A celebrated building turns 50…and other TED news

Behold, your recap of TED-related news:

Habitat turns 50! First conceptualized in 1961 as part of architect Moshe Safdie’s thesis at McGill University, Habitat 67 has gone on to inspire several generations of architects. Combining high-rise living with community connection, Habitat’s concrete cluster of homes challenged the contemporary notions of apartment complexes and Brutalist architecture. Each of the 354 concrete boxes maintains an individual feel while stacking on top of each other to create an elaborate frame of community housing. Habitat was exhibited at Montreal’s 1967 World Expo when Safdie was just 28. Fifty years later, Safdie still feels “as though it was built yesterday.” (Watch Moshe’s TED Talk)

Panama Papers project nabs Pulitzer. Published a year ago, the Panama Papers have sparked outrage and global investigations into offshore tax havens and national political leaders. On April 10, they also sparked praise, winning a Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting. The ICIJ, the consortium of reporters who led the global effort to unpack the trove of data, were commended by the Prize Board for their collaborative feat, using 400 journalists from six continents to coordinate reporting on the largest data leak in history. “We believe collaboration is the wave of the future in global journalism,” said the director of the ICIJ, Gerard Ryle. (Watch Gerard’s TED Talk)

Racial bias may begin earlier than we thought. Kang Lee and his colleagues published two studies providing evidence that racial bias may emerge as early as six months old. In the first of two separate experiments, Lee and his team examined whether infants ranging from three-to-ten months would associate happy or sad music with same-race faces and other-race faces. They found that, starting at six-to-nine months of age, infants exhibited a racial bias, looking longer at other-race faces when they heard sad music and same-race faces when they heard happy music. The second experiment examined how race impacted gaze following when infants were learning under uncertainty. In this experiment, six-to-eight month old infants were shown a series of videos. In the video, an adult looked at one of the four corners of the screen. In some cases, an animal appeared in the gazed at corner (a reliable gaze) and in others, the animal appeared in a different corner (unreliable gaze). The babies again exhibited a racial bias, preferring to follow a same-race gaze even when it was unreliable. While racial bias was previously thought to start later in a child’s development, these studies show an earlier adoption and that it can originate without experiences with people of other races. Lee explains that, “If we can pinpoint the starting point of racial bias, which we may have done here, we can start to find ways to prevent racial biases from happening.” (Watch Kang’s TED Talk)

A “game changing” diagnostic tool. Pardis Sabeti and her team have adapted the CRISPR protein Cas13a into a highly sensitive diagnostic tool that can be programmed to detect individual nucleic acids. This new method, called SHERLOCK (Specific High-sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter unlocking) targets RNA molecules with a sensitivity a million times greater than the previous method. This sensitivity allows for an astounding specificity in detecting cancerous mutations, antibiotic genes, and the presence of small traces of diseases such as Zika. Sabeti calls this advance “a game changer” not only for its unprecedented sensitivity, but also for its simplicity and ease of implementation. “One thing that’s especially powerful about SHERLOCK is its ability to start testing without a lot of complicated and time-consuming upstream experimental work,” she says, “This ability to take raw samples and immediately start processing could transform the diagnosis of Zika and a boundless number of other infectious diseases.” (Watch Pardis’ TED Talk)

Online learning enters the classroom. Khan Academy, the educational platform founded by Sal Khan, announced their biggest school partnership to date. The organization is joining forces with five of Southern California’s largest county offices of education to implement a new tool designed for the classroom. Among other features, the tool allows teachers across subjects to create and share digital assignments related to Khan Academy videos and content, allowing an educational resource that supports millions of students to become a more integrated part of the classroom experience. Khan hopes the tool will help teachers personalize learning and spot learning gaps in their students.

A new perspective on grief. Artist Taryn Simon invites viewers to virtually experience her installation An Occupation of Loss, which explores grief through a cultural lens. The film, titled The Creators: Taryn Simon, invites audiences to follow the artist through the exhibition’s recreated spaces. With professional mourners from Cambodia, Ghana, Venezuela, and other countries, the film highlights different rituals of loss from cultures around the world, but it also draws attention to the complicated process behind how the exhibition came together, and whether or not such an exhibition would even be possible in today’s political climate. In an email to The New York Times, Simon writes that, “In addition to a mountain of evidence and paperwork, each artist had a personal recommendation letter from a senator and house representative. Despite all that, we still had a number of groups that were denied entry. “In those denials,” she explains, “the U.S. government took on an active role in curating the work.” (Watch Taryn’s TED Talk)

Architecture accolades. MASS Design Group, co-founded by Michael Murphy, was honored as one of the winners of the 2017 Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards. Given to designers in eleven categories ranging from communication to landscape to fashion, this award recognizes individuals or organizations whose designs focus on positive societal impact. MASS Design Group’s commitment to designing buildings that promote well-being and social justice in the belief that “architecture is never neutral” makes their win in the category of Architectural Design well-earned. (Watch Michael’s TED Talk)

Crowdsourcing the news. What if there was a Wikipedia for news? Could this solve our fake news problem? Wiki co-founder Jimmy Wales thinks it could. His new initiative, Wikitribune, aims to replace the standard editorial process in which an editor assigns a story and works with a journalist to produce it. Instead, a small team of ten journalists will work in conjunction with the online community to produce stories that matter to the public and not just an editorial agenda. This new approach will allow communities to fact check, experts to provide updates or edits, and the public to help guide what kind of stories get covered. Professional journalists working for Wikitribune will be in charge of writing the stories and screening the edits the public submits (edits won’t appear live like in Wikipedia). Wales sees this new platform as a way to fight fake news, describing it as “news by the people and for the people.” (Watch Jimmy’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.


The TED2017 film festival: Shorts from the conference

Every year at TED, we curate a program of short films to play between speakers and set the mood. The massive screens in the TED2017 theater made for spectacular viewing. What we’re looking at here is our opening video, created by Alec Donovan. Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

TED is about speakers stepping on a stage and sharing an idea in 18 minutes or less. But throughout our annual conference, short films play a vital part in the program too — opening sessions and providing moments of pause, reflection and laughter between talks.

The short films shown during the conference are selected by Anyssa Samari and Jonathan Wells, who talk to filmmakers and scour the internet year-round to find the right pieces. “We’re looking for artful treatments of topics,” says Samari. “The films we show are usually around 60 seconds, so it has to communicate an idea visually in a small fraction of time.”

Below, the short films that showed over the course of TED2017.


The short: Desiigner’s “PANDA” featuring Taylor Hatala & Kyndall Harris. A duo of teenage dance prodigies slay a hip-hop performance.
The creators: Directed by Tim Milgram. Choreography by Antoine Troupe.
Shown during: Session 1, “One Move Ahead”


The short: Kraftwerk’s “The Robots.” The classic 1977 video from the band that blazed the trail in electronic music.
The creators: Kraftwerk
Shown during: Session 2, “Our Robotic Overlords”


The short: “Laws of Robotics.” The legendary sci-fi writer’s words prove eerily relevant in our debates on artificial intelligence today.
The creators: BBC Horizon
Shown during: Session 2, “Our Robotic Overlords”


The short: “Kenzo World.” A woman lets her inner dance machine lose in this viral Kenzo fragrance ad.
The creators: Directed by Spike Jonze
Shown during: Session 3, “The Human Response”


The short: “Simone Giertz and Her Ingenious Robot Helpers.” These dinky makeshift robots will surely add more time to your morning routine.
The creators: Directed by Simone Giertz
Shown during: Session 3, “The Human Response”


The short: Paralympics “We’re The Superhumans.” This 3-minute trailer for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games is a beautiful portrayal of endless determination.
The creators: Production Company, Blink. Directed by Dougal Wilson. Agency, 4Creative. Executive Creative Directors, Chris Bovill and John Allison.
Shown during: Session 4, “Health, Life, Love”


The short: “2D RUN – MMP 3 (Mixed Motion Project).” Parkour is amazing to watch any time you see it. But in this top-down view, it becomes a surreal, like a nonstop video game.
The creators: Stunts and direction by Ilko ‘ill’ Iliev
Shown during: Session 5, “Mind, Meaning”


The short: “Preposterous – A short about absurdity.” In these delightful scenes, things are not as you expect.
The creators: Directed by Florent Porta
Shown during: Session 5, “Mind, Meaning”


The short: “Pulse.” A stunning timelapse that captures the serenity and power of a storm.
The creators: Directed by Mike Olbinski
Shown during: Session 6, “Planet, Protection”


The short: Jain’s “Makeba.” Born in France and raised in the United Arab Emirates and The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jain’s music video is an exploration of black and white.
The creators: Directed by Greg and Lio
Shown during: Session 7, “Connection, Community”


The short: “Despicable Me 2 — The Stars are Brighter!” How many minions does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Find out here.
The creators: Illumination Entertainment
Shown during: Session 7, “Connection, Community”


The short: Max Cooper’s “Order from Chaos.” An incredible explosion of color and shape, inspired by raindrops.
The creators: Directed by Maxime Causeret
Shown during: Session 8, “Bugs and Bodies”


The short: “Tadpole Development Time Lapse.” A tadpole zygote develops to the point where you can see its eyes and gills.
The creators: Francis Chee Films
Shown during: Session 8, “Bugs and Bodies”


The short: Samsung “Ostrich.” An ostrich sees the open skies via virtual reality, and becomes determined to take flight.
The creators: Directed by Matthijis Van Heinjningen. Production Company, MJZ. Agency, Leo Burnett Chicago.
Shown during: Session 8, “Bugs and Bodies”


The short: “Act of Love – Animal Courtships Performed by Humans.” What happens when people dance the intricate courtship dances of animals.
The creators: Directed by Koichiro Tanaka.
Shown in: Session 9, “It’s Personal”


The short: “Ten Meter Tower.” People face their fears at the top of the highest diving platform. Would you jump?
The creators: Directed by Maximilian Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson.
Shown during: Session 9, “It’s Personal”


The short: “Manta Ray” by J. Ralph & Anohni. The universe of plankton in a single teaspoon of ocean water.
The creators: By J. Ralph & Anohni. From the documentary Racing Extinction.
Shown during: Session 10, “Tales of Tomorrow”


The short: “Moonlight x Alvin Ailey.” A lyrical dance inspired by the film Moonlight.
The creators: Directed by Anna Rose Holmer. Choreographed by Robert Battle, Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Shown during: Session 10, “Tales of Tomorrow”


The short: “Danielle.” Don’t blink, or you’ll miss the aging process at work.
The creators: Directed by Anthony Cerniello. Onstage, it was accompanied by a live score from Paul Cantelon.
Shown during: Session 10, “Tales of Tomorrow”


The short: “2016 AICP Sponsor Reel.” An infectious dance from characters with unusual body compositions.
The creators: Concept, Design and Direction by Method Studios. Directed by Rupert Burton. Creative Director, Jon Noorlander Music: Major Lazer “Light it Up” (Remix).
Shown during: Session 11, “The Future Us”


The short: “BANDALOOP Takes Flight in Boston.” A vertical dance troupe dances on the clouds, as reflected in a Boston skyscraper.
The creators: BANDALOOP
Shown during: Session 11, “The Future Us”


A beer exchange that spanned the globe

A highlight of TEDFest — a beer exchange between members of the TEDx community. Photo: David Rosenberg / TED

During the International Beer Exchange held on Day 2 of TEDFest, a screening event for TEDx’ers in New York City, bottles were lined up side by side like passengers on the subway during morning rush hour. A pale ale from Vail stood tall next to a stout from Kentucky that had been aged in oak bourbon barrels. They were flanked by a beer made from seawater, another that had been infused with coffee, as well as a group of lagers, pilsners and stouts.

The beer exchange was a little bit like TEDFest itself: attended by 500 TEDx organizers from more than 60 countries. Attendees packed a table inside St. Ann’s Warehouse with beer from countries including Mexico, Germany, Argentina, Japan, France, Ireland and Aruba.

Organizers were allowed to choose one beer for every bottle they brought, and when the time came to make the exchange, many took their time, studying what was available before carefully making the final decision. (For attendees who don’t drink alcohol, candy and other goodies were also exchanged.) Since they weren’t allowed to drink on site, whether they were satisfied with their selections would be discussed later.

At the TEDx beer exchange, if you brought a beer, you got to take a beer. Photo: David Rosenberg / TED

Some brought individual bottles, some brought six-packs — all left happy. Photo: David Rosenberg /TED

The beer exchange is a fitting illustration of how, even though members of this community live in 60 countries, they have quite a lot in common. Photo: David Rosenberg / TED


In Case You Missed It: The themes that echoed through TED2017

On Day 5 of TED2017, one two-hour session included a in-depth conversation with Elon Musk and a powerful talk from writer Anne Lamott. The themes they shared echoed throughout the conference. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

Over the past five days, the TED2017 conference has explored the theme “The Future You.” This has spanned an incredible number of ideas on a huge array of topics. Below, a tour through some of the key themes that emerged — through the week and in the double-stuffed session of day 5.

All eyes on AI. How will artificial intelligence reshape our world? TED2017 brought many answers. The conference kicked off with a dance between a robot and human, followed by chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov’s call to add human purpose and passion to intelligent machines’ ability to calculate and parse. Then, in a session called “Our Robotic Overlords,” Noriko Arai showed the secrets of an AI that can pass a college entrance exam, Joseph Redmon revealed an algorithm (called YOLO) that lets AI identify objects accurately, Stuart Russell outlined a plan for aligning AI values with our own, and Radhika Nagpal imagined AI based on the collective intelligence of schools of fish. Later on, Martin Ford warned that, with AI mastering the ability to learn, humans are headed toward a future without work — which will require radical adjustments in society. And Robin Hanson brought us to a trippy possible future where “ems,” emulations or uploaded human minds, run the world.

The need to erase the boundary between ‘me’ and ‘us.’ Some cultures worship many gods, others one. Us? We worship the self, said Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks — we think in terms of self-realization and partake in “that newest religious ritual: the selfie.” Sacks challenged us to replace the word ‘self’ with the word ‘other’ and see what happens. “The only people that will save us from ourselves is we.” That thought boomeranged through the week. His Holiness Pope Francis delivered a beautiful message of solidarity: “If there is an ‘us,’ there is a revolution.” Anna Rosling Rönnlund took us to “Dollar Street,” where the world’s poorest people live on the left and the richest on the right. “The person staring back at us from the other side of the world actually looks like you,” she said. Luma Mufleh shared her experience coaching a soccer team for refugee students in Georgia, and how she wished everyone people could stop seeing these young people as others to keep out and embrace them as they rebuild their lives with determination, resilience and joy. In a scathing look at ageism, Ashton Applewhite pointed out, “All prejudice relies on ‘othering.’” Finally, Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, summed it up this way: “The Future You will depend on how much The Future Us brings opportunity to every child on Earth.”

The future is now. Want a robotic dog that can deliver packages and fetch you a soda? Marc Raibert showed it to us. Waiting for your personal flying machine? Todd Reichert demoed the Kitty Hawk Flyer, a 254-pound personal electric aircraft, and Richard Browning showed us an IronMan-like suit designed for hovering. Meanwhile, Elon Musk said that the future of Earthly transportation isn’t above our heads, but below our feet, and talked about building a high-speed tunnel network under Los Angeles. Tom Gruber, co-creator of Siri, wondered if a superintelligent AI could augment our memory by helping us remember everything we’ve ever read and every person we’ve ever met. Ray Dalio shared how, at Bridgewater Associates, every meeting and interaction is recorded for other employees to watch and assess — and algorithms help employees learn strengths and weaknesses. Wang Jun is creating digital doppelgangers that would let you see what would happen if you, say, ate less meat or took a certain medication. And Anne Madden introduced us to microorganisms that can make sour beer and, oh, potentially vaccinate against PTSD.

Marc Raibert showcased SpotMini’s many talents, including running an obstacle course. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

The connection between learning and health care. Coaching is not just for athletes — it’s for healthcare workers too. Atul Gawande shared how it can save the lives of pregnant women and newborns in birth centers lacking basic supplies. “[Coaches] are your external eyes and ears, providing a more accurate picture of your reality,” he said. Shortly after, TED Prize winner Raj Panjabi shared his wish for the world: the Community Health Academy, a global platform to modernize how community health workers learn, update their skills and share insights with each other. This academy will empower workers, helping them to deliver health to the doorsteps of the one billion around the world without access to adequate care. And in a slightly different spin, Lisa Genova said that Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to be your brain’s destiny, as the latest science shows that learning new things — say, a new language — can make the brain more resilient.

The missing stories in art. Titus Kaphar took a paintbrush full of white paint and painted over the main figures in a 17th-century Dutch painting (yes, a copy). He did this to bring the unseen story of the painting into view, an almost hidden figure of a young black man. “Historically speaking, I can find out more about the lace [on the woman’s dress] than I can about the [black] character,” he says. The dominant narrative is coded in the art. But what happens when we look further? Laolu Senbanjo also encouraged us to look beyond the artwork — to think about the artist who created it. “Every artist has a story, and every artist has a name,” he said. And for Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, the viewer took center stage. He placed us in the middle of Lorenzetti’s room-scale fresco, The Allegory of Good Government and Bad Government, to accept the artist’s warning about tyranny — and act.

And finally: how to wrestle back life from tech. One very everyday concern wove its way through the conference: the feeling that our tech is has become addictive. Podcaster Manoush Zomorodi shared what happened when she challenged her “Note to Self” listeners to embrace boredom and be more purposeful in their smartphone use. “The only people who refer to their customers as ‘users’ are drug dealers and technologists,” a UX designer told her. Tristan Harris further dug into the effects of the competition for our attention is having on us — and called for a “design renaissance” in which tech companies no longer prey on our psychology for profit but to encourage us to “live out the timeline we want.” Adam Alter advised us to designate specific times away from our phones — putting them in a drawer during dinner or on airplane mode over the weekend. Cathy O’Neil warned us not to think of algorithms as magic or benign but as,“opinions embedded in code.” And Laura Galante cautioned us to recognize how our information consumption makes us susceptible to manipulation. She said, “We must recognize that this place where we increasingly live, quaintly termed cyberspace, isn’t defined by ones and zeros, but by information the people behind it.

Even if you missed today, you can still be part of the TED2017 excitement. Watch a Highlights Exclusive in movie theaters on Sunday, April 30 — a best-of compilation of talks from the conference, edited on the spot this week, with behind-the-scenes footage. Find tickets at a cinema near you.


What will the future look like? Elon Musk speaks at TED2017

Elon Musk talks about his work shaping the future of transportation, energy and space exploration at TED2017, April 28, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

In conversation with TED’s Head Curator Chris Anderson, serial entrepreneur and future-builder Elon Musk discusses his new project digging tunnels under LA, the Hyperloop, Tesla, SpaceX and his dreams for what the world could look like.

Below, highlights from the conversation.

Why are you boring?

“We’re trying to dig a hole under LA, and this is to create the beginning of what will be a 3D network of tunnels to alleviate congestion,” Musk says, describing the work of his new project, The Boring Company. Musk shows a video of what this system could look like, with an electric car-skate attached to an elevator from street level that brings your car vertically underground into a tunnel. There’s no speed limit in the tunnel — and the car-skates are being designed to achieve speeds of 200 km/h, or about 130 mph. “You should be able to get from Westwood to LAX in 5-6 minutes,” Musk says.

Why aren’t flying cars a better solution?

“I do rockets, so I like things that fly,” Musk says. “There’s a challenge of flying cars in that they’ll be quite noisy. If something’s flying over your head, a whole bunch of flying cars going all over the place, that is not an anxiety-reducing situation. You’ll be thinking, ‘Did they service their hubcap, or is it going to come off and guillotine me?’”

How will these tunnels tie in with Hyperloop?

The Hyperloop test track is the second biggest vacuum chamber in the world, smaller only than the Large Hadron Collider, Musk says. The proposed transportation system would propel people and freight in a pod-like vehicles in a vacuum, and tunnels end up being great for creating vacuum. “We’re cautiously optimistic that it’ll be faster than the world’s fastest bullet train, even over a .8-mile stretch,” Musk says.

What’s happening at Tesla?

Tesla Model 3 is coming in July, Musk says, and it’ll have a special feature: autopilot. Using only passive optical cameras and GPS, no LIDAR, the Model 3 will be capable of autonomous driving. “Once you solve cameras for vision, autonomy is solved; if you don’t solve vision, it’s not solved … You can absolutely be superhuman with just cameras.”

Musk says that Tesla is on track for completing a fully autonomous, cross-country LA to New York trip by the end of 2017. “November or December of this year, we should be able to go from a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York, no controls touched at any point during the entire journey.”

More news from Tesla: a semi truck, which Musk reveals with a teaser photo. It’s a heavy-duty, long-range semi meant to alleviate heavy-duty trucking. “With the Tesla Semi, we want to show that an electric truck actually can out-torque any diesel semi. If you had a tug of war competition, the Tesla Semi will tug the diesel semi uphill,” Musk says. And it’s nimble –it can be driven around “like a sports car,” he says.

What else is going electric?

Showing a concept photo of a house with a Tesla in the driveway, Powerwalls on the side of the house — and a solar glass roof, Musk talks about his vision for the home of the future. Most houses in the US, Musk says, have enough roof area for solar panels to power all the needs of the house. “Eventually almost all houses will have a solar roof,” he says. “Fast forward 15 years from now, it’ll be unusual to have a roof that doesn’t have solar.”

And to store all that electricity needed to power our homes and cars, Musk has made a huge bet on lithium-ion batteries. Moving on to a discussion of the Gigafactory, a diamond-shaped lithium-ion battery factory near Sparks, Nevada, Musk talks about how power will be stored in the future.

“When it’s running full speed, you can’t see the cells without a strobe light,” Musk says as a video of the factory pumping out Li-ion batteries plays behind him. Musk thinks we’ll need about 100 such factories to power the world in a future where we don’t feel guilty about using and producing energy, and Tesla plans to announce locations for another four Gigafactories late this year. “We need to address a global market,” Musk says, hinting that the new factories will be spread out across the world.

Let’s talk SpaceX.

At TED2013, Musk talked about his dream of building reusable rockets — a dream he’s seen realized with the success of the Falcon 9, which to date has had nine successful launches and landings. Earlier this year, a used rocket completed a second successful landing for the first time in history. “It’s the first reflight of an old booster where that reflight is relevant,” Musk says. “Reusability is only relevant if it is rapid and complete, like an aircraft or a car … You don’t send your aircraft in to Boeing in between flights.”

What about Mars?

Showing plans for a massive rocket that’s the size of a 40-story building, Musk talks about what it’ll take to get to Mars. “The thrust level for this configuration is about four times the thrust of a Saturn V moon rocket,” the biggest rocket humanity has ever created, he says. “In units of 747s, this would be the thrust equivalent of 120 747s with all engines blazing.” The rocket is so massive that it could take a fully-loaded 747 as cargo. While it may seem large now, “future spacecraft will make this look like a rowboat,” Musk says.

And when can we can hope to see it? Musk thinks the Interplanetary Transport System SpaceX revealed earlier this year will take 8-10 years to build. “Our internal targets are more aggressive,” he says.

“There have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live. Why do you want to live? What’s the point? What inspires you? What do you love about the future? If the future does not include being out there among the stars and being a multi-planet species, I find that incredibly depressing,” Musk says.

But why work on projects like getting to Mars when we have so many problems here on Earth?

Sustainable energy will happen no matter what, out of necessity, Musk says. “If you don’t have sustainable energy, you have unsustainable energy … The fundamental value of a company like Tesla is the degree to which it accelerates the advent of sustainable energy faster than it would otherwise occur.”

But becoming a multi-planet species isn’t inevitable. “If you look at the progress in space, in 1969 we were able to send somebody to the moon. Then we had the space shuttle, which could only take people to low-Earth orbit. Now we can take noone to orbit. That’s the trend — it’s down to nothing. We’re mistaken when we think technology automatically improves. It only improves if a lot of people work very hard to make it better.”

What’s your motivation?

“The value of beauty and inspiration is very much underrated, no question,” Musk says, “But I want to be clear: I’m not trying to be anyone’s savior. I’m just trying to think about the future and not be sad.”