As we usher out 2020 — the (enter superlative of your choice) year — let’s take a moment to look back before we close the door for good. What captured our imaginations, reflected our emotions and sparked our hope for a better tomorrow? From the wisdom of Dolly Parton to the life-saving potential of snail venom to the transformative work of antiracism, here are some of the TED Talks that stayed with us as the world shifted beneath our feet.
Why do people distrust vaccines? Anthropologist Heidi Larson describes how medical rumors originate, spread and fuel resistance to vaccines worldwide.
Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad gives a captivating talk on truth, difference, storytelling — and Dolly Parton.
A more equal world starts with you. Yes, it’s that simple, says equity advocate Nita Mosby Tyler.
Housewife-turned-politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya shares a beautiful meditation on the link between fearlessness and freedom.
Backed by the real, often-untold story of Rosa Parks, professor David Ikard makes a compelling case for the power and importance of historical accuracy.
Racism makes our economy worse — and not just for people of color. Public policy expert Heather C. McGhee offers a crucial rethink on how we can create a more prosperous world for all.
In a talk that’s part cultural love letter, part history lesson, France Villarta details the legacy of gender fluidity in his native Philippines — and emphasizes the universal beauty of all people, regardless of society’s labels.
For the poor and vulnerable, the health impacts of climate change are already here. Physician Cheryl Holder calls on doctors, politicians and others to build a health care system that incorporates economic and social justice.
Venom can kill … or it can cure. A fascinating talk from marine chemical biologist Mandë Holford on the potential of animal venom to treat human diseases.
Why has there been so little mention of saving Black lives from the climate emergency? David Lammy, a Member of Parliament for Tottenham, England, talks about the link between climate justice and racial justice.
“It shouldn’t be an act of feminism to know how your body works,” says gynecologist and author Jen Gunter. The era of menstrual taboos is over.
Scientists predict climate change will displace more than 180 million people by 2100. Disaster recovery lawyer Colette Pichon Battle lays out how to prepare for this looming crisis of “climate migration.”
In a talk brimming with original illustrations and animations, visual artist Oliver Jeffers offers observations on the “beautiful, fragile drama of human civilization.”
Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, calls on us all to rise to our greatest challenge ever: the “Earthshots,” a set of ambitious objectives to repair the planet.
If you: do laundry, are (or have been) pregnant, shop for your household or do similar labor, then by GDP standards, you’re unproductive. Economist Marilyn Waring explains her vision for a better way to measure growth.
The fossil fuel industry is waiting for someone else to pay for climate change. Climate science scholar Myles Allen shares a bold plan for the oil and gas companies responsible for the climate crisis to clean up the mess they made — and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Just like the rest of 2020, the aftermath of the US presidential election was unprecedented. Learn why the concession speech is one of the most important safeguards for democracy in this prescient talk from lawyer and political commentator Van Jones.
The way we’ve been doing business is hurting us and the environment. What’s the fix? Economist Rebecca Henderson calls for a reimagined capitalism where companies pay for the climate damage they cause.
Author and historian Ibram X. Kendi explains how the concept of antiracism can help you actively uproot injustice and inequality in the world — and replace it with love.
A stunning talk and performance from theater artist Daniel Alexander Jones on how coming undone can be the first step toward transformation.
How do we eradicate racial bias? Psychologist Jennifer L. Eberhardt explores how interrupting and adding friction to our thought processes could address the unfair targeting Black people face at all levels of society.
“Complete silence is very addictive,” says Rebecca Knill, a writer who has cochlear implants that enable her to hear. With humor and charm, she explores the evolution of assistive listening technology — and how we could build a more inclusive world.
Starbucks COO Rosalind G. Brewer invites business leaders to rethink what it takes to create a truly inclusive workplace — and lays out how to bring real, grassroots change to boardrooms and communities alike.
It takes more than rhetoric or elegance to win a dispute. US Supreme Court litigator Neal Katyal shares stories of some of his most impactful cases — and the key to crafting a persuasive and successful argument in (and out of) court.
Get the inside story behind Thomas Crowther’s headline-making research on reforestation — and the platform he created to help restore the biodiversity of Earth, everywhere.
TED will launch a new original podcast — How to Be a Better Human — on January 11. Most of us want to be better, but we’re not sure where to begin. Hosted by comedian and television writer Chris Duffy, How to Be a Better Human isn’t your typical self-improvement podcast. Each week, Chris will talk to guests and past TED speakers who will offer actionable insights on how to be a little less terrible.
On the heels of a year that has prompted global reflection, How to Be a Better Human encourages us to take a look within and beyond ourselves. From your work to your home — and your head to your heart — the podcast looks in unexpected places for new ways to improve and show up for one another. Inspired by the popular series of the same name on TED’s Ideas blog, How to Be a Better Human will help you become a better person from the comfort of your own headphones. Upcoming episodes will feature psychologist Guy Winch, film and television producer Franklin Leonard, sociologist Robb Willer, resilience expert and researcher Lucy Hone, comedian Aparna Nancherla, climate activist Luisa Neubauer and more.
“Like a lot of people, I want to improve myself but I often get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of advice out there,” says Chris Duffy. “So what do the smartest people in the world do? What practical steps do they take every day to make themselves better people? And how can I do it, too? Luckily, TED is letting me force their speakers to tell me their secrets and advice. And I am sharing it all with you.”
Produced by TED in partnership with PRX, How to Be a Better Human is one of TED’s ten 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.
A writer for Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas on HBO, Chris Duffy is also the creator and host of the comedic science podcast You’re the Expert. His writing has been featured in The New Yorker, the Boston Globe, National Geographic Glimpse and elsewhere. In a previous life, he was a fifth-grade teacher. And prior to that, he was a fifth-grade student.
How to Be a Better Human launches January 11. New 30-minute episodes air weekly on Mondays and are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and wherever you like to listen to podcasts.
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How do we ensure that tomorrow is better than today, not just for ourselves but also for future generations and the entire planet? Fairness is ultimately the central challenge of sustainable development — development that benefits all, without harming or leaving any behind. At TED Salon: Fairness and Our Future — a virtual program presented in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and hosted by TED curator, writer and activist Sally Kohn and Special Advisor, Strategic Planning & Innovation, UNDP Joseph D’Cruz — four speakers explored the intersection of development and fairness, asking us all to imagine what truly shared prosperity and possibility looks like.
The talks in brief:
“We evolved to care about fairness because we rely on each other for a cooperative society,” says primatologist Sarah Brosnan. She speaks at TED Salon: Fairness and Our Future, in partnership with the UNDP, on December 9, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Sarah Brosnan, primatologist
Big idea: The value of fairness transcends species. Much like capuchin monkeys, humans evolved to care about equality because society is fortified by cooperation — and we all do better when everybody plays fair.
Why? In her time studying and interacting with capuchin monkeys, Sarah Brosnan and her graduate adviser, Frans de Waal, performed a simple study: they sat two monkeys, Lance and Winter, side by side, and gave them rewards in exchange for tokens. Lance traded tokens for cucumbers and Winter traded for grapes. In the hierarchy of monkey preferences, a grape is a better reward than a cucumber — but still, Lance was happy with her trade until she saw Winter start receiving grapes instead of cucumbers. After observing that Winter’s trade deal was different from her own — and feeling a sense of unfairness — Lance began to throw her cucumbers away. A similar pattern of behavior can be observed in humans, too, whether it’s a child getting a smaller piece of cake than her sibling or an employee making less money than his coworkers. Amazingly, across primates the same holds true for the opposite situation: we also care when we get more than others for doing the same task. Why? Because humans are interconnected and interdependent, and we recognize the importance of cooperative partnerships where everybody gets their fair share. Without cooperation, the whole system falls apart, Brosnan says. This evolutionary pull towards fairness extends far beyond the lab and underpins our fight for racial justice and equitable access to resources. The issues humans face are far more complex than cucumbers and grapes, but if capuchin monkeys can teach us anything, it’s that we evolved to care about fairness — and we rely on each other to prosper.
“Inequality must be seen as the global epidemic that it is,” says tech inclusionist ‘Gbenga Sesan. He speaks at TED Salon: Fairness and Our Future, in partnership with the UNDP, on December 9, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
‘Gbenga Sesan, tech inclusionist
Big idea: We must eradicate inequality by giving everybody fair access to technology.
How? Centuries of inequality can’t simply be solved with gadgets — we need to supply training and resources that fully level the playing field, says ‘Gbenga Sesan. That’s why he started the Paradigm Initiative, to help those in his native Nigeria learn how to use technology in a way that sustains their hopes and dreams and ultimately leads to greater development for the entire African continent. In creating systemic solutions for tackling the inequality that 40 percent of the world experiences, Sesan seeks to create lasting fairness for all by offering the opportunities, support and equal advantages for the next generations to succeed.
“Desperate times can lead to beautiful, strategic and innovative solutions,” says climate justice leader Angela Mahecha Adrar. She speaks at TED Salon: Fairness and Our Future, in partnership with the UNDP, on December 9, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Angela Mahecha Adrar, climate justice leader
Big idea: Corporations and big business helped create the climate crisis — but frontline communities are leading the world to clean, innovative and just climate solutions.
How? All over the world, low income and BIPOC people disproportionately live in so-called “sacrifice zones”: urban areas polluted and poisoned by industry and corporate greed. These frontline communities bear the brunt of disastrous environmental changes they did not cause. Since economic and racial injustice helped create climate change, climate solutions must include economic and racial justice, says Angela Mahecha Adrar. She believes frontline communities are the key to developing innovative, effective solutions that deliver climate justice. For example, Cooperativa Tierra y Libertad, a local farm co-op in Washington State, is breaking into the United States’s multibillion-dollar berry business. The co-op renews land, pays its workers $15 an hour and has plans to create energy-efficient worker housing and community spaces. Like Tierra y Libertad, frontline communities across the globe are standing up to big business by creating climate solutions tailored to their neighborhood’s needs.
“Our challenge is to come together to preserve our collective self-interest and humanity, rather than tearing ourselves asunder,” says sustainability champion Achim Steiner. He speaks at TED Salon: Fairness and Our Future, in partnership with the UNDP, on December 9, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Achim Steiner, sustainability champion
Big idea: The dominant risk to humanity’s survival is … humanity itself. But across the world, people are choosing to do things differently and writing a new, sustainable and equitable chapter for people and the planet.
How? Achim Steiner, head of the UNDP, traces the origins of the United Nations back to the effort to build peace out of the ashes of World War II. Now, he says, another kind of war is brewing — one we’re waging against ourselves. In the current geological age of the Anthropocene, humans have the unprecedented power to shape the planet — for better or worse. We’ve achieved great things (like eradicating smallpox), but we’ve also taken humankind and many other species to the brink, a reality reinforced by the coronavirus pandemic. In order to survive and prosper, we must choose to do things differently. So what’s the path forward? Steiner takes us on a global tour of individuals and societies that are building a better future. For example, Costa Rica abolished its army in order to redirect military spending to education, health and the environment (including paying people to regenerate forests); Denmark has committed to producing all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050; and Bhutan measures its progress based on gross national happiness, rather than GDP. These are but a few examples of people working to put the planet back in balance. Though we are different, Steiner says, we must choose to be united in building lasting, sustainable peace.
Achim Steiner speaks at TEDSalon UNDP, December 9, 2020. Photo courtesy of TED.
A mysterious experiment was launched today, supervised by a group of individuals at TED with input from social scientists. It invites members of the public from seven different countries, recruited on Twitter, to apply to take part in what is described as an “exciting, surprising, somewhat time-consuming, but possibly life-changing” experiment. However, the full purpose of the experiment can’t yet be disclosed. And the wording of the launch on Twitter yields few clues.
1/5 OK, this is big. I’m recruiting people to participate in a one-of-its-kind social experiment. It will be exciting, surprising, somewhat time-consuming, possibly stressful, but possibly also life-changing. #MysteryExperiment pic.twitter.com/YUDVknM5Mc
— Chris Anderson (@TEDchris) December 7, 2020
TED Curator Chris Anderson commented, “We love working with social psychologists, and the idea behind this experiment is genuinely intriguing. We hope lots of people apply. Hopefully we can reveal a little more early in the new year.”
Residents of the following countries are eligible to participate: USA, Indonesia, Kenya, Brazil, UK, Australia, Canada.
Have a great idea? Apply for the chance to give a TED Talk, either virtually or in person, and join past TED speakers like environmental activist Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, pictured above at TEDWomen 2019. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)
Do you have a TED Talk to share with the world? TED is hosting two global idea searches in 2021 with a mission: to hear big, bold ideas from every corner of the globe! We’re looking for people who can offer new, unique insights and fresh ways of thinking to a very large audience.
Applications for the first 2021 Global Idea Search are now open. You’ll be required to create a two-minute video as a part of your submission, and the deadline for this round is January 31, 2021 (11:59pm ET).
Applicants who are selected for round two will be invited to a virtual event where they’ll talk more about their idea and participate in a Q&A with members of the TED community.
Winners will be invited to give a TED Talk, either virtually or in person.
Not ready to apply yet? That’s OK — the second global idea search of 2021 will open in June.
In the meantime, check out just a selection of speakers who were discovered during past idea searches:
Adie Delaney: An aerialist on listening to your body’s signals (444k views)
Adeola Fayehun: Africa is a sleeping giant — I’m trying to wake it up (1.5 million views)
Ariel Waldman: The invisible life hidden beneath Antarctica’s ice (1.1m views)
Elizabeth “Zibi” Turtle: What Saturn’s most mysterious moon could teach us about the origins of life (1.3m views)
Tamekia MizLadi Smith: How to train employees to have difficult conversations (2m views)
Zak Ebrahim: I am the son of a terrorist. Here’s how I chose peace (6.4m views and a TED Book)
Richard Turere: My invention that made peace with the lions (2.6m views)
Almost overnight, 2020 changed the way we work. Businesses and governments moved online, parents everywhere worked from kitchen tables alongside their kids, and essential frontline workers showed true heroism in the course of their everyday jobs. In TED’s third season of The Way We Work, business leaders and thinkers advise on how to navigate the shifting sands of work these days — whether brought on by the pandemic or not.
This eight-episode series offers practical wisdom on how to bring your best self to work, online or in-person. Each brief episode gets straight to the point, whether you’re feeling burnt out from remote work, trying to support your busy partner, hoping to nail your next interview or find the best candidate, or planning to grow your freelance business and better manage your team during a crisis. This series is made possible with the support of Dropbox.
Feeling burnout from working remotely? Here’s what you can do:
Tips to up your freelance game:
A cheat sheet on being a leader right now:
What interviewers really care about:
The hiring process needs a makeover. Here’s how:
It’s possible to have a great career and a great relationship:
Inclusive leadership means really listening to junior staff:
Need to have a personal conversation at work? Here’s how:
Ricardo Vargas, executive director of Brightline Initiative, welcomes the audience to TEDSalon: Transformation — a virtual event featuring talks on the future of business, society and the planet. (Photo courtesy of TED)
The world is in a state of flux. Humanity is undertaking aggressive climate action, technology is rapidly evolving and the very nature of human connection is being reconfigured. At every corner of the globe, people are shaking up the old and plotting to revolutionize in big, bold ways. At this salon hosted on TED’s virtual event platform, four speakers and a performer explored how transformation will define and change the future of business, society and the planet.
The event: TED Salon: Transformation, a virtual gathering hosted by TED technology curator Simone Ross and senior curator Cyndi Stivers, presented in partnership with Brightline Initiative, with opening remarks from Brightline Initiative executive director Ricardo Vargas.
Singer-songwriter Falana performs her version of “soul fusion” at TEDSalon: Transformation, in partnership with Brightline Initiative, on November 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Music: Singer-songwriter Falana, who splits her time between Lagos, Toronto and London, performs “Send Down the Rain” from within the auditorium of the Alliance Française of Lagos — a “soul fusion” of jazz, afro beat and R&B.
The talks in brief:
“Maps are a form of storytelling,” says photographer Tawanda Kanhema. He speaks at TEDSalon: Transformation, in partnership with Brightline Initiative, on November 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Tawanda Kanhema, photographer, digital strategist
Big idea: Huge swaths of the African continent are unmapped by the apps we take for granted in the West. This might mean you can’t zoom in on a specific address in Zimbabwe — but it might also mean that it’s difficult to deliver food or vaccines to unmapped areas sorely in need of them. Is it possible to get these communities on the map and ramp up the digital representation of Africa?
How? Tawanda Kanhema began his journey to build maps by combining existing software and data, mounting a hi-res camera on his car, a helicopter and his own body in order to photograph communities missing from digital maps. But one person can only do so much, and many places remain invisible. Kanhema shows how we can leverage existing tech to illuminate every corner of the land.
From “smart dust” to DNA-collecting swabs, journalist Sharon Weinberger takes us inside the massive (and unregulated) world of surveillance tech. She speaks at TEDSalon: Transformation, in partnership with Brightline Initiative, on November 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Sharon Weinberger, journalist, author
Big idea: The growing, multibillion-dollar market for surveillance technologies is largely unregulated. Sharon Weinberger believes it should be regulated — and that surveillance tools should be classified as a weapon.
How? Weinberger leads her talk with a chilling story of a colleague who travelled the world selling governments technological tools to spy on people, like a “caller ID” that can identify and locate people by voiceprint no matter what phone they’re using. From “smart dust” — micro-tracking devices the size of specks of dust — to surreptitious DNA-collecting swabs, everyone from governments to hacking companies are getting in on the trade of these surveillance tools. To curb this burgeoning marketplace, Weinberger proposes that we recognize data mining and surveillance tools as the weapons they are.
What does innovation really mean? And are all ideas good? Author and entrepreneur Alex Osterwalder offers some answers at TEDSalon: Transformation, in partnership with Brightline Initiative, on November 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Alex Osterwalder, author, entrepreneur
Big idea: We might be intimidated by the biographies of amazing entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but each one of those narratives holds something we can use to enrich our own success stories. Alex Osterwalder shows us a cunningly designed business model that could help us all become disruptors, even if we don’t have the technical know-how to become inventors.
How? Osterwalder introduces the Business Model Canvas, a visual tool that helps would-be entrepreneurs find and communicate with their customers, identify assets and partners and figure out how much their idea is going to cost (and potentially earn). And while the entrepreneurial path is full of risks, Osterwalder’s model can help minimize potential pitfalls and enable pivoting at a product’s earliest stages — and scaling when it’s exactly the right time. “Innovation, entrepreneurship and disruption is not about the creative genius,” he says. “It’s increasingly a profession, a discipline that you can learn.”
Geographic information systems pioneer Jack Dangermond shares the vision behind a Geospatial Nervous System, in conversation with TED technology curator Simone Ross. They speak at TEDSalon: Transformation, in partnership with Brightline Initiative, on November 18, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Jack Dangermond, geographic information systems pioneer, in conversation with TED technology curator Simone Ross
Big idea: Since the dawn of civilization, humans have visualized solutions to problems in much the same way we look at maps, spreading arrays of information on top of each other and discovering new connections between the layers. In the digital age, geographic information systems (GIS) help decision-makers map complex data on a macro scale, facilitating delivery of everything from retail products (like Starbucks finding exactly the right corner to build on) to disease control (think of linking cancer outbreaks to environmental hazards like pollution). Call it a “Geospatial Nervous System.”
How? Jack Dangermond is the founder of Esri, the world’s dominant GIS company. Starting with work on digitizing maps at the dawn of the tech era, it now builds large-scale tools that tie resources from across the globe together to help its users find and understand hidden connections between data points. Its clients range from NGOs to large corporations, but most of its users are in the public sector, and literally “running the world.” It’s Dangermond’s dream to build a web-based, Geospatial Nervous System to help us use tech to improve a world stricken by natural crises like the coronavirus pandemic — with even bigger crises like climate change looming close behind.
For the culminating session of TEDWomen 2020, we looked in one direction: onward! Hosted by TEDWomen curator Pat Mitchell and TEDx learning specialist Bianca DeJesus, the final session featured speakers and performers who shared wisdom on preparing for new challenges, turning fear into action and finding the way forward — even when the path isn’t clear.
Special appearance: Kirsty de Garis, organizer of TEDxSydney, and Safra Anver, organizer of TEDxColombo, introduced the final two TEDx speakers of the day.
The session in brief:
Gloria Steinem, feminist activist, writer
Big idea: Feminism is the radical yet essential idea that all human beings are equal. Now more than ever, unity and listening are the remedies to fear, discrimination and inequality.
Why? Feminism has been and always will be relevant and vital to all of humanity, says Gloria Steinem. Yet throughout history, the word — and its accompanying movement — have been misunderstood and criticized. Speaking on her lifelong legacy of feminist activism, Steinem shares how she’s fought for women’s rights and overcome her fears with the help of trusted friends and allies. She discusses the intersectionality of racism and sexism and how the fight against both has always been linked — and explains why unity is the key to overcoming them, especially in a world facing COVID-19. She urges future generations of women — or, as she calls them, “friends who haven’t been born yet” — to support each other and face their fears together. “Think of change as a tree,” she says. “You know it doesn’t grow from the top down, so we shouldn’t be waiting for somebody to tell us what to do. It grows from the bottom up. And we are the roots of change.”
“AI is making amazing things possible for organizations and for people who otherwise would have been left behind,” says Jamila Gordon. She speaks at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Jamila Gordon, AI advocate
Big idea: Artificial intelligence can break language, education and location barriers for disadvantaged people, giving them the opportunity to thrive.
How? Born into a war-torn Somalia, Jamila Gordon has always considered herself to be lucky. When her family was separated and she was displaced in Kenya, Gordon’s journey eventually took her to Australia. There, she worked in a Japanese restaurant owned by a couple who showed her that amazing things are possible through hard work and perseverance. Now, she wants AI to do the same, at a massive scale, for disadvantaged people — giving them skills and tools to find work, be great at their jobs and do the work safely. In this way, Gordon believes software can open doors of opportunity for people who face cultural, social and economic barriers. For instance, Gordon’s platform, Lumachain, brings transparency to global supply chains, benefiting producers, enterprises and consumers, while also helping to end modern slavery.
“There’s joy in being a leader, in having the opportunity to put your values into action,” says Julia Gillard, in conversation with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Big idea: The sexism that women leaders face shouldn’t overshadow or discourage others from stepping forward and making a positive impact.
Why? In conversation, Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala remark and reflect on their experiences in leadership — for better and worse. Their discussion runs the gamut of what it means to be a powerful woman in a sexist world: encountering unnecessary judgments based on appearance, enduring undue focus on personality over policy and facing criticism based solely on stereotypes. To be viewed as an acceptable leader, women must exude both strength and empathy, Okonjo-Iweala says. If they come across as too tough, they are viewed as hard and unlikeable. But if they seem too soft, they are seen to be lacking the backbone to lead. In fact, women leaders must also be thoughtful about how they portray their achievements to those who look up to and follow them. Emphasizing the positive makes a real difference to the power of role modeling, Gillard says. If the focus stays on the sexist and negative experiences, women may decide that being a leader isn’t for them. Conversely, if leaders shy away from speaking about their hardships, women and girls can be put off because they decide leadership is only for superwomen who never have any problems. It’s all about balance. For women looking to create space for themselves and others, Gillard and Okonjo-Iweala offer a list of six standout lessons to build solidarity: there’s no “right way” to be a woman leader, so be true to yourself; sit down with your trusted confidants and wargame how to deal with gendered moments; debunk gendered stereotypes; don’t wait for when you need help to support system changes that aid gender equality; network, but don’t shy away from taking up space in the world; and the last, but not least important: go for it!
Kesha delivers a powerful performance of “Shadow” at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Kesha, musician, actress, activist
“I can’t tell you how to not be afraid, but I can tell you that I’ve experienced how to not be defined by my fears,” says Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Kesha. She shares a bit about how she faced her fears while living in the limelight over the last decade and delivers a powerful performance of “Shadow,” a song about courageously choosing positivity even when others are throwing shade. “Get your shadow outta my sunshine / Outta my blue skies / Outta my good times,” she sings. She’s accompanied by Mary Lattimore on harp, Karina DePiano on piano, and Skyler Stonestreet and Kenna Ramsey on background vocals.
JayaShri Maathaa shares a magical mantra to calm yourself during troubled times. She speaks at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
JayaShri Maathaa, monk
Big idea: There is a simple mantra you can say to calm yourself during troubled times: “Thank you.”
Why? As the world brims with fear, doubt and anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic, JayaShri Maathaa finds that two magical words — “thank you” — fill her life with bliss and grace. How so? When you say “thank you,” you bring your attention inward and, over time, create a feeling of gratitude in your heart that can help you navigate life with peace and joy. For Maathaa, these two words are like music in her mind: they’re the first thing she thinks upon awakening, and the last thing she thinks before falling asleep. By planting these good thoughts in her mind and heart over the years, she now finds them blossoming into something beautiful — creating a harmony within herself and to the world around her. Want to give it a try?
Megan McArthur shares lessons from her life and career as a NASA astronaut, in conversation with TEDWomen curator Pat Mitchell at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Megan McArthur, NASA astronaut
Big idea: The day, life and mindset of an astronaut.
Tell us more: In conversation with TEDWomen curator Pat Mitchell, astronaut Megan McArthur offers a glimpse into what it’s like when space becomes your world, but not your entire life. As a mother and wife (she’s married to fellow astronaut Bob Behnken), McArthur strikes a balance between the emotional outpouring of her husband’s spaceflight and training for her own launch, while supporting their son for his reality as an earthbound child. But when it comes to work, the focus becomes singular in hundreds of hours of preparation, which MaArthur emphasizes can be a mindset easily adjusted and applied to any professional role. Using her own example of tackling a new job, she reminds women that even if they come up against a situation they’ve never before encountered, they are ready and prepared from their life experience to take on that challenge, learn quickly and succeed.
Closing out the final session with a flourish, a guitarist sets in motion delicate yet strident chords that reflect both the warmth and momentum of Apiorkor Seyiram Ashong-Abbey‘s poetry — paired with footage of her masked, standing statuesque in a deserted quarantine courtyard, motionless yet liquid all at once. Far from a mere diatribe, this piece proposes not a revolution, but a re-establishment of the majesty, magic and power of the matriarch, and the hidden traditions that have quietly sustained women for millenia — and that will someday soon renew the world once more.
Kesha performs at TEDWomen 2020. November 12, 2020. Photo courtesy of TED.
Diversity of ideas is more important now than ever. Session 2 of TEDWomen 2020 — hosted by poet Aja Monet, who gave a dazzling talk at TEDWomen 2018 — featured a dynamic range of talks and performances from some of the world’s most extraordinary risk-takers and innovators.
Singer-songwriter Madison McFerrin performs “TRY” at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Music: From the stoop of her brownstone, singer-songwriter Madison McFerrin performs “TRY” — a synth-infused invitation to be your best self.
Special appearances: Mercy Akamo, organizer of TEDxLagos, and Keita Demming, organizer of TEDxPortofSpain, introduce this session’s TEDx speakers, part of a global collaboration between the TEDWomen team and an incredible group of TEDx organizers.
The session in brief:
Adie Delaney talks about the importance of broadening our definition of consent at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Adie Delaney, circus performer and sexual harm prevention educator
Big idea: We need to broaden our definition of consent: it is not a box to check off but an active dialogue that centers trust, communication and care.
How? In her role as a circus instructor, Adie Delaney teaches students how to listen to and trust their bodies, and how to communicate when they’re no longer comfortable. She quickly realized that she wasn’t just teaching children how to balance on a trapeze — she was also passing along vital lessons on consent. In addition to her circus career, Delaney works with teenagers on sexual harm prevention, helping them better understand how to practice consent. It’s vital that we integrate asking for and giving consent into our daily lives, whether or not it’s in an intimate setting, Delaney says. Whenever we are interacting with the bodies of others, we need to be sure everyone involved is safe and comfortable. By ensuring young people have the framework and language to clearly communicate their needs around their bodies, we can help them better care for themselves and each other.
Kemi DaSilva-Ibru discusses an effort to mobilize first responders to help people facing domestic violence during the pandemic. She speaks at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Kemi DaSilva-Ibru, obstetrician and gynecologist
Big idea: Everybody has the right to live in a society free from gender-based violence — and communities can help.
How? The mandatory lockdowns, quarantines and shelter-in-place orders that have confined people to their homes since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis have placed some in another unsafe situation, prompting a shadow pandemic of domestic abuse worldwide. In Nigeria, the situation prompted the federal government to declare a state of emergency on rape. Dr. Kemi DaSilva-Ibru, founder of the Women at Risk International Foundation, which assists Nigerians facing gender-based violence, speaks from her home in Lagos on how the country is responding to this second crisis. More than 1,000 basic health care providers who service remote areas are being retrained as first responders to help in domestic violence situations, she says. These community-based men and women perform house visits, allowing people to share their stories and receive the medical care and support they need. To reach even more people, the program will soon train local police and religious leaders who have close ties to the community, providing even more accessible help and resources.
“We all play a part in treating people well regardless of biases,” says defense attorney Kylar W. Broadus. “Let’s advocate for each other by modeling respect.” He speaks at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Kylar W. Broadus, defense attorney
Big idea: See beyond bias and stereotypes and treat people as the human beings they are.
How? For 25 years, Kylar W. Broadus has witnessed both conscious and unconscious bias inhibit justice in the courtroom — a pattern, well documented throughout history, of skin color and identity dictating harsher, lengthier punishments. To effectively dismantle this bias, Broadus believes a gentle yet consistent nudge in the right direction makes a stronger impression in encouraging people to uphold the shared humanity of others. He practices this subtle signaling in his own work, as the bridge between the client and courtroom, by modeling the behavior he wants the court to mirror — and succeeding. All people live with biases, but if we’re ever going to change society for the better, then we must pivot toward respect and see each other for the content of our character and the humanity we share.
“Public space must be as free and abundant as the air we breathe,” says architect Elizabeth Diller. She speaks at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Elizabeth Diller, architect, artist, designer
Big idea: Public space must be as free and abundant as the air we breathe.
Why? Our cities are becoming progressively privatized: commercial building projects and real estate dominate the streets, squeezing out space that once belonged to society at large. Elizabeth Diller says that architects must staunchly defend, advocate for and reclaim this public space, serving as a kind of creative protector against urban privatization, neglect and lack of vision. For her part, Diller helped convert a derelict railroad in New York City into the High Line, a stunning, elevated public park that is both a “portal into the city’s subconscious” and a landmark on the world tourism map. She likewise helped design a park in central Moscow — beating out plans for a giant commercial development — that has since become a bastion of civic expression and a home to social reform against a repressive regime. Now, she encourages other architects, artists and citizens to join in on this work subversively to (re)empower the public. As she puts it: “[We must] relentlessly advocate for a democratic public realm so dwindling urban space is not forfeited to the highest bidder.”
Are you an “upstander”? Angélique Parisot-Potter discusses how to stand up to wrongdoing at work at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Angélique Parisot-Potter, legal and business integrity leader
Big idea: Be an “upstander”: someone who doesn’t shy away from difficult moments and discussions.
How? As a consultant who helps brands build integrity by rooting out the “open secrets” that corrode workplace ethics, Angélique Parisot-Potter is used to overturning the wrong stones. But sometimes in the pursuit of doing the right thing, she has overturned one stone too many — and found herself at odds with powerful adversaries and ostracized by colleagues. How does one stand up to bad actors (and those who let them get away with their subterfuge), even in the face of threats, coercion and isolation? The most important thing to be, says Parisot-Potter, is an upstander: someone who doesn’t shy away from dark corners and instead exposes them to the light. Although this path is difficult, the rewards — like being able to face one’s self in the mirror every day — are as rich as they are intangible. Becoming an upstander is simple: when you see something wrong, don’t second guess yourself and instead ask the difficult questions no one else is asking. Most importantly, don’t be complicit — you always have the power to say “enough is enough.”
“Don’t be afraid to trust and be yourself completely,” says Tracy Young, speaking on the topic of leadership at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Tracy Young, builder
Big idea: Don’t be afraid to show up to work as your complete, raw self.
Why? Tracy Young cofounded a start-up in 2011, serving as the company’s CEO as it grew from five employees to 450. Along the way, she recalls worrying that employees and investors would value male leaders more, and that being a woman might compromise her position as CEO. Partly for that reason, she continued coming into work through the later months of her pregnancy, and was quick to return just six weeks after giving birth. She also shares the heart-rending story of having a miscarriage at work during her second pregnancy, and returning to a meeting as though nothing had happened. Now, she realizes her womanhood is nothing to be ashamed of: she shares the full range of her emotions at work, leading more authentically and actively asking her team for help. This has fundamentally changed how they build and problem solve together, she says, creating a work culture that is more close-knit and efficient. To her fellow leaders out there, Young’s advice is: “Don’t be afraid to trust and be yourself completely.”
In this moment of great uncertainty, it’s time to be fearless. TEDWomen 2020, a day-long event hosted on TED’s virtual event platform, is all about fearlessness — in the way we think, act, participate — and how this collective mentality can empower us to take a global step forward, together. The day kicked off with an inspiring session of talks and performances, all designed to take us on a journey of curiosity, wonder and learning. Hosted by TEDWomen curator Pat Mitchell and TEDx learning specialist Bianca DeJesus, seven speakers and performers showed us how to find the strength and clarity needed to navigate an ever-changing, ever-challenging world.
Music: The group Kolinga performs “Nguya na ngai,” an original song that’s equal parts music, poetry and dance.
Special appearance: Grace Yang, organizer of TEDxMontrealWomen, joins the event to represent the global TEDx community, through which more than 140 TEDx teams in 51 countries are organizing TEDxWomen events alongside the main show.
The session in brief:
To open the session, activist and poet Apiorkor Seyiram Ashong-Abbey delivers a powerful hymn to the universal matriarch in all of her manifestations — exalting her fearlessness as she faces the unknown, praising her body down to the folds of her skin, shouting against the silence surrounding her oppression, and above all shattering the chains (political and social) that bind her across the globe.
“Our courage is born from unity; our solidarity is our strength,” says Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, leader of the national democratic movement in Belarus. She speaks at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, politician
Big idea: In the face of authoritarianism, the path to fearlessness lies in unity and solidarity.
How? The people of Belarus have been under authoritarian rule since 1994, subject to police violence and everyday assaults on their freedoms. But this year, something changed. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets to participate in anti-government demonstrations, supporting Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s campaign in opposition to the country’s authoritarian leader, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko. Tsikhanouskaya stepped in for her husband, who was jailed, to run against Lukashenko in the nation’s recent presidential election — an election she is widely viewed to have won, despite falsified results released by the regime. Now, she tells the story of how a small collection of women-led protests in the capital of Minsk sparked massive, peaceful demonstrations across the country — the likes of which Belarus has never seen — that continue amid calls for a new free and fair election. Even after being forced into exile with her children, Tsikhanouskaya remains determined. “Our courage is born from unity,” she says. “Our solidarity is our strength.”
In April 2020, Sophie Rose volunteered to be infected with COVID-19 as part of a human challenge trial. She makes the case for these trials at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Sophie Rose, infectious disease researcher
Big idea: To quickly and equitably vaccinate the world’s eight billion people against COVID-19, we will need several approved vaccines. Human challenge trials may help speed up the development and deployment of effective vaccines.
How? In April 2020, Sophie Rose volunteered to be infected with COVID-19. As a young, healthy adult, she’s participating in a “human challenge trial” — a type of trial in which participants are intentionally exposed to infection — that may help researchers develop, manufacture and implement vaccines in record time, saving the lives of thousands of people. She explains her decision and the difference between challenge trials and the phase III clinical trials typically carried out for drugs and vaccines. Unlike phase III trials, where participants receive a vaccine and are subsequently monitored for possible infection throughout the course of their normal lives, challenge trial participants are purposely exposed to the virus after vaccination. Deliberate exposure allows researchers to know more quickly if the vaccine works (usually within a matter of months, instead of years) and requires fewer participants (around 50 to 100 instead of thousands). Because exposure is certain, challenge trial volunteers must be young, typically between ages 20 and 29, and have no preexisting conditions that could put them at an elevated risk. Since choosing to participate, Rose cofounded 1Day Sooner, a nonprofit that advocates for challenge trial participants and has helped more than 39,000 people around the world volunteer for these trials.
“It’s not just protesting and raising your voice, but also doing something to show your intentions,” says WNBA champion Renee Montgomery. She speaks at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Renee Montgomery, WNBA champion, activist
Big idea: For people’s voices to be heard in the face of injustice, they need to be “felt.” We can do this by opting out of our comfort zones and taking positive social action.
How? Renee Montgomery hadn’t planned to quit her dream job in the middle of a pandemic, but it was a leap of faith she made in order to do her part in fighting America’s racial injustice. By “opting out” of her career as a WNBA player, she made space to focus on others’ voices and amplify them with her platform. Montgomery explains that, to truly have these experiences heard, they need to be felt: “Making it felt for me is an action,” she says. “It’s not just protesting and raising your voice, but also doing something to show your intentions.” Her intentions? To level the playing field so everyone has the same opportunities, regardless of race, and to turn this moment into positive, lasting momentum.
Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek shares the legacy of matriarchs in the Yukon First Nations at TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Kluane Adamek, Yukon Regional Chief
Big idea: Leadership and matriarchal wisdom of the Yukon First Nations people.
Tell us more: In the Yukon First Nations, women lead — and have done so for generations. Their matriarchs have forged trade agreements, created marriage alliances and ensured business happens across their land for generations. Their matrilineal society is one that deeply values, honors and respects the roles of women. Much of the world doesn’t reflect this way of living, but Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek urges others to follow in the footsteps of her people — by putting more women at the table and learning from the power of reciprocity. There’s so much women can share with the world, she says, encouraging all women to seek spaces to share their perspective and create impact.
Voto Latino CEO María Teresa Kumar reflects on the historic number of Latinx voters who cast a ballot in the US 2020 presidential election — and how they’ll shape the future. She speaks live at the TEDWomen 2020 on November 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
María Teresa Kumar, civic leader
Big idea: The engaged and growing Latinx vote turned out in record numbers during the US 2020 presidential election and has the potential to shape American politics for decades to come.
How? A historic number of Latinx voters cast a ballot in the US 2020 presidential election. As the nation’s most rapidly growing demographic, Latinx youth are voting for a brighter future. María Teresa Kumar, CEO of Voto Latino, reflects on the issues closest to young Latinx voters and their families, which include health care, climate equity and racial justice. With a look back to FDR’s New Deal, which catalyzed growth, nation-building and paved the way for JFK’s century-defining Moonshot mission, Kumar peeks into the future of the United States and sees the potential for the newest generation of voters to shape the years ahead.
“The single biggest threat of climate change is the collapse of food systems,” says journalist Amanda Little, quoting USDA scientist Jerry Hatfield. “Addressing this challenge as much as any other is going to define our progress in the coming century.” She speaks at TED Salon: Dell Technologies on October 22, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
In a time that feels unsettled and uncertain, technology and those who create it will play a crucial role in what’s coming next. How do we define that future, as opposed to letting it define us? At a special TED Salon held as part of the Dell Technologies World conference and hosted by TED’s Simone Ross, four speakers shared ideas for building a future where tech and humanity are combined in a more active, deliberate and thoughtful way.
The talks in brief:
Genevieve Bell, ethical AI expert
Big idea: To create a sustainable, efficient and safe future for artificial intelligence systems, we need to ask questions that contextualize the history of technology and create possibilities for the next generation of critical thinkers to build upon it.
How? Making a connection between AI and the built world is a hard story to tell, but that’s exactly what Genevieve Bell and her team at 3A Institute are doing: adding to the rich legacy of AI systems, while establishing a new branch of engineering that can sustainably bring cyber-physical systems and AI to scale going forward. “To build on that legacy and our sense of purpose, I think we need a clear framework for asking questions about the future, questions for which there aren’t ready or easy answers,” Bell says. She shares six nuanced questions that frame her approach: Is the system autonomous? Does the system have agency? How do we think about assurance (is it safe and functioning)? How do we interface with it? What will be the indicators that show it is working well? And finally, what is its intent? With these questions, we can broaden our understanding of the systems we create and how they will function in the years to come.
Amanda Little, food journalist
Big idea: To build a robust, resilient and diverse food future in the face of complex challenges, we need a “third way” forward — blending the best of traditional agriculture with cutting-edge new technologies.
How? COVID-19 has simultaneously paralyzed already vulnerable global food systems and ushered in food shortages — despite a surplus of technological advances. How will we continue to feed a growing population? Amanda Little has an idea: “Our challenge is to borrow from the wisdom of the ages and from our most advanced science to [a] third way: one that allows us to improve and scale our harvest while restoring, rather than degrading the underlying land of life.” Amid increasingly complex disruptions like climate change, this “third way” provides a roadmap to food security that marries old agricultural production with new, innovative farming practices — like using robots to deploy fertilizer on crop fields with sniper-like precision, eating lab-grown meats and building aeroponic farms. By nixing antiquated supply chains and producing food in a scalable, sustainable and adaptable way, Little shows just how bright our food future might be. Watch the full talk.
“Investing in data quality and accuracy is essential to making AI possible — not only for the few and privileged but for everyone in society,” says data scientist Mainak Mazumdar. He speaks at TED Salon: Dell Technologies on October 22, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Mainak Mazumdar, data scientist
Big idea: When the pursuit of using AI to make fair and equitable decisions fails, blame the data — not the algorithms.
Why? The future economy won’t be built by factories and people, but by computers and algorithms — for better or for worse. To make AI possible for humanity and society, we need an urgent reset in three major areas: data infrastructure, data quality and data literacy. Together, they hold the key to ethical decision-making in the age of AI. Mazumdar lists how less-than-quality data in examples such as the 2020 US Census and marketing research could lead to poor results in trying to reach and help specific demographics. Right now, AI is only reinforcing and accelerating our bias at speed and scale, with societal implications in its wake. But it doesn’t need to be that way. Instead of racing to build new algorithms, our mission should be to build a better data infrastructure that makes ethical AI possible.
Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky, multimedia musician
Big idea: Modern computing is founded on patterns, so could you translate the patterns of code and data into music? If so, what would the internet sound like?
How? Cultural achievements throughout human history, like music and architecture, are based on pattern recognition, math and the need to organize information — and the internet is no different. Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky gives a tour of how the internet came to be, from the conception of software by Ada Lovelace in the early 1800s to the development of early computers catalyzed by World War II and the birth of the internet beginning in 1969. Today, millions of devices are plugged into the internet, sending data zooming around the world. By transforming the internet’s router connections and data sets into sounds, beats and tempos, Miller introduces “Quantopia,” a portrait of the internet in sound. A special auditory and visual experience, this internet soundscape reveals the patterns that connect us all.
Amanda Little speaks at TED@Dell, October 22, 2020. Photo courtesy of TED.
TEDWomen 2020 is nearly here! The day-long conference will take place on November 12 via TED’s new virtual conference platform. TEDWomen attendees will experience TED’s signature talks as well as an array of live, interactive sessions, community “idea dates,” small-group speaker Q&As and more. The talks featured in the program have been developed in collaboration with an incredible group of TEDx organizers from Lagos, Nigeria; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Montreal, Canada; Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Sydney, Australia. TEDWomen will celebrate and amplify dynamic, multi-dimensional ideas from these communities and around the world.
In the midst of uncertainty, the greatest peril is to retreat or become immobilized. At TEDWomen, we’ll hear from bold leaders who are stepping forward and taking action.
TEDWomen 2020 speakers and performers include:
TED has partnered with a number of organizations to support its mission and contribute to the idea exchange at TEDWomen 2020. These organizations 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: Boston Consulting Group, Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant, Project Management Institute and the U.S. Air Force.
TEDWomen 2020 is taking place on November 12, 11am – 6pm ET. TEDWomen applications will be accepted until 9am ET, November 9 (or until sold out). Learn more and apply now!
Is TikTok changing the way we work and learn? Qiuqing Tai talks about the rise of short-form videos at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
How can we make advances in technology that don’t require massive job losses? Work with nature to protect both the planet and humanity? Ensure all people are treated equitably? In a day of talks, interviews and performances, 17 speakers and performers shared ideas about a future in which people, technology and nature thrive interdependently.
The event: TED@BCG: Symbiotic is the ninth event TED and Boston Consulting Group have partnered around to bring leaders, innovators and changemakers to the stage to share ideas for solving society’s biggest challenges. Hosted by TED’s Corey Hajim along with BCG’s Seema Bansal, Rocío Lorenzo and Vinay Shandal, with opening remarks from Rich Lesser, CEO of BCG.
Music: The group Kolinga, fronted by lead singer Rébecca M’Boungou, perform the original song “Nguya na ngai” — a stunning rendition that’s equal parts music, poetry and dance.
The talks in brief:
Qiuqing Tai, video visionary
Big idea: Short-form videos — 60 seconds or less, made and shared on apps like TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram — are changing the way we work, communicate and learn.
How? More than 1.5 billion people around the world regularly watch short videos, and more than half of them are under the age of 24, says Qiuqing Tai. This bite-sized content is quickly becoming the new normal, with people turning to it not only for entertainment but also to discover new interests and skills. Meanwhile, businesses use short-form videos to find new customers and diversify their audiences. In 2019, Tai led a research study with TikTok, finding that the platform’s short-form content generated an estimated $95 billion in goods and services sold, and helped create 1.2 million jobs globally. There has also been an explosion in short-form educational content, as social enterprises and education startups experiment with 15-second videos for people who want to learn on the fly. There are valid concerns about this young medium, Tai admits — data privacy, the addictive nature of the format, the lack of contextual nuance — but, with the right investment and policymaking, she believes the benefits will ultimately outweigh the drawbacks.
Matt Langione, quantum advocate
Big idea: If not traditional supercomputers, what technology will emerge to arm us against the challenges of the 21st century?
What will it be? For nearly a century, we’ve relied on high-performance computers to meet critical, complex demands — from cracking Nazi codes to sequencing the human genome — and they’ve been getting smaller, faster and better, as if by magic. But that magic seems to be running out due to the physical limitations of the traditional supercomputer, says Matt Langione — and it’s time to look to newer, subatomic horizons. Enter quantum computing: an emerging hyper-speed solution for the urgent challenges of our time, like vaccine development, finance and logistics. Langione addresses fundamental questions about this burgeoning technology — How does it work? Do we really need it? How long until it’s available? — with a goal in mind: to disperse any doubts about investing in quantum computing now rather than later, for the sake of lasting progress for business and society at large. “The race to a new age of magic and supercomputing is already underway,” he says. “It’s one we can’t afford to lose.”
Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard, discusses financial inclusion and how to build a more equitable economy. He speaks with TED current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard
Big idea: Let’s introduce those who are un-banked or under-banked into the banking system via a mobile, digital economy.
How? Roughly two billion people don’t have access to banks or services like credit, insurance and investment — or even a way to establish a financial identity. These people must rely solely on cash, which can be dangerous and prone to fraud by middlemen (and costs about 1.2 percent of a nation’s GDP to produce). As an advocate of “financial inclusion,” Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga believes that banks, fintech and telecom companies, governments and merchants can build a new, more equitable economy that relies on digital transactions rather than cash. How would its users benefit? As an example, a grocer may not be able to afford supplies for the week if she’s paying cash, but with a mobile payment system, she could build enough of a transaction history to establish credit, and with enough credit, she could build a “financial identity.” Such identities could revolutionize everything from small business to distributing aid — all using tech that’s already in place, and that doesn’t require a smartphone.
Nimisha Jain, commerce aficionado
Big idea: For Nimisha Jain, shopping was once an activity full of excitement, friends, family and trusted sellers. But for many like her in emerging markets worldwide, online shopping is intimidating and, frankly, inhuman, full of mistrust for unscrupulous sellers and mysterious technology. Is there a way for online sellers to build genuine human interactivity into virtual shopping, at scale?
How? Fortunately, it’s possible to combine the convenience of online shopping with a personalized experience in what Jain calls “conversational commerce,” and some companies are doing exactly this — like Meesho in India, which allows shoppers to interact with the same person every time they shop. Over time, the agent learns what you like, when you would like it and, once trusted, will fill your shopping cart with unexpected items. But this model is not only for the developing world; Jain’s research shows that customers in the West also like this concept, and it might someday transform the way the world shops.
Emily Leproust, DNA synthesizer
Big idea: We need to rethink what modern global sustainability looks like — and pursue a new kind of environmentalism.
How? By working with the environment, rather than against it. As it stands, nature has been adapting and reacting to the presence of human developments, just like we’ve been adapting and reacting to nature’s changing climate, says Leproust — and we must course-correct before we destroy each other. She advocates for a path paved by synthetic biology and powered by DNA. Embracing the potential of biological innovation could help across the board, but Leproust singles out three critical areas: health, food and materials. If we focus our energy on pursuing sustainable outcomes — like lab-developed insulin, engineering foods to be immune to disease and harnessing the potential of spider silk — human civilization and the natural world could thrive in tandem without worry.
“Technology is fundamentally infiltrating every aspect of our daily lives, transforming everything from how we work to how we fall in love. Why should sports be any different?” asks esports expert William Collis. He speaks at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
William Collis, esports expert
Big idea: We revere traditional athletic prowess, but what about the skills and talent of a different sort of athlete?
What do you mean? Video games should no longer be considered children’s play, says esports expert William Collis. They’ve grown into a multibillion-dollar sporting phenomenon — to the point where traditional sport stars, from David Beckham to Shaquille O’Neal, are investing in competitive games like Fortnite, League of Legends and Rocket League. It takes real skill to be good at these video games, reminds Collis, which he breaks down into three main categories: mechanical (much like playing an instrument), strategic (equivalent to tactical choices of chess) and leadership. Beyond that, being a pro-gamer requires adaptability, creativity and unconventional thinking. Collis’s message is simple: respect the game and the valuable traits developed there, just as you would any other sport.
Bas Sudmeijer, carbon capture advisor
Big idea: Carbon capture and storage — diverting emissions before they hit the atmosphere and burying them back in the earth — is not new, but analysts like Bas Sudmeijer think it could both contribute to the fight against climate change and allow big polluters (who are also big employers) to stay in business. But for carbon capture to make a significant contribution to emission reductions, we must spend 110 billion dollars a year for the next 20 years.
How can we offset this enormous cost? Sudmeijer believes that “carbon networks” — clusters of polluters centered around potential underground carbon sinks — could solve the economic barriers to this promising technology, if they’re created in conjunction with aggressive regulation to make polluting more expensive. And the clock is ticking: current carbon capture operations trap only .1 percent of greenhouse gases, and we need to increase that number 100- to 200-fold in order to slow global warming. Fortunately, we have a historical model for this — the push to supply gas to Europe after World War II, carried out in a similar time frame during a period of similar economic stress.
“One of the best ways to safeguard democracy is to expose everyone to each other’s stories, music, cultures and histories,” says Mehret Mandefro. She speaks at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Mehret Mandefro, physician, filmmaker
Big idea: A robust and well-funded creative industry drives economic and democratic growth. A thriving creative industry isn’t just “a nice thing to have” — it’s a democratic necessity.
How? With a median age of about 19, Ethiopia’s youth are rapidly graduating into a labor market with an astronomical 19-percent unemployment rate and few opportunities. To create enough good-paying jobs for its expanding workforce, Mehret Mandefro says the government should expand the creative sector. She says that putting culture on the agenda could boost industries like tourism and drive the country’s overall economic growth. The creative industry also plays an important social and democratic role. In a period of strained relations and rising ethnic divisions, society must make a choice, she says: “From my perspective, the country can go one of two ways: either down a path of inclusive, democratic participation, or down a more divisive path of ethnic divisions.” For Mandefro, the answer is clear. She sees the arts as the best way for people to share in one another’s culture, where music, fashion, film, theater and design create connection and understanding between groups and strengthen democratic bonds. “One of the best ways to safeguard democracy is to expose everyone to each other’s stories, music, cultures and histories,” she says.
Antoine Gourévitch, deep tech diver
Big idea: The next chapter in the innovation story, driving us into the future, is the potential and promise of deep tech.
How? Antoine Gourévitch believes deep tech — tangible, intentional collaboration at the crossroads of emerging technologies (think synthetic biology, quantum programming and AI) — will change the ways we produce material, eat, heal and beyond. Deep tech ventures — one of the most notable examples being SpaceX — focus on fundamental issues by first identifying physical constraints that industries often encounter, and then solve them with a potent combination of science, engineering and design thinking. Thousands of companies and start-ups like this currently exist worldwide, sharing an ethos of radical possibility. They’re governed by four rules: be problem-oriented, not technology-focused; combine, intersect and converge; adopt a design thinking approach, powered by deep tech; and adopt an economical design-to-cost approach. In understanding these guidelines, Gourévitch wants us to embrace the idea that innovation requires rethinking, and that this cross-disciplinary approach could offer a revolution in making what seemed impossible, possible.
Tilak Mandadi, empathy advocate
Big Idea: Empathy training should be part of workplace culture. Here are three ways to implement it.
How? After the trauma of losing his daughter, Tilak Mandadi’s decision to return to work wasn’t easy — but his journey back ended up providing unexpected support in processing his grief. At first, he was full of self-doubt and sadness, feeling as if he was living in two completely different worlds: the personal and the professional. But over time, his coworkers’ friendship and purpose-driven work helped transform his exhaustion and isolation, shedding light on the role empathy plays in a healthy work culture — both for people suffering with loss and those who aren’t. Mandadi offers three ways to foster this kind of environment: implement policies that support healing (like time away from work); provide return-to-work therapy for employees who are dealing with grief; and provide empathy training for all employees so that they know how to best support each other. Empathy can be a learned behavior, he says, and sometimes asking “What would you like me to do differently to help you?” can make all the difference.
Documentary photographer Olivia Arthur presents her work at TED@BCG, including this photo of Pollyanna, who lost her leg in an accident at the age of two and now dances with the aid of a blade prosthesis. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Arthur)
Olivia Arthur, documentary photographer
Big idea: Across the world, people are merging technology with the human body in remarkable ways, sparking radical meditations on what it means to be human.
How? Through photography, Olivia Arthur intimately examines the intersection of humanity and technology, capturing the resilience and emotional depths of the human body. In her latest project, she collaborated with amputees who have integrated technology into their bodies and researchers who have invented robots with strikingly human traits. Inspired in part by photographer Eadweard Muybridge, Arthur focused on gait, balance and motion in both human and machine subjects. These included Pollyanna, a dancer who mastered the delicate skill of balance while using a blade prosthesis; Lola, a humanoid robot who confidently navigated an obstacle course yet looked most human when turned off; and Alex Lewis, a quadruple amputee who challenges perceptions of humanity’s limitations. Arthur describes her photos as studies of our evolution, documenting how technology has catalyzed a profound shift in how we understand, enhance and define the human body.
Wealth equity strategist Kedra Newsom Reeves explores the origins and perpetuation of the racial wealth gap in the US — and four ways financial institutions can help narrow it. She speaks at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Kedra Newsom Reeves, wealth equity strategist
Big idea: We need to narrow the racial wealth gap in the United States. Financial institutions can help.
How? As last reported by the US federal government, the median wealth for a white family in the United States was 171,000 dollars, and the median wealth for a Black family was just 17,000 dollars — a staggering tenfold difference. During a global pandemic in which inequities across finance, health care, education and criminal justice have been laid bare, Kedra Newsom Reeves says that we must make progress towards reducing this gap. She tells the story of her great-great-grandfather, who was born into slavery, and how it took four generations for her family to accumulate enough wealth to purchase a house. Along the way, she says, a range of policies purposefully excluded her family — along with marginalized communities across the country — from building wealth. Now, financial institutions can help undo that damage. She offers four critical actions: ensure more people have bank accounts; increase awareness of checking and savings accounts specifically made for low-income communities; find alternative ways to establish creditworthiness, and then lend more credit to marginalized groups; and invest, support and promote Black-owned business, particularly by increasing the amount of venture capital that goes to Black founders.
Ishan Bhabha, constitutional lawyer
Big idea: Debate can broaden perspectives, spark creativity and catalyze human progress, so instead of censoring controversial speech, private entities should create pathways for productive discussion.
Why? In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech but only protects citizens against censorship by the government — not by private entities. But just because a conference center, university or social media platform can ban speech on their own turf doesn’t mean they should, says Ishan Bhabha. When faced with the decision to allow or prohibit meritless speech, he argues that more often than not, more speech is better. Instead of restricting speech, groups should err on the side of allowing it and work to create an open dialogue. “Ideas that have little to no value should be met with arguments against it,” he says. Private groups should protect against hate speech that can cause lasting damage or even violence but should respond responsibly to other ideological speech and mediate discussion, which can promote productive disagreement and lead to a valuable exchange of ideas. Universities, for instance, can offer students mediated discussion groups where they can openly try on new ideas without the threat of sanction. Twitter now responds to unsubstantiated posts on their platform by flagging content as either misleading, deceptive or containing unverified information and provides links to verified sources where users can find more information. Bhabha argues that these practices add to a rich and vigorous discussion with the potential to improve the arena of debate by raising the standard.
Johanna Benesty, global health strategist
Big idea: Discovering an effective COVID-19 vaccine is just the first step in ending the pandemic. After that, the challenge lies in ensuring everyone can get it.
Why? We’ve been thinking of vaccine discovery as the holy grail in the fight against COVID-19, says Johanna Benesty, but an equally difficult task will be providing equitable access to it. Namely, once a vaccine is found to be effective, who gets it first? And how can we make sure it’s safely distributed in low-income communities and countries, with less robust health care systems? Benesty suggests that vaccine developers consider the constraints of lesser health care systems from the outset, building cost management into their research and development activities. In this way, they can work to ensure vaccines are affordable, effective across all populations (like at-risk people and pregnant women) and that can be distributed in all climates (from temperature-controlled hospitals to remote rural areas) at scale. It’s the smart thing to do, Benesty says: if COVID-19 exists anywhere in the world, we’re all at risk, and the global economy will continue to sputter. “We need all countries to be able to crush the pandemic in sync,” she says.
Rosalind G. Brewer, COO of Starbucks, explores how to bring real, grassroots racial changes to boardrooms and communities alike. She speaks with TED current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)
Rosalind G. Brewer, COO of Starbucks
Big idea: When companies think of DEI — diversity, equality, inclusion — they too often think of it as a numbers game that’s about satisfying quotas instead of building relationships with those who have traditionally been excluded from the corporate conversation. Rosalind G. Brewer believes that the current moment of racial consciousness is an “all-in” opportunity for hidebound leadership to step out of their comfort zones and bring real, grassroots racial changes to boardrooms and communities alike.
How? With Black Lives Matter in the headlines, the pandemic illuminating inequalities in health care and income, and so many brands engaging in “performative justice” PR campaigns, it’s a crucial time to not only include more BIPOC in the corporate workplace, but also to listen to their voices. As brands like Starbucks diversify and absorb the stories of their new partners, Brewer believes they will do far more than satisfy quotas — they will nurture future leaders, open minds and bring ground-up change to communities.
Kevin Roose, technology journalist
Big idea: By leaning into our creativity, empathy and other human skills, we can better collaborate with smart machines and “future-proof” our jobs.
How? Artificial intelligence has become smarter, faster and even more integrated into our lives and careers: algorithms have been trained to write financial articles, detect diseases and proofread legal documents at speeds and scales dramatically faster than any individual human could. But this doesn’t necessarily mean robots will inevitably replace us at work, says Kevin Roose. While an algorithm may be able to scan exams and detect disease faster than a human, a machine can’t replace a doctor’s comforting bedside manner. Instead of trying to compete with smart technologies at what they do best, we need to invest in developing the skills that machines aren’t capable of — creativity, compassion, adaptability and critical thinking.
Qiuqing Tai speaks at TED@BCG, October 21st, 2020. Photo courtesy of TED.
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.
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TED Travel returns
Escape with host Saleem Reshamwala and journey across the globe in search of the world’s most surprising and imaginative ideas. TED Travel 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.
TED Travel 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
TED curator Cyndi Stivers opens TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)
World-changing ideas that unearth solutions and ignite progress can come from anywhere. With that spirit in mind at TED@WellsFargo, thirteen speakers showcased how human empathy and problem-solving can combine with technology to transform lives (and banking) for the better.
The event: TED@WellsFargo, a day of thought-provoking talks on topics including how to handle challenging situations at work, the value of giving back and why differences can be strengths. It’s the first time TED and Wells Fargo have partnered to create inspiring talks from Wells Fargo Team Members.
When and where: Wednesday, February 5, 2020, at the Knight Theater in Charlotte, North Carolina
Opening and closing remarks: David Galloreese, Wells Fargo Head of Human Resources, and Jamie Moldafsky, Wells Fargo Chief Marketing Officer
Performances by: Dancer Simone Cooper and singer/songwriter Jason Jet and his band
The talks in brief:
“What airlines don’t tell you is that putting your oxygen mask on first, while seeing those around you struggle, it takes a lot of courage. But being able to have that self-control is sometimes the only way that we are able to help those around us,” says sales and trading analyst Elizabeth Camarillo Gutierrez. She speaks at TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)
Elizabeth Camarillo Gutierrez, sales and trading analyst
Big idea: As an immigrant, learning to thrive in America while watching other immigrants struggle oddly echoes what flight attendants instruct us to do when the oxygen masks drop in an emergency landing: if you want to help others put on their masks, you must put on your own mask first.
How? At age 15, Elizabeth Camarillo Gutierrez found herself alone in the US when her parents were forced to return to Mexico, taking her eight-year-old brother with them. For eight years, she diligently completed her education — and grappled with guilt, believing she wasn’t doing enough to aid fellow immigrants. Now working as a sales and trading analyst while guiding her brother through school in New York, she’s learned a valuable truth: in an emergency, you can’t save others until you save yourself.
Quote of the talk: “Immigrants [can’t] and will never be able to fit into any one narrative, because most of us are actually just traveling along a spectrum, trying to survive.”
Matt Trombley, customer remediation supervisor
Big idea: Agonism — “taking a warlike stance in contexts that are not literally war” — plagues many aspects of modern-day life, from the way we look at our neighbors to the way we talk about politics. Can we work our way out of this divisive mindset?
How: Often we think that those we disagree with are our enemies, or that we must approve of everything our loved ones say or believe. Not surprisingly, this is disastrous for relationships. Matt Trombley shows us how to fight agonism by cultivating common ground (working to find just a single shared thread with someone) and by forgiving others for the slights that we believe their values cause us. If we do this, our relationships will truly come to life.
Quote of the talk: “When you can find even the smallest bit of common ground with somebody, it allows you to understand just the beautiful wonder and complexity and majesty of the other person.”
Dorothy Walker, project manager
Big idea: Anybody can help resolve a conflict — between friends, coworkers, strangers, your children — with three simple steps.
How? Step one: prepare. Whenever possible, set a future date and time to work through a conflict, when emotions aren’t running as high. Step two: defuse and move forward. When you do begin mediating the conflict, start off by observing, listening and asking neutral questions; this will cause both parties to stop and think, and give you a chance to shift positive energy into the conversation. Finally, step three: make an agreement. Once the energy of the conflict has settled, it’s time to get an agreement (either written or verbal) so everybody can walk away with a peaceful resolution.
Quote of the talk: “There is a resolution to all conflicts. It just takes your willingness to try.”
Charles Smith, branch manager
Big idea: The high rate of veteran suicide is intolerable — and potentially avoidable. By prioritizing the mental health of military service members both during and after active duty, we can save lives.
How? There are actionable solutions to end the devastating epidemic of military suicide, says Charles Smith. First, by implementing a standard mental health evaluation to military applicants, we can better gauge the preliminary markers of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. Data is a vital part of the solution: if we keep better track of mental health data on service members, we can also predict where support is most needed and create those structures proactively. By identifying those with a higher risk early on in their military careers, we can ensure they have appropriate care during their service and connect them to the resources they need once they are discharged, enabling veterans to securely and safely rejoin civilian life.
Quote of the talk: “If we put our minds and resources together, and we openly talk and try to find solutions for this epidemic, hopefully, we can save a life.”
“We all know retirement is all about saving more now, for later. What if we treated our mental health and overall well-being in the same capacity? Develop and save more of you now, for later in life,” says premier banker Rob Cooke. He speaks at TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)
Rob Cooke, premier banker
Big idea: Work-related stress costs us a lot, in our lives and the economy. We need to reframe the way we manage stress — both in our workplaces and in our minds.
How? “We tend to think of [stress] as a consequence, but I see it as a culture,” says Rob Cooke. Despite massive global investments in the wellness industry, we are still losing trillions of dollars due to a stress-related decrease in employee productivity and illness. Cooke shares a multifaceted approach to shifting the way stress is managed, internally and culturally. It starts with corporations prioritizing the well-being of employees, governments incentivizing high standards for workplace wellness and individually nurturing our relationship with our own mental health.
Quote of the talk: “We all know retirement is all about saving more now, for later. What if we treated our mental health and overall well-being in the same capacity? Develop and save more of you now, for later in life.”
Aeris Nguyen, learning and development facilitator
Big idea: What would our world be like if we could use DNA to verify our identity?
Why? Every year, millions of people have their identities stolen or misused. This fact got Aeris Nguyen thinking about how to safeguard our information for good. She shares an ambitious thought experiment, asking: Can we use our own bodies to verify our selves? While biometric data such as facial or palm print recognition have their own pitfalls (they can be easily fooled by, say, wearing a specially lighted hat or using a wax hand), what if we could use our DNA — our blood, hair or earwax? Nguyen acknowledges the ethical dilemmas and logistical nightmares that would come with collecting and storing more than seven billion files of DNA, but she can’t help but wonder if someday, in the far future, this will become the norm.
Quote of the talk: “Don’t you find it strange that we carry around these arbitrary, government assigned numbers or pieces of paper with our picture on it and some made-up passwords to prove we are who we say we are? When, in fact, the most rock-solid proof of our identity is something we carry around in our cells — our DNA.”
“To anyone reeling from forces trying to knock you down and cram you into these neat little boxes people have decided for you — don’t break. I see you. My ancestors see you. Their blood runs through me as they run through so many of us. You are valid. And you deserve rights and recognition. Just like everyone else,” says France Villarta. He speaks at TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)
France Villarta, communications consultant
Big idea: Modern ideas of gender are much older than we may think.
How? In many cultures around the world, the social construct of gender is binary — man or woman, assigned certain characteristics and traits, all designated by biological sex. But that’s not the case for every culture. France Villarta details the gender-fluid history of his native Philippines and how the influence of colonial rule forced narrow-minded beliefs onto its people. In a talk that’s part cultural love letter, part history lesson, Villarta emphasizes the beauty and need in reclaiming gender identities. “Oftentimes, we think of something as strange only because we’re not familiar with it or haven’t taken enough time to try and understand,” he says. “The good thing about social constructs is that they can be reconstructed — to fit a time and age.”
Quote of the talk: “To anyone reeling from forces trying to knock you down and cram you into these neat little boxes people have decided for you — don’t break. I see you. My ancestors see you. Their blood runs through me as they run through so many of us. You are valid. And you deserve rights and recognition. Just like everyone else.”
Dancer Simone Cooper performs a self-choreographed dance onstage at TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)
Dean Furness, analytic consultant
Big idea: You can overcome personal challenges by focusing on yourself, instead of making comparisons to others.
How? After a farming accident paralyzed Dean Furness below the waist, he began the process of adjusting to life in a wheelchair. He realized he’d have to nurture and focus on this new version of himself, rather than fixate on his former height, strength and mobility. With several years of rehabilitation and encouragement from his physical therapist, Furness began competing in the Chicago and Boston marathons as a wheelchair athlete. By learning how to own each day, he says, we can all work to get better, little by little.
Quote of the talk: “Take some time and focus on you, instead of others. I bet you can win those challenges and really start accomplishing great things.”
John Puthenveetil, financial advisor
Big idea: Because of the uncertain world we live in, many seek solace from “certainty merchants” — like physicians, priests and financial advisors. Given the complex, chaotic mechanisms of our economy, we’re better off discarding “certainty” for better planning.
How? We must embrace adaptable plans that address all probable contingencies, not just the most obvious ones. This is a crucial component of “scenario-based planning,” says John Puthenveetil. We should always aim for being approximately right rather than precisely wrong. But this only works if we pay attention, heed portents of possible change and act decisively — even when that’s uncomfortable.
Quote of the talk: “It is up to us to use [scenario-based planning] wisely: Not out of a sense of weakness or fear, but out of the strength and conviction that comes from knowing that we are prepared to play the hand that is dealt.”
Johanna Figueira, digital marketing consultant
Big idea: The world is more connected than ever, but some communities are still being cut off from vital resources. The solution? Digitally matching professional expertise with locals who know what their communities really need.
How? Johanna Figueira is one of millions who has left Venezuela due to economic crisis, crumbling infrastructure and decline in health care — but she hasn’t left these issues behind. With the help of those still living in the country, Figueira helped organize Code for Venezuela — a platform that matches experts with communities in need to create simple, effective tools to improve quality of life. She shares two of their most successful projects: MediTweet, an intelligent Twitter bot that helps Venezuelans find medicinal supplies, and Blackout Tracker, a tool that helps pinpoint power cuts in Venezuela that the government won’t report. Her organization shows the massive difference made when locals participate in their own solutions.
Quote of the talk: “Some people in Silicon Valley may look at these projects and say that they’re not major technological innovations. But that’s the point. These projects are not insanely advanced — but it’s what the people of Venezuela need, and they can have a tremendous impact.”
Jeanne Goldie, branch sales manager
Big idea: We’re looking for dynamic hotbeds of innovation in all the wrong places.
How? Often, society looks to the young for the next big thing, leaving older generations to languish in their shadow until being shuffled out altogether, taking their brain power and productivity with them. Instead of discarding today’s senior workforce, Jeanne Goldie suggests we tap into their years of experience and retrain them, just as space flight has moved from the disposable rockets of NASA’s moon launches to today’s reusable Space X models.
Quote of the talk: “If we look at data and technology as the tools they are … but not as the answer, we can come up with better solutions to our most challenging problems.”
Rebecca Knill, business systems consultant
Big idea: By shifting our cultural understanding of ability and using technology to connect, we can build a more inclusive and human world.
How? The medical advances of modern technology have improved accessibility for disabled communities. Rebecca Knill, a self-described cyborg who has a cochlear implant, believes the next step to a more connected world is changing our perspectives. For example, being deaf isn’t shameful or pitiful, says Knill — it’s just a different way of navigating the world. To take full advantage of the fantastic opportunities new technology offers us, we must drop our assumptions and meet differences with empathy.
Quote of the talk: “Technology has come so far. Our mindset just needs to catch up.”
“We have to learn to accept where people are and adjust ourselves to handle those situations … to recognize when it is time to professionally walk away from someone,” says business consultant Anastasia Penright. She speaks at TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)
Anastasia Penright, business consultant
Big idea: No workplace is immune to drama, but there are steps we can follow to remove ourselves from the chatter and focus on what’s really important.
How? No matter your industry, chances are you’ve experienced workplace drama. In a funny and relatable talk, Anastasia Penright shares a better way to coexist with our coworkers using five simple steps she’s taken to leave drama behind and excel in her career. First, we must honestly evaluate our own role in creating and perpetuating conflicts; then evaluate our thoughts and stop thinking about every possible scenario. Next, it’s important to release our negative energy to a trusted confidant (a “venting buddy”) while trying to understand and accept the unique communication styles and work languages of our colleagues. Finally, she says, we need to recognize when we’re about to step into drama and protect our energy by simply walking away.
Quote of the talk: “We have to learn to accept where people are and adjust ourselves to handle those situations … to recognize when it is time to professionally walk away from someone.”
Jason Jet performs the toe-tapping, electro-soul song “Time Machine” at TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)