Live from TED2014

As told to Aunt Bonnie: Julia Sweeney wraps up TED2014

Julia Sweeney. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Julia Sweeney. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

In a naked grab for the new TED/XPRIZE, Julia Sweeney has spent the last day and a half building an AI. It rolls onstage to give a convincing simulacrum of a TED Talk — until Sweeney herself runs out from backstage to chastise the rogue intelligence. She’s actually here to wrap up TED2014, in her annual letter to her Aunt Bonnie in Seattle, explaining the weird week she just had. Highlights:

Julia Sweeney. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Julia Sweeney. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

On Bill and Melinda Gates: “Apparently, both of them love to walk on beaches and talk about how to spend billions of dollars. I’m so happy they found each other! What are the chances? ‘What do you like to do?’ ‘I like to walk on beaches at sunset and think about how to spend billions of dollars.’ ‘Me too!’

On Chris Hadfield: “This astronaut did this whole speech about how he is terrified of spiders. He’s so frightened of spiders he had to become an astronaut and go to space! One time in space he started thinking about spiders and he started crying and it blinded him.”

On Edward Snowden and the NSA’s Richard Ledgett: “We got to see Ed Snowden, who was in his undisclosed location. But the girl in me, all I wanted Chris to ask him: What happened to your girlfriend? You just left her. Was this an elaborate ploy to get out of the relationship? Then we heard from the NSA deputy director, and he totally put our minds at rest. It turns out Mr. Snowden should just have gone to his supervisor to say everything we’re doing is morally wrong and illegal. That guy would immediately have gone to Washington to get the attention of Congress and the president. I’m sure that would have happened.”