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In case you missed it: Day 4 of TED2014

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A conversation with Richard Ledgett of the NSA and Chris Anderson. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

A conversation with Richard Ledgett of the NSA and Chris Anderson. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

The wild ride continues on March 20, 2014: Day 4 at TED2014. Here are some highlights from this Thursday:

NSA deputy director Richard Ledgett responds to Edward Snowden

The day after Edward Snowden made a surprise visit to the TED stage via telepresence robot, the morning opened on a buzzing but tense note with Richard Ledgett joining the conference via video link to respond to Snowden’s (also surprise) talk. After some technical difficulties that made things all the more suspenseful, a riveting exchange between Anderson and Ledgett followed. Toward the end Chris Anderson asked Ledgett for his idea worth spreading: “Learn the facts. Don’t rely on headlines or soundbites, or on one-sided conversations. Look at the data.”

Ed Yong grosses out everyone

During the wait for Ledgett — I mean, Session 8: Hacked — science writer Ed Yong describes the wonderful, weird, pretty disgusting world of parasites. Consider, for example, the “head-banging zombie bodyguard defending the offspring of the creature that killed it.” The crowd was both pleased at its disgust and disgusted at its pleasure.

Chris Anderson and Peter Diamandis announce an XPRIZE/TED collaboration

At the end of Session 9: Signals, the TED Curator and founder of the XPRIZE announce a competition for the first AI that can give a compelling talk from the TED stage — and got a standing ovation. Every year, explains, Anderson, two entrants will be given time at the conference to compete for the prize. Stay tuned for more details.

Sir Ken Robinson. Photo: Ryan Lash

Sir Ken Robinson. Photo: Ryan Lash

Sir Ken Robinson makes everyone cry with laughter

Legendary education activist Sir Ken Robinson, who has the most viewed TED Talk of all time, closes out the last All-Stars Session, “The future is ours,” in a Q&A with TED’s Helen Walters. Unfortunately the audience can barely breathe because everyone is laughing so hard at the thought of Robinson doing a “small, private twerk” and bringing a date to a slaughterhouse.

Mellody Hobson gives an impassioned plea for “color-braveness”

During the last session of the day, “Passion,” Mellody Hobson takes a break from her normal responsibilities as an investment advisor to make a heart-felt case against colorblindness. Instead, she says, we should think about “color-braveness.” For those in power, argues Hobson, we need to fight for diversity, not pretend it’s going to happen on its own. After all, “The first step of solving any problem is not to hide from it. The first step to any form of action is awareness.” The audience agreed, giving her a unanimous standing ovation.

Ben Saunders admits he changed his underwear three times in 105 days

During “Passion,” explorer and long-distance lunatic Ben Saunders gives a talk about his latest trip to the South Pole, when he broke the record for longest human powered polar journey by more than 400 miles — and the hard decision he had to make mid-trip. Audience members laughed and probably wrinkled their noses a bit about one detail of the journey in particular: In 105 days, Saunders only changed his underwear three times.