BMW i and TED partner with Next Visionaries to source new ideas in mobility

TED’s European curator, Bruno Giussani, kicks off the Next Visionaries live pitch event at the Frankfurt Auto Show on September 10.

Five months ago, BMW i and TED laid down a challenge.

What would the future of mobility look like? There were no constraints on time frame or existing technology. The Next Visionaries project was conceived as a free form exercise in innovation and ideation with the goal to surface some truly breakthrough concepts.

Ideas poured in from around the world. Nearly 200 visionaries from 42 countries offered their own perspectives for how we’d be moving in the near and distant futures. Everything from the unexpected impacts of autonomous cars to imaginative visions for the configuration of future cities and new energy sources.

The 200 visions were pared down to six outstanding ideas which were curated around three central themes exploring the topic of mobility from the perspectives of technology, the environment, and the impact on society overall.

Three TED speakers served as mentors, offering assistance for the six finalists by providing insights on how to develop and communicate their idea pitches which were to be presented at a September 10 event at the Frankfurt, Germany International Motor Show, known as the IAA.

The environmentalist visionaries interacted with electric car activist Monica Araya who is leading efforts to convert her country of Costa Rica into the world’s first entirely fossil-fuel free nation. Futurist Maurice Conti recently took the helm of a new moonshot outfit in Barcelona, looking for ideas that will impact 100 million people or more, be a force for good, and grow into billion-euro businesses. His insights helped shape the visions that explored societal impacts. And for those deep into technology, Fawn Qiu drew on her experiences at the MIT Media Lab, developing and launching apps, and her work on ensuring that the tech space is a diverse one.

After four weeks of refinement, revision, and rehearsal, the visionaries were ready for their moment. Hosted by TED’s International Curator Bruno Giussani, the idea pitch session included context setting talks from each of the mentors followed by brief three minute pitches from each visionary.

In technology, Aarjav Trivedi offered a vision in which autonomous and shared cars ignite some unexpected disruptions in sectors as diverse as health care and real estate. Sebastian Gabor wondered what might happen when shared cars become sentient companions, capable of having a relationship with passengers, and perhaps even sharing some of the car’s favorite sites along the way based on its understanding of the passenger.

In the environmental space, Tom Moloughney drew on his 8 years and 250,000 miles fueled entirely by solar and electricity to lay down a vision that puts electric cars into the reality of today. He even posited an idea for drawing power from the roads, recharging in motion, to show that electric cars don’t need to drain the electric grid but could actually supplement it. Ira Munn shared his vision for a rapid-prototyping concept tapping into the potential of 3D printing for a viable vehicle made up almost entirely of recycled plastic currently polluting the ocean, near his home in New Zealand.

And finally, the societal thinkers shared visions that were both inspiring and potentially alarming. Jeremiah Owyang fleshed out a dystopic scenario in the not too distant future when autonomous cars could evolve from one smart vehicle into an even more sophisticated thinking fleet of cars, a mobility organism with the intelligence to maintain, evolve, and fund itself. Sandra Phillips, who had played a part in several of the world’s most successful shared car services, offered an inspiring vision for how autonomous and shared car networks could transform smaller cities rarely served well by public transport, unlocking social and economic mobility as well.

Consulting with TED curators in New York and onsite in Frankfurt, as well as getting the vital mobility perspective of BMW executives Nicolas Peter and Hildegarde Wortmann, the most compelling idea was that of Sandra Phillips. Sandra will be expanding her idea pitch into a full-length TED Talk at a salon in the TED Theatre in New York City on November 16.

Presented exclusively by BMW i, this TED Salon will curate talks around the theme Speed of Change. The session will consider the rapid evolution and transformation taking place in cities worldwide and answer such questions as How can we keep them humane places in which to live and work? What smart technologies can make transportation of people, goods and ideas flow efficiently? And how can architects and designers use materials and style to preserve and distinguish local cultures?

At the Next Visionaries idea pitch, Sandra Phillips offered an inspiring vision for how autonomous and shared car networks could transform smaller cities rarely served well by public transport, unlocking social and economic mobility as well.


Break the mold: The talks of TED@BCG 2017

The main stage at TED@BCG at East End Studios, October 4, 2017, in Milan, Italy. Photo: Richard Hadley / TED

Complex times require a bold embrace of diversity and difference — and an ability to turn the unknown into an advantage. How can we tap into the unexpected?

For a sixth year, BCG has partnered with TED to bring experts in education, diversity, AI, biology and more to the stage to share ideas from the forefront of innovation. At this year’s TED@BCG — held on October 4, 2017, at East End Studios in Milan, Italy — 17 creators, leaders and innovators invited us to challenge preconceived ideas, grapple with real problems and open our minds to new ways of thinking.

After opening remarks from Rich Lesser, president and CEO of BCG, the talks of Session 1

“Can I be myself today?” Erica Joy Baker speaks to the questions that underrepresented people may carry with them at work, creating anxiety their coworkers don’t feel. She took the stage at TED@BCG in Milan. Photo: Richard Hadley / TED

Bridging the “anxiety gap.” “Most of us come to work with a general set of questions and concerns: How do I make an impact? Will I meet my goals today?” says Erica Joy Baker, senior engineering manager at Patreon and an advocate for diversity and inclusion in tech. “But people from underrepresented groups have a different set of questions: Am I being paid fairly? How do I avoid sexual harassment? Can I be myself today?” Baker calls these ever-looming concerns the “anxiety gap” — a gulf created by the issues that she faces in the workplace as a woman of color, and one which she must always navigate before she can do the job she was hired for. She believes that companies need to recognize this phenomenon and make changes so all of their employees can thrive. For starters, she says, bosses should think about a time when they felt like an outsider and then figure out how to prevent their workers from experiencing those feelings on the job. They should make sure employees know they’re fairly compensated (by publishing salary ranges), and they should set up a safe, confidential method to report harassment. And all people, regardless of job title or pay grade, can speak up on behalf of coworkers who are struggling to traverse the anxiety gap. “Show them you are not only their ally,” Baker suggests, but that “you are their advocate and accomplice.”

Are diverse companies smarter and more creative? You may think, instinctively, well of course they are … but Rocío Lorenzo and her team actually did the study to prove the effect is real. She speaks at TED@BCG in Milan. Photo: Richard Hadley / TED

Why diversity in the workplace is a competitive advantage. As a business advisor, Rocío Lorenzo noticed that the more diverse companies she worked with often produced fresher, more creative ideas than less diverse ones. So she wanted to know, was there a link? Were diverse companies really more innovative? Lorenzo and her team surveyed 171 companies from Germany, Austria and Switzerland to find out. At the onset of the study, she and her team doubted that they would find anything significant, but after the data came in, the answer was a clear yes. “More diverse companies are simply more innovative. Period,” she says. Since that study, Lorenzo has worked with many organizations who want to increase their innovation through strategic hiring and promotions, and she’s seen incredible results. How can your company follow suit? According to Lorenzo, who you hire and who you promote matter. Change the face of leadership and make it more diverse, she says, because diversity won’t happen naturally, and one woman in the boardroom won’t cut it.

Superheroes wanted. With great design power comes great problem-solving ability. “Design unlocks solutions to our problems,” says design champion Kevin Bethune. “I believe that design is not just important but absolutely necessary to achieve success in business.” Bracketed by examples from the design world, his own company and his personal inspirations, Bethune reveals the four superpowers that all designers possess: x-ray vision (understanding the implicit behaviors of people ), shapeshifting (emulating behavior of their subjects and turning feelings into products and services), extrasensory perception, or ESP (tapping into people’s senses) and the ability to make others superhuman (guiding people into a state of flow). Don’t believe it? Give designers room to truly thrive in the workplace and see firsthand what happens when these powers are released.

Humans and bacteria: an unlikely partnership. When it comes to decreasing our fossil-fuel dependence, we need to think beyond just how we power our homes and businesses. Nearly all the products we use today, including things like the fabric in our clothes, rely on petroleum and require huge amounts of water. Natsai Audrey Chieza, founder and creative director of R&D studio Faber Futures, is inventing new ways to engineer the things we want and need by fusing biology, technology and design. Consider fermentation, which she calls an “advanced technological toolkit for our survival.” Humans have long used this bacterial process to create things like cheese and beer; in the 1920s, Alexander Fleming employed it to create penicillin. After Chieza noticed the bacterial strain streptomyces coelicolor produces striking pigments, she harnessed it to dye textiles. The resulting fabric is colorfast and chemical-free (bonus: the process takes very little water). Chieza is now trying to scale up her methods, but what excites her most are the similar efforts that are underway in other labs and design studios. One startup is making “leather” from mushrooms, while another is using yeast to create a protein-based, super-strong yarn. The possibilities represented by such bio-based industries are both thrilling and dizzying, and we need to think about how we can best build, distribute and regulate them. As she says: “This is the material future that we must be bold enough to shape.”

The most mysterious microbes on earth. How deep can we go into the earth and find a living thing? We still don’t know the answer to this very basic question about life, says microbiologist Karen Lloyd. But in the 1980s, a scientist named John Parkes discovered living microbes buried in mud deep in the seafloor (a discovery confirmed with a subsequent expedition in 2001). “They’re not like anything we’ve seen before,” Lloyd says, which makes them extremely tricky to study. No one has even managed to grow them in a petri dish. “Those microbes have a fundamentally different relationship with time and energy than we do,” she says, “but if we can continue to find creative ways to study them, then maybe we’ll finally understand what life — all of life — is like on Earth.”

How great ideas happen. “We have all probably wondered how great minds achieved what they achieved,” says physicist Vittorio Loretto, opening up Session 2. The more astonishing their feats, the more we assume that they’re geniuses and unlike us. But is that really true? Are advances like the ones made by Newton and Einstein achieved by great leaps or by something else? How do we really conceive of something new? As a possible answer, Loretto introduces the concept of the adjacent possible: everything that is one step away from what already exists. “You can achieve them through incremental modifications and recombinations of the existing material,” he says. The adjacent possible is continuously shaped by our actions and our choices, helping us push the boundaries of what’s possible: “Impossible missions might not be so impossible after all.”

Getting the most bang for your buck on R&D. No matter what sector you’re in, most good ideas exist outside your organization — and most bad ones too. It’s up to your internal experts to help tell the difference between the two, says innovation instigator Michael Ringel. Ringel and his team found that the biggest drivers for a company’s success in R&D are a mixture of three things: external innovation, having access to great scientific information and actually listening to the internal experts who dispense that data. It’s the lack of follow-through on the listening portion that often makes productivity elusive. Ringel suggests seriously contemplating (rather than ignoring) internal research, offering positive personal incentives — and embracing the spirit of collaboration to cultivate the best ideas.

Where are people shopping in China? On their phones, says Angela Wang at TED@BCG in Milan. Photo: Richard Hadley / TED

The future of shopping? China, the world’s most populous country, is “like a huge laboratory generating all sorts of experiments and innovations,” says retail expert Angela Wang. And in this lab, everything is taking place on people’s phones. In China, 500 million customers — equal to the entire populations of the US, UK and Germany — are regularly making purchases via mobile platforms, where shopping and payment are seamlessly linked. Mobile payment is the norm even in brick-and-mortar stores. What should retailers know? People want shopping to be ultra-convenient (a Shanghai-based supermarket will deliver any of 4,000 items ordered via mobile to homes in 30 minutes), ultra-flexible (fashion retailers are responding to celebrity style and social postings by using “microstudios” to produce mini lines of a few dozen garments in 3-4 days) and ultra-social (shopping is embedded in social interactions, whether it’s customers sharing recommendations — and buying — via chat or the relationships that social influencers and 24/7 e-commerce shopping assistants are forging with customers). “We’re at the very beginning of a huge transformation,” says Wang, and this seismic shift in retail is reshaping not just the point of purchase but also supply chains, distribution and marketing. These rapid-fire, ongoing changes are the new business-as-usual, leaving retailers with a simple choice: adapt or die.

If you ever feel lost, stop and listen for your song. Music gives a soul to the universe and flight to the imagination, says student, musician and TED-Ed Clubs superstar Anika Paulson. Guitar in hand, she plays through the beats of her life, exploring how music connects us and makes us what we are — and how it can help us find our rhythm when we’ve lost it. “Where music has rhythm, we have routines and habits, things that help us remember what to do and how to stay on track,” Paulson says, strumming her guitar. Friends and family create harmonic structure in your life, and you’re the melody, she continues. In times of change, the new and off-tempo noises that enter your life might change your melody, but it’s still the same song — your song. “Music is my way of coping with the changes in my life,” Paulson says in a new movement of her song. “It changes and it builds and it diminishes, but it’s always there, surrounding us, connecting us to each other and showing us the beauty of the universe.”

Philipp Gerbert tells us what’s next in AI at TED@BCG in Milan. Photo: Richard Hadley / TED

AI in practice. AI isn’t an abstract, mysterious force for experts only; instead, it’s for all of us to use and benefit from, says AI pathfinder Philipp Gerbert. The basic principles of AI are actually rather simple, Gerbet says: today, AI is a fast intuition and calculation machine with improving vision and language skills, whose intelligence we need to nurture with lots of data and feedback. And it solves problems really differently from the way a human might. It doesn’t just help on major, complex applications like self-driving cars; it can help with everyday tasks as well, Gerbert says. “When people — and by that I mean all us — start applying their knowledge of AI, we have seen the applications explode,” he says. If you’re working on tasks from translation to recruiting to cyber security and much more, you could use an AI assistant. “AI is not this destructive, mysterious force,” he concludes. “With this understanding, we can start moving from mere spectators, or prey, to becoming actors in the AI world.”

The danger of AI bias. As a research scientist at Google, Margaret Mitchell works on helping computers talk about what they see and understand. One day, she showed a computer an image of a house burning down, and the computer remarked on what a spectacular view it was. “I realized that as I worked on improving AI task by task, data set by data set, I was creating massive gaps, holes and blind spots in what it could understand,” she says, “and while doing so, I was creating all kinds of biases.” She realized that we need to think deeply about how the technology we create today will look in the future. “We can be proactive around the outcomes of AI and begin tracing out the evolutionary path that we’d like it to follow,” she says. But this isn’t something that only large tech companies can contribute to. “The math, the models, the basic building blocks of artificial intelligence are something that we can all access and work with,” she says. “We have open-source tools for machine learning and intelligence that we can contribute to.” We can also start a conversation about technology — what concerns and excites us, what aspects could be more beneficial or more problematic as time goes on. “If we want AI to evolve in a way that helps humans, then we need to define the goals and strategies that enable that path now,” she concludes.

Krumping to Mozart. Krumping is a free, expressive, exaggerated street dance that originated in African American communities in Los Angeles and has evolved into a global art form. Opening Session 3, French artist Wolf escaped into what felt like a moment of spiritual transcendence onstage, as he krumped with exacting precision to the “Lacrimosa” from Mozart’s Requiem aeternam.

A new paradigm of social responsibility. How can we make lasting and significant progress on the big challenges in our world? We need business to drive the solutions, says social impact strategist Wendy Woods. CSR, or corporate social responsibility, is the norm today — but it’s not strong or durable enough to drive solutions, she suggests, because it’s an incremental cost — and it’s almost always the first thing to be cut in bad times. Woods has a new paradigm: TSI, or total societal impact. “It’s the sum of all of the ways a business can affect society by thinking about their product design, manufacturing and distribution,” she explains. “And it can actually create core business benefits while solving meaningful societal problems.” That is, companies that perform strongly on social and environmental areas do better in the long run. Sharing new data from a study that looked at the companies that have done well on TSI, Woods shows how companies across industries like oil and gas, pharmaceuticals and banking see better margins and valuations when they do positive things like minimizing their impact on the environment and maintaining strong occupational safety programs. “One of the best ways for businesses to help ensure their own growth and longevity is to meet some of the hardest challenges in our society, and to do so profitably,” Woods concludes.

How do you do the Ice Bucket Challenge in a desert country? With a bucket full of sand, says Lana Mazahreh as she speaks to the world’s evolving water crisis at TED@BCG in Milan. Photo: Richard Hadley / TED

Hopeful solutions to the water crisis. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, today nearly one in three people live in a country that is facing a water crisis. Water conservation activist Lana Mazahreh grew up in Jordan, a parched country that has experienced absolute water scarcity since 1973, and she learned how to conserve water as soon as she was old enough to learn how to write her name. What can the rest of the world learn from parched countries on how to save water and address what’s fast becoming a global crisis? Mazahreh shares three lessons from how water-poor countries have survived and thrived: Tell people how much water they really have, so they can take responsibility; empower people to save water, with simple tools like tap and showerhead regulators and toolkits with water-saving techniques; and look below the surface for water savings in unexpected places, such as in Australia, where they’re recycling wastewater. “If we just look at what water-poor countries have done, the solutions are out there,” Mazahreh says. “Now it’s really just up to all of us to take action.”

“Good” and “bad” are often incomplete stories. When we describe events as “good” or “bad,” we dilute the complexity of the human experience, says writer Heather Lanier. After her daughter was diagnosed with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, a genetic condition that results in developmental delays, Lanier soon came to realize that a short-sighted perspective diminished what it means to live a full life — especially when it comes to individuals with physical and mental disabilities, who are often stripped of being seen as multidimensional people. “When we label people as tragic or angelic, bad or good, we rob them of their humanity, along with not only the messiness and complexity that come with it, but the rights and dignities as well,” she says. Instead of fixating on pity or attempting to normalize things, we should question the cultural values used to mark success and failure in life. Lanier takes life as it comes and watches her daughter’s life unfold for what it is — beautiful, complicated, joyful, hard — and responds to every new experience with the words from an ancient parable: “Good or bad, hard to say.”

The global learning crisis — and what to do about it. We are in the midst of a learning crisis, says Amel Karboul, an education pioneer and Secretary-General of the Maghreb Education Commission. Globally, a quarter billion of the world’s children are out of school, and an additional 330 million are in school but failing to learn. If nothing changes, that number will only grow, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Karboul shares two important ways we can improve our education systems so that every child is in school and learning within just one generation: have countries learn from others within their same income level, and divide teaching between content teachers and tutoring teachers. We can implement these ideas worldwide by bringing stakeholders together, relentlessly following up to make sure progress is happening and finding new ways for countries to borrow money for education, Karboul says. “Education is the human rights struggle of our generation,” she concludes, “Quality education for all: that’s the freedom fight we’ve got to win.”

Unfairness can make a workplace into an unhappy place, says Marco Alverà at TED@BCG in Milan. Photo: Richard Hadley / TED

How to promote a fair workplace. What is it about unfairness? Whether it’s not being invited to a friend’s wedding (when other people who barely know her are) or getting reprimanded for an honest mistake, unfairness often makes us so upset that we can’t think straight. But unfairness isn’t just a personal issue; it’s also bad news for business, says Marco Alverà, CEO of Italian natural gas infrastructure company Snam. As Alverà explains, partial treatment or unwarranted penalties in the workplace often make workers unhappy and unengaged, leading to millions lost in productivity each year. So how do you promote a fair workplace? Alverà explains that organizations can create a culture of fairness by rewarding employees for doing what they feel is right, instead of what’s selfish or quick. In a brief interview following the talk, he offers a final tip for the rest of us: “You know what’s right — go for it!”


The big idea: What your casual online behavior reveals about you (and what to do about it)

It seems these days, everybody’s getting hacked.

With so much of our most sensitive information stored on servers in some remote part of the world, it seems concerningly easy for malicious hackers to worm their way past secure firewalls and into bank accounts, credit card databases, corporate emails and even hospital systems.

On a global average, these hacks cost companies about $3.6 million, according to IBM’s annual Cost of Data Breach Study with 2016 being a record-breaking year for data breaches in the United States alone — which is shocking, seeing as many breaches still go unreported.

This isn’t exactly news: if you are a digital citizen, then you’re probably aware that nothing is safe on the internet. But beyond hacking, it turns out you’re revealing more than you think with your most casual online behavior.

So, let’s find out: what are you sharing about yourself online?

Your Wi-fi may reveal your secrets

A basic but surprisingly telling way to learn about the more undisclosed aspects of your life is through the wireless networks that we connect to daily. Get ready to shift your cell phone to airplane mode …

Whenever you connect to new Wi-fi, your smartphone also beams out a list of the networks you’ve previously connected to, even if you’re not actively using wireless internet, warns cybersecurity expert James Lyne. For hackers, this list is relatively easy to access and exploit. Many companies name their internet after themselves — which means your previous Wi-fi connections can disclose the last hotel you stayed in, the gym you go to and the coffee shops you frequent. This doesn’t include the threats possible when you connect to unsecured hotspots, like when you’re jonesing for free internet while waiting at the airport.

Example from University of Wisconsin

Depending on how uniquely you name your home network, a person might also figure out where you live. For example, say you name your Wi-fi JonesOnElmSt. If a hacker knows some simple information about your household — perhaps the family dog’s name — then she may be able to guess that password too.

So, here’s something for you to think about: “As we adopt these new applications and mobile devices, as we play with these shiny new toys, how much are we trading off convenience for privacy and security?” says Lyne. “Next time you install something, look at the settings and ask yourself, ‘Is this information that I want to share? Would someone be able to abuse it?”

Social media is an obvious culprit

Frank Abagnale Jr. (whose crime spree inspired the movie “Catch Me If You Can”) summed it up neatly in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal.

“Technology breeds crime—it always has and it always will. There’s always going to be people willing to use technology in a negative, self-serving way. So today it’s much easier, whether it’s forging checks or getting information,” he says. “People go on Facebook and tell you what car they drive, their mother’s name, their wife’s maiden name, children’s name, where they’re going on vacation, where they’ve been on vacation. There’s nothing you can’t research in a matter of a couple of minutes and find out about someone.”

By sharing small aspects of yourself — like the names of your nieces, the high school you attended or the street you grew up on — there’s a possibility that you’re offering up answers to your security questions. It’s hard to avoid sharing these things, but it might be in your best interest to scrub your Facebook and similar accounts and make sure your family and personal information is private or erased.

But say that advice doesn’t resonate, that you’ve been ultra social media savvy and have your accounts under lock and key; you can still give information about yourself quite regularly — not without care, but without thought.

In a fascinating conversation between computer scientist Jennifer Golbeck (TED Talk: Your social media “likes” expose more than you think) and privacy economist Alessandro Acquisti (TED Talk: What will a future without secrets look like?), the two experts spoke at length about the little-discussed aspects of online privacy.

Here’s a boiled down version of their most interesting points:

  • The most casual and random behavior reveals a lot. “You can ‘like’ Facebook pages, you can post these things about yourself, and then we can infer a completely unrelated trait about you based on a combination of likes or the type of words that you’re using, or even what your friends are doing, even if you’re not posting anything. It’s things that are inherent in what you’re sharing that reveal these other traits, which may be things you want to keep private and that you had no idea you were sharing.”
  • Having social media (and apps) means you forfeit your personal data. “There are terms of service that regulate the sites you use, like on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest — though those can change — but even within those, you’re essentially handing control of your data over to the companies. And they can kind of do what they want with it, within reason. You don’t have the legal right to request that data be deleted, to change it, to refuse to allow companies to use it. Some companies may give you that right, but you don’t have a natural, legal right to control your personal data. So if a company decides they want to sell it or market it or release it or change your privacy settings, they can do that,” says Golbeck.
  • Policymaking for privacy in the US needs work. “The policymaking effort in the U.S. focuses almost exclusively on control and transparency, i.e. telling users how their data is used and giving them some degree of control. And those are important things! However, they are not sufficient means of privacy protection, in that there are a number of ways in which transparency control can be bypassed or muted. What we are missing from the Fair Information Practices are other principles, such as purpose specification (the reason data is being gathered should be specified before or at the time of collection), use limitation (subsequent uses of data should be limited to specific purposes) and security safeguards.”“To be clear, I’m not suggesting that all this information will be used negatively, or that online disclosures are inherently negative. That’s not at all the point,” says Acquisti. “The point is, we really don’t know how this information will be used.”

Case in point is Luke R. DuBois’ project “A More Perfect Union.” Dubois created profiles on 21 different dating services and used the data given by other users to piece together a compelling cartographical tapestry of adjectives that describe towns across the US.

Los Angeles’ word is “acting.” And all towns around the area, are similar Hollywood words like “director,” “film,” “blonde” and “career.”

For a sampling of what he learned, check out the TED Ideas blog article or watch the talk to learn more about the data visualization, plus other projects he’s worked on:

Don’t fret — just be vigilant and proactive

A majority of us are at the fault of weak code and the exploitation of human nature.

Privacy researcher and TED Fellow Christopher Soghoian (TED Talk: How to avoid surveillance … with the phone in your pocket) details five easy ways to keep your data safe:

  1. Outsource your passwords to a robot. The human brain can only remember so many passwords, and too often we just reuse passwords across Facebook, our favorite shopping sites … and our bank. This is a Very Bad Idea. Once hackers break into one website and steal a database of email addresses and passwords, they’ll try to use those same email+password combinations to log in to other sites. The solution: Use a password manager, a software tool for computers and mobile devices, which will pick random, long passwords for each site you visit, and synchronize them across your many devices. Some popular password managers are 1Password, Dashlane and LastPass.
  2. Get a U2F key — and/or use two-factor authentication wherever possible. Make sure that even if someone learns your password, they won’t be able to log in. To do this, you’ll want to enable two-factor authentication, a security feature that can be added to many online accounts. For some sites, this step can take the form of a random number sent to your phone by text message, or a special app on your smartphone that generates one-time login codes. Google has pledged to upgrade their two-factor authentication in light of the many recent high-profile attacks. If you’re traveling, get a U2F security key, a thumb-drive-sized device that fits into the USB port. When you login to an account from a new computer, the U2F key handles your two-factor authentication. It costs about $15.
  3. Enable disk encryption. If you lose your laptop or your phone and it doesn’t have disk encryption turned on, whoever finds the device can get all your data too. On the iPhone and iPad, disk encryption is turned on by default, but for Windows, Android or Mac OS you need to make the effort to switch it on. Here’s how to encrypt your disk drive like you mean it.
  4. Put a sticker over your webcam. There are software tools used by criminals, stalkers and generally creepy people that allow them to turn on your webcam without your knowledge. Granted, this doesn’t happen millions of times a year, but the horror stories are real and terrifying. One simple sticker means you use your webcam when you choose to use it. (You may also want to cover your microphone.)
  5. Encrypt your telephone calls and text messages. The voice and text message services provided by phone companies are not secure and can be spied on with relatively inexpensive equipment. Your own government, a foreign government, criminals, hackers and stalkers could listen to your phone calls and read your text messages. Some Internet-based mobile apps that you likely already use are much more secure, enabling you to talk privately to your loved ones and colleagues, and don’t require that you do anything or turn on any special features to get the added security protections — Apple’s FaceTime and WhatsApp on Android are both good. If you want an even stronger level of security, there is a fantastic free tool called Signal available on Apple’s App Store.

In 2016, Kevin Roose, a tech columnist for the New York Times, hired hackers to tear apart his online life to learn firsthand how to avoid such a harrowing, paralyzing experience. In his article, How to Not Get Hacked, According to Expert Hackers, Roose outlines some key strategies to keep yourself from being raked over hot coals by some strangers online — a lot of which lines up with Soghoian’s advice. He suggests things like using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for $3.99/month if you use hotel or coffee shop Wi-fi or familiarizing yourself with urlquery.net to avoid potentially sketchy websites.

… Or if you don’t care about keeping your information secure, you can could do what artist Hasan Elahi did and share everything about yourself all the time and post it to a website in real-time.

Whatever your preference, managing your digital life is difficult and sometimes feels impossible with the amount of steps you have to take in order to achieve some sort of peace of mind. Take these facts and steps in stride, do what you can to protect yourself and in the meantime draw your own selfie — using your personal data. Good night and good luck.


A hard look: Exploring tough truths in Session 4

Dancer Qudus Onikeku and kora player Tunde Jegede, accompanied on the tabla, collaborate during Session 4 at TEDGlobal 2017, on Tuesday, August 29, 2017, in Arusha, Tanzania. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

TED is known for its inspiring talks. And all of the previous sessions before this have been inspiring, you have no idea. Humans, however, shall not live by endorphins alone. Sometimes, we need a stern lecture. Or a biting sermon. Sometimes, we need to reflect on a somber piece of art or music. Sometimes, we need to be told the truth. Sometimes, sit down, be humble, and contemplate what it means to be human, and our place in the universe. Sometimes, what we really, really need is a good, hard kick in the butt. That is what the speakers in this session came to do.

Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, a professor of African political thought, wonders how a continent that is home to some of the largest bodies of water in the world — the Nile, the Niger, the Congo, the Zambezi, the Orange rivers — can be said to have a water crisis. “Including in countries where the rivers are?” he asks. “Africa does not have a water crisis; it has a knowledge crisis regarding its water, where and what type it is, how it can be tapped and made available where and when needed to all and sundry.” According to Taiwo, a lack of knowledge is what stands between Africa’s current state and a future of prosperity. He posits that Africa must become a knowledge society, which is difficult since the continent currently loses its best and brightest to more favourable climes.

“We must find a way to make knowledge and its production sexy and rewarding. Rewarding not in the crass sense of money-making but in terms of making it worthwhile to indulge in the pursuit of knowledge, support the existence of knowledge-producing groups and intellectuals, ensuring that the continent is the immediate locus of knowledge production, distribution, and consumption and that instead of having its depositories beyond Africa’s boundaries, people once more from the rest of the world, even if in virtual space, come to learn from us. All this we do as custodians on behalf of common humanity.”

I did say he is a professor.

At Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, says: “We must find a way to make knowledge and its production sexy and rewarding.” Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Africa’s informal economy is really what keeps it running, creating jobs at four times the pace of the formal sector. And they get zero kudos for it, says Niti Bhan. In fact, the informal economy has been much maligned and even criminalised, because African governments cannot be bothered to distinguish between unrecorded and illegal trade. “This criminalization of the informal sector can easily cost each African economy between 60% to 80% addition to the annual GDP growth rate.” Informal businesses often pay local levies and all kinds of dues, but are almost always targeted for extortion and impoundment by government officials, and denied loans by lenders. Instead of penalising them for their social status and punishing them for their contributions to the economy, Bhan insists that we must begin to recognise and include the people, skills and occupations that fall into this forgotten segment of the economy in order to harness its true potential, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and lift millions out of poverty.

Niti Bhan studies informal economies — the source of more than half of economic activity in many nations of Africa. Yet, she says, they’re criminalized, persecuted, extorted by officials. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Kora virtuoso Tunde Jegede collaborates with dancer Qudus Onikeku in a somber, reflective performance, impossible to capture in words … perhaps these photos will do.

Click to view slideshow.

Leo Igwe comes to the stage with a message of hope and faith in humanity’s ability to rise above fear, hate and superstition. Especially superstition. “In Africa, superstition is widespread, with people too often believing in witchcraft, something that has no basis in reason or science. Yet alleged witches, usually women, children or elderly persons, are still routinely attacked, banished or killed. And I have made it part of my life’s mission to eradicate witch persecution in Africa.”

Ndidi Nwuneli has advice for Africans who believe in God, and Africans who don’t believe in god. To the religious, she believes that God loves Africa … just as much as he loves the people all over the world. While her faith in the omnipotence of the divine is firm, she is certain that God is not a micro-manager, or someone for whom the responsibility for how our lives turn out can be outsourced. “By claiming we have no power over past, present or future, we give too much authority to the wicked, who steal funds and ask God for forgiveness.”

To the non-religious, she argues that the outsized influence of faith-based organisations requires that they be factored into the African social change equation. Antagonising them or pretending they don’t matter isn’t practical. On the other hand, keeping an open mind and working with them can yield incredible results for issues of maternal mortality, healthcare and education.

Speakers Ndidi Nwuneli, at left, and Leo Igwe, right, discuss the role of faith and belief in modern African, in a Q&A sparked by TEDGlobal co-host Chris Anderson onstage at TEDGlobal 2017, Tuesday, August 29, 2017. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

It isn’t every day you hear about projects that connect different religious faiths. Nabila Alibhai and a group of friends wanted to see if they could create a language that transcended religion, race and political leanings. “The idea,” Alibhai says, “was to unite people of different faith by getting them to paint each other’s house of worship … churches, mosques, synagogues … yellow, in the name of love.” It might sound crazy, and of course they were told so. But in the end, 25 houses of worship participated, and the leaders of those places boldly owned the choice to do so, often coming up with their own beautiful justifications when asked why. “We’ve proven that the human family can come together and send a message far brighter and more powerful than the voices of those who would wish to do us harm,” says Alibhai. “Fear is infectious but we’re showing that so is hope.”

We’re officially at the halfmark. Four more sessions to go. If you just got here, visit blog.ted.com to start from the beginning so you don’t miss anything. If you’ve been following along all this time, well done, keep it locked. Asante.

Why is this house of worship — and 24 more like it, churches, mosques and synagogues — painted bright yellow? Because Nabila Alibhai and her friends asked if they would. It’s part of a project to show the interconnectedness and hopefulness of faith. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED


Repatterning culture, identity, language: Visual thinking from Session 5

Thandiswa brings a rocking, soul-deep performance to kick off Session 5 of TEDGlobal 2017 on Tuesday, August 29, 2017, in Arusha, Tanzania. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

The speakers in this session are artists, designer-scientists and visionaries who are remaking the world around them. Their weapons are scope, shutter, paint, brush, font, code, blood and bone. And they are not afraid to use them. Who are they and what do they want? It’s time to find out.

Self-styled “wild woman” Thandiswa Mazwai came off as both fierce and vulnerable in tonight’s performance with her band. Some people in the audience reported getting goosebumps. Brrrrr. Others report 🔥.

To recover, we watch this lovely short film featuring TED Fellow Walé Oyéjidé, a lawyer turned fashion maven for the menswear line Ikiré Jones. Their vision brings traditional African prints to tailored menswear, blending cultures, traditions and signifiers to make gorgeous stuff.

Over the past century, our world has organized itself around fossil fuels — “arguably the most valuable material system we’ve ever known,” says Natsai Audrey Chieza. But that system is coming to an end — not only because we’re within sight of running out of fuel, but because our dependence on petroleum has wreaked havoc on our planet and our economies. In her work, Natsai images a world that transitions off fossil fuels and onto biological materials that do the same tasks, are endlessly renewable, and recycle like a dream. As a first step, she shows how naturally occurring bacteria can be used to dye textiles at industrial scale (replacing disastrously dirty oil-based dyes). We have a chance to build a new industry from scratch, she says, that works in symbiosis with the environment. As she sees it, the future of materials will be grown, fermented and recycled.

Natsai Audrey Chieza imagines a world beyond fossil fuels — not just in our cars and homes, but in the many industrial processes that depend on petroleum. Imagine instead an industry based on biology, that grew itself and used itself up with no waste? Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

After a visit to the library in search of Arabic and Middle Eastern texts turned up titles about terrorism, fear and ISIS, Ghada Wali resolved that she would not leave her culture, nor the Arabic script, to disappear. The one tool in her arsenal was graphic design, and while she initially wasn’t sure how that would help, she drew on her recollections of the visual medium’s power to spread messages that led to the downfall of two dictators in her home country of Egypt. With the weapon acquired, all Wali needed now was a mission. “My eureka moment was to find a bilingual solution for Arabic education, because effective communication and education is the road to more tolerant communities.”

The solution that she designed is an appealing mashup of colourful Lego and the Arabic script: a game that teaches people Arabic by assembling Lego blocks. The concept has morphed into merchandise, a mobile app and, very soon, a book. “This book is the final product that I would like to eventually publish and translate into all the other languages in the world,” she says, “so that Arabic teaching and learning becomes easy, fun, and accessible globally.”

“If you look online at a map of a township in South Africa or a remote village in Nigeria, you’ll see a few roads, surrounded by a lot of empty space. But if you switch to satellite view, you’ll see vast swathes of houses, businesses and people there, spread across hundreds of unmapped streets.” Chris Sheldrick wants to help the world’s unmapped people, the estimated billions who live without an address, to get more findable. He and a mathematician friend realized you could divide the world into 3-meter squares (to save you the math, it’s 57 trillion squares). And then you could give each square an absolutely unique name if you just stuck three random words together. (A dictionary of 40,000 words gives you 64 trillion combinations.) It’s nerdy and a bit goofy, but it’s working, in Mongolia, in UN disaster zones, even in a Caribbean pizza delivery service. And this year three African nations — Nigeria, Djibouti and Cote D’Ivoire — are giving it a go.

Throughout his colourful career and bodies of work, Iké Udé has found creative ways to repudiate the negative portrayal of Africans — most recently, through the evocative images of a portrait series, Nollywood Portraits: Radical Beauty. “Nollywood is Africa’s vivid mirror par excellence,” he enthuses. “It is the very first time that you have a school of Africans truly in possession of such cultural agency and in charge of telling African stories, for their Africans, without any foreign or colonial intervention.”

He observes that the age of social media and YouTube has actually helped to advance the ubiquity of Africans. But he doesn’t seem quite ready to down his tools just yet. “Part of my job,” Ude says, is to keep beautifying Africa and the world, one portrait at a time.

IkéŽ Udé’s astonishing self-portraits blend clothing, props and poses from many cultures at once into sharp takes on global visions. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Sethembile Mzesane became uncomfortable with the horde of masculine and racist symbols that loomed everywhere in Cape Town, the city she had lived in for five years. “I could not see myself represented, I could not see the women who raised me, the ones who influenced me and the ones who have made South Africa what it is today. I decided to do something about it.”

And something, she did. She became a living sculpture, standing for hours on end in public spaces. Each time, the deliberate combination of the symbol she chose to embody and the places she chose to perform in never failed to evoke powerful reactions from the people who went past. One time, she stood barechested in a place called Freedom Square to protest the treatment of women at a local bus depot. Another time, she became Chapungu, the soapstone bird that was looted from Great Zimbabwe, and stood triumphant while the cranes took down the statue of John Cecil Rhodes, Chapungu’s plunderer.

“With my work I’ve gotten regular people to talk about the society they live within,” she says. “Through my performances I have made people reflect about the past and the current democracy they are part of.”

Off to a barbecue. Tomorrow at 8:30, we start it up all over again. Tonight, catch up here.

On the day in 2015 that the statue of Cecil Rhodes came down in Cape Town, Sethembile Msezane stood in front of it dressed as Chapungu, the soapstone bird looted from Great Zimbabwe. Her powerful pose reclaimed the space for African identities in a square once claimed by colonialists. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED