Live from TED2019

Short talks, big ideas: The talks of TED Unplugged at TED2019

Hosts Chee Perlman and Anthony Veneziale keep the showing moving along swiftly, hosting TED Unplugged at TED2019: Bigger Than Us, on April 16, 2019 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

In a fast-paced session of talks curated by TED arts and design curator Chee Pearlman and hosted with improv leader Anthony Veneziale, 12 members of the TED community shared ideas in a special format: each had to keep their talks under six minutes, with auto-advancing, timed slides. And yes, the mic does cut after six minutes!

The talks in brief:

Entrepreneur Brickson Diamond shares his journey from feeling like a Martian as a kid to finding his tribe. He speaks during TED Unplugged at TED2019: Bigger Than Us, on April 16, 2019 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Brickson Diamond, entrepreneur and co-chair of the Blackhouse Foundation

  • Big idea: Finding our tribe sometimes takes a deeper level of connection.
  • How? We need to look for the hooks — the secrets and struggles we share but don’t talk about — to connect with and get closer to each other.
  • Quote of the talk: “If you dig deep, you reach far.”

Cady Coleman, astronaut who has flown on the Space Shuttle twice and lived on the International Space Station for almost 6 months (and delivered the first TED Talk given in space)

  • Big idea: Space is where mission and magic come together.
  • How? The day after her 50th birthday, Cady Coleman climbed aboard a Russian rocket and was launched into space. During her time at the International Space Station, she did experiments that expanded the frontiers of science, seeking answers to questions we could never arrive at on earth.
  • Quote of the talk: “Space belongs to all of us. It’s a place that’s magic for all of us.”

Janet Iwasa, Molecular animator and TED Senior Fellow

  • Big idea: Try to visualize the things that can’t be seen.
  • How? By creating visualizations of molecules that are too small for even the most powerful microscopes to see, Janet Iwasa reveals the hidden mechanisms that power the world.
  • Quote of the talk: “Invisible molecular worlds are vast and largely unexplored. To me, these landscapes are just as exciting to explore as a natural world that’s visible all around us.”

“These days I believe less in silver bullets and more in people who show up to help,” says software engineer and public servant Matt Cutts. He speaks during TED Unplugged at TED2019: Bigger Than Us, on April 16, 2019 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Matt Cutts, Software engineer and public servant

  • Big idea: Silicon Valley likes to talk about making the world a better place, but technologists can make a real impact by joining the government.
  • How? By doing things like moving government systems from paper to digital, Cutts and his team have been able to speed up processes to help people get what they need when they need it.
  • Quote of the talk: “These days I believe less in silver bullets and more in people who show up to help.”

Lucy Farey-Jones, Technology strategist

  • Big idea: Our willingness to accept AI in our lives is changing — radically.
  • How? Lucy Farey-Jones created a list of potential AI applications — from AI house cleaners and package deliverers to cyborgs, AI lawyers and even AI sex partners — and ranked them based on how comfortable people are with them. What she’s found is a growing comfortability with AI taking over.
  • Quote of the talk: “The trojan horse of AI is already in our living room.”

Bjarke Ingels, (Interplanetary) architect

  • Big idea: We should move to Mars.
  • How? Bjarke Ingels was challenged to design a city on Mars by 2117. If you strip away the biosphere, Mars and Earth are actually very similar, he says. What would we need to have in order to move there? Nutrients, water, a vegetarian diet and more than a bit of creativity. Ingels is starting with a prototype “city” in Dubai, exhibiting many of the technologies that would be necessary for life on Mars.
  • Quote of the talk: “Martians are vegan.”

In an ode to parrotfish, marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson shares five ways that these reef fish are special. She speaks during TED Unplugged at TED2019: Bigger Than Us, on April 16, 2019 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Marine biologist, launching the first think tank for ocean cities

  • Big idea: Parrotfish are absolutely amazing.
  • How? In five ways: they have a mouth shaped like a parrot’s beak that’s strong enough to chew coral; they poop fine white sand, over 380 kilograms of it each year; they have style: striped, teal, magenta and polka-dotted, with multiple “wardrobe changes” throughout their lives; most species have the ability to change from female to male over the course of their lives; and sometimes, when they cozy up into reefs, they secrete a mucous bubble that masks them from predators, protecting them throughout the night. But they’re under threat by overfishing and the destruction of coral reefs.
  • Quote of the talk: “I am never going to give up working to protect and restore this magnificent planet. I’m not motivated by hope — but rather by a desire to be useful.”

Rob Gore, Emergency room doctor

  • Big idea: There’s a joy in caring for others, but not at the expense of caring for self.
  • How? Toxic stress impacts the body in devastating ways. After the death of a friend brought on episodes of panic attacks, Rob Gore sought therapy, where he learned how to use stress as a tool and to empathize with people without taking their problems on.
  • Quote of the talk: “I wasn’t supposed to be invincible.”

Stefan Sagmeister, Designer

  • Big idea: Beautify isn’t in the eye of the beholder, and it isn’t only skin-deep.
  • How? Why should we bother chasing beauty if everyone has a different idea of what it is? Turns out, we agree on what’s beautiful more than we think. For example, almost everyone prefers a circle over a square. And by simply painting a neglected underpass in Brooklyn with the word “Yes,” Sagmeister and colleagues transformed the space into a hot spot for wedding photos.
  • Quote of the talk: “There’s wide agreement around the world, throughout different cultures and throughout different times, of what we find is beautiful.”

John Werner, TEDxBeaconStreet organizer

  • Big idea: We can work together for the betterment of all.
  • How? John Werner got 61 of his fellow students to not take a college final exam, taking their professor up on a prisoner’s-dilemma challenge where everyone could get an A if nobody took the exam. His class was the only one in 10 years to pull this off.
  • Quote of the talk: “If we organize and we set our minds to it, we can do extraordinary things and get A’s when things really matter.”

“Everybody deserves access to information about their bodies and the organs inside their bodies — especially the ones that give us pleasure,” says Andrea Barrica. She speaks during TED Unplugged at TED2019: Bigger Than Us, on April 16, 2019 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Andrea Barrica, Sex tech entrepreneur

  • Big idea: There’s nothing wrong with sexual pleasure and with having sex because it feels good.
  • How? Why don’t we know more about the clitoris? Probably because its only job is to experience pleasure, and we’re traditionally taught about sexuality solely in terms of reproduction.
  • Quote of the talk: “Everybody deserves access to information about their bodies and the organs inside their bodies — especially the ones that give us pleasure.”

David Kwong, Magician and cruciverbalist

  • Big idea: Failure is an illusion.
  • How? You can rely on your skillset to maintain control even when things go wrong — just like magicians whose tricks sometimes don’t go as planned. There’s always a Plan B.
  • Quote of the talk: “Success depends not on hiding missteps but using them to leverage the steps moving forward.”