TED announces Carla Zanoni as first Director of Audience Development

TED, the nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, has tapped Carla Zanoni as its first-ever Director of Audience Development, effective April 1, 2019. Formerly the Editor of Audience and Analytics at the Wall Street Journal, Zanoni will lead TED’s audience acquisition and growth strategies across its global, multi-channel footprint, with an emphasis on expanding analytics, social media and digital community development. Zanoni will report to Colin Helms, TED’s Head of Media.

“With an audience reach of over 120 million people worldwide, TED has built an incredible community centered around watching, listening, sharing and discussing powerful ideas,” said Helms. “We’re evolving from being simply being known for ‘TED talks’ to a multifaceted ideas platform that includes a half-dozen hit podcasts, thousands of community-organized TEDx events, and a growing library of over 100,000 talks. This is in addition to animated TED-Ed videos and original short-form shows. With the exponential growth of our content library, it’s become vital that we deepen our audience relationships and empower their discovery of ideas worth spreading. We’re thrilled to have Carla join TED and help us imagine the future of our globally connected community.”

“TED knows audience inside out, and they know how to grow community,” said Zanoni. “I am inspired to lead the charge of this next era of their audience engagement — and to create new ways for us to come together, which is vital in today’s divided landscape. I’m thrilled to join the visionary and thoughtful team at TED.”

Zanoni brings more than a decade of experience in audience development. Prior to joining TED, she was the first global Audience & Analytics Editor to be named on the masthead of the Wall Street Journal, where she worked to transform the newsroom to be data-informed in its daily work and strategic decisions. During her tenure, she created and led the audience engagement, development, data analytics and emerging media team focused on diversifying and growing the Journal’s readership. She also launched the Wall Street Journal on multiple storytelling platforms including Snapchat Discover, the Facebook Messenger bot and Amazon Echo.

Zanoni previously led national digital and social strategy at DNAinfo.com. She wrote for numerous regional and national publications and helped launch the first newspaper dedicated to New York City politics (now called City and State). Zanoni is a graduate of Columbia University’s School of General Studies and School of Journalism. She is working on her first book.

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These young women might just save the planet

One of anthropologist Margaret Mead’s most famous quotes instructs us: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” We might amend Mead’s observation to honor a group of thoughtful, committed teenagers across the world who are standing up for their lives (and their future lives) in extraordinarily powerful and moving ways.

Valentine’s Day marked the one-year anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida. In the aftermath of that tragic shooting that claimed 17 lives, surviving students rejected their representatives’ “thoughts and prayers” and organized a nationwide school walkout on March 14, 2018. Ten days later, the March for Our Lives drew over a million people from around the country to Washington to rally for safe schools and gun control. And the Parkland students have continued throughout the year to travel this country and the world, advocating for stricter gun regulations.

In Sweden, a teenage girl named Greta Thunberg observed the actions of the Parkland students and took an action of her own: deciding to skip school every Friday in order to lobby the Swedish government into action on climate change.

Since Greta began her solo protest, it’s estimated that more than 70,000 students around Europe and the world have joined her protest each week, in over 270 towns and cities. Pictures of Greta and other young activists have made their way around on social media (Greta has nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram), inspiring other teens to join her in protest.

Strikes have been organized all over Europe, the United States, India and Australia over the past five months. The movement is notable in that it is being led by teenage girls. Katrien Van der Heyden of Brussels, whose 17-year-old daughter, Anuna de Wever, organizes marches there, observed to BuzzFeed: “’It’s the very first time in Belgium that a [mass movement was] started by two women and not about feminist rights.’ When the protests drew tens of thousands, Van der Heyden said, she was stunned to see as many boys as girls in the crowds, “and yet no one ever challenged the leadership of the female organizers.”

Seventeen-year-old Jamie Margolin, the founder and executive director of Zero Hour, a group organizing the US protests for the International Day of Action planned for March 15, told BuzzFeed that climate activism has given young women a chance to be heard.

“’There aren’t very many spaces that I can be in charge of, and what I’m going to say is going to be heard,’ Margolin said. Her group is led largely by young women of color, which she said should come as no surprise, because people who are already vulnerable are going to be disproportionately hit by climate change.”

Recently, TED posted Greta’s TEDxStockholm talk which she gave in November. Her talk has been up three weeks and has already been viewed over 1.2 million times. In it, she explained why she decided to skip school and protest, saying:

“I school striked for the climate. Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can ‘solve the climate crisis.’ But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.”

[EMBED GRETA’S TED TALK: https://www.ted.com/talks/greta_thunberg_the_disarming_case_to_act_right_now_on_climate?language=en%5D

At the end of her talk, Greta says she’s not going to end on a positive, hopeful note, like most TED talks.

“Yes, we do need hope, of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come.”
                                                                                                                — Greta Thunberg

As I observe Greta and Jamie and all the other girls taking up leadership and the young boys who are marching and protesting with them,  no longer waiting for some adult with a plan or for corporations or governments to take actions, but creating their own actions, I feel more hope than I have felt in a long time that we — all of us at every age — will also take up actions to address the climate crisis before it’s too late.

My daughter in law, Laura Turner Seydel, signs off every email with the Native American proverb: We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. The world’s children are reminding us that we have a big debt to repay and an earth to repair and restore. Time’s up on our loan of the earth.

Inspired,

— Pat

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Meet the Spring 2019 class of TED Residents

Digital activist Lindsay Amer (foreground) and Kenneth Chabert (center) listen to their fellow Residents introduce themselves.

Digital activist Lindsay Amer (foreground) and Kenneth Chabert (center) listen to their fellow Residents introduce themselves. (Photo: Dian Lofton / TED)

On February 25, TED welcomed its latest class to the TED Residency program, an in-house incubator for breakthrough ideas. These 11 Residents will spend 14 weeks at TED’s New York headquarters, working and thinking together.

New Residents include:

  • A community organizer preserving disappearing languages
  • An LGBTQ+ digital activist educating kids and their parents about gender and identity
  • A social scientist chronicling how climate change impacts intimate details of our lives
  • A game developer moving in real life social-deduction games onto digital platforms
  • A former medical clown examining why performance art helps people get better
  • A venture capitalist predicting that adaptability will become the new watchword for success

Lindsay Amer is a content creator (pronoun: they/them) who makes educational videos for kids — and their parents. Their critically acclaimed web series, Queer Kid Stuff, gives children a vocabulary to help them express themselves. Amer is also developing a full-length screenplay for a family-friendly queer animated musical.

Daniel Bögre Udell is the cofounder and director of Wikitongues, a community organization that tackles language preservation by recording oral histories. UNESCO estimates that of the world’s 7,000 known languages, about 3,000 are currently at risk of being lost. He’s currently prototyping a toolkit to make it easier for people to get started on language preservation.

Resident alum Keith Kirkland gives the new class some words of encouragement.

Resident alum Keith Kirkland gives the new class some words of encouragement. (Photo: Dian Lofton / TED)

Young men from the Bronx, NY, have to balance dual lives, says Kenneth Chabert. They have to sometimes establish a reputation in their neighborhoods in order to survive, while also doing well in school so they can get out. Chabert addresses their quandary through his organization, Gentleman’s Retreat, which teaches a select group of young men emotional and conversational intelligence, helps get them into top colleges and universities and provides experiences to extend their horizons.

New Resident Britt Wray is a Canadian science podcaster and broadcaster.

New Resident Britt Wray is a Canadian science podcaster and broadcaster. (Photo: Dian Lofton / TED)

Social entrepreneur Robert Clauser wants to pair nonprofits with the ready resources (both human and financial) of corporations, in a kind of philanthropic matchmaking.

Digital game developer and programmer Charlotte Ellett thinks that social deduction exercises such as Werewolf and Mafia aren’t just party games. As the cofounder of C63 Industries, she works on tools and competitive, mind-bending PC games to increase immersion. She believes these activities can help people develop their social skills.

Venture investor and writer Natalie Fratto explores the idea that adaptability may actually be a form of intelligence. She believes that in order to grapple with constant technological change, our Adaptability Quotient (AQ) will soon become the primary indicator of success, leaving IQ and EQ in the dust.

Jessica Ochoa Hendrix is CEO and cofounder of Killer Snails, an educational game startup that creates award-winning tabletop, digital and virtual reality games and brings science to life in K-12 schools. To date, she has piloted her curriculum in 50+ schools across 26 states, under the auspices of the National Science Foundation.

New Resident Priscilla Pemu joins us from Atlanta, GA.

Priscilla Pemu joins the Residency from Atlanta, GA. (Photo: Dian Lofton / TED)

Priscilla Pemu, MD, is an academic general internist who has developed a clinical platform to help patients with chronic diseases improve their health outcomes. Her patients receive digital health advice coupled with a coach from their church or community to hold them accountable — with stellar results! She now analyzes the conversations between participants and coaches to figure out what worked and how.

Michael Roberson, an adjunct professor at the New School and at Union Theological Seminary, is a longtime organizer in New York City’s ballroom community — which drew mainstream notice courtesy of Madonna’s 1990 “Vogue” video and Jennie Livingston’s 1991 documentary Paris is Burning, and has since developed into a thriving global subculture. Roberson is also a creative consultant for the FX series Pose. He believes that the family dynamics created within ballroom culture can teach the rest of us about how to develop healthy communities.

Emmy-winner Matt Wilson spent a decade as a medical clown at Memorial Sloan Kettering, helping children with life-threatening illnesses. He now researches how arts and performance improve health. He recently graduated from NYU with a master’s degree exploring the phenomena he has witnessed. (PS: He’s also a sword swallower!)

Cyndi Styvers speaks to Residency group

TED Residency Director Cyndi Stivers lays down the ground rules for the 14-week program. Rule #1: Show up! (Photo: Dian Lofton / TED)

Britt Wray, PhD, is a science writer and broadcaster who crafts stories about science, society and ethics. In her forthcoming book, she argues that climate change is creating intimate dilemmas in our lives, including whether and how to raise children. She’s the cohost of the BBC podcast Tomorrow’s World and is a contributing host on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship science show The Nature of Things.

The new spring crew is joined by stellar alumni from previous Residency classes, back to continue the important work they do. Among them is a sustainable food venture, a designer creating solutions for animals and a playwright looking at the role technology plays in art. The returning group includes: Heidi Boisvert, Anindya Kundu, Mohammad Modarres, Kat Mustatea, Marlon Peterson, Mariana Prieto and Michael Rain.

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Register for the first course of the Community Health Academy

More than a billion people in the world lack access to basic health care. It’s a hard truth that Raj Panjabi pointed to as he accepted the TED Prize in 2017 — globally, there’s a shortage of accredited health workers, and many people living in remote areas are all but cut off from care. There’s a proven way to making sure they get it: Train locals to serve as community health workers, giving them the skills to bridge between their neighbors and the health care system. Trained community health workers can extend health care to millions of people.

Panjabi’s wish was to launch the Community Health Academy, a global platform dedicated to training, connecting and empowering community health workers and health system leaders. Today, the Academy opens registration for its first leadership course, offered in partnership with HarvardX and edX: “Strengthening Community Health Worker Programs to Deliver Primary Health Care.” The course will introduce the key concepts of national community health worker programs and look at some of the common challenges in launching and building them. It includes lessons from a wide variety of instructors — from former Liberia Minister of Health Dr. Bernice Dahn to healthcare pioneer Paul Farmer — diving into their experience building national community health worker programs. Through case studies of countries where these programs have worked — including Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Liberia, where Panjabi’s Last Mile Health operates — participants will learn how to advocate for, start and optimize community health worker programs.

This course was created by health systems leaders for health systems leaders. It can be taken individually, but learners are also encouraged to gather with colleagues within or across organizations to share their insights. The goal: to set up leaders in more countries to build community health worker programs and bridge the gaps in care.

Stay tuned for more courses from the Community Health Academy. Because as Panjabi put it in his talk, “For all of human history, illness has been universal and access to care has not. But as a wise man once told me: no condition is permanent. It’s time.”

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Announcing the speaker lineup for TED2019: Bigger than us

TED has unveiled its ambitious speaker lineup for the April conference, themed “Bigger than us.” Why? As Head of TED Chris Anderson puts it: “The theme ‘Bigger than us’ can mean so many things. AI. The arc of history. Ideas and things at a giant scale. Cosmology. Grand ambition. An antidote to narcissism. Moral purpose….”

Browse the lineup >>

The lineup includes path-breaking scientists and technologists (like soil scientist Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, and John Hanke of Niantic), smart entertainers (like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and America Ferrera and Derren Brown and director Jon M. Chu), artists and activists (like Brittany Packnett and Jonny Sun and Sarah Sze and Judith Jamison), and the thinkers and visionaries (like Hannah Gadsby and Edward Tenner) who can help us pull it all together.

Because, as our positioning statement has it, the political and technological turmoil of the past few years is causing us to ask bigger, deeper, more challenging questions. Like … where is this heading? what really matters? is there more I should be doing?

Together, we’ll be exploring technologies that evoke wonder and tantalize with superhuman powers, mind-bending science that will drive the future as significantly as any politician, the design of cities and other powerful human systems that shape our lives, awe-inspiring, mind-expanding creativity and, most of all, the inspiring possibilities that happen when we ask what ideas are truly worth fighting for, worth living for.

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Contact with aliens by 2036? Astronomer Seth Shostak wants to believe — and does

The Parkes Radio Telescope at the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. Image courtesy of Seth Shostak.

Astrophysicist and astronomer Seth Shostak made a daring bet in his 2012 TED Talk: We’ll find extraterrestrial life within 24 years or he’ll buy you a cup of coffee. This isn’t just wishful thinking — technological advances over the past few decades have amplified the scope of space exploration monumentally, allowing us to search the stars in ways we never have before. We spoke to Seth about his work at the SETI Institute, our cultural fascination with aliens and why he thinks we’re closer than ever to finally finding ET. 

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

What have you been working on lately?

I do a lot of writing, a lot of talking and, of course, the science and speculation: What would be the best strategy to find ET?

We’ve been looking at a list of about 20,000 so-called red dwarf stars. Red dwarves are just stars that are smaller than the sun, and there are a lot of them. Just like there are a lot more small animals than big ones, there are a lot more small stars than big ones. The other thing is that they take a long time to burn through their nuclear fuel, so they live for billions and billions of years, which means that on average they’re older than stars like the sun.

 

“The bottom line is, the search has become much, much, much faster. If you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, it pays to go through the hay faster.”

 

With a star, if the planets around it are billions of years older than our own solar system, maybe the chances are greater that they’d cooked up some intelligence and is sending a signal we might pick up. That’s what we’re doing at the moment in terms of our SETI work.

So, how’s the hunt? How much closer are we?

When people say, “Well, so what’s the difference now between what you guys are doing and what Frank Drake — who did the first SETI experiment back in 1960 — did?” the difference is technology and science.

The Parkes Radio Telescope at the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. Image courtesy of Seth Shostak.

We can now build receivers that can listen to a lot more radio dials at once. Frank Drake had a receiver that could only listen to one channel at a time, sort of like your TV. We don’t know where ET might be on the dial, and we don’t know where that transmission might be, so we’ve got to really listen to lots of frequencies at once, lots of channels. The receivers we’re using today monitor 72 million channels simultaneously; you can sort of sift through the radio dial for any given star system much more quickly. The bottom line is, the search has become much, much, much faster. If you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, it pays to go through the hay faster.

The other thing that’s changed is the astronomy. When SETI began, nobody knew whether there were planets around other stars, if they were common, or maybe only one star in a thousand had planets. Nobody knew because we hadn’t found them yet. But since that time we have. We’ve found lots of planets, and what we found is that the majority of all stars have planets. Planets are as common as cheap motels. That’s good news because it means you don’t have to wait for somebody to discover planets around some other star and aim your antennas in that direction — we can just take a whole bunch of stars based on other criteria, like here are the 10,000 nearest stars or the nearest 20,000 red dwarf stars. We’re not worried too much about whether the stars have planets or not, because we know most of them will have planets. That’s a big step.

Those are the things that have changed — the technology and the science. Both of those, from my point of view, encourage me to think that we may find something within 20 years.

That’s a really exciting prediction. In your talk, you said that any civilization that we get in contact with or receive signals from will be far more advanced than us. Why haven’t we heard from them yet?

Two things: Maybe they have, and we just haven’t pointed the antennas in the right direction and to the right frequency! That’s the whole premise of SETI — that as we sit and talk, there are radio waves going through your body that would tell you about some Klingons if only you had a big antenna pointed in the right direction and you knew the right spot on the dot.

The other part is that I don’t know that they would be motivated to contact us unless they knew we were here. Maybe it’s an expensive project for them. Like, “Hey, what do you think — should we build a big transmitter and just ping the nearest million stars for 20 years at a time?” You know, that could be a big project. But if they knew that there was intelligent life here on Earth, maybe they would try and get in touch because maybe they want to sell their used cars or something.

The facts are that they probably don’t know that we’re here. How would they know that homo sapiens exist? They could start picking up our radar, television and FM radio — signals that actually go out into space. They could do that beginning in the Second World War when all that technology was developed. But that was only 70 years ago. If they’re more than half that distance — so 35 light years away — there hasn’t been enough time for those signals to get to them and for them to say “Oh, well, we’re going to answer those guys.” That means it’s very unlikely that anybody knows we’re here yet even if they want to find us. Unless they’re very close to us, they won’t succeed. They probably lost their funding and they don’t get any respect at parties.

And by the way, you might like to mention that to your friends, next time they tell you that they’ve been abducted by aliens. You could say, “Well, that’s peculiar. You know the Earth has been here for four and a half billion years, and they just now showed up to abduct you?” I mean, why now? It’s hard to believe that they might be relentlessly targeting our society — they might be, that’s the hope. That they might just have very strong transmitters that you could pick up anywhere nearby. That’s what we’re hoping for.

ʻOumuamua, the first interstellar visitor, has been a source of fascination since it was first discovered in 2017. Some speculate that it could be a sign of extraterrestrial life and last December, SETI, among others, conducted a radio search but didn’t hear anything. What do you think ʻOumuamua is?

It’s become an interesting public issue because Avi Loeb at Harvard likes to talk about these things, that it could be the Klingons and the space crafts. That’s not impossible, but it’s like you hearing a noise from the attic — I mean, it could be ghosts, but that’s probably not the most likely explanation. The other thing is that every time we find something unexplained in the heavens many people — or some people at least — will say it’s alien activity because that’s a handy explanation. It accounts for everything because you can always say “Well, the aliens can do anything, right?” There is that tendency to blame the aliens for everything.

This thing came in and it went right through our solar system, right around the sun. You could say, “All right, it’s just a random rock kicked out of somebody else’s solar system,” but what are the chances that that rock is going to actually hit ours? The chances of that are pretty small. It’s like standing in Park Slope, Brooklyn and throwing a dart up into the air and hitting a particular nickel lying on the sidewalk down by the Brooklyn or Manhattan bridges [ed note: ~3 miles away]. It could happen but it’s pretty unlikely. Unless you throw lots of darts — if you throw a gazillion darts into the air, then you’re probably going to hit that nickel. What Loeb is saying is that either there’s just lots and lots of these rocks cruising this part of the galaxy — which could be, but that seems a little unreasonable — or maybe somebody is deliberately sending them our way. If you’re deliberately aiming at that nickel, then you have a higher chance of hitting it.

 

Aliens probably don’t know that we’re here. How would they know that homo sapiens exist?”

 

To say that it can’t be a comet because we didn’t see any evidence of that is subject to criticism based on the fact that we didn’t see much of anything on this thing because it was found very, very late and it’s very small and very far away. We never saw this as more than a dot. There’s no reason at this point to say, “You know what, Bob, no two ways about it — this has got to be artificial!”

It seems hard to draw conclusions because no one can collect any more evidence — ʻOumuamua is on its way out at this point, right? It seems all we can do is speculate at this point.

It’s now somewhere between Mars and Jupiter. You can’t even see it with the biggest telescope anymore. Loeb admits that and says we’ll find more. We’re probably gonna find another one within a year or two, and this time, everybody will be on the alert to start studying it right away and if it’s possible, maybe send a rocket in its direction with a probe.

Has this discovery changed your approach at all?

There’s simply no shortage of intriguing new discoveries all the time. Two or three years ago, it was Tabby’s Star. Jason Wright at Penn State said, “It could be an alien megastructure,” so we turned our antennas in that direction. We didn’t find any evidence of an alien megastructure either. The point of ʻOumuamua is that you have one more case where you find something unusual that could conceivably be aliens. It would be hubris, of course, to sort of weed these things away and say, “It’s not likely to be E.T.” With that kind of reasoning, you’ll never find E.T.! It’s a reminder that the evidence may come out of left field and you shouldn’t dismiss it just because of where it came from.

It’s been almost 60 years now we’ve been pointing the antennas in the directions of nearby stars that may have habitable planets, all the usual stuff. It just seems more and more possible to me that the real thing to do is spend more time looking for other kinds of evidence — not radio signals because they may not be broadcasting radio signals our way. They might be doing all sorts of other things like hollowing out asteroids and sailing them around or building alien megastructures or constructing something big and brawny. They could be building something that’s noisy enough or big enough or bright enough — conspicuous in some way — that you could find it without having to count on them directing some sort of radio transmission our way.

 

“There is that tendency to blame the aliens for everything.”

 

Many of your contemporaries are going to come down hard on you when you speculate about something that might or might not be true, as opposed to writing a paper on something that you’ve just measured. When you do that they’re going to say: “Okay, you’re making up stories and you’re just doing it to get the column inches.” And I think that that’s myopic, because it’s those ideas that provoke a lot of investigation and eventually, in many cases, they actually solve the problem.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I enjoy thinking about the possibility of SETI. Because we haven’t found anything, it’s still all possibility. I talked to a film writer who’s writing a screenplay, and he wanted to get the aliens right — whatever that means — what can you say about them? I mean, we haven’t found any, so you can say whatever you want.

I give a lot of talks and I try to give at least one in ten to kids. I like them because they are completely honest. You talk to them and if they don’t find it interesting, they just put their heads down on the desk. Adults will not do that. But if they are interested they’ll ask any question. There’s no such thing as a stupid question for a kid. When you talk to kids, you notice that maybe one in fifty of them, something lights up; they hear something that gets their imaginations going that they’ve never heard before.

What do you think we’re looking for? Why do you think we’re so fascinated with this concept of extraterrestrial life?

I honestly think it’s a hardwired feature, just the way kids are interested in dinosaurs. You’d have a hard time finding kids that aren’t interested in dinosaurs — and why is that? Do they just have a need to know about sauropods? Well, that’s just part of their brain. We’re kind of hardwired to be afraid of falling. That’s undoubtedly a throwback to our simian existence in the trees, climbing around, and if you fell, it was probably the end of you. You have all sorts of mechanisms that tense up and react very quickly if you begin to fall. The same would be true in terms of paying attention to any creatures with big teeth. It probably pays for you to be interested in big teeth and other potential dangers.

I think that’s why kids are interested in dinosaurs, and I think we’re also interested in aliens for pretty much the same reason. Namely that, if you have no interest in whether somebody is living on the other side of that hill outside town, then you’re very likely to someday see them come over the hill and maybe take your land or kill you. It might pay you to pay some attention to potential competitors or, looking on the bright side, potential mates. I think that that’s why we’re all interested in aliens up to a certain age. It’s hard to find somebody who’s not interested in aliens at all.

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Imagine If: A session of talks in partnership with the U.S. Air Force

Curator Bryn Freedman invites the audience to imagine a world we all want to live in, as she kicks off the TED Salon: Imagine If, presented in partnership with the U.S. Air Force. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

The event: TED Salon: Imagine If, curated by Bryn Freedman and Amanda Miller, TED Institute

The partner: U.S. Air Force

When and where: Thursday, February 21, 2019, at the TED World Theater in New York City

Music: Rapper Alia Sharrief, performing her songs “My Girls Rock” and “Girl Like Me”

The big idea: Imagination is a superpower — it allows us to push beyond perceived limits, to think beyond the ordinary and to discover a new world of possibilities.

New idea (to us anyway): We may be able to vaccinate against PTSD and other mental illnesses.

Good to be reminded: Leaders shouldn’t simply follow the pack. They need to embrace sustainability, equality, accountability — not just the whims of the market.


The talks in brief:

Brenda Cartier, Director of Operations at Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and the first female Air Commando selected for the rank of general

  • Big idea: “Precision-guided masculinity” allows us to maintain a killer instinct without discarding the empathetic, “feminine” traits that mitigate the “collateral damage” of toxic masculinity.
  • How? Viewing gender as a spectrum of femininities and masculinities allows us to select traits as they fit each situation, without tying our identities to them. As we learn to balance our personalities, we become well-rounded human beings and create more just societies.
  • Quote of the talk: “This new narrative breaks us out of a one-size-fits-all approach to gender, where we link male bodies and masculinity and female bodies and femininity. ‘Precision-guided masculinity’ begs us to ask the question: ‘Who is it that is employing those masculine traits to protect and defend?’”

Could we put a stop to mental illnesses like depression and PTSD before they develop? Rebecca Brachman explores the potential of a new class of drugs called “resilience enhancers.” (Photo: Dian Lofton / TED)

Rebecca Brachman, neuroscientist, TED Fellow and pioneer in the emerging field of preventative psychopharmacology

  • Big idea: Brachman and her team have discovered a new class of drugs called “resilience enhancers” that could change the way we treat mental illness like depression and PTSD. These drugs wouldn’t just treat symptoms of the diseases, she says — they could prevent them from developing in the first place.
  • How? Brachman’s research applies the fundamental principle of vaccination to mental illness, building up a person’s ability to recover and grow after stress. For example, imagine a Red Cross volunteer going into an earthquake zone. In addition to the typhoid vaccine, she could take a resilience enhancer before she leaves to protect her against PTSD. The same applies to soldiers, firefighters, ER doctors, cancer patients, refugees — anyone exposed to trauma or major life stress. The drugs have worked in preliminary tests with mice. Next up, humans.
  • Quote of the talk: “This is a paradigm shift in psychiatry. It’s a whole new field: preventative psychopharmacology.”

Michele Wucker, finance and policy strategist, founder and CEO of Gray Rhino & Company

  • Big idea: Catastrophic events sometimes catch us by surprise, but too often we invite crises to barrel right into our lives despite countless, blaring warning signs. What keeps us from facing the reality of a situation head-on?
  • How? Semantics, semantics, semantics — and a healthy dose of honesty. Wucker urges us to replace the myth of the “black swan” — that rare, unforeseeable, unavoidable event — with the reality of the “gray rhino,” the common obvious catastrophes, like the bursting of a financial bubble or the end of a tempestuous relationship, that are predictable and preventable. She breaks down the factors that determine whether we run from problems or tackle them, and lays out some warning signs that you may be ignoring one of those charging rhinos right now.
  • Quote of the talk: “Think about the obvious challenges in your own life and how you deal with them. Do you stick your head in the ground like an ostrich and ignore the problems entirely? Do you freak out like Chicken Little over all the tiny things, but miss the big giant wolf coming at you? Or do you manage things when they’re small to keep them from going out of control?”

Curator Bryn Freedman interviews executive (and former candidate for president of Iceland) Halla Tómasdóttir about how we can transform corporate leaders and businesses for a better world. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of Richard Branson’s B Team and former Icelandic presidential candidate, interviewed by curator Bryn Freedman

  • Big idea: Corporate leaders — and the businesses they run — are in a crisis of conformity that favors not rocking the boat and ignores big issues like climate change and inequality. We need new leadership to get us out of this crisis.
  • How? It’s not enough for corporate leaders to simply follow the pack and narrowly define the missions of their organizations. If CEOs want to avoid the pitchforks of the masses, they must also ensure that their businesses are global citizens that embrace sustainability, equality, accountability — not just the markets.
  • Quote of the talk: “At the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves who are we holding ourselves accountable for — and if that isn’t the next generation, I don’t know who.”

Sarah T. Stewart, planetary scientist at the University of California, Davis, and 2018 McArthur “Genius” fellow

  • Big idea: How did the Moon form? Despite its proximity, we don’t actually know! Adding to the mystery: the Earth and Moon are composed of the same stuff, a rarity we’ve found nowhere else in the universe. In trying to solve the mystery, Sarah T. Stewart discovered an entirely new not-quite-planet.
  • How? Stewart and her team smash planets together in computer simulations to learn more about how they were created. While trying to uncover the Moon’s origin, they discovered that the early Earth may have been involved in a massive collision with a Mars-sized planet, which then created a “synestia:” a super-heated doughnut of molten material previously unknown to science, out of which the Moon was born.
  • Quote of the talk: “I discovered a new type of astronomical object. It’s not a planet; it’s made from planets.”

Why do teens seem to make so many bad decisions? Kashfia Rahman searches for an answer in psychological effects of risk-taking. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Kashfia Rahman, Intel International Science and Engineering Fair winner and Harvard freshman

  • Big idea: Teenagers aren’t necessarily chasing thrills when they make bad decisions. Rather, repeated exposure to risk actually numbs how they make choices.
  • How? After wondering why her peers were constantly making silly and irresponsible decisions, Kashfia Rahman decided to conduct an experiment testing how her fellow high school students responded to risk. She found that habituation to risk — or “getting used to it” — impacts how teenagers make choices beyond their cognitive control. With this insight, she believes we can create policies that more holistically tackle high-risk behavior among teenagers.
  • Quote of the talk: “Unforeseen opportunities often come from risk-taking — not the hazardous negative risk-taking I studied, but the good ones, the positive risks,” she says. “The more risks I took, the more I felt capable.”

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Two TEDsters nominated for Oscars and more TED community news

As usual, the TED community is making headlines. Below, some highlights.

A close look at the beauty and pain of hospice care. End Game, a short documentary that follows the last few days of terminally ill patients, is up for an Oscar this weekend. The heart-rending film highlights the work of doctors and caregivers — including BJ Miller — reimagining what palliative care and hospice work can be. In a column for Hollywood Reporter, Motion Picture and Television Fund head Bob Beitcher says, “End Game’s Dr. BJ Miller embodies the commitment and compassion that is crucial to cutting-edge palliative care, helping families and patients travel the difficult journey together.” The film is streaming on Netflix. (Watch Miller’s TED Talk.)

 

Also up for an Oscar? Period. End of Sentence. Entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham kickstarted a cultural revolution in India with his sanitary pad machine, and now the tale is a compelling Netflix documentary. The Oscar-nominated short doc explains how Muruganantham’s invention empowers rural women, providing them with both clean sanitary napkins and reliable employment, while reducing stigma. “The strongest creature created by God in the world is not the lion, not the elephant, not the tiger … the girl,” says Muruganantham in the film. (Watch Muruganantham’s TED Talk.)

 

Nita Farahany co-leads AI seminars for congressional staff. Alongside Vincent Conitzer and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, ethicist Nita Farahany kicked off the three-part Duke in DC seminar series on artificial intelligence for a congressional audience. Farahany, a professor of law and philosophy at Duke University, spoke on the potential impact of AI and human collaboration on policy. Questions ranged from predictive policing methodologies to the role of government in AI development. As quoted on Duke’s website, Farahany said, “Because AI is still in such a nascent phase of its development, and because we as a society are going to increasingly face ethical and legal dilemmas from its use and development, there is an important role for government in the field.” (Watch Farahany’s TED Talk.)

 

Stroke of insight: A choral work based on Jill Bolte Taylor. Identical twin composers the Brothers Balliett have written a new three-part piece for a choral-orchestral and mezzo soprano soloists called Fifty Trillion Molecular Geniuses — based on neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor’s book and TED Talk. The Cecilia Choir of New York will premiere the piece with soloist Amanda Lynn Bottoms at Carnegie Hall in early May. Tickets are available now. (Watch Taylor’s TED Talk.)

 

Mark Kelly runs for US Senate. Retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly has launched a campaign in Arizona’s 2020 senatorial special election. Kelly and his wife, former congressional rep Gabby Giffords, announced the campaign with a video highlighting Kelly’s career as an astronaut and pilot, his family roots and his pivot toward gun control activism following an assassination attempt on Giffords in 2011. Kelly describes the issues he cares for most including health care, job and economic growth and the environment. “We’ve seen this retreat from science and data and facts, and if we don’t take these issues seriously, we can’t solve these problems,” he says. (Watch Kelly and Giffords’ TED Talk.)

 

The Explorers Club Medal awarded to Kenneth Lacovara. For his discoveries of some quite remarkable dinosaur fossils, paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara will be honored at the 115th Explorers Club Annual Dinner. The Explorers Club Medal, the group’s highest award, is presented to those who have made “extraordinary contributions directly in the field of exploration, scientific research, or to the welfare of humanity.” Other TEDsters who have received the honor include Sylvia Earle, Jane Goodall and James Cameron. In a statement for Rowan University Lacovara said, “I’m honored and humbled to be joining a group of medalists that includes so many of the heroes and adventurers who inspired me as a child … I am fortunate to have played a small role in uncovering our wondrous past.” (Watch Lacovara’s TED Talk or see his TED Book, Why Dinosaurs Matter.)

 

Have a news item to share? Write us at contact@ted.com and you may see it included in this round-up.

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TED original podcast WorkLife with Adam Grant is back with Season 2 (and a sneak peek trailer)

The breakaway hit returns March 5, delving deeper into how we work and the psychology of making work not suck

Organizational psychologist, bestselling author and TED speaker Adam Grant returns March 5 with Season 2 of WorkLife with Adam Grant, a TED Original podcast series that takes you inside the minds of some of the world’s most unusual professionals to discover the keys to a better work life. Listen to a sneak peek trailer now and subscribe.

WorkLife was among Apple Podcasts’ most downloaded new shows of 2018, and the trailer gives a taste of what’s in store for 2019 – from celebrating the potential of black sheep in the workplace (as Pixar did) to bouncing back from rejection and examining whether it’s actually possible to create an a*hole-free office.

Each new WorkLife episode dives into different remarkable, and often unexpected, workplaces – among them the US Navy, Duolingo, NBC’s The Good Place, and the Norwegian Olympic alpine ski team. Adam’s immersive interviews take place in the field as well as the studio, with a mission to empower listeners with insightful and actionable ideas that they can apply to their own work.

“I’m exploring ways to make work more creative and more fun,” says Adam, the bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take. “We spend almost a quarter of our lives in our jobs, and I want to figure out how to make all that time worth your time.”

Produced by TED in partnership with Transmitter Media, WorkLife is TED’s first original podcast created in partnership with a TED speaker. Adam’s talks “Are you a giver or a taker?” and “The surprising habits of original thinkers” have together been viewed more than 15 million times in the past three years.

TED’s continued expansion of its content programming beyond its signature TED-talk format in both the audio and video space. Other recent TED original content launches include The TED Interview, a podcast hosted by Head of TED Chris Anderson that features deep dives with TED speakers; Small Thing Big Idea, a Facebook Watch video series about everyday designs that changed the world; and the Indian primetime live-audience television series TED Talks India: Nayi Soch, hosted by Bollywood star and TED speaker Shah Rukh Khan.

WorkLife with Adam Grant Season 2 debuts Tuesday, March 5 on Apple Podcasts, the TED Android app, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. Season 2 features eight episodes, roughly 30 minutes each. It’s sponsored by Accenture, Bonobos, Hilton and JPMorgan Chase & Co. New episodes will be made available every Tuesday.

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Calling all GlobalXplorers: Get ready to go to India

A look at how GlobalXplorer’s expedition of India will roll out, state by state. Armchair archaeologists will search more than 3 million square kilometers for signs of ancient manmade sites. (Photo courtesy of GlobalXplorer and Tata Trusts)

Today, GlobalXplorer, the citizen science platform created by satellite archaeologist Sarah Parcak with the 2016 TED Prize — which allows users live out their Indiana Jones fantasies and search for archaeological sites from home — announced the location of its second expedition. The location will be: India!

GlobalXplorer’s first expedition took users to Peru, where they searched 150,000 kilometers of land and identified thousands of features of archaeological interest, including more than 50 new Nazca Lines and 324 sites determined by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture to be of high interest. The exploration of India will be even more sweeping in scope.

India is a large country with 29 states, spread out over 3.287 million square kilometers. Working with the Archaeological Survey of India (a branch of India’s Ministry of Culture) and alongside Tata Trusts and the National Geographic Society, GlobalXplorer’s new expedition will cover the entire country, state by state. This vast work will be accomplished with the help of machine learning. Over the past year, GlobalXplorer has been working with technology partners to train AI to weed out tiles that either contain no archaeological features or that are not able to be properly searched because of dense cloud cover or an impenetrable landscape. Platform users will take on the next step: looking at tiles with potential signs of archaeological features. Searching this most promising fraction of tiles will be no small task. Parcak estimates that, with the help of the crowd, this mapping will be done in less than three years.

“Folks we are about to announce country #2 for @Global_Xplorer I am SO excited. What’s your guess?” she tweeted at 6:30am this morning. Then later she revealed: “So thrilled to be able to share: Globalxplorer will be heading to India next!”

More information on when the expedition begins will be coming soon. In the meantime, read lots more — including how GlobalXplorer is using a blockchain-enabled app to keep antiquities safe — on Medium. And watch the video below to get excited about what you might find.

from TED Blog http://bit.ly/2UQYBN0