Meet our first class of TED Residents


An idea worth spreading doesn’t just magically appear out of thin air. Instead, it needs a long incubation period, a sometimes frustrating — and often exciting — trial and error of creation, failure and innovation.

On April 18, TED welcomed its first-ever class of the TED Residency program, an in-house community of 28 bright minds who are tackling ambitious projects and making meaningful change.

This group of thinkers will spend the next four months in a collaborative space, learning with and from each other on ideas that address …

• How to talk about science differently
The personal stories of migrants
• Violence prevention in at-risk communities
• Meaningful personal connections in a tech-heavy world
• Inclusion in the fashion world
• Building the digital Disney of Africa
• Frictionless housing for a mobile society

… among many other fascinating subjects

At the end of the session, the residents will give a TED Talk about their final ideas in TED office theater. Read more about each resident below:

Daniel Ahmadizadeh is working with artificial intelligence to revolutionize how consumers are informed and make choices. He co-founded Riley, a chatbot concierge service that saves real-estate professionals time. Riley handles the preliminary conversation with a prospect on behalf of agents 24/7 via text message.

Piper Anderson is a writer, cultural worker, and founder/chief creative strategist at Create Forward, a social enterprise that designs creative strategies for social change to activate the collective imagination. Inspired by her 15 years working on local and national initiatives to end mass criminalization and incarceration, she launched the National Mass Story Campaign, which will host participatory storytelling events in 20 cities to catalyze more restorative and transformative approaches to justice through stories and dialogues with people directly impacted.

Isabel Behncke is a Oxford field primatologist from Chile working on the evolutionary roots of social behavior in humans and other animals. As part of her interest in “the evolution of the ideas-talk,” she is creating a show on the Science of Joy that blurs boundaries between theatre, poetry and cutting-edge science. Think ancient fireside storytelling, but with Rolling Stones, Whitman and Darwin as part of the hearth.

Susan Bird is working to build a podcast series of meaningful conversations.  As face-to-face connection is now considered a new luxury, Susan hopes to create a global appetite for conversation and feed it with the skills needed to spread ideas.

Artist and traveler Reggie Black looks to inspire others through Sticky Inspiration! Sticky Inspiration started as an online project designed to inspire others through thought-provoking quotes composed and distributed daily in public spaces. After five years, he’s looking to continue and expand on his idea through tangible experiences to create an even bigger impact.

Sashko Danylenko is a Ukraine-based filmmaker whose animated films explore wonder and curiosity. Currently, Sashko is working on a film that documents different cities around the world as seen through bicyclists.  

Tanya Dwyer is an attorney and social entrepreneur in Brooklyn who works to promote inclusive capitalism and economic justice. She wants to help establish a living-wage business park in Crown Heights that is cooperatively owned by neighborhood residents and stakeholders.

Laura Anne Edwards wants to enlist the global TED community to help create DATA OASIS, a dynamic index and treasure map of open data archives and a wiki-style forum for sharing best practices and APIs across disciplines and borders. DATA OASIS will reduce redundant research projects, thereby moving critical efforts forward such as environmental science and medical studies. It will also radically democratize access to valuable data sets, many of which are taxpayer funded and technically “open” but in practice, extremely difficult to locate and access.

Rob Gore, an academic emergency medicine physician doc based in Brooklyn, leads KAVI (Kings Against Violence Initiative), a youth empowerment program and violence prevention program that has been running for the past five years. His work explores the intersection of medicine and empowerment and hopes to transform health care in marginalized populations.

Che Grayson is a filmmaker and comic book creator whose multimedia project Rigamo, a comic series and short film about a young girl whose tears bring people back to life, helped her overcome her grief at the death of a beloved aunt. She wants to explore using these forms of storytelling to tackle other tough subjects, heal, and inspire.

Bethany Halbreich runs Paint the World, an organization on a mission to discover what could happen if we make opportunities for creativity ubiquitous. Paint the World facilitates public art projects in underserved communities, the resulting pieces are sold and the profits fund more kits and supplies for areas in need — and so the cycle repeats!

Sarah Hinawi is the co-founder and director of Purpl, a small-business incubator that focuses on the person rather than the business. Her career has been driven by a desire to help others find self-direction, a personal connection to learning and a life path in line with their passions, interests, and beliefs.  Her latest work examines what a new model of leadership looks like in the gig economy and how fostering this model can address the disengagement and isolation so omnipresent in our workforce.

DK Holland has developed a free afterschool program where third through fifth graders take the lead. Kids’ Council is a micro-democracy run by kids in their classroom. DK finds that giving kids the opportunity to serve motivates even the quietest, most challenged child to express his or her natural generosity, inquisitiveness, individualism and sense of fairness. She is working on making this new model accessible to other public schools across the US. She’s finding that many kids are natural innovators and they consult with Inquiring Minds USA, her company, to bring progressive learning improvements back in to their classrooms, notably the Learning Wall and Portfolio Pockets.  

Liz Jackson is the founder and Chief Advocacy Officer for the Inclusive Fashion & Design Collective, which is the first fashion trade association for businesses and designers serving the needs of people with disabilities. Their mission is to introduce the world to inclusive design and use it to fuel the disability market, which is an emerging market the size of China.

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist and policy expert who advocates zoning the ocean as we do land. As executive director of the Waitt Institute, she led the Caribbean’s first successful island-wide ocean zoning project, resulting in one third of Barbuda’s coastal waters being protected, and went on to launch similar initiatives on other islands. Ayana argues that this big-picture approach can frame political, environmental, cultural and economic tradeoffs; set a course toward restoring the ocean’s abundance; and enable us to use the ocean without using it up.

Jonathan Kalan and Michael Youngblood are rethinking the future of flexible housing through their company Unsettled. They want to redefine the notion of home and its relation to work for a more mobile generation. The rise of the sharing economy has proven that our generation values experiences over ownership, and this duo is pioneering the first truly “global lease,” a subscription-based platform for global housing that will unlock a location-independent, experience-driven lifestyle.

Brian McCullough is the creator of the Internet History Podcast, an oral history of the internet.  Regarded as the informal textbook to the historical evolution of the web, Brian’s work serves as a tool to educate those that work in that space.  

Christia Mercer is a full-time Columbia philosophy professor and part-time activist. She plans to examine radically different answers that people across cultures and times have given to hard questions and show their relevance to modern thinking.

Ted Myerson is a co-founder of Anonos, a Big Privacy technology company that enables data to be more readily collected, shared, published and combined. As Big Data paves the way for new discovery, Ted hopes to improve quality of life with privacy-respectful life science breakthroughs that could empower personalized and precision medicine.

As a tap dancer, Andrew Nemr has lived the oral tradition of American Vernacular Dance. Along with dance legend Gregory Hines, Andrew has co-founded the Tap Legacy Foundation and is working to create an online platform for the preservation, support, and promotion of oral traditions.

Cavaughn Noel is looking expose urban youth to the untapped fruits of life that they rarely get to experience, using inspirational imagery, via technology, arts, fashion, and travel. By creating a platform to serve as a “lens” for young people to see opportunities around the world, he wants to empower them to build their own inroads in those spaces once they see what is possible.

Torin Perez is building a digital platform to bridge the massive gap in availability and accessibility of diverse children’s content for schools and families. The DreamAfrica app is home to engaging and educational family-friendly multimedia content from established publishers, independent content creators, and children.

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is a Columbia-trained neuroscientist turned art director and is founder of The Leading Strand. Her organization directs designer-researcher collaborations to produce visual media that reveal the incredible possibilities hidden behind the often inaccessible language of academic science.

After her Flappy Bird in a Box video went viral, Fawn Qiu wondered how else she could hook teens on engineering.  By creating an open-source model for designing fun projects with low-cost, everyday objects, she hopes to encourages a new generation of engineers.  

Vanessa Valenti is the co-founder of FRESH, a next-generation speakers’ bureau focused on diversifying the speaking field. She’s conducting research to inspire us to redesign thought leadership—specifically, who gets on the world’s most influential stages, and what their experiences are once they get there.

Kimberlee Williams is the CEO of FEMWORKS, a communications agency specialized in developing authentic and enduring community connection through events, engagement strategies and creative content.  She wants to transform local economies by better engaging and enrolling African American consumers in buy-local campaigns.

Sheryl Winarick‘s work as an immigration lawyer gives her the unique opportunity to know intimately the people she serves, the reasons they choose to migrate, and the challenges they face. She is constantly in awe of the qualities that emerge when people leave the familiar behind for an uncertain future. She aims to create an online storytelling platform to humanize “the other,” to inspire and educate, to connect and collaborate, and to cultivate a sense of individual and collective responsibility.

from TED Blog

Got a story you cant share? Tell it anonymously to Sincerely X

Sincerely_X audio podcast pilot logo

Think of a story from your life that you can’t tell anyone. Not because it reflects badly on you — in fact, you’re proud of the lessons you learned — but because of its effects on someone you love. A new-mom story that you’d never want your kid to hear. A high-stakes mistake on the job that made you a wiser person — but left lingering sadness and regret behind. Or perhaps you have an insider’s take on an exclusive milieu that few can imagine — and no one can talk about.

As a pilot for a new audio show, TED producers June Cohen and Deron Triff are looking for those stories. “Sincerely, X” will be a place where the ideas inside stories can come forward … without revealing the identity of the storyteller.

As Cohen says: “We’re not just looking for corporate whistleblowers or other traditional anonymous insiders — we also want to hear the personal lessons of learning and growth, the hard stories that create our worldview and make us who we are. For example, imagine a mom who faced and came through severe postpartum depression. She has a story, an idea, that could help other people — but she never wants her kid to know about her darkest thoughts as a new mom. How do we share her ideas with the world?”

The format of the audio show is carefully tailored to allow identities to be disguised, while the power of the story comes through.

TED is now looking for great ideas and stories to kick off the pilot. if you have one, use this form to submit it. All information will be carefully handled, as you might expect.

from TED Blog

Motherhood without maternity leave redefining nude and a Pulitzer prize win.


The TED community has lots of news this week. Below, just a few highlights.

Motherhood without maternity leave. Imagine going back to work only 20 days after giving birth, using up all of your vacation days in lieu of paid or unpaid family leave. In a two-part series for The Atlantic, Jessica Shortall shares how a woman named Tara, after hearing her TED Talk, reached out to her on Facebook, opening up about her experiences. Tara later updated Jessica on the struggles of balancing work with regular nursing and the other demands of motherhood via text message conversations with Shortall, “Leaking thru shirt half way through a 3 hour meeting is pretty awkward. Wow. Glamorous.” Shortall makes not only the moral but also the economic case for paid family leave, as shown by findings of The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank: “Not only do household earnings rise when women go back to work following leave; the overall economy benefits as well.” (Watch Jessica’s TED Talk.)

The wisdom of our life’s work. We spend most of our waking hours working, but besides just making ends meet, is there wisdom to be found in the 9-5? In Time, Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps, shares the ambitions, struggles and triumphs of working people, including recovering heroin addicts’ hope of opening a museum, a single fast-food-working mom turned forensic anthropologist, and a medical student who, after his father’s murder, became a teacher to help prevent disadvantaged youth from following a dangerous, criminal path. These and other stories are in Dave’s new book, Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work. (Watch Dave’s TED Talk)

A new “nude.” A nude color crayon or a cute pair of nude ballet flats — “nude” seems to mean “the color of white skin.” A new fashion-tech startup called Mia Pielle plans to challenge that, helping clients find clothes and accessories (like a great “nude” bra) to match their own shade. By analyzing 87 photographs of women all over the world by Angélica Daas, among other data sets, Mia Pielle settled on six skin tones from which a shopper can choose. It’s still in alpha, but this blend of art, fashion and tech should help finally eradicate the notion of one default skin tone. (Watch Angélica’s TED Talk)

The Pacific Northwest’s disaster forecast. On April 18, The New Yorker’s Kathryn Schulz took home the Pulitzer prize in Feature Writing for “The Really Big One.” In the piece, Schulz dives deep into the geology and history of the Cascadia subduction zone, a West Coast faultline overshadowed by its better known but less powerful cousin, the San Andreas, and its potential to unleash a devastating earthquake and tsunami on the Pacific Northwest. With humor and whimsical detail at odds with the piece’s gravity, Schulz reveals the shocking unpreparedness of the region to handle such a powerful quake, and ponders its significance  as a cautionary tale on our relationship to science and nature — and on our very relationship to time. (Watch Kathryn’s TED Talk)

COP21: Open for business.  In December 2015, after a lengthy and delayed process shepherded by Christiana Figueres, 195 countries adopted the first universal, legally-binding climate agreement in Paris. On April 22, not so coincidentally Earth Day, at the United Nations in New York, 130 countries are expected to sign the COP21 agreement, marking the beginning of a year-long period for signatures. At TED2016, Figueres spoke about the need for optimism to bring such a landmark agreement into being, an optimism she retains today, commenting that she believes the agreement is ahead of schedule and will come into effect by 2018 instead of 2020. (Watch Christiana’s TED Talk)

A city flag redesign. In his talk at TED2015, Roman Mars called out Pocatello, Idaho, for having the worst city flag in America. The talk stirred the small city (population 54,3500) into action: They’ve started a city flag design committee. Mars attended the first meeting on April 13 to offer encouragement and advice such as: “You’ll get asked, ‘Why does this matter? Aren’t there better things we could be doing? … Get an answer for that in your head early.” As it turns out, the current flag has only ever been flown outside of Pocatello’s wastewater treatment facility and was never authorized as the official city flag, but somehow ended up in that position anyway. (Watch Roman’s TED Talk)  

… and redrawing US borders.The traditional map of the US, with its familiar clear-cut and misshapen lines of 50 states, is geographically correct, but functionally outdated. In The New York Times, global strategist Parag Khanna literally re-imagines the map to reflect the metropolis centers where physical and digital architecture are interconnecting people and economies across state lines. “Economically and socially, the country is drifting toward looser metropolitan and regional formations, anchored by the great cities and urban archipelagos that already lead global economic circuits.” Out April 19, Parag Khanna’s new book, Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization, explores this idea in depth. (Watch Parag’s TED Talk)

Research gag laws in the UK. Researchers should have the right to speak up and warn about imminent dangers, such as the effects of climate change or an epidemic on the rise. But according to Robin McKie’s article in The Guardian, this may no longer be so in the UK. Astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees, among others, weighs in on the dangers of a new decision made by the Cabinet Office of the UK that bans researchers who receive government grants from using their findings to lobby for changes to regulations or laws. “It would be far too damaging to allow this clause to proceed.” Due to this intense backlash, certain researchers are now exempt from this clause, including those in national academies. (Watch Martin’s TED Talk)

Can we design for happiness? When we think of design, it is easy to think of the book covers, technology and objects that surround us, but graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister proves that design’s principles can be applied to any aspect of our lives, even something as abstract as happiness. Seven years in the making and premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, his new documentary The Happy Film delves with gusto into an idea he has dabbled with before–designing happiness. Like a true designer, he systematically experiments with three methods of becoming a better, happier person. (Watch Stefan’s TED Talks “Happiness by design” and “7 rules for making more happiness”)

On the brink of change. In essays spanning 25 years and 7 continents, journalist Andrew Solomon’s new book, Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change, published on April 19, captures the stories of places in the throes of cataclysmic change. From his first-hand perch as a foreign correspondent, Solomon describes major events of the 20th and 21st centuries, including the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the end of the Soviet Union, and Qaddafi’s Libya. With characteristic insight and detail, he reflects on the shift in personal identity that occurs when the surrounding culture, politics, and spiritual beliefs change–and the profound role individuals can have in making those changes happen. (Watch Andrew’s TED Talk)

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


from TED Blog

A voyage to our closest star, the surprising paradox of an elephant’s brain, and rethinking college rankings.


As usual, the TED community has lots of news to share this week. Below, some highlights.

A 4.37-lightyear starshot. Humanity has sent people to the moon and rovers to Mars. It might be about time we embark on interstellar travel. Russian philanthropist Yuri Milner, along with board member Stephen Hawking, unveiled a plan on Tuesday to send a fleet of iPhone-sized robots to our closest star, Alpha Centauri. Led by Pete Worden, a former director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, this bold initiative will take 20 years to get off the ground and another 20, roughly, to make the 4.37-lightyear journey. If completed, Hawking says, it will propel humans further into what we’re made for: “Today we commit to the next great leap in the cosmos, because we are human and our nature is to fly.” (Watch Stephen’s TED Talk)

A chemistry-driven 3D printer that you can take home. At TED2015, Joseph DeSimone introduced a radical new 3D printing technology prototype that creates objects out of a puddle of liquid (inspired, DeSimone admits, by Terminator 2). Through Continuous Liquid Interface Production, the chemical interplay between light and oxygen is harnessed to print objects 25-100 faster than standard 3D printing. This month DeSimone’s company, Carbon3D, debuted the M1, its first commercially available printer. (Watch Joseph’s TED Talk)

Health that zips through the sky. Drones — ominous, unmanned vehicles in the sky with the power to destroy, or, alternatively, bring hope and health to thousands worldwide. The latter is Keller Rinaudo and his company Zipline’s mission. Working with governments of developing countries, “Zipline plans to use its drone fleet to deliver medications to rural clinics all over the developing world”, says Olga Khazan in The Atlantic. Their first flights will begin this July in Rwanda. (Watch Keller’s TED Talk)

The surprising paradox of an elephant’s brain.  What about the human brain gives us greater cognitive abilities than other animals?  Suzane Herculano-Houzel believes the answer lies in the absolute number of neurons contained in an animal’s brain rather than the brain’s mass.  But the African elephant poses an interesting, and enlightening, paradox to her research.  She discovered that the African elephant’s brain–more than 3 times heavier than our brain–contained more neurons, but the location of those neurons plays a pivotal role in the difference between our cognitive ability and the elephant’s.  (Watch Suzane’s TED Talk)

Stories from home. StoryCorps, which recently celebrated its own anniversary, announced a partnership with Fun Home to celebrate the Tony Award-winning musical’s one-year anniversary on Broadway.  Stories will be available from Fun Home’s cast and creative team and fans are encouraged to record their own stories using the StoryCorps app.  The collaboration was born at the 2015 StoryCorps gala, which celebrated OutLoud–StoryCorp’s multi-year project to capture LGBT stories from around the country.  (Watch Dave’s TED Talk and read his pieces on TED’s Ideas blog)

Remembering the Bosnian War. Janine Di Giovanni, with radio in-hand, listened to a Bosnian Muslim commander’s plea for help in 1993, “In the name of God, do something…We are dying here.” In a Newsweek piece, she remembers what it was like reporting on the  Bosnian War and the pain afflicted by President Radovan Karadžić, who in March was found guilty of 10 war crimes, including genocide, by a UN tribunal at The Hauge. (Watch Janine’s TED Talk)

Oil fields ablaze.  “Twenty-five years ago, as the United States-led coalition started driving out Iraqi forces from Kuwait, Saddam Hussein’s troops responded by setting ablaze hundreds of oil wells, creating one of the worst environmental disasters in recent memory,” recalls photojournalist Sebastião Salgado in The New York Times.  The piece describes his admiration for the oil-well firefighters and the difficulty of photographing in such an extreme environment, “the heat warped one of my lenses and my jaws ached from the sheer tension of being exposed for hours to scalding temperatures”.  In his signature black and white, Salgado captures the drama of the burning landscape–the giant clouds of smoke and flame spilling into the air, the firefighters covered in oil–with this reminder, “We must remember that in the brutality of battle another such apocalypse is always just around the corner.”  (Watch Sebastiao’s TED Talk)

An artful blend of theater and journalism.  Playwright Anna Deavere Smith is famous for her bold mix of theater and journalism, capturing the experiences of her subjects in extensive interviews and translating them, verbatim, onto the stage.  On April 5, she received the latest accolade for her work: a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship.  The award will fund her latest project, Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, which explores the School-to-Prison Pipeline. (Watch Anna’s TED Talk)

“Animal” shouldn’t be an insult. Humans have friends, but animals have “affiliation partners”, humans have sex, but animals have “breeding behavior”. But as primatologist Frans de Waal points out, humans laugh and animals do, too. In The New York Times, de Waal looks at the dangers of the linguistic pedestals we have erected over the animal kingdom and how humbling ourselves to recognize the true capabilities of animals is a mark of progress. Even more, recognizing human brilliance and the animal in us is not mutually exclusive, “There is nothing wrong with the recognition that we are apes — smart ones perhaps, but apes nonetheless…The more we succeed, the more we will realize that we are not the only intelligent life on earth.” (Watch Fran’s TED Talk)

Why safety should affect college rankings.  As college acceptance season reaches its climax with students preparing to make a decision by May 1, Michael Kimmel puts forward a provocative idea on how to make college campuses safer.  In an article for Time, Kimmel suggests incorporating campus safety data into The Princeton Review’s college rankings.  While current crime data for the rankings is self-reported, most information comes from an annual survey of 100,000 students, “the real experts”, and Kimmel believes that this survey should include student opinions on safety and sexual violence.  By incorporating this information into the ranking system, it “would help students make informed choices–and help hold schools accountable”. (Watch Michael’s TED Talk)

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

from TED Blog

One year, 81,000 stories: StoryCorps celebrates the anniversary of its app

Teenagers. They’re not exactly known for their listening skills. But over Thanksgiving weekend of 2015, high school students across the United States sat down with elders and asked them deep, meaningful questions about their lives. More than 50,000 people — most in their teens — took part in the Great Thanksgiving Listen and recorded an interview using the StoryCorps app. A 14-year-old in Georgia heard what it was like for her grandmother to go to bed hungry; students in Colorado heard one man’s experience of enlisting during the Vietnam War; and a teen in Louisiana found out that her grandparents got engaged at a drive-in movie.

The StoryCorps app launched in March 2015, when StoryCorps founder Dave Isay won the TED Prize. But Isay says that the app’s first real test came in November during the Great Thanksgiving Listen. The event proved to him that the app — which lets anyone record an interview, and upload it to the Library of Congress — could exponentially increase the number of voices in StoryCorps’ archive. The 50,000 interviews recorded over Thanksgiving weekend doubled the number of interviews the organization recorded in its first 10 years combined.

“A year ago, I stood on this stage with a dream: to see if we could use technology to scale the incredibly intimate StoryCorps interview experience,” says Isay in the talk above, given as an update at the TED2016 conference. He shared the app’s stats — that it has now been downloaded 602,000 times, and used to record more than 81,000 interviews. But the real triumph is in quality. Isay notes that these interviews have the same depth and intensity of those recorded in StoryCorps booths; the difference is that interviews recorded with the app are “more informal” and “spontaneous.” These interviews, says Isay, take place “in basements and bedrooms, in kitchens and classrooms and cars.”

Andrew Goldberg works at StoryCorps, and is listening to interviews recorded with the app. In Great Thanksgiving Listen recordings, he’s noticed a few themes: the fight for civil rights, immigration to the United States, the hardships of military service. Another theme surprised him: September 11. “High school seniors were only about 3 years old when it occurred,” he said. “They want to know where their interview partner was at the time, how they learned about it, and if they felt scared.”

In general, both Goldberg and Isay — who listens to app interviews every Sunday evening — notice universals running through these interviews. There’s almost always discussion of love, and advice for what really matters in life. In a large number of recordings, the person being interviewed says either, “I have never told you this before,” or “I always wanted to share this with you.”

Over the past year, StoryCorps has worked with organizations to find creative ways to document voices typically excluded from media. At the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, participants interviewed each other about life in the rural West. At the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, attendees spoke to find the connective tissue between women’s experiences in different parts of the world, be they a Syrian journalist or an Iranian lawyer.

Still, only a small percentage of app interviews have been recorded outside of the US — which offers a big growth opportunity. “We’re still a couple of years away from truly going international,” says Isay. “One thing we’ll be doing this year is making it easy for the app to be translated into other languages.”

Also in the plans for the next year: a redesign that will make the app a hub for listening to StoryCorps content. Other improvements will make the interview recording process more seamless, as Isay thinks what’s been recorded so far is “the tip of the iceberg.” In the next year, Isay hopes to double the number of interviews recorded with the app in its first year.

The Great Thanksgiving Listen will take place again in 2016, and StoryCorps is working to strengthen its relationships with schools and educational organizations with an eye toward making interviews a standard part of the high school curriculum. Interviews give a first-person look at history, but they also teach students how to listen, says Isay. It’s something he fears could become a lost art.

“We live at this moment when our means of communication are advancing so quickly, while at the same time we don’t seem to be able to hear each other anymore,” he says in the talk above. “I heard someone say recently that hate is louder than love, and there’s some truth to that. We’re going to keep working with every cell in our bodies to turn up the volume on love.”

The StoryCorps app was launched with the 2015 TED Prize. In its first year, more than 82,000 interviews have been recorded using it. It has more than doubled StoryCorps' archive of voices. Photo: Courtesy of StoryCorps

The StoryCorps app was launched with the 2015 TED Prize. In its first year, more than 81,000 interviews have been recorded using it. It has more than doubled StoryCorps’ archive of voices. Photo: Courtesy of StoryCorps

from TED Blog

Minimalist microbes, Vikings in North America, and puzzling TV shows


Just a few of the intriguing headlines involving members of the TED community this week:

The bare necessities of life.  In a paper published on March 25, Craig Venter revealed that he and his team have created a minimalist microbe containing only the genes essential for its survival. The ultimate goal is to create new synthetic life forms, but the results reveal a pretty big catch: Of 473 total genes, the functions of 149 are completely unknown, roughly 30% of the total, underscoring how much we have left to learn about life. Read more about the results in an Atlantic article by fellow TED speaker Ed Yong. (Watch Craig’s TED Talk and Ed’s TED Talk.)

Vikings in North America. Despite their description in ancient sagas, Viking settlements in the New World have eluded discovery — with only one confirmed site on the tip of Newfoundland.  But further south, TED Prize winner and space archaeologist Sarah Parcak’s latest discovery, a stone hearth used for working iron thought to be built by Vikings, could upend our limited knowledge of Viking history in North America.  Read more about the discovery in National Geographic or on the latest Nova, and stay tuned for the release later this year of Global Xplorer, a citizen science-based game developed by Parcak, so you can try your own hand at space archaeology.  (Watch Sarah’s TED Talk.)

Roadblocks to economic stability. In a Bloomberg’s “The First Word” podcast interview last week, economist Dambisa Moyo weighed in on remarks by Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, in which he called on global financial leaders to rethink current systems to prepare for the next financial crisis. Noting the good intentions behind this call-to-action, Moyo nonetheless acknowledges the difficulties: “ We see a lot of differences and a schism across many countries across the world, partly driven by the weakness in the underlying real economy.” Considering the differences between, for example, how European and American institutions bank and trade, having one cohesive approach for all countries will be difficult. But is universality the key when tackling a new economic crisis? (Watch Dambisa’s TED Talk.)

A puzzling TV show. David Kwong has a puzzling profession, literally; he creates crossword puzzles for the New York Times and and sometimes, for TV shows like NBC’s Blindspot, a show whose protagonist has tattoos that are linked to a large criminal conspiracy. In the April 4 episode, the character Patterson starts a puzzle that was created by Kwong. In an interview, Kwong asks Martin Gero, the show’s creator, about his inspiration: “I’ve wanted to do a puzzle/treasure hunt show for years … but could never quite crack it. Finally I had this image of a giant puzzle map tattooed on a person’s body and I thought: yeah, this might be something people would watch.” (Watch David’s TED Talk.)

North Korean defectors in China.  At TED2013, Hyeonseo Lee described her harrowing escape from North Korea to China, where she lived in hiding for 10 years before receiving asylum in South Korea. China considers North Korean refugees illegal immigrants and pays people who report them. On March 26 and 27, in a rare public speech made as a North Korean defector in China, she returned to speak at the Beijing Bookworm Literary Festival because, as she told the New York Times, she wanted “to at least change some of the information they’ve been given.”  (Watch Hyeonseo’s TED Talk.)

How humans spread epidemics. While humans may feel powerless in the face of new epidemics, it turns out that epidemics rely on human actions like urbanization and factory farming to get started and to spread, says investigative science journalist Sonia Shah in an interview with World Policy Journal. The interview, and her new book Pandemic, explore how these interactions give rise to epidemics … and the steps we can take to prevent them. (Watch Sonia’s TED Talk.)

High demand for an electric car. Since public registration opened on March 31, advance orders for the new Model 3 Tesla car have skyrocketed. Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, estimated that by 10pm PST on Day One, Tesla received 140,000 orders. A cheaper and more energy-efficient edition, the Model 3 could help more people access an electric car. (Watch Elon’s TED Talk.)

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

from TED Blog

The Panama Papers highlight how anonymity fuels corruption

TED Prize winner Charmian Gooch wished to end anonymous companies at TED2014 and gave the audience an in-depth look at how anonymity feeds corruptuon. Yesterday's release of The Panama Papers made people all over the world feel this. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED

TED Prize winner Charmian Gooch has worked for years to end anonymous shell companies. At TED2014, she gave the audience a look at how anonymity feeds corruption. Yesterday’s release of the Panama Papers illustrates her message, with 11.5 million documents that paint a picture of a global network of anonymous dealings. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED

A trail of $2 billion in offshore deals that traces to Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. The Prime Minister of Iceland, accused of hiding millions of dollars in investments. The Prime Minister of Pakistan’s family, linked to six luxury real estate deals in London.

The Panama Papers, revealed yesterday, represent the largest data leak in history – a total of 11.5 million files from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which among other services incorporates companies in offshore jurisdictions like the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and the Seychelles. The contents of the leak point to the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials from more than 50 countries, as well as to numerous celebrities and members of the global elite. The revelations in the papers have jaws dropping all around the world. But they’re not a huge surprise to Charmian Gooch, winner of the 2014 TED Prize. “It’s really exciting, isn’t it, that this secretive world is being opened up to global public scrutiny,” she said over email.

Gooch and her organization Global Witness have been calling attention for years to the issue of anonymous companies and how they enable corruption. In her talk at TED2014, Gooch wished to create a public registry of who owns companies, to make the anonymous ownership a thing of the past. To the team at Global Witness, the Panama Papers prove the importance of this mission.

“This investigation shows how secretly owned companies … can act as getaway cars for terrorists, dictators, money launderers and tax evaders all over the world,” says Robert Palmer of Global Witness. “The time has clearly come to take away the keys.”

Watch BBC One’s Panorama tonight for Global Witness’ take on The Panama Papers, and what can be done to end anonymous companies and open up tax havens. For a crystal-clear explanation of why anonymous companies are problematic, watch the TED-Ed animation below and check out Charmian Gooch’s TED Prize talk.

And for more on the issue of global corruption:

from TED Blog

Bite-sized doodles, big ideas: Visualizing TED2016

Doodles are more than just idle scribbles; they can distill complex ideas into useful packets of knowledge. During TED2016, artist Mia W. McNary translated 18-minute talks — on topics like what it means to be a global citizen, the psychology of introverts vs. extroverts and a prosecutor’s case for justice reform — into playful and succinct visualizations.

It all started when Mia’s brother Jim, a longtime TED attendee, sat next to a woman taking visual notes during the 2015 conference. Turns out, he was sitting next to Sunni Brown, a visualizer and a champion of using doodles for problem-solving (watch her TED Talk “Doodlers, unite!”). Her brother’s story inspired Mia to capture TED2016 in visuals herself.

Watching from Hawaii via TED Live, she started by drawing a grid of squares on a blank piece of paper. Then, without looking at the screen, she listened intently to each speaker, almost meditatively, with her pen in constant motion. Each square took only 30 seconds to complete, and she finished a section by the time each talk was through. This note taking, she says, forced her to “visualize in a vignette” each idea, blending metaphor and content into drawings that capture the right message.

Below are some of her illustrations:

Hugh Evans, a humanitarian and co-founder of Global Citizen, shares how a trip to a slum in the Philippines inspired him to create a network of passionate young people who create global change. Watch for his TED Talk, which premieres next week.

Hugh Evans, a humanitarian and co-founder of Global Citizen, shares how a trip to a slum in the Philippines inspired him to create a network of passionate young people who create global change. Watch for his TED Talk, which premieres next week.


Brian Little, a personality psychologist and professor, confesses that he, indeed, is an introvert. With humor and humility, Little dissects the surprising differences between introverts and extroverts.

Brian Little, a personality psychologist and professor, confesses that he, indeed, is an introvert. With humor and humility, Little dissects the surprising differences between introverts and extroverts.


Lidia Yuknavitch is an acclaimed author who admits that, despite her success, she’s a misfit. Chronicling a whirlwind, fish-out-of-water trip to New York City to meet publishers and agents, Yuknavitch shows how misfits have a unique power to constantly reinvent themselves.

Lidia Yuknavitch is an acclaimed author who admits that, despite her success, she’s a misfit. Chronicling a whirlwind, fish-out-of-water trip to New York City to meet publishers and agents, Yuknavitch shows how misfits have a unique power to constantly reinvent themselves.


Alexander Betts, a professor of forced migration and international affairs, calls out Europe for its pitiful response to the millions of refugees it has received this year: “our response, frankly, has been pathetic.” He suggests that the key is not just welcoming refugees, but also utilizing their skills and talents to help both them and their host countries prosper. (Watch Alexander’s TED Talk)

Alexander Betts, a professor of forced migration and international affairs, calls out Europe for its pitiful response to the millions of refugees it has received this year: “our response, frankly, has been pathetic.” He suggests that the key is not just welcoming refugees, but also utilizing their skills and talents to help both them and their host countries prosper. (Watch Alexander’s TED Talk)


Adam Foss, a juvenile justice reformer, makes the case for a better justice system, one where prosecutors place opportunity and a way forward above strictly punitive action. (Watch Adam’s TED Talk)

Adam Foss, a juvenile justice reformer, makes the case for a better justice system, one where prosecutors place opportunity and a way forward above strictly punitive action. (Watch Adam’s TED Talk)

Since the age of seven, visual notes have helped Mia document her life and learning experiences. But more than anything, she wants people to know that visual thinking is not just for artists, but can be used in fields such as sales, business and even therapy. In other words, doodling is for everyone.

from TED Blog

More than visibility: Geena Rocero’s TED Talk, two years later

Geena Rocero takes the stage at TED2014. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Geena Rocero takes the stage at TED2014. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

It was the day of my TED Talk, worried about stumbling on stage. What if my slides don’t work? What if I completely black out on the words that I passionately wanted to share? I was about to step onto that stage, declaring the fullness of my womanhood; my journey as a trans person from the Philippines. People have since asked, “why come ‘out’ on a TED Talk?”

After living for almost a decade in what we in the trans community call ‘stealth’, I’ve experienced the fear, the worry, and the sense of living a life not aligned with my spiritual center. Fortunately, my sense of purpose was bigger than my fear.

In 2014, on Transgender Day of Visibility, they released my TED Talk to the world. I wanted to be visible to the world and proclaim how proud I am. On that day, I also launched Gender Proud, our advocacy and media production company that tells stories to elevate justice and equality for the trans community. I’ve been fortunate to speak at the White House, work with UN agencies and meet so many

inspiring activists working to change their communities and culture. I will always treasure eating street food in Hong Kong and learning about the tireless work Joanne Leung is doing through Transgender Resource Center. Additionally, the resilience of trans activists in Colombia like Laura Weinstein of Fundacion Grupo de Accion y Apoyo a pesonas Trans, the critical policy work of Andrea Parra through Universidad delos Andes Law School, the regional work Asia Pacific Transgender Network led by Joe Wong, my sister Abhina through the India HIV Alliance, the much-needed work of Ruby Corado in DC through Casa Ruby, and the healing work of Transwomen of Color Collective led by my sister, Lourdes Ashley Hunter.

Most importantly, I was able to go back to the Philippines to the communities and Trans family that nurtured me since I was a young trans girl. We got to work with Association of Transgender People of the Philippines, led by Dindi Tan, Kate Montecarlo and Chloe Charm. The much needed visibility work of TransMan Pilipinas led by Nil Nodalo, the LGBT Network organization in Philippines LAGABLAB led by incredible trans sister and leader Meggan Evangelista, the inspiring resilience of Trans Deaf Philippines led by Disney Aguila and the loving and vibrant trans community in Cebu through their organization Colors.

It is important to point out that these organizations rely on funding and resources that will allow them to continue their vital work. Follow the links above to find out more.

As we see increased trans visibility in the media, it is critical than we recognize the experiences and lives of those who are not visible. Visibility is only one step in the many layers in achieving equality. TED community and allies, let’s speak up loudly for those without a voice!

— Geena Rocero

from TED Blog

Autism awareness at the UN, drones that deliver medicine, and cartoons in the classroom.


Lots of happenings in the TED community this week. Below, some highlights.

Autism awareness at the UN. April 1 is World Autism Awareness Day, and to formally commemorate it, Steve Silberman will give the keynote address at the United Nations Headquarters. Looking ahead to 2030, the UN Department of Public Information and Department of Economic and Social Affairs will examine how the Sustainable Development Goals impact efforts to improve the lives of people with autism. A series of panels and moderated discussions will explore this effort. (Watch Steve’s TED Talk.)

A scientific reason not to floss.  In The American Journal of Physical Anthropology, archaeologist and TED Fellow Christina Warinner detailed the technique she developed to isolate DNA from calculus — also known as solidified plaque or tartar. Containing 25 times more DNA than ancient tooth or bone, calculus is “the richest known source of [ancient DNA] in the archaeological record”.  The nondestructive technique opens up the possibility of studying the DNA of Native Americans and other groups who don’t want pieces of bone and tooth taken from their ancestors.  (Watch Christina’s TED Talk.)

Adventures inspired by a bestseller. Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, a runaway phenomenon, has inspired adventure and change in the lives of readers worldwide. To mark its 10-year anniversary, Gilbert released Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It on March 29, a collection of real-life, first-hand accounts of how the book has made an impact. Stories include how a man left seminary and forged a new relationship with God after embracing his sexuality, how a woman’s pursuit of the perfect pizza brought her to New Zealand and how a writer embraced a new love overseas. (Watch Elizabeth’s TED Talk.)

TEDsters shaping the future.  In business and climate change, computer science and politics, the individuals on Fortune’s “World’s Greatest Leaders” list are quietly working to make the world a better place.  Looking through the list, released this week, you’ll notice more than a few familiar faces from the TED stage.  Watch Reshma Saujani, Tshering Tobgay, Arthur Brooks, Jeff Bezos, Bryan Stevenson, and Melinda Gates here on TED to learn more about their plans for a better future. (And watch for upcoming talks from leaders John Legend, Christiana Figueres and Sue Desmond-Hellmann.)

A cheaper, lighter electric car. Model 3, the newest edition of Elon Musk’s Tesla’s electric vehicles, is coming. Although the car’s actual production is slated for 2017, anyone interested in reserving one can starting on March 31. Delivery will be staggered, starting on North America’s West Coast, moving East. Then they will cross the pond to Europe and onward. Less expensive and lighter than the Model S, this edition will help car enthusiasts reduce their carbon footprint. (Watch Elon’s TED Talk.)

The case for hitting snooze.  In her TED Talk, Arianna Huffington describes the time she fainted from exhaustion and hit her head on her desk, which left her with a broken cheekbone and five stitches above her eye … and a new commitment to the value of sleep. Logging more sleep isn’t just about feeling good, she says, it’s a matter of life and death. Read a sneak peek of her new book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time, out April 5, or check out her tips for a better night’s sleep in Time. (Watch Arianna’s TED Talk.)

Cartoons in the classroom.  Known for crafting cartoons that explain complex ideas from math and science in simple and humorous terms, Randall Munroe took it a step further with his recent book, Thing Explainer, exploring everything from the solar system to washers and dryers using line drawings and ten hundred of the most common words in English. Now his knack for making the hard stuff easy to understand will be brought into the classroom. On March 22, educational publishing giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced that his cartoons would appear in science textbooks starting this fall.  (Watch Randall’s TED Talk.)

Drones to deliver better healthcare.  “One billion people do not have access to all-season roads,” says Matternet’s Andreas Raptopoulos, which means “we cannot get medicine to them reliably.” On the TEDGlobal stage in 2013, he outlined his bold plan to fix this problem using drones, reducing the investment, time and carbon footprint of building more roads. This week’s test flight in Malawi, backed by UNICEF, showed promising results for using drones to deliver blood samples and medical tests from rural clinics to laboratories.  (Watch Andreas’ TED Talk.)

Politics and the struggle for ideas. In conversation with journalist and op-ed columnist Gail Collins, Arthur Brooks dissected the key issues that Republicans and Democrats vote on, such as taxes and healthcare, in the New York Times. Looking at where the candidates stand on the issues, as well as their recurring strengths and weaknesses, Brooks assures readers that no matter what, the contest of ideas is what’s most important. “Politics is like the weather; ideas are the climate … The struggle for ideas that bring freedom and opportunity to more people — especially people at the periphery of society — has to go on no matter what.” (Watch Arthur’s TED Talk.)

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from TED Blog