Titus Kaphar and Vijay Gupta named MacArthur Fellows, a musical tribute to #MeToo and other TED news

As usual, the TED community is busy with new projects and news — here are a few highlights.

Meet two newly minted MacArthur “geniuses.” Visual artist Titus Kaphar and violinist Vijay Gupta have been named 2018 MacArthur Fellows! The fellowship, established in 1981, awards $625,000 over the course of five years to individuals of exemplary creative merit, to spend as they like. Kaphar’s recent projects include The Jerome Project, a painting series on mass incarceration and The Next Haven project, a community space that offers fellowships to artists and curators and mentorship to local high-schoolers. In a video profile, Kaphar said, “I think merging art and history can help motivate social change.” Gupta is a social justice advocate who founded Street Symphony, a nonprofit that centers homeless and incarcerated communities through creative and educational programming in downtown Los Angeles. On his work, Gupta said, “It is as much our job to heal and inspire as it is to disrupt and provoke. It is our job to be the truth tellers of our time.” Congratulations to them both! (Watch Kaphar’s TED Talk and Gupta’s TED Talk.)

SpaceX achieves first California ground landing. Rocket company SpaceX, led by CEO Elon Musk and President Gwynne Shotwell, has landed one of their previously used Falcon 9 rockets on California land for the first time. The Falcon 9 was launched on October 7 to deliver the first of two 3,500-pound Argentinian satellites into low Earth orbit; following the drop-off, the rocket returned to Earth faster than the speed of sound and landed on SpaceX’s new landing pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, north of LA. The full video of the launch and landing is about 30 minutes long and well worth the watch — it’s history in the making! (Watch Musk’s TED Talk and Shotwell’s TED Talk.)

A powerful musical tribute to #MeToo. In collaboration with singer Jasmine Power, Amanda Palmer has released a new song and video called “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now,” marking the one-year anniversary of The New York Times exposé on Harvey Weinstein that catalyzed the #MeToo movement. Directed and choreographed by Noémie Lafrance, the video (NSFW) weaves striking visuals and haunting lyrics into a poignant reflection on sexual violence. In a statement, Palmer said, “As we directed the chorus members through our song chorus, I felt this overwhelming emotion come over me as I gazed into the eyes of each and every woman singing along … Women are rising up, everywhere. Change is happening at every level.” All proceeds from the song’s sales on Bandcamp will be forwarded to the Time’s Up legal defense fund. (Watch Palmer’s TED Talk.)

Rethink Robotics shutters. Widely regarded as the company that introduced the world to collaborative robots, Rethink Robotics, co-founded by Rodney Brooks, has closed. Rethink’s starred products, the Sawyer and Baxter robots, were breakthroughs, the first industrial robots built to work safely with people, rather than operated at a distance. The robots were designed to be used by factory floor workers who could program them by moving their “arms” to complete repetitive or dangerous tasks; they also had animated faces to communicate with their human co-workers. In The Verge, Rethink’s lack of commercial success was listed as the main reason for closing. (Watch Brooks’ TED Talk.)

Spittin’ Venom. Musician Reggie Watts debuted a new track on The Late Late Show with James Corden, paying homage to ’90s hip-hop with a hilarious take on Marvel’s new thriller Venom. Written by Demi Adejuyigbe and featuring Jenny Slate, along with a slew of aggressively ’90s outfits, the skit is a fun, quick watch with a surprisingly catchy beat. (Watch Watts’ TED Talk.)


Remembering Paul Allen

The directory of the Allen Brain Atlas, at brain-map.org. The Allen Institute for Brain Science, like other scientific and technical institutes funded by Paul Allen, does fundamental research that is made openly available to scientists.

What’s an appropriate second act after co-founding Microsoft? When Paul Allen left the massive software company, sure, he bought a sports team or two, founded a museum, funded schools, built some lovely buildings. But his deepest impact — even beyond the game-changing software he brought to market — may turn out to be his funding of foundational research in science and tech, driven by public spiritedness and a passion for inquiry.

The Allen Institute — composed of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Allen Institute for Cell Science and The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group — explores fundamental questions like Can we build an atlas of the brain? How does a single cell work within a complex system? Meanwhile, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, led by Oren Etzioni, conducts AI research and engineering “all for the common good.” In exploring ground-level questions and openly sharing their findings, these efforts empower future scientists and technologists to push further, faster.

Allen was a longtime TEDster, and this evening, Chris Anderson wrote on Twitter: “It’s been such an honor to have Paul as part of the TED community the past two decades. Despite being so smart and so powerful, he was extraordinarily humble, and contributed to numerous ideas and projects with zero fanfare. We’ll miss him terribly. RIP, Paul.”


Reboot: The talks of TED@BCG

CEO of BCG, Rich Lesser, welcomes the audience to TED@BCG, held October 3, 2018, at Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

How do we manage the transformations that are radically altering our lives — all while making a positive impact on our well-being, productivity and the world? In a word: reboot.

For a seventh year, BCG has partnered with TED to bring experts in leadership, psychology, technology, sustainability and more to the stage to share ideas on rethinking our goals and redefining the operating systems we use to reach them. At this year’s TED@BCG — held on October 3, 2018, at the Princess of Wales Theater in Toronto — 18 creators, leaders and innovators invited us to imagine a bright future with a new definition of the bottom line.

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

Let’s stop trying to be good. “What if I told you that our attachment to being ‘good people’ is getting in the way of us being better people?” asks social psychologist Dolly Chugh, professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business. The human brain relies on shortcuts so we can cope with the millions of pieces of information bombarding us at any moment. That’s why we’re often able to get dressed or drive home without thinking about it — our brains are reserving our attention for the important stuff. In her research, Chugh has found the same cognitive efficiency occurs in our ethical behavior, where it shows up in the form of unconscious biases and conflicts of interest. And we’re so focused on appearing like good people — rather than actually being them — that we get defensive or aggressive when criticized for ethical missteps. As a result, we never change. “In every other part of our lives, we give ourselves room to grow — except in this one where it matters the most,” Chugh says. So, rather than striving to be good, let’s aim for “good-ish,” as she puts it. That means spotting our mistakes, owning them and, last but not least, learning from them.

You should take your technology out to coffee, says BCG’s Nadjia Yousif. She speaks at TED@BCG about how we can better embrace our tech — as colleagues. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Treat your technology like a colleague. “The critical skill in the 21st-century workplace is … to collaborate with the technologies that are becoming such a big and costly part of our daily working lives,” says technology advisor Nadjia Yousif. She’s seen countless companies invest millions in technology, only to ignore or disregard it. Why? Because the people using the technology are skeptical and even afraid of it. They don’t spend the time learning and training — and then they get frustrated and write it off. What if we approached new technology as if it were a new colleague? What if we treated it like a valued member of the team? People would want to get to know it better, spend time integrating it into the team and figure out the best ways to collaborate, Yousif says — and maybe even give feedback and make sure the tech is working well with everyone else. Yousif believes we can treat technology this way, and she encourages us to “share a bit of humanity” with our software, algorithms and robots. “By embracing the ideas that these machines are actually valuable colleagues, we as people will perform better … and be happier,” she says.

Confessions of a reformed micromanager. When Chieh Huang started the company Boxed out of his garage in 2013, there wasn’t much more to manage than himself and the many packages he sent. As his company expanded, his need to oversee the smallest of details increased — a habit that he’s since grown out of, but can still reference with humor and humility. “What is micromanaging? I posit that it’s actually taking great, wonderful, imaginative people … bringing them into an organization, and then crushing their souls by telling them which font size to use,” he jokes. He asks us to reflect on the times when we’re most tired at work. It probably wasn’t those late nights or challenging tasks, he says, but when someone was looking over your shoulder watching your every move. Thankfully, there’s a cure to this management madness, Huang says: trust. When we stop micromanaging the wonderfully creative people at our own companies, he says, innovation will flourish.

Dancing with digital titans. Tech giants from the US and China are taking over the world, says digital strategist François Candelon. Of the world’s top 20 internet companies, a full 100 percent of them are American or Chinese — like the US’s Alphabet Inc. and Amazon, and China’s Tencent and Alibaba. Europe and the rest of the world must find a way to catch up, Candelon believes, or they will face US-China economic dominance for decades to come. What are their options for creating a more balanced digital revolution? Candelon offers a solution: governments should tango with these digital titans. Instead of fearing their influence — as the EU has done by levying fines against Google, for instance — countries would be better off advocating for the creation of local digital jobs. Why would companies like Facebook or Baidu be willing to tango with governments? Because they can offer things like tax incentives and adapted regulations. Candelon points to “Digital India,” a partnership between Google and the government of India, as an example: one of the project’s initiatives is to train two million Indian developers in the latest technologies, helping Google develop its talent pipeline while cultivating India’s digital ecosystem. “Let’s urge our governments and the American and Chinese digital titans to invest enough brainpower and energy to imagine and implement win-win strategic partnerships,” Candelon says. The new digital world order depends on it.

Upcycling air pollution into ink. In 2012, a photo of an exhaust stain on a wall sparked a thought for engineer Anirudh Sharma: What if we could use air pollution as ink? A simple experiment with a candle and vegetable oil convinced Sharma that the idea was viable, leading him home to Bangalore to test how to collect the carbon-rich PM2.5 nanoparticles that would make up the ink. Sharma and his team at AIR INK created a device that could capture up to 95 percent of air pollution that passed through it; using it, 45 minutes of diesel car exhaust can become 30 milliliters of ink (or about 2 tablespoons). Artists worldwide embraced AIR INK, and this success brought surprising interest from the industrial world. Sharma realized that by incentivizing corporations to send their pollution to AIR INK, they could upcycle pollution usually headed for landfills into a productive tool. AIR INK won’t necessarily solve global pollution concerns, Sharma says, “but it does show what can be done if you look at problems a little differently.”

Leadership lessons for an uncertain world. Jim Whitehurst is a recovering know-it-all CEO. Kicking off Session 2, Whitehurst tells the story of how his work as the COO of Delta trained him to think that a good leader was someone who knew more than anyone else. But after becoming CEO of RedHat, an open-source software company, Whitehurst encountered a different kind of organization, one where open criticism of superiors — and not exactly following a boss’s orders — were normal. This experience yielded insights about success and leadership, as Whitehurst came to realize that being a good leader isn’t about control and compliance, it’s about creating the context for the best ideas to emerge out of your organization. “In a world where innovation wins and ambiguity is the only certainty, people don’t need to be controlled,” Whitehurst says. “They need to get comfortable with conflict. And leaders need to foment it.”

Elizabeth Lyle shares ideas on the future of leadership in the workplace at TED@BCG. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Why we need to coach people before they lead. The C-suites of corporate America are full of management coaches, yet top-tier execs are not the ones who really need the help, says Elizabeth Lyle, a principal in BCG’s Boston office. “Outdated leadership habits are forming right before our eyes among the middle managers who will one day take their place,” she says. While the uncertain future of work demands new ways of thinking, acting and interacting, tomorrow’s leaders aren’t given the autonomy or training they need to develop — and they don’t ask for it, lest they seem pushy and disagreeable. They also think that they’ll be able to change their behavior once they’ve earned the authority to do things their own way, Lyle says, but this rarely happens. By the time they’re in a high-stakes position, they tend to retreat to doing what their bosses did. The solution: senior leaders must present their direct reports with the opportunities to try new things, and reports should return that trust by approaching their work with thought and creativity. Lyle also suggests bringing in coaches to work in the same room with leaders and reports — like a couples therapist, they’d observe the pair’s communication and offer ideas for how to improve it.

A breakdown, and a reboot. Each of us feels the burden of daily repetitive actions on our bodies and psyches, whether we create them or they’re imposed by outside forces. Left unchecked, these actions can “turn into cages,” says Frank Müller-Pierstorff, Global Creative Director at BCG. In an electronic music performance, he uses soundscapes built out of dense, looped phrases to embody these “cages,” while dancer Carlotta Bettencourt attempts to keep up in an accompanying video — and ultimately shows us what might happen if we could only “reboot” under the weight of our stress.

WWMD? What would MacGyver do? That’s what Dara Dotz asks herself, whether she’s working to help build the first factory in space or aiding survivors of a recent catastrophic event. Much like the fictional genius/action hero, Dotz loves to use technology to solve real-life problems — but she believes our increasing reliance on tech is setting us up for major failure: Instead of making us superhuman, tech may instead be slowly killing our ability to be creative and think on our feet. If disaster strikes — natural or man-made — and our tech goes down, will we still have the ingenuity, resilience and grit to survive? With that concern in mind, Dotz cofounded a nonprofit, Field Ready, to support communities that experience disasters by creating life-saving supplies in the field from found materials and tools. With real-world examples from St. Thomas to Syria, Dotz demonstrates the importance of co-designing with communities to create specific solutions that fit the need — and to ensure that the communities can reproduce these solutions. “We aren’t going to be able to throw tech at every problem as efficiently or effectively as we would like — as time moves on, there are more disasters, more people and less resources,” she says. “Instead of focusing on the next blockchain or AI, perhaps the things we really need to focus on are the things that make us human.”

Rebooting how we work. What are we willing to give up to achieve a better way of working? For starters: the old way of doing things, says Senior Partner and Managing Director of BCG Netherlands, Martin Danoesastro. In a world that’s increasingly complex and fast-paced, we need a way of working that allows people to make faster decisions, eliminates bureaucracy and creates alignment around a single purpose. Danoesastro learned this firsthand by visiting and studying innovative and hugely profitable tech companies. He discovered the source of their success in small, autonomous teams that have the freedom to be creative and move fast. Danoesastro provides a few steps for companies that want to replicate this style: get rid of micro-managers, promote open and transparent communication throughout the organization, and ensure all employees take initiative. Changing deeply ingrained structures and processes is hard, and changing behavior is even harder, but it’s worth it. Ultimately, this model creates a more efficient workplace and sets the company up for a future in which they’ll be better prepared to respond to change.

The power of visual intelligence. Are you looking closely enough? Author Amy Herman thinks we should all increase our perceptual intelligence — according to Herman, taking a little more time to question and ponder when we’re looking at something can have lasting beneficial impact in our lives. Using a variety of fine art examples, Herman explains how to become a more intentional, insightful viewer by following the four A’s: assess the situation, analyze what you see, articulate your observations and act upon them. Herman has trained groups across a spectrum of occupations — from Navy SEALS to doctors to crime investigators — and has found that by examining art, we can develop a stronger ability to understand both the big picture and influential small details of any scene. By using visual art as a lens to look more carefully at what’s presented to us, Herman says, we’ll have the confidence to see our work and the world clearer than ever.

Fintech entrepreneur Viola Llewellyn shares her work pairing AI with local knowledge to create smarter products for the African market. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Culturally attuned microfinance for Africa. Financial institutions in Africa’s business sector don’t have the technology or tools to harness the continent’s potential for wealth, says fintech entrepreneur Viola Llewellyn, opening Session 3. The continent is made up of thousands of ethnic groups speaking more than 2,000 languages among them, rooted in a long, rich history of cultural diversity, tradition and wealth. “You need a deep understanding of nuance and history,” Llewellyn says, “and a respect for the elegance required to code and innovate [financial] products and services for the vast African market.” She cofounded Ovamba, a mobile technology company, to bridge the gap in knowledge between institutions and African entrepreneurs. Working with teams on the ground, Ovamba pairs human insights about local culture with AI to create risk models and algorithms, and ultimately product designs. Llewellyn highlights examples across sub-Saharan Africa that are successfully translating her vision into real-world profit. “In digitizing our future, we will preserve the beauty of our culture and unlock the code of our best wealth traits,” she says. “If we do this, Africans will become global citizens with less reliance on charity. Becoming global citizens gives us a seat at the table as equals.”

Globalization isn’t dead — it’s transforming into something new. All the way up to Davos, business leaders have proclaimed the death of globalization. But Arindam Bhattacharya thinks their obituary was published prematurely. Despite growing economic protectionism, and the declining influence of multilateral trade organizations, business is booming. Technology has allowed data-driven businesses like Netflix to reach their customers instantly and simultaneously — and as a result, Netflix revenues have grown more than five-fold. Netflix is one of a new breed of companies using cutting-edge technology to build “a radical new model of globalization.” And it’s not just data — soon, 3D printing will redefine our supply chains. Working with the manufacturer SpeedFactory, Adidas allows customers to choose designs online, have them printed at a nearby “mini-factory,” and delivered via drone in a matter of days, not weeks or months. Aided by local production, cross-border data flow could be worth $20 trillion by 2025 — more than every nation’s current exports combined. As society becomes “more nationalistic and less and less open,” Bhattacharya says, commerce is becoming more personalized and less tied to cross-border trade. These twin narratives are reinvigorating globalization.

Viruses that fight superbugs. Viruses have a bad reputation — but some might just be the weapon we need to help in the fight against superbugs, says biotech entrepreneur Alexander Belcredi. While many viruses do cause deadly diseases, others can actually help cure them, he says — and they’re called phages. More formally known as bacteriophages, these viruses hunt, infect and kill bacteria with deadly selectivity. Whereas antibiotics inhibit the growth of broad range of bacteria — sometimes good bacteria, like you find in the gut — phages target specific strains. Belcredi’s team has estimated that we have at least ten billion phages on each hand, infecting the bacteria that accumulate there. So, why is it likely you’ve never heard of phages? Although they were discovered in the early 20th century, they were largely forgotten in favor of transformative antibiotics like penicillin, which seemed for many decades like the solution to bacterial infections. Unfortunately, we were wrong, Belcredi says: multi-drug-resistant infections — also known as superbugs — have since developed and now overpower many of our current antibiotics. Fortunately, we are in a good place to develop powerful phage drugs, giving new hope in the fight against superbugs. So, the next time you think of a virus, try not to be too judgmental, Belcredi says. After all, a phage might one day save your life.

Madame Gandhi and Amber Galloway-Gallego perform “Top Knot Turn Up” and “Bad Habits” at TED@BCG. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

How music brings us together. “Music is so much more than sound simply traveling through the ear,” says sign language interpreter Amber Galloway-Gallego, during the second musical interlude of the day. In a riveting performance, musician and activist Madame Gandhi plays two songs — her feminist anthems “Top Knot Turn Up” and “Bad Habits” — while Galloway-Gallego provides a spirited sign language interpretation.

Agreeing to disagree. Our public discourse is broken, says behavioral economist Julia Dhar, and the key to fixing it might come from an unexpected place: debate teams. In the current marketplace of ideas, Dhar says, contempt has replaced conversation: people attack each other’s identity instead of actually hashing out ideas. If we turn to the principles of debate, Dhar believes we can learn how to disagree productively — over family dinners, during company meetings and even in our national conversations. The first principle she mentions is rebuttal: “Debate requires that we engage with a conflicting idea directly, respectfully and face-to-face,” she says — and as research shows, this forces us to humanize the “other side.” Second, ideas are totally separate from the identity of the person advocating for them in debate tournaments. Dhar invites us to imagine if the US Congress considered a policy without knowing if it was Democrat or Republican, or if your company submitted and reviewed proposals anonymously. And third, debate lets us open ourselves up to the possibility of being wrong, an exercise that can actually make us better listeners and decision makers. “We should bring [debate] to our workplaces, our conferences and our city council meetings,” Dhar says — and begin to truly reshape the marketplace of ideas.

A better world through activist investment. Who’s working on today’s most pressing issues? Activist investors, says BCG’s Vinay Shandal, or as he calls them: “the modern-day OGs of Wall Street.” These investors — people like Carl Icahn, Dan Loeb and Paul Singer — have made an art of getting large corporations to make large-scale changes. And not just to make money. They’re also interested in helping the environment and society. “The good news and perhaps the saving grace for our collective future is that it’s more than just an act of good corporate citizenship,” Shandal says. “It’s good business.” Shandal shares examples of investors disrupting industries from retail to food service to private prisons and shows growing evidence of a clear correlation between good ESG (environmental, social and governance) investing and good financial performance. You don’t need to be a rich investor to make a difference, Shandal says. Every one of us can put pressure on our companies, including the ones that manage our money, to do the right thing. “It’s your money, it’s your pension fund, it’s your sovereign wealth fund. And it is your right to have your money managed in line with your values.” Shandal says. “So speak up … Investors will listen.”


Society 5.0: Talks from TED and Samsung

Carmel Coscia, vice president of B2B marketing for Samsung Electronics America, welcomes the audience to TEDSalon: Society 5.0, held at Samsung’s 837 Space in New York, September 26, 2018. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

We live in an interconnected world where boundaries between physical and digital spaces are blurring. We can no longer think about innovation in isolation, but must consider how emerging technologies — like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, the Internet of Things, 5G networks, robotics and the decentralized web — will combine to create (we hope!) a super-smart society.

At TEDSalon: Society 5.0, presented by TED and Samsung, seven leaders and visionaries explored the new era of interconnectivity and how it will reshape our world.

Do you know how your data is being used? We tap on apps and devices all day long, not quite grasping that our usage is based on a “power imbalance,” says Finn Lützow-Holm Myrstad, director of digital policy at the Norwegian Consumer Council. Most of us automatically click “yes” to terms and conditions without realizing we have agreed to let companies collect our personal information and use it on a scale we could never imagine, he explains. To demonstrate, Myrstad introduces Cayla, a Bluetooth-connected doll. According to Cayla’s terms, its manufacturer can use the recordings of children and relatives who play with the doll for advertising, and any information it gathers can be shared with third parties. Myrstad and his team also looked at the terms for a dating app, finding that users had unwittingly forked over their entire dating history — photos, chats and interactions — to the app creator forever. After the Council’s investigations, Cayla was pulled from retailers and the app changed its policies, but as Myrstad points out, “Organizations such as mine … can’t be everywhere, nor can consumers fix this on their own.” Correcting the situation requires ongoing vigilance and intention. Companies must prioritize trust, and governments should constantly update and enforce rules. For the rest of us, he says: “Be the voice that constantly reminds the world that technology will only truly benefit society if it respects basic rights.”

Aruna Srinivasan, executive director for the mobile communication trade group GSMA, believes the Internet of Things will improve our quality of life — from tackling pollution to optimizing food production. She speaks at TEDSalon: Society 5.0. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

How the Internet of Things is solving real problems. You’re surrounded by things connected to the internet — from cars and smart elevators to parking meters and industrial machines used for manufacturing. How can we use the data created by all of these connected devices to make the world safer and healthier? Aruna Srinivasan, executive director at the mobile communication trade group GSMA, shows how the Internet of Things (IoT) is helping to solve two pressing issues: pollution and food production. Using small IoT-connected sensors on garbage trucks in London, Srinivasan and her team created a detailed map showing pollution hotspots and the times of day when pollution was worst. Now, the data is helping the city introduce new traffic patterns, like one-way streets, and create bicycle paths outside of the most highly polluted areas. In the countryside, IoT-enabled sensors are being used to measure soil moisture, pH and other crop conditions in real time. Srinivasan and her team are working with China Agricultural University, China Mobile and Rothamsted Research to use the information gathered by these sensors to improve the harvest of grapes and wheat. The goal: help farmers be more precise, increasing food production while preventing things like water scarcity. “The magic of the IoT comes from the health and security it can provide us,” Srinivasan says. “The Internet of Things is going to transform our world and change our lives for the better.”

Web builder Tamas Kocsis is developing his own internet: a decentralized network powered and secured by the people. He speaks at TEDSalon: Society 5.0. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Internet by the people, for the people. Web builder Tamas Kocsis is worried about the future of the internet. In its current form, he says, the internet is trending toward centralization: large corporations are in control of our digital privacy and access to information. What’s more, these gatekeepers are vulnerable to attacks and surveillance, and they make online censorship easier. In China, for instance, where the government tightly controls its internet, web users are prohibited from criticizing the government or talking about protests. And the recent passage of EU copyright directive Article 13, which calls for some platforms to filter user-generated content, could limit our freedom to openly blog, discuss, share and link to content. In 2015, Kocsis began to counteract this centralization process by developing an alternative, decentralized network called ZeroNet. Instead of relying on centralized hosting companies, ZeroNet — which is powered by free and open-source software — allows users to help host websites by directly downloading them onto their own servers. The whole thing is secured by public key cryptography, ensuring no one can edit the websites but their owners — and protecting them from being taken down by one central source. In 2017, China began making moves to block Kocsis’s network, but that hasn’t deterred him, he says: “Building a decentralized network means creating a safe harbor, a space where the rules are not written by political parties and big corporations, but by the people.”

The augmented reality revolution. Entrepreneur Brian Mullins believes augmented reality (AR) is a more important technology than the internet — and even the printing press — because of the opportunities it offers for revolutionizing how we work and learn. At a gas turbine power plant in 2017, Mullins saw that when AR programs replaced traditional training measures, workers slashed their training and work time from 15.5 hours to an average of 50 minutes. Mullins predicts AR will bring a cognitive literacy to the world, helping us transition to new careers and workplaces and facilitating breakthroughs in the arts and sciences. Ultimately, Mullins says, AR won’t just change how we work — it’ll change the fundamentals of how we live.

MAI LAN rocks the stage with a performance of two songs, “Autopilote” and “Pumper,” at TEDSalon: Society 5.0. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

A genre-bending performance. During a musical interlude, French-Vietnamese artist MAI LAN holds the audience rapt with a performance of “Autopilote” and “Pumper.” Alternating between French and English lyrics, lead singer Mai-Lan Chapiron sings over diffuse electronic beats and circular synths, bringing her cool charisma to the stage.

Researcher Kate Darling asks: What can our interactions with robots teach us about what it means to be human? She speaks at TEDSalon: Society 5.0. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Robotic reflections of our humanity. We’re far from developing robots that feel emotions, but we already feel for them, says researcher Kate Darling — and an instinct like that can have consequences. We’re biologically hardwired to project intent and life onto any movement that seems autonomous to us, which sometimes makes it difficult to treat machines (like a Roomba) any differently from the way we treat our own pets. But this emotional connection to robots, while illogical, could prove useful in better understanding ourselves. “My question for the coming era of human-robot interaction is not: ‘Do we empathize with robots?’” Darling says. “It’s: ‘Can robots change people’s empathy?’”

Humans belong in the digital future. Author, documentarian and technologist Douglas Rushkoff isn’t giving up on humans just yet. He believes humans deserve a place in the digital future, but he worries that the future has become “something we bet on in a zero-sum, winner-takes-all competition,” instead of something we work together to create. Humans, it sometimes seems to him, are no longer valued for their creativity but for their data; as he frames it, we’ve been conditioned to see humanity as the problem and technology as the solution. Instead, he urges us to focus on making technology work for us and our future, not the other way around. Believing in the potential and value of humans isn’t about rejecting technology, he says — it’s about bringing key values of our pre-digital world into the future with us. “Join Team Human. Find the others,” Rushkoff says. “Together let’s make the future that we always wanted.”


Bronwyn King leads global pledge for tobacco-free finance, and more TED news

The TED community has been making headlines — here are a few highlights.

Tobacco-free finance initiative launched at the UN. Oncologist and Tobacco Free Portfolios CEO Bronwyn King has made it her mission to detangle the worlds of finance and tobacco — and ensure that no one will ever accidentally invest in a tobacco company again. Together with the French and Australian governments, and a number of finance firms, King introduced The Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge at the United Nations during General Assembly week. The aim of the measure is to decrease the toll of tobacco-related deaths, which now stands at 7 million annually. More than 120 banks, companies, organizations and groups representing US$6.82 trillion have joined the launch as founding signatories and supporters. (Watch King’s TED Talk.)

The Museum of Broken Windows. Artists Dread Scott and Hank Willis Thomas are featured in a new pop-up show grappling with the dangerous impact of “broken windows” policing strategies, which target and criminalize low-income communities of color. The exhibition, which is hosted by the New York Civil Liberties Union, explores the disproportionate and inequitable system of policing in the United States with work by 30 artists from across the country. Scott’s piece for the showcase is a flag that reads, “A man was lynched by police yesterday.” Compelled by the police killing of Walter Scott, Scott revamped a NAACP flag from the 1920s and ‘30s for the piece. Thomas’ contribution to the exhibition are poems, letters and notes from incarcerated people titled “Writings on the Wall.” The exhibition is open through September 30 in Manhattan. (Watch Scott’s TED Talk and Thomas’ TED Talk.)

The future of at-home health care. Technologist Dina Katabi spoke at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference about Emerald, the healthcare technology she’s working on to revolutionize the way we gather data on patients at home. Using a low-power wireless connection, Katabi’s device, which she developed with a team at MIT, can monitor patient vital signs without any wearables — and even through walls — by tracking the electromagnetic field surrounding the human body, which shifts every time we move. “The future should be that the healthcare comes to the patient in their homes,” Katabi said, “as opposed to the patient going to the doctor or the clinic.” Some 200 people have already installed the system, and several leading biotech companies are studying the technology for future applications. (Watch Katabi’s TED Talk.)

Does New York City have a gut biome? In collaboration with Elizabeth Hénaff, The Living Collective and the Evan Eisman Company, algoworld expert and technologist Kevin Slavin has debuted an art installation featuring samples of New York City microorganisms titled “Subculture: Microbial Metrics and the Multi-Species City.” Weaving together biology, data analytics and design, the exhibit urges us to reconsider our relationship with bacteria and redefine how we interact with the diversity of life in urban spaces. Hosted at Storefront for Art and Architecture, the project uses genetic sequencing devices installed in the front of the gallery space to collect, extract and analyze microbial life. The gallery will be divided into three spaces: an introduction area, an in-house laboratory and a mapping area that will visualize the data gathered in real time. The exhibit is open through January 2019. (Watch Slavin’s TED Talk.)