12 books to browse ahead of TED2017

TED2017 begins on Monday in Vancouver, Canada, and will explore the theme “The Future You.” If the future you is anything like the future us, you are likely curled up in a big cushy chair right now, devouring the contents of a book that flips your thinking. Below, some reading suggestions from the speaker program. Read, enjoy and stay tuned to the TED Blog for beat-by-beat coverage of the conference.

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil. The decisions that affect our lives are no longer made by humans — they’re made by algorithms. This might sound like a great way around bias and discrimination, but these things are often built right into our mathematical models. When it comes to college admissions, decisions on parole, applications to jobs and the affects of a bad credit score, O’Neil explores the unintended consequences of algorithms. (Read an excerpt.)

The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel. Molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that — like shoelace tips — keep our genetic information from fraying. Both telomeres and telomerase, an enzyme that restores worn-down telomeres, appear central to the aging process. This book looks at the research — then turns its attention to how our thoughts, bodies and social worlds affect us on the cellular level.

Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. For many around the world, religion is the core of who they are. But when strong belief flips into assumptions that other groups are wrong, violence sparks. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks seeks to detangle religion from hostility to others. He makes his case by reinterpreting the book of Genesis, key to all three Abrahamic faiths, and looking at how altruism to the other courses through this text. (Read an excerpt.)

Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped by Garry Kasparov. Most know Garry Kasparov as a chess grandmaster. Not so many know that he was a leader in anti-Putin rallies in Russia and nearly ran against Putin’s party in the 2008 presidential election. Now in self-exile in New York, Kasparov examines how Putin defines Russia in opposition to the free world — and lays out what he thinks needs to be be done.

Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio. Bridgewater Associates began in Ray Dalio’s New York apartment, and has grown into the largest hedge fund in the world. This happened, says Dalio, based on two simple principles: “radical truth” and “radical transparency.” In this e-book, he looks at how both principles can guide decision-making, for both individuals and organizations.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. Several years back, the World Health Organization implemented “the biggest clinical invention in thirty years.” It was: a surgical checklist. Atul Gawande reveals how this shockingly simple technology dramatically lowers errors in medicine — and other fields too. In an unexpected ode, he shows how the checklist can be a way through the complexity of our world.

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford. Automation has deeply affected those who work in blue collar industries. But we’re not far from white-collar industries shedding jobs too. The free market depends on consumers, so what will happen when demand plummets? In this book, Martin Ford dissects the problem — and points to ways forward. They will, however, require major paradigm shifts.

The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of 70,000 Ordinary Lives by Helen Pearson. In 1946, a group of scientists set out to interview the mother of every baby born in the UK in the first week in March. This became the longest-running study of human development. Science journalist Helen Pearson tells the study’s story, and reveals how it shaped our understanding from the world, from documenting cycles of poverty to showing the effects of breastfeeding.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter. Does the idea of checking your smartphone elicit salivation? Ever felt compelled to check Facebook at an inopportune moment, or gone on to watch just one more episode on Netflix? Psychology professor Adam Alter looks at the addictive nature of today’s products, and traces the research that goes into making them that way.

This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite. We all would like to get old. After all, the alternative is … not good. Yet, the assumptions we make about those over 65 aren’t kind. We view their lives as tinged with loss — of physical ability, mental capacity, even relevance. Ashton Applewhite punches through this, with a call to think of aging as a powerful process.

The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth by Robin Hanson. Economist Robin Hanson has a fascinating vision of what the future will look like. It begins with the ability to scan a human brain, then upload it to a machine — creating “emulations” or, in shorthand, “ems.” These ems will quickly displace human labor, he says. But what will they experience? What will their cities look like? How will they travel? Retire? Sleep? Hanson answers these questions and many more.

The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith. Nearly a quarter of Americans say they don’t have “a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful.” This, says Emily Esfahani Smith, is a crisis echoed in other wealthy nations too. She turns her attention to literature, psychology and sociology for insight — and finds unique answers in travels too.


Experience the TED2017 conference in movie theaters, with other curious minds

You probably watch TED Talks on an assortment of small screens. But next week, you’re invited to experience them on the big screen.

As the TED2017 conference takes place in Vancouver, Canada, special sessions will be broadcast live in movie theaters across the United States and world. On April 24, the Opening Event will bring surprising life advice from Tim Ferriss, insights on AI from former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, an inspiring idea from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and a thrilling performance from music video masters OK Go. On April 25, the Prize Event will include a Q&A with Serena Williams, Atul Gawande’s first TED Talk, a surprise guest who’ll boggle your mind and the reveal of 2017 TED Prize winner Raj Panjabi’s wish for the world.

These sessions will screen live in the US and Canada, and on time-shifted schedules internationally. Then shortly, after the conference closes, you’re invited to enjoy a Highlights Exclusive, featuring the very best talks from the week-long conference. This is truly your ticket to TED2017, so check local listings for times.

“I’m thrilled that we get to share the TED experience with a much wider audience,” said TED Curator Chris Anderson in a preview post. “Watching a full session is nothing like watching individual TED Talks. It’s dramatically more powerful, more immersive.”

This will not be the kind of movie-going experience where people stare ahead and chomp popcorn. The talks in these events will ignite your curiosity and flip your thinking. As you think through these big ideas and make connections between them, we expect conversations to spark between friends and strangers. Just as they do at the conference.

More than 100 organizers of TEDx events are hosting discussions before or after screenings. The organizers of TEDxEvansville went on a public access show last week to let people in Evansville, Indiana, know that they’re taking over a local multiplex for the Opening Event. Meanwhile, TEDxPeachtree in Atlanta, Georgia, is inviting past speakers for a meet-and-greet after the TED Prize Event screening, to keep the conversation going.

Below, see if your local TEDx chapter is hosting a cinema event near you:

TEDxBirrarungMarr in Melbourne
TEDxCanberra in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
TEDxHelensvaleLibrary in Helensvale, Queensland
TEDxHunterTAFE in Newcastle, New South Wales

TEDxWomenFlanders in Antwerp

TEDxChathamKent in Chatham, Ontario
TEDxEastVan in Vancouver
TEDxVaughan in Vaughan, Ontario
TEDxYYC in Calgary

TEDxOdense in Odense, Syddanmark

TEDxOtaniemi in Espoo, Uusimaa

TEDxYouth@BBIS in Kleinmachnow, Brandenburg

TEDxDrogheda in Drogheda, Louth

TEDxAlmere in Almere, Flevoland

New Zealand
TEDxRuakura in Hamilton, Waikato
TEDxTauranga in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty

TEDxWroclaw in Wrocław, Dolnośląskie


United Kingdom
TEDxBrum in Birmingham
TEDxEton in Windsor
TEDxExeter in Devon
TEDxFidelityInternational in London
TEDxGoodenoughCollege in London
TEDxOxfordBrookesUniversity in Oxford
TEDxUAL in London
TEDxUniverstiyofBrighton in Brighton
TEDxYouth@Manchester in Macclesfield, Cheshire East
TEDxYouth@RMS in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

United States
TEDxAustin in Austin, Texas
TEDxBalconesHeightsLive in Austin, Texas
TEDxBend in Bend, Oregon
TEDxBergenCommunityCollege in Paramus, New Jersey
TEDxBolingbrookWomen in Bolingbrook, Illinois
TEDxBrookfieldSalon in Brookfield, Connecticut
TEDxBuffalo in Buffalo, New York
TEDxBYU in Provo, Utah
TEDxCharleston in South Carolina
TEDxCincinnati in Ohio
TEDxCooperRiverWomen in Westampton, New Jersey
TEDxDeerPark in New York
TEDxDetroit in Michigan
TEDxDurham in North Carolina
TEDxEastMecklenburgHighSchool in Charlotte, North Carolina
TEDxEdgemontSchool in Scarsdale, New York
TEDxEdina in Edina, Minnesota
TEDxEvansville in Indiana
TEDxFashionInstituteofTechnology in New York City
TEDxFSCJ in Jacksonville, Florida
TEDxGatewayArch in Saint St. Louis, Missouri
TEDxGreenville in South Carolina
TEDxHiltonHead in South Carolina
TEDxHuntsville in Alabama
TEDxIntuit in Mountain View, California
TEDxKids@ElCajon in El Cajon, California
TEDxLehighRiver in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
TEDxLeonardtown in Leonardtown, Maryland
TEDxLongwood in Boston, Massachusetts
TEDxLosAlSchools in Los Alamitos, California
TEDxMalibu in California
TEDxMidAtlantic in Washington, D.C.
TEDxMinneapolis in Minnesota
TEDxMobile in Alabama
TEDxMtHood in Portland, Oregon<
TEDxNaperville in Naperville, Illinois
TEDxNavesink in Asbury Park, New Jersey
TEDxOaklandUniversity in Rochester, Michigan
TEDxOaksChristianSchool in Westlake Village, California
TEDxOmaha in Nebraska
TEDxOnBoard in San Francisco, California
TEDxPeachtree in Atlanta, Georgia
TEDxPershingSq in Los Angeles, California
TEDxPittsburgh in Pennsylvania
TEDxPortland in Oregon
TEDxProvidence in Rhode Island
TEDxSalem in Oregon
TEDxSanDiego in California
TEDxSeattle in Washington
TEDxShelburneFalls in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts
TEDxSoMa in San Francisco, California
TEDxTemecula in Temecula, California
TEDxTysons in Tysons, Virginia
TEDxUniversityofNevada in Reno, Nevada
TEDxVail in Denver, Colorado
TEDxWestBrowardHigh in Pembroke Pines, Florida
TEDxWilmington in Delaware
TEDxYouth@CEHS in Cape Elizabeth, Maine
TEDxYouth@Erie in Erie, Pennsylvania
TEDxYouth@MBJH in Mountain Brook, Alabama
TEDxYouth@MSJA in Flourtown, Pennsylvania

Purchase tickets to the TED Cinema Experience »


Chris Burkard’s quest for the perfect Arctic surf

Along the remote, frozen coast of Hornstrandir National Park, photographer Chris Burkard (TED Talk: The Joy of Surfing in Ice-Cold Water) and his team were in search of the Shangri-La of ice-cold surfing. Instead, they encountered Iceland’s biggest storm to hit land in 25 years. The challenges and hardships that transpired over those few days, Burkard captured in his film Under an Arctic Sky, a multi-dimensional journey that documents how even the darkest of storm clouds can still have a silver lining — and may just lead to the perfect surf.


Iceland, an ice-cold surfer’s backyard

This particular trip to Iceland wasn’t Burkard’s first — in fact, he had been almost 30 times before. What drew him back was the familiar call of a new adventure and, most important, a willing soul to take him and his team out to an incredibly remote region in the middle of winter. “Ultimately, there was this draw to just tell one more final story and to have one more challenge,” Burkard says. “That challenge for me was always to explore this one specific area, this one specific peninsula that hadn’t really been explored for surf potential.”

Photographer Chris Burkard and five surfers on the hunt for premium ice-cold surfing conditions.

Photographer Chris Burkard and five surfers on the hunt for premium ice-cold surfing conditions.

Taking the plunge on the eve of a tempest

When Burkard and his band of surfers first made the long trek out to the isolated Westfjords of Iceland, they had only been on the water for a day and a half — the original plan was to be out for at least four days — before their boat captain warned them of an approaching storm, potentially one of the biggest he’d ever seen. At the time, no one knew how massive the storm would become. Severe storm Diddú, the first-ever named storm in Iceland’s history, brought wind speeds of more than 160mph, rain and snow, according to local media. “Luckily, we had the foresight to basically get off the water and get back on the land,” says Burkard. “That’s when it really came in, that was when it really hit for the next 24 hours.”


Refuge as the storm rages

The moment they touched land, the storm struck. Burkard and his team were left with a big decision to make — take shelter in the little town where they landed, or keep moving forward in their quest for surf? They decided to press onwards through the storm, but were met with more and more hazardous obstacles. A drive that was planned to take about six hours took almost 18 hours because of road closures due to avalanche danger. “We eventually didn’t make it — we got stuck in a small cabin in the middle of nowhere, having to dig our car out of multiple roadslides of snow,” says Burkard. “It just became a total nightmare.”

man standing on snowy coast with surf board looking out over the water with northern lights above

A silver lining, tinged by the aurora borealis

The surfers’ battle against the elements left them in an entirely different part of Iceland, so far north that they encountered the Northern Lights when their ambitious travels delivered them safely behind the storm’s ire. “On the backside of that swell came some of the most legendary surf conditions you could ever envision,” says Burkard. “I’d always dreamt of shooting surfers under the Northern Lights.”


“In terms of the most gratifying experience, I think it would have easily been just the opportunity to sit there under the Northern Lights and see perfect waves peeling,” says Burkard. “To capture that footage and to know: That was maybe the first time anybody’s ever done that.”

“[We want] to inspire people to seek experiences outside their comfort zone, and to think about those crazy ideas that you have in your head,” says Burkard. “Not to shun them off so quickly, but actually think about how you could accomplish it.”


On the never-ending road to adventure

“I guess I’m just continually trying to reinvent the way I can see the world,” says Burkard. “I think in the end, as a storyteller — not as a photographer or as a filmmaker, but as a storyteller — we aim to live the stories that we experience.”

Under an Arctic Sky will premiere at Tribeca Film Festival in April 2017.


A spacecraft’s final mission … and other news from TED speakers

Please enjoy your weekly roundup of TED-related news:

Good luck and farewell to the Cassini spacecraft. Launched 20 years ago, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will begin its final mission on April 26.  The spacecraft will embark on a series of 22 dives through the space between Saturn and its rings, transmitting data that may help us understand the origins of Saturn’s rings and the makeup of the planet, explained NASA’s James Green. After completing the dives, Cassini will run out of fuel and disintegrate over the ringed planet on September 15, 2017. (Watch James’ TED Talk)

Rwanda joins AIMS. The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences has a new campus in Kigali, Rwanda! Launched as part of an agreement with the Government of Rwanda’s Ministry of Education, the Kigali campus marks the sixth country of expansion for AIMS, founded by TED Prize winner Neil Turok, whose centers of excellence also stretch across Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. (Watch Neil’s TED Talk)

A newly discovered dinosaur. Jack Horner can add having a dinosaur named after him to his résumé. The recently discovered Daspletosaurus horneri, or “Horner’s frightful lizard,” lived in Montana around 75 million years ago and is a cousin of the T. Rex. It stood at 2.2 meters tall and, as its name hints, it had a large horn behind each eye. A scaly face dotted with tactile sensory organs (similar to the ones modern crocodiles have) provided their snouts with sensitivity similar to fingertips. Its discovery provides new insight into how tyrannosaurids evolved. This new species appears to have evolved directly from its sister species, Daspletosaurus torosus. The finding supports the theory of anagenesis, or direct evolution without branching, in which a species changes enough over time from its ancestral form to become a new species. (Watch Jack’s TED Talk)

Changing the economics of an illegal economy. At a recent hearing in front of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Caleb Barlow discussed the state of cybercrime and the ways in which new technologies help not only to reduce such crime, but also address the skills gap that exists within the cybersecurity workforce. Invited as part of the Senate’s review of emerging technologies and their impact on the future of cybersecurity, Barlow argues that one of the most alarming aspects of cybercrime involves the manipulation of data by hackers, where “we move beyond stolen information and money to an even more damaging issue: a loss of trust.” Barlow concludes that massive coordination by criminals today requires an equally organized mode of response by cybersecurity experts, who must embrace collaborative practices like threat sharing in order to properly manage their cybersecurity. (Watch Caleb’s TED Talk)

Awards aplenty for TED Prize winner Raj Panjabi. The winner of the 2017 TED Prize has racked up a stack of additional honors over the past month. He was named one of the four recipients of the 2017 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship for bringing lifesaving health care to remote regions of Liberia, and he spoke yesterday at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England, about his work with Last Mile Health. In addition, Raj also landed in spot #28 on Fortune‘s list of “The World’s Greatest Leaders for 2017,” and became one of the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2017. Raj will share his TED Prize wish for the world at the TED2017 conference in Vancouver on April 25. Find out how to watch live through TED Cinema Experience. (Keep an eye out for Raj’s TED talk!)

The future of medical imaging. Moving on from Facebook and Oculus, Mary Lou Jepsen has founded Openwater, a startup working to turn MRI-quality imaging into simple, wearable technology. Unlike MRIs, the startup uses near-infrared light for its imaging and if successful, the technology has incredible implications for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Their hope is to create a device that enables users to receive detailed information about their brains and bodies in real-time, such as clogged arteries, internal bleeding, and neurological disorders. The company is still in R&D to determine what their first product will be, but Jepsen spoke in depth about the startup at South by Southwest 2017. (Watch Mary Lou’s TED Talk)

Attacking counterfeit with neuroscience. In collaboration with the European Central Bank, David Eagleman has helped create a new currency design for the European Union, one that lets anyone spot a fake. Displayed on the EU’s €50 note, one of the most counterfeited currencies in the world, the design integrates the face of Europa into the bill’s security features, displaying the Phoenician princess as both a hologram and as a watermark. The reason, according to Eagleman, is that the human eye proves itself far more adept at spotting inconsistencies across faces instead of buildings. “The human brain is massively specialized for faces, but has little neural real estate devoted to edifices. As forged watermarks are generally hand-drawn, it would be much easier to spot an imperfect face than an imperfect building.” (Watch David’s TED Talk)

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


“Alexa, open TED Talks”

Today, we’re excited to bring the world of TED Talks further into your home with the new TED Talks skill for Amazon Alexa! Available on devices with Amazon Alexa including the Echo and Echo Dot, TED fans can now listen to the latest ideas from the world’s greatest thinkers by voice command.

For existing Alexa users, enable the skill by saying “Alexa, enable TED Talks skill,” or go directly to the TED Talks skill page and click “enable skill.”

Once you’ve opened the TED Talks skill, ask Alexa to play talks about your favorite topics — from robots and space to design and mindfulness. Want to listen to the latest talk? Simply command, “Alexa, ask TED Talks for the latest talk.”

Whether you’re a multi-tasker who wants to learn about virtual reality while folding laundry, a parent needing a talk to distract a child during dinner or just a curious individual who wants to stay inspired without too much effort, Alexa can now provide you with a great idea with ease. Ask her things like, “Alexa, ask TED Talks for something funny,” and start listening.

Enable the TED Talks skill on Amazon or simply say, “Alexa, enable TED Talks skill,” to start listening to TED!