-19 pandemic could push more than 140 million people globally into extreme poverty. As the pandemic hampers humanitarian systems that typically address crises, the ability to deliver aid in person has never been more complicated. Enter GiveDirectly. For nearly a decade, they have provided no-strings-attached cash transfers to the world’s poorest people. Now they are leveraging the growth in the adoption of mobile technologies across Sub-Saharan Africa to design and deploy a breakthrough, fully remote model of humanitarian relief to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
How they’ll do it: Over the next 12 months, GiveDirectly will scale their current model to provide unconditional cash transfers to more than 300,000 people who need it most. GiveDirectly will enroll and identify recipients without in-person contact, first using the knowledge of community-based organizations to identify and target beneficiaries within their existing networks, and second by leveraging data from national telephone companies to target those most in need. GiveDirectly will also systematize the underlying processes and algorithms so that they can be deployed for future disasters, thereby demonstrating a new model for rapid humanitarian relief.
Harlem Children’s Zone, one of the leading evidence-based, Black-led organizations in the US, is supercharging efforts to address Black communities’ most urgent needs and support recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. (Photo courtesy of Harlem Children’s Zone)
The big idea: In the United States, the coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately affecting Black communities. Not only are Black people being infected by the virus and dying at greater rates, the effects of the economic crisis are also hitting hardest vulnerable communities that were already facing a shrinking social safety net. At the onset of the pandemic, Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), one of the leading evidence-based, Black-led organizations in the US, pioneered a comprehensive approach to emergency response and recovery. The model is focused on five urgent areas: bridging the digital divide, preventing learning loss, mitigating the mental health crisis and providing economic relief and recovery.
How they’ll do it: Based in Harlem, New York, HCZ is leveraging deeply rooted community trust and best-in-class partners to deploy vital emergency relief and wrap-around support, including: health care information and protective gear to keep communities safe from the virus; quality, developmentally appropriate distance-learning resources, while developing plans for safe school reentry; and the provision of cash relief. They are also equipping backbone organizations across the US with the capacity to execute on a community-driven vision of their model nationally. They will be working side-by-side with leading, anchor institutions in six cities — Minneapolis, Oakland, Newark, Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta — to supercharge efforts to address Black communities’ most urgent needs and support recovery.
To learn more about The Audacious Project, visit https://audaciousproject.org.
Daring, bold, systems-disrupting change requires big dreams and an even bigger vision. For Session 5 of TED2020, the Audacious Project, a collaborative funding initiative housed at TED, highlighted bold plans for social change from Southern New Hampshire University, SIRUM, BRAC, Harlem Children’s Zone, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), Project CETI and One Acre Fund. From aiding the ultra-poor to upending medicine pricing to ensuring all communities are visible on a map, these solutions are uniquely positioned to help us rebuild key systems and push the boundaries of what’s possible through breakthrough science and technology. Learn more about these thrilling projects and how you can help them change the world.
“We can create radical access to medications based on a fundamental belief that people who live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world can and should have access to medicine they need to survive and to thrive,” says Kiah Williams, cofounder of SIRUM. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Kiah Williams, cofounder of SIRUM
Big idea: No one should have to choose between paying bills or affording lifesaving medications.
How? Every day in the US, people must make impossible health decisions at the intersection of life and livelihood. The result is upwards of ten thousand deaths annually — more than opioid overdoses and car accidents combined — due to the high prices of prescription drugs. Kiah Williams and her team at SIRUM are tapping into an alternative that circumvents the traditional medical supply chain while remaining budget-friendly to underserved communities: unused medication. Sourced from manufacturer surplus, health care facilities (like hospitals, pharmacies and nursing homes) and personal donations, Williams and her team partner with medical professionals to provide prescriptions for conditions, ranging from heart disease to mental health, at flat, transparent costs. They currently supply 150,000 people with access to medicine they need — and they’re ready to expand. In the next five years, SIRUM plans to reach one million people across 12 states with a billion dollars’ worth of unused medicine, with the hopes of driving down regional pricing in low-income communities. “We can create radical access to medications based on a fundamental belief that people who live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world can and should have access to medicine they need to survive and to thrive,” Williams says.
Shameran Abed, senior director of the Microfinance and Ultra-Poor Graduation Program at BRAC, shares his organization’s work lifting families out of ultra-poverty at TED2020: Uncharted on June 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Shameran Abed, senior director of the Microfinance and Ultra-Poor Graduation Program at BRAC
Big idea: Let’s stop imagining a world without ultra-poverty and start building it instead.
How? At the end of 2019, approximately 400 million people worldwide lived in ultra-poverty — a situation that goes beyond the familiar monetary definition, stripping individuals of their dignity, purpose, self-worth, community and ability to imagine a better future. When he founded BRAC in 1972, Shameran Abed’s father saw that for poverty reduction programs to work, a sense of hope and self-worth needs to be instilled alongside assets. He pioneered a graduation approach that, over the course of two years, addressed both the deficit of income and hope in four steps: (1) supporting the basic needs with food or cash, (2) guiding the individual towards a decent livelihood by providing an asset like livestock and training them to earn money from it, (3) training them to save, budget and invest the new wealth, (4) integrating the individual socially. Since starting this program in 2002, two million Bangladeshi women have lifted themselves and their families out of ultra-poverty. With BRAC at a proven and effective nationwide scale, the organization plans to aid other governments in adopting and scaling graduation programs themselves — helping another 21 million people lift themselves out of ultra-poverty across eight countries over the next six years, with BRAC teams onsite and embedded in each country to provide an obtainable, foreseeable future for all. “Throughout his life, [my father] saw optimism triumph over despair; that when you light the spark of self-belief in people, even the poorest can transform their lives,” Abed says.
Pop-soul singer Emily King performs her songs “Distance” and “Sides” at TED2020: Uncharted on June 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Lending her extraordinary voice to keep the session lively, singer and songwriter Emily King performs her songs “Distance” and “Sides” from her home in New York City.
Chrystina Russell, executive director of SNHU’s Global Education Movement, is helping displaced people earn college degrees. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Chrystina Russell, executive director of SNHU’s Global Education Movement
Big idea: Expand access to accredited, college-level education to marginalized populations by reaching learners wherever they are in the world.
How? Education empowers — and perhaps nowhere more so than in the lives of displaced people, says executive director of SNHU’s Global Education Movement (GEM) Chrystina Russell. Harnessing the power of education to improve the world lies at the foundation of GEM, a program that offers accredited bachelor’s degrees and pathways to employment for refugees in Lebanon, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and South Africa. Today, the humanitarian community understands that global displacement will be a permanent problem, and that traditional education models remain woefully inaccessible to these vulnerable populations. The magic of GEM, Russell says, is that it addresses refugee lives as they currently exist. Degrees are competency-based, and without classes, lectures, due dates or final exams, students choose where and when to learn. GEM has served more than 1,000 learners to date, helping them obtain bachelor’s degrees and earn incomes at twice the average of their peers. Only three percent of refugees have access to higher education; GEM is now testing its ability to scale competency-based online learning in an effort to empower greater numbers of marginalized people through higher education. “This is a model that really stops putting time and university policies and procedures at the center — and instead puts the student at the center,” Russell says.
David Gruber shares his mind-blowing work using AI to understand and communicate with sperm whales. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
David Gruber, marine biologist, explorer, professor
Big idea: Through the innovations of machine learning, we may be able to translate the astounding languages of sperm whales and crack the interspecies communication code.
How? Sperm whales are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet; they live in complex matriarchal societies and communicate with each other through a series of regionally specific click sequences called codas. These codas may be the key to unlocking interspecies communication, says David Gruber. He shares a bold prediction: with the help of machine learning technology, we will soon be able to understand the languages of sperm whales — and talk back to them. Researchers have developed a number of noninvasive robots to record an enormous archive of codas, focusing on the intimate relationship between mother and calf. Using this data, carefully trained algorithms will be able to decode these codas and map the sounds and logic of sperm whale communication. Gruber believes that by deeply listening to sperm whales, we can create a language blueprint that will enable us to communicate with countless other species around the world. “By listening deeply to nature, we can change our perspective of ourselves and reshape our relationship with all life on this planet,” he says.
“Farmers stand at the center of the world,” says Andrew Youn, sharing One Acre Fund’s work helping small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Andrew Youn, social entrepreneur
Big idea: By equipping small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa with the tools and resources they need to expand their work, they will be able to upend cycles of poverty and materialize their innovation, knowledge and drive into success for their local communities and the world.
How? Most small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are women who nourish their families and communities and fortify their local economies. But they’re often not able to access the technology, resources or capital they need to streamline their farms, which leads to small harvests and cycles of poverty. The One Acre Fund, a two-time Audacious Project recipient, seeks to upend that cycle by providing resources like seeds and fertilizer, mentorship in the form of local support guides and training in modern agricultural practices. The One Acre Fund intends to reach three milestones by 2026: to serve 2.5 million families (which include 10 million children) every year through their direct full-service program; to serve an additional 4.3 million families per year with the help of local government and private sector partners; and to shape a sustainable green revolution by reimagining our food systems and launching a campaign to plant one billion trees in the next decade. The One Acre Fund enables farmers to transform their work, which vitalizes their families, larger communities and countries. “Farmers stand at the center of the world,” Youn says.
Rebecca Firth is helping map the earth’s most vulnerable populations using a free, open-source software tool. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Rebecca Firth, director of partnerships and community at Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT)
Big idea: A new tool to add one billion people to the map, so first responders and aid organizations can save lives.
How? Today, more than one billion people are literally not on the map, says Rebecca Firth, director of partnerships and community at Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), an organization that helps map the earth’s most vulnerable populations using a free, open-source software tool. The tool works in two stages: first, anyone anywhere can map buildings and roads using satellite images, then local community members fill in the map by identifying structures and adding place names. HOT’s maps help organizations on the ground save lives; they’ve been used by first responders after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, by health care workers distributing polio vaccines in Nigeria and by refugee aid organizations in South Sudan, Syria and Venezuela. Now, HOT’s goal is to map areas in 94 countries that are home to one billion of the world’s most vulnerable populations — in just five years. To do this, they’re recruiting more than one million mapping volunteers, updating their tech and, importantly, raising awareness about the availability of their maps to local and international humanitarian organizations. “It’s about creating a foundation on which so many organizations will thrive,” Firth says. “With open, free, up-to-date maps, those programs will have more impact than they would otherwise, leading to a meaningful difference in lives saved or improved.”
“Our answer to COVID-19 — the despair and inequities plaguing our communities — is targeting neighborhoods with comprehensive services. We have certainly not lost hope, and we invite you to join us on the front lines of this war,” says Kwame Owusu-Kesse, COO of Harlem Children’s Zone. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Kwame Owusu-Kesse, CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone
Big idea: In the midst of a pandemic that’s disproportionately devastating the Black community, how do we ensure that at-risk children can continue their education in a safe and healthy environment?
How? Kwame Owusu-Kesse understands that in order to surpass America’s racist economic, educational, health care and judicial institutions, a child must have a secure home and neighborhood. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Harlem Children’s Zone has taken on a comprehensive mission to provide uninterrupted, high-quality remote education, as well as food and financial security, unfettered online access and mental health services. Through these programs, Owusu-Kesse hopes to rescue a generation that risks losing months (or years) of education to the impacts of quarantine. “Our answer to COVID-19 — the despair and inequities plaguing our communities — is targeting neighborhoods with comprehensive services,” he says. “We have certainly not lost hope, and we invite you to join us on the front lines of this war.”
Week 5 of TED2020 featured wide-ranging discussions on the quest for a coronavirus vaccine, the future of the art world, what it’s like to lead a country during a pandemic and much more. Below, a recap of insights shared.
Jerome Kim, Director General of the International Vaccine Institute, shares an update on the quest for a coronavirus vaccine in conversation with TED science curator David Biello at TED2020: Uncharted on June 15, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Jerome Kim, Director General of the International Vaccine Institute
Big idea: There’s a lot of work still to be done, but the world is making progress on developing a COVID-19 vaccine.
How? A normal vaccine takes five to 10 years to develop and costs about a billion dollars, with a failure rate of 93 percent. Under the pressure of the coronavirus pandemic, however, we’re being asked to speed things up to within a window of 12 to 18 months, says Jerome Kim. How are things going? He updates us on the varied field of vaccine candidates and approaches, from Moderna’s mRNA vaccine to AstraZeneca’s vectored vaccine to whole inactivated vaccines, and how these companies are innovating to develop and manufacture their products in record time. In addition to the challenge of making a sufficient amount of a safe, effective vaccine (at the right price), Kim says we must think about how to distribute it for the whole world — not just rich nations. The question of equity and access is the toughest one of all, he says, but the answer will ultimately lead us out of this pandemic.
Bioethicist Nir Eyal discusses the mechanism and ethics of human challenge trials in vaccine development with head of TED Chris Anderson at TED2020: Uncharted on June 15, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Nir Eyal, Bioethicist
Big idea: Testing vaccine efficacy is normally a slow, years-long process, but we can ethically accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development through human challenge trials.
How? Thousands of people continue to die every day from COVID-19 across the globe, and we risk greater death and displacement if we rely on conventional vaccine trials, says bioethicist Nir Eyal. While typical trials observe experimental and control groups over time until they see meaningful differences between the two, Eyal proposes using human challenge trials in our search for a vaccine — an approach that deliberately exposes test groups to the virus in order to quickly determine efficacy. Human challenge trials might sound ethically ambiguous or even immoral, but Eyal suggests the opposite is true. Patients already take informed risks by participating in drug trials and live organ donations; if we look at statistical risk and use the right bioethical framework, we can potentially hasten vaccine development while maintaining tolerable risks. The key, says Eyal, is the selection criteria: by selecting young participants who are free from risk factors like hypertension, for example, the search for a timely solution to this pandemic is possible. “The dramatic number of people who could be aided by a faster method of testing vaccines matters,” he says. “It’s not the case that we are violating the rights of individuals to maximize utility. We are both maximizing utility and respecting rights, and this marriage is very compelling in defending the use of these accelerated [vaccine trial] designs.”
“What is characteristic of our people is the will to overcome the past and to move forward. Poverty is real. Inequality is real. But we also have a very determined population that embraces the notion of the Republic and the notion of citizenship,” says Ashraf Ghani, president of Afghanistan. He speaks with head of TED Chris Anderson at TED2020: Uncharted on June 16, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan
Big Idea: Peacemaking is a discipline that must be practiced daily, both in life and politics.
How? Having initiated sweeping economic, trade and social reforms, Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani shares key facets of peacemaking that he relies on to navigate politically sensitive relationships and the ongoing health crisis: mutual respect, listening and humanity. Giving us a glimpse of Afghanistan that goes beyond the impoverished, war-torn image painted in the media, he describes the aspirations, entrepreneurship and industry that’s very much alive there, especially in its youth and across all genders. “What I hear from all walks of life, men and women, girls and boys, [is] a quest for normalcy. We’re striving to be normal. It’s not we who are abnormal; it’s the circumstances in which we’ve been caught. And we are attempting to carve a way forward to overcome the types of turbulence that, in interaction with each other, provide an environment of continuous uncertainty. Our goal is to overcome this, and I think with the will of the people, we will be able to,” he says. President Ghani also shares perspective on Afghanistan’s relationship to China, the Taliban and Pakistan — expressing a commitment to his people and long term peace that fuels every conversation. “The ultimate goal is a sovereign, democratic, united Afghanistan at peace with itself in the world,” he says.
“How do we make it so that if you’re having a conversation with someone and you have to be separated by thousands of miles, it feels as close to face-to-face?” asks Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp. He speaks with head of TED Chris Anderson at TED2020: Uncharted on June 16, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp
Big idea: Tech platforms have a responsibility to provide privacy and security to users.
Why? On WhatsApp, two billion users around the world send more than 100 billion messages every day. All of them are protected by end-to-end encryption, which means that the conversations aren’t stored and no one can access them — not governments, companies or even WhatsApp itself. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more of our conversations with family, friends and coworkers have to occur through digital means. This level of privacy is a fundamental right that has never been more important, says Cathcart. To ensure their encryption services aren’t misused to promote misinformation or conduct crime, WhatsApp has developed tools and protocols that keep users safe without disrupting the privacy of all of its users. “It’s so important that we match the security and privacy you have in-person, and not say, ‘This digital world is totally different: we should change all the ways human beings communicate and completely upend the rules.’ No, we should try to match that as best we can, because there’s something magical about people talking to each other privately.”
“Museums are among the few truly public democratic spaces for people to come together. We’re places of inspiration and learning, and we help expand empathy and moral thinking. We are places for difficult and courageous conversations. I believe we can, and must be, places in real service of community,” says Anne Pasternak, director of the Brooklyn Museum. She speaks with TED design curator Chee Pearlman at TED2020: Uncharted on June 17, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Anne Pasternak, Director of the Brooklyn Museum
Big idea: We need the arts to be able to document and reflect on what we’re living through, express our pain and joy and imagine a better future.
How? Museums are vital community institutions that reflect the memories, knowledge and dreams of a society. Located in a borough of more than 2.5 million people, the Brooklyn Museum is one of the largest and most influential museums in the world, and it serves a community that has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pasternak calls on museums to take a leading role in manifesting community visions of a better world. In a time defined by dramatic turmoil and global suffering, artists will help ignite the radical imagination that leads to cultural, political and social change, she says. Museums also have a responsibility to uplift a wide variety of narratives, taking special care to highlight communities who have historically been erased from societal remembrance and artmaking. The world has been irreversibly changed and devastated by the pandemic. It’s time to look to art as a medium of collective memorializing, mourning, healing and transformation.
“Art changes minds, shifts mentalities, changes the behavior of people and the way they think and how they feel,” says Honor Harger. She speaks with TED current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers at TED2020: Uncharted on June 17, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Honor Harger, Executive Director of the ArtScience Museum
Big Idea: Cultural institutions can care for their communities by listening to and amplifying marginalized voices.
How: The doors of Singapore’s famed ArtScience Museum building are closed — but online, the museum is engaging with its community more deeply than ever. Executive director Honor Harger shares how the museum has moved online with ArtScience at Home, a program offering online talks, streamed performances and family workshops addressing COVID-19 and our future. Reflecting on the original meaning of “curator” (from the Latin curare, or “to care”), Harger shares how ArtScience at Home aims to care for its community by listening to underrepresented groups. The program seeks out marginalized voices and provides a global platform for them to tell their own stories, unmediated and unedited, she says. Notably, the program included a screening of Salary Day by Ramasamy Madhavan, the first film made by a migrant worker in Singapore. The programming will have long-lasting effects on the museum’s curation in the future and on its international audience, Harger says. “Art changes minds, shifts mentalities, changes the behavior of people and the way they think and how they feel,” she says. “We are seeing the power of culture and art to both heal and facilitate dramatic change.”
For Session 4 of TED2020, experts in biohacking, synthetic biology, psychology and beyond explored topics ranging from discovering the relationship between the spinal cord and asparagus to using tools of science to answer critical questions about racial bias. Below, a recap of the night’s talks and performances.
“Every scientist can tell you about the time they ignored their doubts and did the experiment that would ‘never’ work,” says biomedical researcher Andrew Pelling. “And the thing is, every now and then, one of those experiments works out.” He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 11, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Andrew Pelling, biomedical researcher
Big idea: Could we use asparagus to repair spinal cords?
How? Andrew Pelling researches how we might use fruits, vegetables and plants to reconstruct damaged or diseased human tissues. (Check out his 2016 talk about making ears out of apples.) His lab strips these organisms of their DNA and cells, leaving just the fibers behind, which are then used as “scaffolds” to reconstruct tissue. Now, they’re busy working with asparagus, experimenting to see if the vegetable’s microchannels can guide the regeneration of cells after a spinal cord injury. There’s evidence in rats that it’s working, the first data of its kind to show that plant tissues might be capable of repairing such a complex injury. Pelling is also the cofounder of Spiderwort, a startup that’s translating these innovative discoveries into real-world applications. “Every scientist can tell you about the time they ignored their doubts and did the experiment that would ‘never’ work,” he says. “And the thing is, every now and then, one of those experiments works out.”
Synthetic designer Christina Agapakis shares projects that blur the line between art and science at TED2020: Uncharted on June 11, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Christina Agapakis, synthetic designer
Big idea: Synthetic biology isn’t an oxymoron; it investigates the boundary between nature and technology — and it could shape the future.
How? From teaching bacteria how to play sudoku to self-healing concrete, Christina Agapakis introduces us to the wonders of synthetic biology: a multidisciplinary science that seeks to create and sometimes redesign systems found in nature. “We have been promised a future of chrome, but what if the future is fleshy?” asks Agapakis. She delves into the ways biology could expand technology and alter the way we understand ourselves, exposing the surprisingly blurred lines between art, science and society. “It starts by recognizing that we as synthetic biologists are also shaped by a culture that values ‘real’ engineering more than any of the squishy stuff. We get so caught up in circuits and what happens inside of computers that we sometimes lose sight of the magic that’s happening inside of us,” says Agapakis.
Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius perform “White Lies” and “Turn It Around” at TED2020: Uncharted on June 11, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED.)
Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of indie pop band Lucius provide an enchanting musical break between talks, performing their songs “White Lies” and “Turn It Around.”
“[The] association with blackness and crime … makes its way into all of our children, into all of us. Our minds are shaped by the racial disparities we see out in the world, and the narratives that help us to make sense of the disparities we see,” says psychologist Jennifer L. Eberhardt. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 11, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Jennifer L. Eberhardt, psychologist
Big idea: We can use science to break down the societal and personal biases that unfairly target Black people.
How? When Jennifer Eberhardt flew with her five-year-old son one day, he turned to her after looking at the only other Black man on the plane and said, “I hope he doesn’t rob the plane” — showing Eberhardt undeniable evidence that racial bias seeps into every crack of society. For Eberhardt, a MacArthur-winning psychologist specializing in implicit bias, this surfaced a key question at the core of our society: How do we break down the societal and personal biases that target blackness? Just because we’re vulnerable to bias doesn’t mean we need to act on it, Eberhardt says. We can create “friction” points that eliminate impulsive social media posts based on implicit bias, such as when Nextdoor fought back against its “racial profiling problem” that required users to answer a few simple questions before allowing them to raise the alarm on “suspicious” visitors to their neighborhoods. Friction isn’t just a matter of online interaction, either. With the help of similar questions, the Oakland Police Department instituted protocols that reduce traffic stops of African-Americans by 43 percent. “Categorization and the bias that it seeds allow our brains to make judgments more quickly and efficiently,” Eberhardt says. “Just as the categories we create allow us to make quick decisions, they also reinforce bias — so the very things that help us to see the world also can blind us to it. They render our choices effortless, friction-free, yet they exact a heavy toll.”
Biological programmer Michael Levin (right) speaks with head of TED Chris Anderson about the wild frontiers of cellular memory at TED2020: Uncharted on June 11, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Michael Levin, biological programmer
Big idea: DNA isn’t the only builder in the biological world — there’s also an invisible electrical matrix directing cells to change into organs, telling tadpoles to become frogs, and instructing flatworms to regenerate new bodies once sliced in half. If Michael Levin and his colleagues can learn this cellular “machine language,” human beings may be one step closer to curing birth defects, eliminating cancer and evading aging.
How? As cells become organs, systems and bodies, they communicate via an electrical system dictating where the finished parts will go. Guided by this cellular network, organisms grow, transform and even build new limbs (or bodies) after trauma. At Michael Levin’s lab, scientists are cracking this code — and have even succeeded in creating autonomous organisms out of skin cells by altering the cell electrically without genetic manipulation. Mastering this code could not only allow humans to create microscopic biological “xenobots” to rebuild and medicate our bodies from the inside but also let us to grow new organs — and perhaps rejuvenate ourselves as we age. “We are now beginning to crack this morphogenetic code to ask: How is it that these tissues store a map of what to do?” Levin asks. “[How can we] go in and rewrite that map to new outcomes?”
“My vision for the future is that when things come to life, they do so with joy,” says Ali Kashani. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 11, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Ali Kashani, VP of special projects at Postmates
Big idea: Robots are becoming a part of everyday life in urban centers, which means we’ll have to design them to be accessible, communicative and human-friendly.
How? On the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles, delivery robots bustle along neighborhood sidewalks to drop-off packages and food. With potential benefits ranging from environmental responsibility to community-building, these robots offer us an incredible glimpse into the future. The challenge now is ensuring that robots can move out of the lab and fit into our world and among us as well, says Kashani. At Postmates, Kashani designs robots with human reaction in mind. Instead of frightening, dystopian imagery, he wants people to understand robots as familiar and friendly. This is why Postmates’s robots are reminiscent of beloved characters like the Minions and Wall-E; they can use their eyes to communicate with humans and acknowledge obstacles like traffic stops in real-time. There are so many ways robots can help us and our communities: picking up extra food from restaurants for shelters, delivering emergency medication to those in need and more. By designing robots to integrate into our physical and social infrastructures, we can welcome them to the world seamlessly and create a better future for all. “My vision for the future is that when things come to life, they do so with joy,” Kashani says.
For week 4 of TED2020, leaders in international development, history, architecture and public policy explored how we might rebuild during the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing protests against racial injustice in the United States. Below, a recap of their insights.
Achim Steiner, head of the UNDP, discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic is leading people to reexamine the future of society. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 8, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Achim Steiner, head of the United National Development Programme
Big idea: The public and private sectors must work together to rebuild communities and economies from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why? When the coronavirus hit, many governments and organizations were unprepared and ill-equipped to respond effectively, says Achim Steiner. He details the ways the UNDP is partnering with both private companies and state governments to help developing countries rebuild, including delivering medicine and supplies, setting up Zoom accounts for governing bodies and building virus tracking systems. Now that countries are beginning to think broadly about life after COVID-19, Steiner says that widespread disenchantment with the state is leading people to question the future of society. They’re rethinking the relationship between the state and its citizens, the role of the private sector and the definition of a public good. He believes that CEOs and business leaders need to step forward and forge alliances with the public sector in order to address societal inequalities and shape the future of economies. “It is not that the state regulates all the problems and the private sector is essentially best off if it can just focus on its own shareholders or entrepreneurial success,” he says. “We need both.”
“The heartbeat of antiracism is confession,” says author and historian Ibram X. Kendi. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 9, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Ibram X. Kendi, Author and historian
Big idea: To create a more just society, we need to make antiracism part of our everyday lives.
How? There is no such thing as being “not racist,” says Ibram X. Kendi. He explains that an idea, behavior or policy is either racist (suggesting that any racial group is superior or inferior in any way) or antiracist (suggesting that the racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences). In this sense, “racist” isn’t a fixed identity — a bad, evil person — but rather a descriptive term, highlighting what someone is doing in a particular moment. Anyone can be racist or antiracist; the difference is found in how we choose to see ourselves and others. Antiracism is vulnerable work, Kendi says, and it requires persistent self-awareness, self-examination and self-criticism, grounded in a willingness to concede your privileges and admit when you’re wrong. As we learn to more clearly recognize, take responsibility for and reject prejudices in our public policies, workplaces and personal beliefs, we can actively use this awareness to uproot injustice and inequality in the world — and replace it with love. “The heartbeat of racism itself has always been denial,” he says. “The heartbeat of antiracism is confession.” Watch the full discussion on TED.com.
What’s the connection between poetry and policy? Aaron Maniam explains at TED2020: Uncharted on June 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Aaron Maniam, Poet and policymaker
Big idea: By crafting a range of imaginative, interlocking metaphors, we can better understand COVID-19, its real-time impacts and how the pandemic continues to change our world.
How? As a poet and a policymaker in Singapore, Maniam knows the importance of language to capture and evoke the state of the world — and to envision our future. As people across the world share their stories of the pandemic’s impact, a number of leading metaphors have emerged. In one lens, humanity has “declared war” on COVID-19 — but that angle erases any positive effects of the pandemic, like how many have been able to spend more time with loved ones. In another lens, COVID-19 has been a global “journey” — but that perspective can simplify the way class, race and location severely impact how people move through this time. Maniam offers another lens: that the pandemic has introduced a new, constantly evolving “ecology” to the world, irrevocably changing how we live on local, national and global levels. But even the ecology metaphor doesn’t quite encompass the entirety of this era, he admits. Maniam instead encourages us to examine and reflect on the pandemic across a number of angles, noting that none of these lenses, or any others, are mutually exclusive. Our individual and collective experiences of this unprecedented time deserve to be told and remembered in expansive, robust and inclusive ways. “Each of us is never going to have a monopoly on truth,” he says. “We have to value the diversity that others bring by recognizing their identity diversity … and their competent diversity — the importance of people coming from disciplines like engineering, history, public health, etc. — all contributing to a much richer understanding and totality of the situation we’re in.”
Vishaan Chakrabarti explores how the coronavirus pandemic might reshape life in cities. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Vishaan Chakrabarti, Architect
Big idea: Cities are facing a crisis of inequity and a crisis in health. To recover and heal, we need to plan our urban areas around inclusion and equality.
How? In order to implement a new urban agenda rooted in equity, Vishaan Chakrabarti says that we need to consider three components: affordable housing and accessible health care; sustainable urban mobility; and attainable social and cultural resources. Chakrabarti shatters the false narrative of having to choose between an impoverished city or a prosperous one, instead envisioning one whose urban fabric is diverse with reformed housing policies and budgets. “Housing is health,” he says. “You cannot have a healthy society if people are under housing stress or have homelessness.” With a third of public space dedicated to private cars in many cities, Chakrabarti points to the massive opportunity we have to dedicate more space to socially distanced ways to commute and ecologically conscious modes of transportation, like walking or biking. We will need to go directly to communities and ask what their needs are to build inclusive, eco-friendly and scalable solutions. “We need a new narrative of generosity, not austerity,” he says.
TED’s head of curation Helen Walters (left) and writer, activist and comedian Baratunde Thurston host Session 3 of TED2020: Uncharted on June 4, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Session 3 of TED2020, hosted by TED’s head of curation Helen Walters and writer, activist and comedian Baratunde Thurston, was a night of something different — a night of camaraderie, cleverness and, as Baratunde put it, “a night of just some dope content.” Below, a recap of the night’s talks and performances.
Actor and performer Cynthia Erivo recites Maya Angelou’s iconic 2006 poem, “A Pledge to Rescue Our Youth.” She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 4, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
In a heartfelt and candid moment to start the session, Tony- and Emmy-winner Cynthia Erivo performs “A Pledge to Rescue Our Youth,” an iconic 2006 poem by Maya Angelou. “You are the best we have. You are all we have. You are what we have become. We pledge you our whole hearts from this day forward,” Angelou writes.
“Drawing has taught me to create my own rules. It has taught me to open my eyes and see not only what is, but what can be. Where there are broken systems … we can create new ones that actually function and benefit all, instead of just a select few,” says Shantell Martin. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 4, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Shantell Martin, Artist
Big idea: Drawing is more than just a graphic art — it’s a medium of self-discovery that enables anyone to let their hands spin out freestyle lines independent of rules and preconceptions. If we let our minds follow our hands, we can reach mental spaces where new worlds are tangible and art is the property of all – regardless of ethnicity or class.
How? A half-Nigerian, half-English artist growing up in a council estate in southeast London, Martin has firsthand knowledge of the race and class barriers within England’s institutions. Drawing afforded her a way out, taking her first to Tokyo and then to New York, where her large-scale, freestyle black and white drawings (often created live in front of an audience) taught her the power of lines to build new worlds. By using our hands to draw lines that our hearts can follow, she says, we not only find solace, but also can imagine and build worlds where every voice is valued equally. “Drawing has taught me to create my own rules,” Martin says. “It has taught me to open my eyes and see not only what is, but what can be. Where there are broken systems … we can create new ones that actually function and benefit all, instead of just a select few.”
“If we’re not protecting the arts, we’re not protecting our future, we’re not protecting this world,” says Swizz Beatz. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 4, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Swizz Beatz, Music producer, entrepreneur, art enthusiast
Big idea: Art is for everyone. Let’s make it that way.
Why? Creativity heals us — and everybody who harbors love for the arts deserves access to them, says Swizz Beatz. Interweaving a history of his path as a creative in the music industry, Beatz recounts his many successful pursuits in the art of giving back. In creating these spaces at the intersection of education, celebration, inclusion and support — such as The Dean Collection, No Commissions, The Dean’s Choice and Verzuz — he plans to outsmart lopsided industries that exploit creatives and give the power of art back to the people. “If we’re not protecting the arts, we’re not protecting our future, we’re not protecting this world,” he says.
“In this confusing world, we need to be the bridge between differences. You interrogate those differences, you hold them for as long as you can until something happens, something reveals itself,” says Jad Abumrad. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 4, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Jad Abumrad, host of RadioLab and Dolly Parton’s America
Big Idea: Storytellers and journalists are the bridge that spans conflict and difference to reveal a new meaning.
How: When journalist Jad Abumrad began storytelling in 2002, he crafted each story to culminate the same way: mind-blowing science discoveries, paired with ear-tickling auditory creations, resolved into “moments of wonder.” But after 10 years, he began to wonder himself: Is this the only way to tell a story? Seeking an answer, Abumrad turned to more complex, convoluted stories and used science to sniff out the facts. But these stories often ended without an answer or resolution, instead leading listeners to “moments of struggle,” where truth collided with truth. It wasn’t until Abumrad returned to his home of Tennessee where he met an unlikely teacher in the art of storytelling: Dolly Parton. In listening to the incredible insights she had into her own life, he realized that the best stories can’t be summarized neatly and instead should find revelation — or what he calls “the third.” A term rooted in psychotherapy, the third is the new entity created when two opposing forces meet and reconcile their differences. For Abumrad, Dolly had found resolution in her life, fostered it in her fanbase and showcased it in her music — and revealed to him his new purpose in telling stories. “In this confusing world, we need to be the bridge between differences,” Abumrad says. “You interrogate those differences, you hold them for as long as you can until something happens, something reveals itself.”
Aloe Blacc performs “Amazing Grace” at TED2020: Uncharted on June 4, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Backed by piano from Greg Phillinganes, singer, songwriter and producer Aloe Blacc provides balm for the soul with a gorgeous rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Congressman John Lewis, politician and civil rights leader, interviewed by Bryan Stevenson, public interest lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative — an excerpt from the upcoming TED Legacy Project
Big idea: As a new generation of protesters takes to the streets to fight racial injustice, many have looked to the elders of the Civil Rights Movement — like John Lewis — to study how previous generations have struggled not just to change the world but also to maintain morale in the face of overwhelming opposition.
How? In order to truly effect change and move people into a better world, contemporary protestors must learn tactics that many have forgotten — especially nonviolent engagement and persistence. Fortunately, John Lewis sees an emerging generation of new leaders of conscience, and he urges them to have hope, to be loving and optimistic and, most of all, to keep going tirelessly even in the face of setbacks. As interviewer Bryan Stevenson puts it, “We cannot rest until justice comes.”
In response to the historic moment of mourning and anger over the ongoing violence inflicted on Black communities by police in the United States, four leaders in the movement for civil rights — Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, CEO of Center for Policing Equity; Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change; Dr. Bernice Albertine King, CEO of the King Center; and Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union — joined TED2020 to explore how we can dismantle the systems of oppression and racism. Watch the full discussion on TED.com, and read a recap below.
“The history that we have in this country is not just a history of vicious neglect and targeted abuse of Black communities. It’s also one where we lose our attention for it,” says Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 3, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Big idea: The bill has come due for the unpaid debts the United States owes to its Black residents. But we’re not going to get to where we need to go just by reforming police.
How? What we’re seeing now isn’t just the response to one gruesome, cruel, public execution — a lynching. And it’s not just the reaction to three of them: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. What we’re seeing is the bill come due for the unpaid debts that the US owes to its Black residents, says Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, CEO of the Center for Policing Equity (CPE). In addition to the work that CPE is known for — working with police departments to use their own data to improve relationships with the communities they serve — Goff and his team are encouraging departments and cities to take money from police budgets and instead invest it directly in public resources for the community, so people don’t need the police for public safety in the first place. Learn more about how you can support the Center for Policing Equity »
“This is the time for white allies to stand up in new ways, to do the type of allyship that truly dismantles structures, not just provides charity,” says Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 3, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Big idea: In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, people are showing up day after day in support of the Movement for Black Lives and in protest of police brutality against Black communities. We need to channel that presence and energy into power and material change.
How? The presence and visibility of a movement can often lead us to believe that progress is inevitable. But building power and changing the system requires more than conversations and retweets. To create material change in the racist systems that enable and perpetuate violence against Black communities, we need to translate the energy of these global protests into specific demands and actions, says Robinson. We have to pass new laws and hold those in power — from our police chiefs to our city prosecutors to our representatives in Congress — accountable to them. If we want to disentangle these interlocking systems of violence and complicity, Robinson says, we need to get involved in local, tangible organizing and build the power necessary to change the rules. “You can’t sing our songs, use our hashtags and march in our marches if you are on the other end supporting the structures that put us in harm’s way, that literally kill us,” Robinson says. “This is the time for white allies to stand up in new ways, to do the type of allyship that truly dismantles structures, not just provides charity.”
“We can do this,” says Dr. Bernice Albertine King. “We can make the right choice to ultimately build the beloved community.” She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 3, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Big idea: To move towards a United States rooted in benevolent coexistence, equity and love, we must destroy and replace systems of oppression and violence towards Black communities. Nonviolence, accountability and love must pave the way.
How? The US needs a course correction that involves both hard work and “heart work” — and no one is exempt from it, says Dr. Bernice Albertine King. King continues to spread and build upon the wisdom of her father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and she believes the US can work towards unity and collective healing. To do so, racism, systemic oppression, militarism and violence must end. She calls for a revolution of values, allies that listen and engage and a world where anger is given space to be rechanneled into creating social and economic change. In this moment, as people have reached a boiling point and are being asked to restructure the nature of freedom, King encourages us to follow her father’s words of nonviolent coexistence, and not continue on the path of violent coannihilation. “You as a person may want to exempt yourself, but every generation is called,” King says. “And so I encourage corporations in America to start doing anti-racism work within corporate America. I encourage every industry to start doing anti-racism work and pick up the banner of understanding nonviolent change personally and from a social change perspective. We can do this. We can make the right choice to ultimately build the beloved community.”
“Can we really become an equal people, equally bound by law?” asks Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on June 3, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Big idea: No matter how frightened we are by the current turmoil, we must stay positive, listen to and engage with unheard or silenced voices, and help answer what’s become the central question of democracy in the United States: Can we really become an equal people, equally bound by law, when so many of us are beaten down by racist institutions and their enforcers?
How? This is no time for allies to disconnect — it’s time for them to take a long look in the mirror, ponder viewpoints they may not agree with or understand and engage in efforts to dismantle institutional white supremacy, Romero says. Reform is not enough anymore. Among many other changes, the most acute challenge the ACLU is now tackling is how to defund militarized police forces that more often look like more standing armies than civil servants — and bring them under civilian control. “For allies in this struggle, and those of us who don’t live this experience every day, it is time for us to lean in,” Romero says. “You can’t change the channel, you can’t tune out, you can’t say, ‘This is too hard.’ It is not that hard for us to listen and learn and heed.”
For week 3 of TED2020, global leaders in technology, vulnerability research and activism gathered for urgent conversations on how to foster connection, channel energy into concrete social action and work to end systemic racism in the United States. Below, a recap of their insights.
“When we see the internet of things, let’s make an internet of beings. When we see virtual reality, let’s make it a shared reality,” says Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister for social innovation. She speaks with TED science curator David Biello at TED2020: Uncharted on June 1, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister for social innovation
Big idea: Digital innovation rooted in communal trust can create a stronger, more transparent democracy that is fast, fair — and even fun.
How? Taiwan has built a “digital democracy” where digital innovation drives active, inclusive participation from all its citizens. Sharing how she’s helped transform her government, Audrey Tang illustrates the many creative and proven ways technology can be used to foster community. In responding to the coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan created a collective intelligence system that crowdsources information and ideas, which allowed the government to act quickly and avoid a nationwide shutdown. They also generated a publicly accessible map that shows the availability of masks in local pharmacies to help people get supplies, along with a “humor over rumor” campaign that combats harmful disinformation with comedy. In reading her job description, Tang elegantly lays out the ideals of digital citizenship that form the bedrock of this kind of democracy: “When we see the internet of things, let’s make an internet of beings. When we see virtual reality, let’s make it a shared reality. When we see machine learning, let’s make it collaborative learning. When we see user experience, let’s make it about human experience. And whenever we hear the singularity is near, let us always remember the plurality is here.”
Brené Brown explores how we can harness vulnerability for social progress and work together to nurture an era of moral imagination. She speaks with TED’s head of curation Helen Walters at TED2020: Uncharted on June 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Brené Brown, Vulnerability researcher, storyteller
Big question: The United States is at its most vulnerable right now. Where do we go from here?
Some ideas: As the country reels from the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd, along with the protests that have followed, Brené Brown offers insights into how we might find a path forward. Like the rest of us, she’s in the midst of processing this moment, but believes we can harness vulnerability for progress and work together to nurture an era of moral imagination. Accountability must come first, she says: people have to be held responsible for their racist behaviors and violence, and we have to build safe communities where power is shared. Self-awareness will be key to this work: the ability to understand your emotions, behaviors and actions lies at the center of personal and social change and is the basis of empathy. This is hard work, she admits, but our ability to experience love, belonging, joy, intimacy and trust — and to build a society rooted in empathy — depend on it. “In the absence of love and belonging, there’s nothing left,” she says.
Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, Rashad Robinson, Dr. Bernice King and Anthony D. Romero share urgent insights into this historic moment. Watch the discussion on TED.com.
In a time of mourning and anger over the ongoing violence inflicted on Black communities by police in the US and the lack of accountability from national leadership, what is the path forward? In a wide-ranging conversation, Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, the CEO of Center for Policing Equity; Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change; Dr. Bernice Albertine King, the CEO of the King Center; and Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, share urgent insights into how we can dismantle the systems of oppression and racism responsible for tragedies like the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and far too many others — and explored how the US can start to live up to its ideals. Watch the discussion on TED.com.
There’s a theory that the shock we’re currently experiencing is intense enough to force a radical reset of our values — of how we are and how we act. In an idea-packed session 2 of TED2020, speakers from across disciplines and walks of life looked to this aspiration of a “values reset,” sharing new thinking on topics ranging from corporate responsibility down to our individual responsibilities and the things each of us can right now. Below, a recap of the night’s inspiring talks and performances.
“Nobody works in a vacuum. The men and women who run companies actively cocreate the reality we all have to share. And just like with global warming, we are each of us responsible for the collective consequences of our individual decisions and actions,” says filmmaker and activist Abigail Disney. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on May 28, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Abigail Disney, Filmmaker, activist
Big idea: Respect, dignity and a guaranteed livable wage are the right of all workers, not the privilege of a select few.
How? As CEO of the Disney Company, Roy Disney believed he had a moral obligation to every person who worked at the company. Though her grandfather wasn’t perfect, Abigail Disney says he believed that workers were worthy of immense respect — and he put that belief into practice by creating jobs with fair wages and benefits. In honor of her grandfather’s legacy, Disney advocates for income equality for all workers — and calls out the company that bears her name, asking them to do better for their workers. Our conscience and empathy should drive us, she says, not profits or economic growth. Disney believes we need a system-wide shift, one that recognizes that all workers deserve the wages, protections and benefits that would enable them to live full, secure and dignified lives.
Quote of the talk: “Nobody works in a vacuum. The men and women who run companies actively cocreate the reality we all have to share. And just like with global warming, we are each of us responsible for the collective consequences of our individual decisions and actions.”
Backed by brilliant illustrations from Laolu Senbanjo, journalist and satirist Adeola Fayehun shares her work exposing corruption in Africa with sharp, incisive humor. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on May 28, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Adeola Fayehun, Journalist, satirist
Big idea: Africa is overflowing with all the natural resources, intellectual skill and talent it needs. To flourish, its people need to hold corrupt leaders accountable.
Why? On her show Keeping It Real With Adeola, Adeola Fayehun exposes corruption in Africa with sharp, incisive humor. She urges those outside Africa to stop seeing the continent through the lens of their biases, and encourages us all to call out false policies and shatter stereotypes. “Please listen more,” she says. “Listen to your African friends without a preconceived notion of what you think they’re going to say. Read African books, watch African movies, visit Africa or, at the very least, learn some of the names of our 54 beautiful countries.”
Quote of the talk: “Africa is like a sleeping giant. The truth is I am trying to wake up this giant. That’s why I air the dirty laundry of those in charge of the giant.”
Rufus Wainwright performs “Peaceful Afternoon” and “Going To A Town” at TED2020: Uncharted on May 28, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
From his home in Los Angeles, songwriter Rufus Wainwright shares intimate versions of his songs “Peaceful Afternoon” and “Going To A Town.” Gorgeous slow pans are courtesy of Jörn Weisbrodt, Wainwright’s husband and videographer for the performances.
“We hate the idea that really important things in life might happen by luck or by chance, that really important things in our life are not under our control,” says psychology professor Barry Schwartz. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on May 28, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Barry Schwartz, Psychology professor
Big idea: Our society is predicated on the idea that the distribution of opportunity is fair — but, in reality, working hard and playing by the rules is no guarantee of success. Good fortune and luck have far more to do with our opportunities (and therefore our future success) than we’re willing to admit.
How? Just look at the ultra-competitive landscape of college admissions, where a dearth of slots for qualified and capable students has created an epidemic of anxiety and depression among teenage university applicants long before they even make it to the job market. Schwartz suggests that the belief that working hard automatically leads to success blinds us to a core injustice: many of us simply will not get what we want. If our educational institutions — and our nation’s employers — were to emphasize this injustice by picking their students and employees randomly from a pool of those most likely to succeed, we might be forced to recognize the role that fortune plays in our lives.
Quote of the talk: “We hate the idea that really important things in life might happen by luck or by chance, that really important things in our life are not under our control.”
“I have a choice, right now, in the midst of the storm, to decide to overcome,” says Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. He speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on May 28, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks quarterback
Big idea: “Neutral thinking” can transform your life and help you unlock sustained personal success.
How? Athletes train their bodies to run faster, jump higher, achieve more — so why don’t they train their minds, too? For the past 10 years, Wilson has been doing just that with the assistance of mental conditioning coach Trevor Moawad. By harnessing the technique of “neutral thinking” — a strategy that emphasizes judgment-free acceptance of the present moment — Wilson has been able to maintain focus in high-pressure situations. Positivity can be dangerous and distracting, Wilson says, and negativity is sure to bring you down — but by honing a neutral mental game and executing in the present moment, you set yourself up to succeed.
Quote of the talk: “I have a choice, right now, in the midst of the storm, to decide to overcome.”
For week 2 of TED2020, global leaders in climate, health and technology joined the TED community for insightful discussions around the theme “build back better.” Below, a recap of the week’s fascinating and enlightening conversations about how we can move forward, together.
“We need to change our relationship to the environment,” says Chile’s former environment minister Marcelo Mena. He speaks with TED current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers at TED2020: Uncharted on May 26, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Marcelo Mena, environmentalist and former environment minister of Chile
Big idea: People power is the antidote to climate catastrophe.
How? With a commitment to transition to zero emissions by 2050, Chile is at the forefront of resilient and inclusive climate action. Mena shares the economic benefits instilling green solutions can have on a country: things like job creation and reduced cost of mobility, all the result of sustainability-minded actions (including phasing coal-fired power plants and creating fleets of energy-efficient buses). Speaking to the air of social unrest across South America, Mena traces how climate change fuels citizen action, sharing how protests have led to green policies being enacted. There will always be those who do not see climate change as an imminent threat, he says, and economic goals need to align with climate goals for unified and effective action. “We need to change our relationship to the environment,” Mena says. “We need to protect and conserve our ecosystems so they provide the services that they do today.”
“We need to insist on the future being the one that we want, so that we unlock the creative juices of experts and engineers around the world,” says Nigel Topping, UK High Level Climate Action Champion, COP26. He speaks with TED Global curator Bruno Giussani at TED2020: Uncharted on May 26, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Nigel Topping, UK High Level Climate Action Champion, COP26
Big idea: The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity to break from business as usual and institute foundational changes that will speed the world’s transition to a greener economy.
How? Although postponed, the importance of COP26 — the UN’s international climate change conference — has not diminished. Instead it’s become nothing less than a forum on whether a post-COVID world should return to old, unsustainable business models, or instead “clean the economy” before restarting it. In Topping’s view, economies that rely on old ways of doing business jeopardize the future of our planet and risk becoming non-competitive as old, dirty jobs are replaced by new, cleaner ones. By examining the benefits of green economics, Topping illuminates the positive transformations happening now and leverages them to inspire businesses, local governments and other economic players to make radical changes to business as usual. “From the bad news alone, no solutions come. You have to turn that into a motivation to act. You have to go from despair to hope, you have to choose to act on the belief that we can avoid the worst of climate change… when you start looking, there is evidence that we’re waking up.”
“Good health is something that gives us all so much return on our investment,” says Joia Mukherjee. Shes speaks with head of TED Chris Anderson at TED2020: Uncharted on May 27, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Joia Mukherjee, Chief Medical Officer, Partners in Health (PIH)
Big idea: We need to massively scale up contact tracing in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and safely reopen communities and countries.
How? Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who come into contact with someone who has an infection, so that they can be quarantined, tested and supported until transmission stops. The earlier you start, the better, says Mukherjee — but, since flattening the curve and easing lockdown measures depend on understanding the spread of the disease, it’s never too late to begin. Mukherjee and her team at PIH are currently supporting the state of Massachusetts to scale up contact tracing for the most vulnerable communities. They’re employing 1,700 full-time contact tracers to investigate outbreaks in real-time and, in partnership with resource care coordinators, ensuring infected people receive critical resources like health care, food and unemployment benefits. With support from The Audacious Project, a collaborative funding initiative housed at TED, PIH plans to disseminate its contact tracing expertise across the US and support public health departments in slowing the spread of COVID-19. “Good health is something that gives us all so much return on our investment,” Mukherjee says. See what you can do for this idea »
Google’s Chief Health Officer Karen DeSalvo shares the latest on the tech giant’s critical work on contact tracing. She speaks with head of TED Chris Anderson at TED2020: Uncharted on May 27, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Karen DeSalvo, Chief Health Officer, Google
Big idea: We can harness the power of tech to combat the pandemic — and reshape the future of public health.
How? Google and Apple recently announced an unprecedented partnership on the COVID-19 Exposure Notifications API, a Bluetooth-powered technology that would tell people they may have been exposed to the virus. The technology is designed with privacy at its core, DeSalvo says: it doesn’t use GPS or location tracking and isn’t an app but rather an API that public health agencies can incorporate into their own apps, which users could opt in to — or not. Since smartphones are so ubiquitous, the API promises to augment contact tracing and help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Overall, the partnership between tech and public health is a natural one, DeSalvo says; communication and data are pillars of public health, and a tech giant like Google has the resources to distribute those at a global scale. By helping with the critical work of contact tracing, DeSalvo hopes to ease the burden on health workers and give scientists time to create a vaccine. “Having the right information at the right time can make all the difference,” DeSalvo says. “It can literally save lives.”
After the conversation, Karen DeSalvo was joined by Joia Mukherjee to further discuss how public health entities can partner with tech companies. Both DeSalvo and Mukherjee emphasize the importance of knitting together the various aspects of public health systems — from social services to housing — to create a healthier and more just society. They also both emphasize the importance of celebrating community health workers, who provide on-the-ground information and critical connection with people across the world.
TED looks a little different this year, but much has also stayed the same. The TED2020 mainstage program kicked off Thursday night with a session of talks, performances and visual delights from brilliant, creative individuals who shared ideas that could change the world — and stories of people who already have. But instead of convening in Vancouver, the TED community tuned in to the live, virtual broadcast hosted by TED’s Chris Anderson and Helen Walters from around the world — and joined speakers and fellow community members on an interactive, TED-developed second-screen platform to discuss ideas, ask questions and give real-time feedback. Below, a recap of the night’s inspiring talks, performances and conversations.
Sharing incredible footage of microscopic creatures, Ariel Waldman takes us below meters-thick sea ice in Antarctica to explore a hidden ecosystem. She speaks at TED2020: Uncharted on May 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Ariel Waldman, Antarctic explorer, NASA advisor
Big idea: Seeing microbes in action helps us more fully understand (and appreciate) the abundance of life that surrounds us.
How: Even in the coldest, most remote place on earth, our planet teems with life. Explorer Ariel Waldman introduces the thousands of organisms that call Antarctica home — and they’re not all penguins. Leading a five-week expedition, Waldman descended the sea ice and scaled glaciers to investigate and film myriad microscopic, alien-looking creatures. Her footage is nothing short of amazing — like wildlife documentary at the microbial level! From tiny nematodes to “cuddly” water bears, mini sea shrimp to geometric bugs made of glass, her camera lens captures these critters in color and motion, so we can learn more about their world and ours. Isn’t nature brilliant?
Did you know? Tardigrades, also known as water bears, live almost everywhere on earth and can even survive in the vacuum of space.
Tracy Edwards, Trailblazing sailor
Big Idea: Despite societal limits, girls and women are capable of creating the future of their dreams.
How: Though competitive sailing is traditionally dominated by men, women sailors have proven they are uniquely able to navigate the seas. In 1989, Tracy Edwards led the first all-female sailing crew in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. Though hundreds of companies refused to sponsor the team and bystanders warned that an all-female team was destined to fail, Edwards knew she could trust in the ability of the women on her team. Despite the tremendous odds, they completed the trip and finished second in their class. The innovation, kindness and resourcefulness of the women on Edwards’s crew enabled them to succeed together, upending all expectations of women in sailing. Now, Edwards advocates for girls and women to dive into their dream fields and become the role models they seek to find. She believes women should understand themselves as innately capable, that the road to education has infinite routes and that we all have the ability to take control of our present and shape our futures.
Quote of the talk: “This is about teaching girls: you don’t have to look a certain way; you don’t have to feel a certain way; you don’t have to behave a certain way. You can be successful. You can follow your dreams. You can fight for them.”
Classical musicians Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Isata Kanneh-Mason perform intimate renditions of Sergei Rachmaninov’s “Muse” and Frank Bridge’s “Spring Song” at TED2020: Uncharted on May 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Virtuosic cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, whose standout performance at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made waves with music fans across the world, joins his sister, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, for an intimate living room performance of “Muse” by Sergei Rachmaninov and “Spring Song” by Frank Bridge.
And for a visual break, podcaster and design evangelist Debbie Millman shares an animated love letter to her garden — inviting us to remain grateful that we are still able to make things with our hands.
Dallas Taylor, Host/creator of Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast
Big idea: There is no such thing as true silence.
Why? In a fascinating challenge to our perceptions of sound, Dallas Taylor tells the story of a well-known, highly-debated and perhaps largely misunderstood piece of music penned by composer John Cage. Written in 1952, 4′33″ is more experience than expression, asking the listener to focus on and accept things the way they are, through three movements of rest — or, less technically speaking, silence. In its “silence,” Cage invites us to contemplate the sounds that already exist when we’re ready to listen, effectively making each performance a uniquely meditative encounter with the world around us. “We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to reset our ears,” says Taylor, as he welcomes the audience to settle into the first movement of 4’33” together. “Listen to the texture and rhythm of the sounds around you right now. Listen for the loud and soft, the harmonic and dissonant … enjoy the magnificence of hearing and listening.”
Quote of the talk: “Quietness is not when we turn our minds off to sound, but when we really start to listen and hear the world in all of its sonic beauty.”
Dubbed “the woman who redefined man” by her biographer, Jane Goodall has changed our perceptions of primates, people and the connection between the two. She speaks with head of TED Chris Anderson at TED2020: Uncharted on May 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Jane Goodall, Primatologist, conservationist
Big idea: Humanity’s long-term livelihood depends on conservation.
Why? After years in the field reinventing the way the world thinks about chimpanzees, their societies and their similarities to humans, Jane Goodall began to realize that as habitats shrink, humanity loses not only resources and life-sustaining biodiversity but also our core connection to nature. Worse still, as once-sequestered animals are pulled from their environments and sold and killed in markets, the risk of novel diseases like COVID-19 jumping into the human population rises dramatically. In conversation with head of TED Chris Anderson, Goodall tells the story of a revelatory scientific conference in 1986, where she awakened to the sorry state of global conservation and transformed from a revered naturalist into a dedicated activist. By empowering communities to take action and save natural habitats around the world, Goodall’s institute now gives communities tools they need to protect their environment. As a result of her work, conservation has become part of the DNA of cultures from China to countries throughout Africa, and is leading to visible transformations of once-endangered forests and habitats.
Quote of the talk: “Every day you live, you make an impact on the planet. You can’t help making an impact … If we all make ethical choices, then we start moving towards a world that will be not quite so desperate to leave for our great-grandchildren.”
To kick off TED2020, leaders in business, finance and public health joined the TED community for lean-forward conversations to answer the question: “What now?” Below, a recap of the fascinating insights they shared.
“If you don’t like the pandemic, you are not going to like the climate crisis,” says Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. She speaks with head of TED Chris Anderson at TED2020: Uncharted on May 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
Big idea: The coronavirus pandemic shattered the global economy. To put the pieces back together, we need to make sure money is going to countries that need it the most — and that we rebuild financial systems that are resilient to shocks.
How? Kristalina Georgieva is encouraging an attitude of determined optimism to lead the world toward recovery and renewal amid the economic fallout of COVID-19. The IMF has one trillion dollars to lend — it’s now deploying these funds to areas hardest hit by the pandemic, particularly in developing countries, and it’s also put a debt moratorium into effect for the poorest countries. Georgieva admits recovery is not going to be quick, but she thinks that countries can emerge from this “great transformation” stronger than before if they build resilient, disciplined financial systems. Within the next ten years, she hopes to see positive shifts towards digital transformation, more equitable social safety nets and green recovery. And as the environment recovers while the world grinds to a halt, she urges leaders to maintain low carbon footprints — particularly since the pandemic foreshadows the devastation of global warming. “If you don’t like the pandemic, you are not going to like the climate crisis,” Georgieva says. Watch the interview on TED.com »
“I’m a big believer in capitalism. I think it’s in many ways the best economic system that I know of, but like everything, it needs an upgrade. It needs tuning,” says Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal. He speaks with TED business curators Corey Hajim at TED2020: Uncharted on May 19, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Dan Schulman, President and CEO of PayPal
Big idea: Employee satisfaction and consumer trust are key to building the economy back better.
How? A company’s biggest competitive advantage is its workforce, says Dan Schulman, explaining how PayPal instituted a massive reorientation of compensation to meet the needs of its employees during the pandemic. The ripple of benefits of this shift have included increased productivity, financial health and more trust. Building further on the concept of trust, Schulman traces how the pandemic has transformed the managing and moving of money — and how it will require consumers to renew their focus on privacy and security. And he shares thoughts on the new roles of corporations and CEOs, the cashless economy and the future of capitalism. “I’m a big believer in capitalism. I think it’s in many ways the best economic system that I know of, but like everything, it needs an upgrade. It needs tuning,” Schulman says. “For vulnerable populations, just because you pay at the market [rate] doesn’t mean that they have financial health or financial wellness. And I think everyone should know whether or not their employees have the wherewithal to be able to save, to withstand financial shocks and then really understand what you can do about it.”
Biologist Uri Alon shares a thought-provoking idea on how we could get back to work: a two-week cycle of four days at work followed by 10 days of lockdown, which would cut the virus’s reproductive rate. He speaks with head of TED Chris Anderson at TED2020: Uncharted on May 20, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Uri Alon, Biologist
Big idea: We might be able to get back to work by exploiting one of the coronavirus’s key weaknesses.
How? By adopting a two-week cycle of four days at work followed by 10 days of lockdown, bringing the virus’s reproductive rate (R₀ or R naught) below one. The approach is built around the virus’s latent period: the three-day delay (on average) between when a person gets infected and when they start spreading the virus to others. So even if a person got sick at work, they’d reach their peak infectious period while in lockdown, limiting the virus’s spread — and helping us avoid another surge. What would this approach mean for productivity? Alon says that by staggering shifts, with groups alternating their four-day work weeks, some industries could maintain (or even exceed) their current output. And having a predictable schedule would give people the ability to maximize the effectiveness of their in-office work days, using the days in lockdown for more focused, individual work. The approach can be adopted at the company, city or regional level, and it’s already catching on, notably in schools in Austria.
“The secret sauce here is good, solid public health practice … this one was a bad one, but it’s not the last one,” says Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association. He speaks with TED science curator David Biello at TED2020: Uncharted on May 20, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association
Big Idea: We need to invest in a robust public health care system to lead us out of the coronavirus pandemic and prevent the next outbreak.
How: The coronavirus pandemic has tested the public health systems of every country around the world — and, for many, exposed shortcomings. Georges C. Benjamin details how citizens, businesses and leaders can put public health first and build a better health structure to prevent the next crisis. He envisions a well-staffed and equipped governmental public health entity that runs on up-to-date technology to track and relay information in real time, helping to identify, contain, mitigate and eliminate new diseases. Looking to countries that have successfully lowered infection rates, such as South Korea, he emphasizes the importance of early and rapid testing, contact tracing, self-isolation and quarantining. Our priority, he says, should be testing essential workers and preparing now for a spike of cases during the summer hurricane and fall flu seasons. “The secret sauce here is good, solid public health practice,” Benjamin says. “We should not be looking for any mysticism or anyone to come save us with a special pill … because this one was a bad one, but it’s not the last one.”
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TED launches Pindrop — its newest original podcast — on May 27. Hosted by filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala, Pindrop will take listeners on a journey across the globe in search of the world’s most surprising and imaginative ideas. It’s not a travel show, exactly. It’s a deep dive into the ideas that shape a particular spot on the map, brought to you by local journalists and creators. From tiny islands to megacities, each episode is an opportunity to visit a new location — Bangkok, Mantua Township, Nairobi, Mexico City, Oberammergau — to find out: If this place were to give a TED Talk, what would it be about?
With Saleem as your guide, you’ll hear stories of police officers on motorbikes doubling as midwives in Bangkok, discover a groundbreaking paleontology site behind a Lowe’s in New Jersey’s Mantua Township, learn about Nairobi’s Afrobubblegum art movement and more. With the guidance of local journalists and TED Fellows, Pindrop gives listeners a unique lens into a spectrum of fascinating places — an important global connection during this time of travel restrictions.
“My family is from all over, and I’ve spent a lot of my life moving around,” said Saleem. “I’ve always wanted to work on something that captured the feeling of diving deep into conversation in a place you’ve never been before, where you’re getting hit by new ideas and you just feel more open to the world. Pindrop is a go at recreating that.”
Produced by TED and Magnificent Noise, Pindrop is one of TED’s nine original podcasts, which also include TEDxSHORTS, Checking In with Susan David, WorkLife with Adam Grant, The TED Interview, TED Talks Daily, TED en Español, Sincerely, X and TED Radio Hour. TED’s podcasts are downloaded more than 420 million times annually.
TED strives to tell partner stories in the form of authentic, story-driven content developed in real time and aligned with the editorial process — finding and exploring brilliant ideas from all over the world. Pindrop is made possible with support from Women Will, a Grow with Google program. Working together, we’re spotlighting women who are finding unique ways of impacting their communities. Active in 48 countries, this Grow with Google program helps inspire, connect and educate millions of women.
Pindrop launches May 27 for a five-episode run, with five additional episodes this fall. New 30-minute episodes air weekly and are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and wherever you like to listen to podcasts.
The world has shifted, and so has TED.
We need brilliant ideas and thinkers more than ever. While we can’t convene in person, we will convene. Rather than a one-week conference, TED2020 will be an eight-week virtual experience — all held in the company of the TED community. Each week will offer signature TED programming and activities, as well as new and unique opportunities for connection and interaction.
We have an opportunity to rebuild our world in a better, fairer and more beautiful way. In line with TED2020’s original theme, Uncharted, the conference will focus on the roles we all have to play in building back better. The eight-week program will offer ways to deepen community relationships and, together, re-imagine what the future can be.
Here’s what the TED2020 weekly program will look like: On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a series of 45-minute live interviews, talks and debates centered on the theme Build Back Better. TED attendees can help shape the real-time conversation on an interactive, TED-developed virtual platform they can use to discuss ideas, share questions and give feedback to the stage. On Thursday, the community will gather to experience a longer mainstage TED session packed with unexpected moments, performances, visual experiences and provocative talks and interviews. Friday wraps up the week with an all-day, à la carte Community Day featuring an array of interactive choices including Discovery Sessions, speaker meetups and more.
TED2020 speakers and performers include:
The speaker lineup is being unveiled on ted2020.ted.com in waves throughout the eight weeks, as many speakers will be addressing timely and breaking news. Information about accessing the high-definition livestream of the entire conference and TED2020 membership options are also available on ted2020.ted.com.
The TED Fellows class of 2020 will once again be a highlight of the conference, with talks, Discovery Sessions and other special events sprinkled throughout the eight-week program.
TED2020 members will also receive special access to the TED-Ed Student Talks program, which helps students around the world discover, develop and share their ideas in the form of TED-style talks. TEDsters’ kids and grandkids (ages 8-18) can participate in a series of interactive sessions led by the TED-Ed team and culminating in the delivery of each participant’s very own big idea.
As in the past, TED Talks given during the conference will be made available to the public in the coming weeks. Opening TED up to audiences around the world is foundational to TED’s mission of spreading ideas. Founded in 1984, the first TED conferences were held in Monterey, California. In 2006, TED experimented with putting TED Talk videos online for free — a decision that opened the doors to giving away all of its content. Today there are thousands of TED Talks available on TED.com. What was once a closed-door conference devoted to Technology, Entertainment and Design has become a global platform for sharing talks across a wide variety of disciplines. Thanks to the support of thousands of volunteer translators, TED Talks are available in 116 languages. TEDx, the licensing program that allows communities to produce independently organized TED events, has seen more than 28,000 events held in more than 170 countries. TED-Ed offers close to 1,200 free animated lessons and other learning resources for a youth audience and educators. Collectively, TED content attracts billions of views and listens each year.
TED has partnered with a number of innovative organizations to support its mission and contribute to the idea exchange at TED2020. They are collaborating with the TED team on innovative ways to engage a virtual audience and align their ideas and perspectives with this year’s programming. This year’s partners include: Accenture, BetterUp, Boston Consulting Group, Brightline Initiative, Cognizant, Hilton, Lexus, Project Management Institute, Qatar Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, SAP, Steelcase and Target.
Get the latest information and updates on TED2020 on ted2020.ted.com.
In response to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, The Audacious Project, a collaborative funding initiative housed at TED, will direct support towards solutions tailored to rapid response and long-term recovery. Audacious has catalyzed more than $30 million towards the first three organizations in its COVID-19 rapid response cohort: Partners In Health will rapidly increase the scale, speed and effectiveness of contact tracing in the US; Project ECHO will equip over 350,000 frontline clinicians and public health workers across Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America to respond to COVID-19; and World Central Kitchen will demonstrate a new model for food assistance within US cities. Each organization selected is delivering immediate aid to vulnerable populations most affected by the novel coronavirus.
“Audacious was designed to elevate powerful interventions tackling the world’s most urgent challenges,” said Anna Verghese, Executive Director of The Audacious Project. “In line with that purpose, our philanthropic model was built to flex. In the wake of COVID-19, we’re grateful to be able to funnel rapid support towards Partners in Health, Project ECHO and World Central Kitchen — each spearheading critical work that is actionable now.”
(Photo: Partners in Health/Jon Lasher)
Announcing The Audacious Project’s COVID-19 rapid response cohort
Partners In Health has been a global leader in disease prevention, treatment and care for more than 30 years. With Audacious support over the next year, Partners In Health will disseminate its contact tracing expertise across the US and work with more than 19 public health departments to not only flatten the curve but bend it downward and help stop the spread of COVID-19. They plan to customize and scale their programs through a combination of direct technical assistance and open source sharing of best practices. This effort will reduce the spread of COVID-19 in cities and states home to an estimated 133 million people.
(Photo: Project Echo)
Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) exists to democratize life-saving medical knowledge — linking experts at centralized institutions with regional, local and community-based workforces. With Audacious investment over the next two years, ECHO will scale this proven virtual learning and telementoring model to equip more than 350,000 frontline clinicians and public health workers to respond to COVID-19. Working across Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America, the ECHO team will build a global network of health workers who together can permanently improve health systems and save lives in our world’s most vulnerable communities.
(Photo: World Central Kitchen)
Chef José Andrés‘ World Central Kitchen has provided fresh and nutritious meals to those in need following disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes since 2010. In response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, World Central Kitchen has developed an innovative solution to simultaneously provide fresh meals to those in immediate need and keep small businesses open in the midst of a health and economic crisis. World Central Kitchen will demonstrate this at scale, by expanding to employ 200 local Oakland restaurants (roughly 16 percent of the local restaurant industry) to serve nearly two million meals by the end of July — delivering a powerful proof of concept for a model that could shift food assistance around the world.
The Audacious Coalition
The Audacious Project was formed in partnership with The Bridgespan Group as a springboard for social impact. Using TED’s curatorial expertise to surface ideas, the initiative convenes investors and social entrepreneurs to channel funds towards pressing global issues.
A remarkable group of individuals and organizations have played a key role in facilitating the first edition of this Rapid Response effort. Among them ELMA Philanthropies, Skoll Foundation, Scott Cook and Signe Ostby of the Valhalla Charitable Foundation, Chris Larsen and Lyna Lam, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, The Rick & Nancy Moskovitz Foundation, Stadler Family Charitable Foundation, Inc., Ballmer Group, Mary and Mark Stevens, Crankstart and more.
To learn more about The Audacious Project visit audaciousproject.org/covid-19-response.
Launching on Monday, May 18, TED’s new podcast TEDx SHORTS gives listeners a quick and meaningful taste of curiosity, skepticism, inspiration and action drawn from TEDx Talks. In less than 10 minutes, host Atossa Leoni guides listeners through fresh perspectives, inspiring stories and surprising information from some of the most compelling TEDx Talks.
TEDx events are organized and run by a passionate community of independent volunteers who are at the forefront of giving a platform to global voices and sharing new ideas that spark conversations in their local areas. Since 2009, there have been more than 28,000 independently organized TEDx events in over 170 countries across the world. TEDx organizers have given voice to some of the world’s most recognized speakers, including Brené Brown and Greta Thunberg.
TEDx SHORTS host and actress Atossa Leoni is known for her roles in the award-winning television series Homeland and the film adaptation of The Kite Runner, based on Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel. Atossa is fluent in five languages and is recognized for her work in promoting international human rights and women’s rights.
“Every day, TEDx Talks surface new ideas, research and perspectives from around the world,” says Jay Herratti, Executive Director of TEDx. “With TEDx SHORTS, we’ve curated short excerpts from some of the most thought-provoking and inspiring TEDx Talks so that listeners can discover them in bite-sized episodes.”
Produced by TED in partnership with PRX, TEDx SHORTS is one of TED’s seven original podcasts, which also include The TED Interview, TED Talks Daily, TED en Español, Sincerely, X, WorkLife with Adam Grant and TED Radio Hour. TED’s podcasts are downloaded more than 420 million times annually.
TEDx SHORTS debuts Monday, May 18 on Apple Podcasts or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.
It’s a new, strange, experimental day for TED. In a special Earth Day event, TED2020: The Prequel brought the magic of the TED conference to the virtual stage, inviting TED2020 community members to gather for three sessions of talks and engaging, innovative opportunities to connect. Alongside world-changing ideas from leaders in science, political strategy and environmental activism, attendees also experienced the debut of an interactive, TED-developed second-screen technology that gave them the opportunity to discuss ideas, ask questions of speakers and give real-time (emoji-driven) feedback to the stage. Below, a recap of the day’s inspiring talks, performances and conversations.
The opening session featured thinking on the fragile state of the present — and some hopes for the future.
Larry Brilliant, epidemiologist
Big idea: Global cooperation is the key to ending the novel coronavirus pandemic.
How? In a live conversation with head of TED Chris Anderson, epidemiologist Larry Brilliant reviews the global response to SARS-CoV-2 and reflects on what we can do to end the outbreak. While scientists were able to detect and identify the virus quickly, Brilliant says, political incompetence and fear delayed action. Discussing the deadly combination of a short incubation period with a high transmissibility rate, he explains how social distancing doesn’t stamp out the disease but rather slows its spread, giving us the time needed to execute crucial contact tracing and develop a vaccine. Brilliant shares how scientists are collaborating to speed up the vaccine timeline by running multiple processes (like safety testing and manufacturing) in parallel, rather than in a time-consuming sequential process. And he reminds us that to truly conquer the pandemic, we must work together across national boundaries and political divides. Watch the conversation on TED.com »
Quote of the talk: “This is what a pandemic forces us to realize: we are all in it together, we need a global solution to a global problem. Anything less than that is unthinkable.”
Now is a time “to be together rather than to try to pull the world apart and crawl back into our own nationalistic shells,” says Huang Hung.
Huang Hung, writer, publisher
Big idea: Individual freedom as an abstract concept in a pandemic is meaningless. It’s time for the West to take a step toward the East.
How? By embracing and prizing collective responsibility. In conversation with TED’s head of curation, Helen Walters, writer and publisher Huang Hung discusses how the Chinese people’s inherent trust in their government to fix problems (even when the solutions are disliked) played out with COVID-19, the handling of coronavirus whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang and what, exactly, “wok throwing” is. What seems normal and appropriate to the Chinese, Hung says — things like contact tracing and temperature checks at malls — may seem surprising and unfamiliar to Westerners at first, but these tools can be our best bet to fight a pandemic. What’s most important now is to think about the collective, not the individual. “It is a time to be together rather than to try to pull the world apart and crawl back into our own nationalistic shells,” she says.
Fun fact: There’s a word — 乖, or “guai” — that exists only in Chinese: it means a child who listens to their parents.
Watch Oliver Jeffer’s TED Talk, “An ode to living on Earth,” at go.ted.com/oliverjeffers.
Oliver Jeffers, artist, storyteller
Big idea: In the face of infinite odds, 7.5 billion of us (and counting) find ourselves here, on Earth, and that shared existence is the most important thing we have.
Why? In a poetic effort to introduce life on Earth to someone who’s never been here before, artist Oliver Jeffers wrote his newborn son a letter (which grew into a book, and then a sculpture) full of pearls of wisdom on our shared humanity. Alongside charming, original illustrations, he gives some of his best advice for living on this planet. Jeffers acknowledges that, in the grand scheme of things, we know very little about existence — except that we are experiencing it together. And we should relish that connection. Watch the talk on TED.com »
Quote of the talk: “‘For all we know,’ when said as a statement, means the sum total of all knowledge. But ‘for all we know’ when said another way, means that we do not know at all. This is the beautiful, fragile drama of civilization. We are the actors and spectators of a cosmic play that means the world to us here but means nothing anywhere else.”
Musical interludes from 14-year old prodigy Lydian Nadhaswaram, who shared an energetic, improvised version of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” and musician, singer and songwriter Sierra Hull, who played her song “Beautifully Out of Place.”
Session 2 focused on The Audacious Project, a collaborative funding initiative housed at TED that’s unlocking social impact on a grand scale. The session saw the debut of three 2020 Audacious grantees — Crisis Text Line, The Collins Lab and ACEGID — that are spearheading bold and innovative solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their inspirational work on the front lines is delivering urgent support to help the most vulnerable through this crisis.
Pardis Sabeti and Christian Happi, disease researchers
Big idea: Combining genomics with new information technologies, Sentinel — an early warning system that can detect and respond to emerging viral threats in real-time — aims to radically change how we catch and control outbreaks. With the novel coronavirus pandemic, Sentinel is pivoting to become a frontline responder to COVID-19.
How? From advances in the field of genomics, the team at Sentinel has developed two tools to detect viruses, track outbreaks and watch for mutations. First is Sherlock, a new method to test viruses with simple paper strips — and identify them within hours. The second is Carmen, which enables labs to test hundreds of viruses simultaneously, massively increasing diagnostic ability. By pairing these tools with mobile and cloud-based technologies, Sentinel aims to connect health workers across the world and share critical information to preempt pandemics. As COVID-19 sweeps the globe, the Sentinel team is helping scientists detect the virus quicker and empower health workers to connect and better contain the outbreak. See what you can do for this idea »
Quote of the talk: “The whole idea of Sentinel is that we all stand guard over each other, we all watch. Each one of us is a sentinel.”
Jim Collins, bioengineer
Big idea: AI is our secret weapon against the novel coronavirus.
How? Bioengineer Jim Collins rightly touts the promise and potential of technology as a tool to discover solutions to humanity’s biggest molecular problems. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, his team combined AI with synthetic biology data, seeking to avoid a similar battle that’s on the horizon: superbugs and antibiotic resistance. But in the shadow of the present global crisis, they pivoted these technologies to help defeat the virus. They have made strides in using machine learning to discover new antiviral compounds and develop a hybrid protective mask-diagnostic test. Thanks to funding from The Audacious Project, Collins’s team will develop seven new antibiotics over seven years, with their immediate focus being treatments to help combat bacterial infections that occur alongside SARS-CoV-2. See what you can do for this idea »
Quote of the talk: “Instead of looking for a needle in a haystack, we can use the giant magnet of computing power to find many needles in multiple haystacks simultaneously.”
“This will be strangers helping strangers around the world — like a giant global love machine,” says Crisis Text Line CEO Nancy Lublin, outlining the expansion of the crisis intervention platform.
Nancy Lublin, health activist
Big idea: Crisis Text Line, a free 24-hour service that connects with people via text message, delivers crucial mental health support to those who need it. Now they’re going global.
How? Using mobile technology, machine learning and a large distributed network of volunteers, Crisis Text Line helps people in times of crisis, no matter the situation. Here’s how it works: If you’re in the United States or Canada, you can text HOME to 741741 and connect with a live, trained Crisis Counselor, who will provide confidential help via text message. (Numbers vary for the UK and Ireland; find them here.) The not-for-profit launched in August 2013 and within four months had expanded to all 274 area codes in the US. Over the next two-and-a-half years, they’re committing to providing aid to anyone who needs it not only in English but also in Spanish, Portuguese, French and Arabic — covering 32 percent of the globe. Learn how you can join the movement to spread empathy across the world by becoming a Crisis Counselor. See what you can do for this idea »
Quote of the talk: “This will be strangers helping strangers around the world — like a giant global love machine.”
Music and interludes from Damian Kulash and OK Go, who showed love for frontline pandemic workers with the debut of a special quarantine performance, and David Whyte, who recited his poem “What to Remember When Waking,” inviting us to celebrate that first, hardly-noticed moment when we wake up each day. “What you can plan is too small for you to live,” Whyte says.
The closing session considered ways to restore our planet’s health and work towards a beautiful, clean, carbon-free future.
Watch Tom Rivett-Carnac’s TED Talk, “How to shift your mindset and choose your future,” at go.ted.com/tomrivettcarnac.
Tom Rivett-Carnac, political strategist
Big idea: We need stubborn optimism coupled with action to meet our most formidable challenges.
How: Speaking from the woods outside his home in England, political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac addresses the loss of control and helplessness we may feel as a result of overwhelming threats like climate change. Looking to leaders from history who have blazed the way forward in dark times, he finds that people like Rosa Parks, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi had something in common: stubborn optimism. This mindset, he says, is not naivety or denial but rather a refusal to be defeated. Stubborn optimism, when paired with action, can infuse our efforts with meaning and help us choose the world we want to create. Watch the talk on TED.com »
Quote of the talk: “This stubborn optimism is a form of applied love … and it is a choice for all of us.”
Kristine Tompkins, Earth activist, conservationist
Big idea: Earth, humanity and nature are all interconnected. To restore us all back to health, let’s “rewild” the world.
Why? The disappearance of wildlife from its natural habitat is a problem to be met with action, not nostalgia. Activist and former Patagonia CEO Kristine Tompkins decided she would dedicate the rest of her life to that work. By purchasing privately owned wild habitats, restoring their ecosystems and transforming them into protected national parks, Tompkins shows the transformational power of wildlands philanthropy. She urgently spreads the importance of this kind of “rewilding” work — and shows that we all have a role to play. “The power of the absent can’t help us if it just leads to nostalgia or despair,” she says. “It’s only useful if it motivates us toward working to bring back what’s gone missing.”
Quote of the talk: “Every human life is affected by the actions of every other human life around the globe. And the fate of humanity is tied to the health of the planet. We have a common destiny. We can flourish or we can suffer, but we’re going to be doing it together.”
Music and interludes from Amanda Palmer, who channels her inner Gonzo with a performance of “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday” from The Muppet Movie; Baratunde Thurston, who took a moment to show gratitude for Earth and reflect on the challenge humanity faces in restoring balance to our lives; singer-songwriter Alice Smith, who gives a hauntingly beautiful vocal performance of her original song “The Meaning,” dedicated of Mother Earth; and author Neil Gaiman, reading an excerpt about the fragile beauty that lies at the heart of life.
TED Talks Daily welcomes inaugural host, Elise Hu.
TED Talks Daily, TED’s most-downloaded podcast, welcomes its inaugural host: Elise Hu. After nearly a decade at NPR, Elise’s first episode of TED Talks Daily will be released on April 6. While at NPR, Elise was a regular contributor to All Things Considered and Morning Edition. She filed stories from more than a dozen countries as an international correspondent and opened NPR’s first-ever Seoul bureau. Hu also created the Gracie-award winning video series Elise Tries and helped found The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit digital startup.
“I’m hungry to learn and grow. And now, I get to watch and introduce fresh ideas from the global community of TED speakers … for my job! What a privilege,” says Hu. “During this period of being inside and looking inward I’ve found this opportunity to join the TED team and learn from the vast TED community to be a balm and a salve. I can’t wait to engage further with the worldwide TED audience.”
TED’s podcasts are downloaded more than 420 million times annually. TED Talks Daily, which is downloaded one million times per day, is one of the most downloaded shows, and not just in the US — it’s been featured in Apple Podcasts’ top ten charts in 130 countries around the world (more than any other podcast).
Every weekday, TED Talks Daily features the latest talks in audio. Listeners tune in for thought-provoking talks on every subject imaginable — from artificial intelligence to zoology, and everything in between — given by the world’s leading thinkers and creators. TED Talks Daily aims to inspire listeners to change their perspectives, ignite their curiosity and learn something new. As host, Elise brings an inquiring mind and journalistic background to guide audiences and lay the foundation for each episode.
“TED Talks Daily has long been a favorite way for audiences to engage with TED Talks, so we’re looking forward to adding onto the format,” said Colin Helms, head of media at TED. “What listeners have come to know and love about TED Talks Daily will continue, but with Elise as our host, we can build a richer backdrop for our talks.”
Michelle Quint, editorial director of format development at TED, added: “Elise embodies the very spirit of TED Talks Daily — smart, joyful and deeply curious about the world around her. We feel so lucky to have her at the helm.”
Partners play a crucial role in bringing TED’s content to the public. TED Talks Daily is sponsored by some of the most innovative and interesting organizations in the world today. TED strives to tell their stories in the form of authentic, story-driven content developed in real-time and aligned with our editorial process — finding and exploring brilliant ideas from unlikely places.
New episodes of TED Talks Daily air every weekday and are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the TED Android app or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.
The novel coronavirus has dramatically changed how we spend time and share physical and virtual space with each other. On Friday, March 27, conflict mediator and author Priya Parker joined head of TED Chris Anderson and current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers on TED Connects to discuss what we all can do to stay connected and sustain relationships while apart during the pandemic. Here’s some advice to help you get through this uncertain time:
As platforms like Zoom, Slack and email become more integrated into our lives, it’s clear that technology will play an important role in helping us keep in touch. Whether you’re organizing a Zoom dinner party or Facetiming a friend, Parker invites us to consider how we can elevate the conversation beyond just check-ins. In planning a virtual gathering, ask:
As the pandemic evolves, these needs will likely shift. Stay attuned to the kinds of connections your communities are seeking.
Parker suggests centering your gatherings around themes or activities to encourage more meaningful and purposeful conversations. Incorporate elements of the physical world to create a shared experience, like asking everyone to wear a funny costume or making the same recipe together. Though screens don’t quite replace the energy of in-person gatherings, we can still strengthen community bonds by reminding ourselves that there are real people on the other end of our devices.
As we’re figuring out the best way to exist in the digital world, it’s also crucial we put in the effort to meaningfully connect with those we’re quarantining with. The distinctions between time to work, socialize and rest can grow blurrier by the day, so be sure to set boundaries and ground rules with those you live with. In having this conversation with your roommates, family or partner, reflect on these prompts:
It’s important to acknowledge that this is not a normal time, Parker says. The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the world, and as a global society we’ll experience the reverberations of this period as they ripple across every sector of human life. Make sure to create space for those conversations, too.
Take time to wander through the unknown, to talk about how we are being changed — individually and collectively — by this shared experience. It’s perfectly normal to feel worried, vulnerable, even existential, and this may be a great time to lean into those feelings and think about what really matters to you.
While the coronavirus pandemic has physically isolated many of us from each other, our ingenuity and resilience ensures that we can still build and forge community together. Across the world, people are gathering in new and amazing ways to set up “care-mongering” support groups, sing with their neighbors, take ceramics classes, knit together and break bread.
Now is the time to discover (or rediscover) the value and power of community. We are all members of many different communities: our neighborhoods, families, countries, faith circles and so on. Though we’re living in unprecedented times of social isolation, we can forge stronger bonds by gathering in ways that reflect our best values and principles. In the United Kingdom, a recent campaign asked people across the country to go outside at a synchronized time and collectively applaud health workers on the frontlines of the crisis; a similar effort was made across India to ring bells in honor of the ill and those caring for them. During this crisis and beyond, we can use thoughtful ritual-making to transform our unease and isolation into community bonding.
“Gathering is contagious,” Parker says. “These small, simple ideas allow people to feel like we can shape some amount — even a small amount — of our collective reality together.”
Looking for more tips, advice and wisdom? Watch the full conversation with Priya below:
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s unprecedented impact on education systems worldwide, TED’s award-winning youth and education initiative TED-Ed is focused on providing free, high-quality educational resources to millions of families around the globe. TED-Ed’s existing library of free, video-based lessons has been built by a network of 500,000 educators, spans all ages and subjects and features interactive lesson plans that complement thousands of TED-Ed Animations, TED Talks and other carefully curated educational videos.
By providing a variety of educational resources and engaging learning experiences, our hope is to help students, teachers and families replace feelings of anxiety, isolation, chaos and exhaustion with healthier and more sustainable feelings like curiosity, connectivity, predictability and rejuvenation. Here’s how you can follow along:
Launched last week, TED-Ed@Home is a daily newsletter that’s leveraging the collective expertise of thousands of TED speakers, TED-Ed educators and animators, and TED Translators to provide high-quality, online learning experiences for students, teachers and families everywhere — for free.
To get free daily lesson plans delivered to your inbox — organized by age group and spanning all subjects — sign up for the TED-Ed@Home newsletter. The newsletter features interactive, curiosity-invoking, video-based lessons around subjects commonly taught in school. The lessons are tagged to the appropriate grade levels, and subjects cover the arts, literature, language, math, science, technology and more. Most featured videos will offer translated subtitles in dozens of languages, and each lesson will include interactive questions, discussion prompts and materials to dig deeper. Teachers and parents can use the lessons as-is or easily customize them to meet their learners’ needs.
School closings don’t just keep students away from the classroom; they also keep students away from each other. While it’s critical that young people stay at home right now, it’s equally vital for students to see and hear from other young people — and for them to experience play in safe and meaningful ways.
On Instagram, we’re creating a fun way for students and their families to use their brains and common household items to creatively respond to educational challenges issued by TED speakers throughout the world. Each weekday at 2pm, head over to @tededucation for a brief educational talk and challenge from a new TED speaker. We’ll be handing over our account to TED speakers of all ages, who will use Instagram Stories and Instagram Live to deliver brief educational talks and issue creative, interactive, family-oriented challenges to Instagram users around the world. Viewers can respond using their own Instagram accounts, and TED-Ed will feature the most creative responses on our channel.
(Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)
Now more than ever is the time for community. The global team at TED is working hard to keep you connected, deliver thoughtful news and insights from world leaders, and offer opportunities to volunteer from the safety of your homes. Here’s a recap of the various resources we’re making immediately accessible while many of us are staying home to help stop the coronavirus.
TED is committed to being a reliable source of information with regularly updated talks, interviews and TED-Ed lessons related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The talks are vetted by TED’s curators — experienced journalists from fields including science, business, media and current affairs.
We’re also announcing TED Connects: Community and Hope — a live, daily conversation series with global leaders and experts, hosted by head of TED Chris Anderson and current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers. TED Connects kicks off Monday, March 23 and is free and open to anyone. To participate, bookmark this page and join us daily at 12pm ET and subscribe for reminders.
This week, we’re featuring experts whose ideas can help us reflect and work through this uncertain time with a sense of responsibility, compassion and wisdom. Here’s the lineup:
TED’s award-winning youth and education initiative, TED-Ed, is focused on providing free, high-quality educational resources to families throughout the world. TED-Ed’s existing library of free, video-based lessons has been built by a network of 500,000 educators, spans all ages and subjects and features interactive lesson plans that complement thousands of TED-Ed Animations, TED Talks and other carefully curated educational videos.
You can have these lesson plans delivered to your inbox daily by signing up for TED-Ed@Home — a new, free newsletter designed for families. The TED-Ed@Home newsletter features interactive, video-based lessons created by expert educators and TED speakers, and each lesson is organized by age group and subject.
And another fun thing: feed your curiosity and stay engaged with the TED-Ed Daily Challenge. Join @tededucation on Instagram Live each weekday at 2pm ET, when TED speakers, educators and experts from around the world will share creative, interactive, family-oriented lessons and challenges you can do together at home.
Meaningful conversations create personal connections that collectively strengthen communities. In September 2019, TED launched TED Circles, an open platform of small, volunteer-led groups that engage in conversations about ideas. In light of the physical limitations many communities currently face, TED Circles is a powerful way to continue connecting and engaging (virtually) face-to-face on a variety of topics. With TED Circles, hosts pick a TED Talk, invite people to join and facilitate a constructive conversation. Circles then share their takeaways online so that the group can gain one another’s perspectives and create global connections.
Learn more about joining a virtual Circle around the monthly themes (March: “Who has power”; April: “A changing world”; May: “Life at its fullest”) and/or special programming featured each month. In the spirit of creating space for conversation, Circles can discuss monthly themes or expert ideas to help communities think through this challenging time.
Circles can be hosted by individuals, schools/universities, organizations/businesses, TEDx organizers and TED-Ed clubs. Sign up to become a host.
Speak another — or many — languages? The TED Translators program is a global volunteer network that subtitles TED Talks and allows ideas to cross languages and borders. For those who are multilingual, being a TED Translator is a unique opportunity to have impact from the safety of your living room — while connecting and collaborating with a global community. Learn more about how to become a TED Translator.
In this challenging moment, our global community inspires all of us at TED. We want to be here for you and hope these platforms offer connection, information and even inspiration as we work through this time. We must lean on one another for collective insights, learnings, kindness and compassion — as well as our physical health. We are eager to see you soon, and in the interim we hope these opportunities to connect offer meaningful moments of engagement.
On Monday, March 23, TED kicks off a free, live and daily conversation series, TED Connects: Community and Hope. As COVID-19 continues to sweep the globe, it’s hard to know where to turn or what to think. Hosted by head of TED Chris Anderson and current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers, this new program will feature experts whose ideas can help us reflect and work through this time with a sense of responsibility, compassion and wisdom. Watch our first livestream here on Monday at 12pm ET.
This week, we’ll be joined in conversation with a wide-ranging group of TED speakers. Here’s the lineup:
Psychologist studying emotional agility
How to be your best self in times of crisis
Business leader and philanthropist
The healthcare systems we must urgently fix
CEO of the South China Morning Post
What we can learn from China’s response to the coronavirus
Epidemiologist and head of GAVI, the vaccine alliance
The quest for the coronavirus vaccine
Author, The Art of Gathering
How to create meaningful connections while apart
As people across the world face the coronavirus outbreak, TED is committed to being a resource for information, inspiration and hope. We’ve curated talks, interviews, TED-Ed lessons and more to help provide some perspective during the pandemic. Here’s where to start:
Keep your eye on the homepage — we’re continuing to share new TED Talks every weekday on TED.com.
Update 5/18/20: TED2020 will not be held in Vancouver, BC. Starting May 18, 2020, the conference is being convened as an eight-week virtual experience.
Based on a community-wide decision, TED2020 will move from April 20-24 to July 26-30 — and will still be held in Vancouver, BC.
With the COVID-19 virus spreading across the planet, we’re facing many challenges and uncertainties, which is why we feel passionately that TED2020 matters more than ever. Knowing our original April dates would no longer work, we sought counsel and guidance from our vast community. Amidst our network of artists, entrepreneurs, innovators, creators, scientists and more, we also count experts in health and medicine among our ranks. After vetting all of the options, we offered registered attendees the choice to either postpone the event or hold a virtual version. The majority expressed a preference for a summer TED, so that’s the official plan.
We’ve spent the past year putting together a spectacular program designed to chart the future. Our speakers are extraordinary. You, our beloved community, are also incredible. Somehow, despite the global health crisis, we will use this moment to share insights, spark action and host meaningful discussions of the ideas that matter most in the world.
As head of TED Chris Anderson noted in his letter to attendees: “Our north star in making decisions has been your health and safety. This is a moment when community matters like never before. I believe passionately in the power, wisdom and collective spirit of this community. We’re stronger together.”
Organizational psychologist, best-selling author and TED speaker Adam Grant returns Tuesday, March 10 with Season 3 of WorkLife with Adam Grant, a TED original podcast series that takes you inside the minds of some of the world’s most interesting professionals to explore the science of making work not suck. Listen to Seasons 1 and 2 now.
On the heels of Season 2, which reached millions of people and was a regular feature on the New York Times Smarter Living blog, Season 3 promises to continue bringing Adam’s unique observations to life. The upcoming season features eight new episodes plus a bonus live-recorded episode spanning timely work-related topics like the burnout myth, why we procrastinate, loneliness at work, whether professional decline is inevitable, the perils of authenticity, redesigning the interview and more. Special guests will include author Margaret Atwood, psychotherapist and author Esther Perel and restaurateur David Chang.
“It might be surprising, but I’ve actually had fun exploring some of the experiences that make work suck most — like procrastinating, being lonely and burning out,” Adam says. “WorkLife Season 3 probably won’t eradicate those ills, but we’re going to shed light on the causes and some of the cures with bold ideas, fiery debates and fresh evidence.”
Want to learn more about how you can apply Adam’s tips to your own work life? Look out for the WorkLife Podcast Club, Adam’s weekly newsletter on LinkedIn where he’ll share excerpts from the show and pose questions for discussion.
Produced by TED and Transmitter Media, WorkLife is one of TED’s six original podcasts, which also include The TED Interview, TED Talks Daily, TED en Español, Sincerely, X and TED Radio Hour. Stay tuned for more podcasts from TED later this year. You can also check out Adam’s TED Talks — “Are you a giver or a taker?” and “The surprising habits of original thinkers” — which have together been viewed more than 22 million times.
TED strives to tell partner stories in the form of authentic, story-driven content developed in real-time and aligned with the editorial process — finding and exploring brilliant ideas from all over the world. The third season of WorkLife with Adam Grant is made possible with the support of Accenture, BetterUp, Hilton and SAP. New 30-minute episodes air weekly on Tuesdays and are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the TED Android app or wherever you listen to podcasts.
WorkLife with Adam Grant Season 3
TEDWomen 2019 explored topics ranging from immigration to climate change, from menopause to sexism and beyond. To interweave dazzling talks and introduce sessions, curators CC Hutten and Jonathan Wells handpicked a series of short videos that complemented the themes and narratives that ran throughout the conference. Their selections highlighted the ideas shared, offered viewers a fresh perspective or provided levity and humor following a somber moment. But what these videos all had in common? Top notch art.
Enjoy the 17 short films presented at TEDWomen 2019, curated to embolden and invite brilliance even in the darkest of times.
The short: “Strength.” A meditation on the wonders and power of the female body and mind.
The creators: Hedvig Ahlberg and Agathe Barbier
Shown during: Session 1, Truth Tellers
The short: “Still I Rise.” What do you get when you mix Maya Angelou reciting her poem “Still I Rise” with a message raising awareness of rural women’s fight to end global hunger? A lasting message of hope.
The creator: United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development
Shown during: Session 1, Truth Tellers
The short: “Wide Awake.” An entrancing animated story about chasing something until it consumes you. TED worked with Wendy McNaughton and her global database of female illustrators, Women Who Draw, to showcase artist Min Liu and display the impact of inclusiveness in art.
The creator: Min Liu
Shown during: Session 2, Pattern Makers
The short: “Procrastinators.” The perfectionist, cleaner, foodie, napper, avoider, worrier, five-minute liar or “oh sh*t” — which one are you? We hope you get around to figuring it out …
The creator: Nas Alhusain
Shown during: Session 2, Pattern Makers
The short: “ANIMALIA.” Set to funky music, this film will make you want to write Valentine’s Cards to all the animals at the zoo.
The creator: MINDFRUIT
Shown during: Session 3, Planet Protectors
The short: “Maestro.” Once upon a time, in an enchanted forest under the light of a full moon, a bird begins to sing opera, which inspires squirrel to conduct its fellow woodland creatures in a passionate symphonic performance.
The creator: Bloom Pictures
Shown during: Session 3, Planet Protectors
The short: “The Last of the Korean Mermaids.” Can you imagine diving 50 feet in a single breath to the ocean floor? Follow an elderly Haenyeo who has dedicated her life to the centuries-old Korean tradition of diving that will likely end with her generation.
The creator: Borderland
Shown during: Session 3, Planet Protectors
The short: “Da Da Ding.” A celebration of Indian female athletes and a rallying cry to urge the next generation to continue breaking conventions through sports.
The creator: François Rousselet
Shown during: Session 4, Taboo Breakers
The short: “Plaisir Sucré.” A man comes face-to-face with his circular nemesis: a pink-frosted donut.
The creator: MegaComputeur
Shown during: Session 4, Taboo Breakers
The short: “I Dare You.” A four-piece female-fronted punk rock band bops around in an ethereal set, wearing color-blocked outfits.
The creator: The Regrettes
Shown during: Session 5, Meaning Seekers
The short: “Never Standing Still.” Neon-clad ballet dancers perform choreographed dance around Hong Kong to a remix of Maurice Ravel’s “Boléro.”
The creator: Dean Alexander
Shown during: Session 5, Meaning Seekers
The short: “Robot & The Robots.” Personality-filled pastel robots play themselves!
The creator: Ricard Badia
Shown during: Session 5, Meaning Seekers
The short: “The Opposites Game.” A classroom erupts into a war of words as students grapple with a seemingly simple prompt: what is the opposite of a gun?
The creator: TED-Ed
Shown during: Session 5, Meaning Seekers
The short: “Back in Pocket.” An adorable boy and girl dance in their neighborhood and playground.
The creator: TED-Ed
Shown during: Session 6, Wayfinders
The short: “Dumpling Time!!” A heartwarming animation about a cat and dog sharing dumplings and making sure the other is happy.
The creator: A day of us
Shown during: Session 6, Wayfinders
The short: “Katelyn Ohashi.” Gymnast Katelyn Ohashi’s viral floor routine in Anaheim is a perfect ten.
The creator: UCLA Athletics
Shown during: Session 6, Wayfinders
The short: “#SingItKitty.” A girl and her kitten lip-synch Starship’s “We Built This City” while pedaling a pink tricycle through a suburban cul-de-sac.
The creator: Three UK
Shown during: Session 6, Wayfinders
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