The theme of TED2019 was "Bigger than us," was chock-full of compelling ideas and calls for action. Here are a few takeaways:
From Opening Session: Truth...
We're shining light into some really dark places. Sheperd Doeleman, head of the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, takes us inside the new (and iconic) black hole image and the epic effort involved in making it. The petabytes (1 petabyte = 1 million GB) of data that were used to construct the image came from a network of telescopes operated by 200 people in 60 countries who, he says, "effortlessly sidestepped the issues that divide us." (Here's a thought: Let's get competing political candidates to work on science projects … together!)
And some places still need illumination. British journalist Carole Cadwalladr (hers is the first TED Talk released already from this year) describes her investigation into the Facebook ads that targeted people with lies prior to the 2016 Brexit vote, but most of the evidence of what occurred remains in the "black boxes" of Facebook, Google and Twitter. She urges them to release their data, saying: "It's a crime scene, and you have the evidence." ...
Writer Baratunde Thurston shares examples of people in the US who had the police called on them because they were "living while black" -- when they went to a swimming pool, donated food to the homeless or played golf, "concerned" observers phoned 911 to report them. Systemic racism underlies these 911 calls, and even though changing it may sound impossible, Thurston has hope. He believes that if we can see the humanity of people targeted by racism, we can change our actions; when we change our actions, we change the story; and when we change the story, we can change the system.
The words we use matter. We're living in polarizing times, and many fractures occur during our conversations. By tweaking what we say, political pollster Frank Luntz shows how to keep our discussions open and respectful. One standout from his suggestions: instead of saying the passive "I'm listening," try the active, empathic "I get it."
Businesses need to look beyond balance sheets and focus on their people. Creating a company that puts employees first is part of what Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya calls his "anti-CEO playbook." Other actions in his playbook: Asking communities what they need instead of demanding tax breaks and concessions from them; being accountable to one's customers rather than one's shareholders; and taking sides on political issues -- because, he says, businesses should use their power to make a difference.
From Session: Knowledge...
Curiosity makes us human: Educator Brittany Packnett meditates on confidence, the hidden skill that powers many of our other skills. Confidence is what helps you put plans into action, and what helps you keep moving even after you fail. What builds confidence? One key factor, she says, is curiosity, the desire to push beyond who you are and what you know.
Mentalist Derren Brown taps into the curiosity of the audience by guessing our innermost questions (and even one guy's password). How did he do it? He'll never tell.
Appearing via robot, David Deutsch meditates on another force that moves us: the drive for new "explanatory knowledge." As humans, we desire to understand things and explain them and change them and make them new. As he says: "From the human perspective, the only alternative to that living hell of static societies is continual creation of new ideas, behaviors, new kinds of objects."