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Us: The speakers in session 5 of TED2014

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Who are we? What are we doing here? Such thoughts plague more than just angst-filled teenagers. In this session, speakers take a piercing look at these and other complex questions, challenging preconceived notions of who we really are (let’s not forget microbes), how the brain works — and how consciousness fits into the equation.

Here are the speakers who appeared in this session. Click below to read a full recap of each speaker’s talk:

Nancy Kanwisher uses fMRI technology to take a closer look at the parts of the brain responsible for cognition. “Understanding the nature of the human mind,” she says, “is arguably the greatest intellectual quest of all time.”

Rob Knight thinks deeply about very small things, microbes. He looks at the the ecosystem of them that inhabits us all, and harnesses the power of open-access data mining tools to discover how lifestyle and diet affect our microbes — and our health.

Inspired by models such as Wikipedia, Stephen Friend co-founded Sage Bionetworks to allow scientific researchers to share and interpret data on a huge scale, hoping to build an open model where knowledge is openly shared — and solutions reached more quickly.

Artist and comedian Ze Frank is here to share his quickfire blend of head-scratching humor.

Jon Mooallem is a writer whose latest book takes a look at humans’ relationship to wild animals. He also wrote a recent piece about a 1910 plan to jumpstart the hippopotamus ranching industry in America.

Model and activist Geena Rocero is here to remind us of the deeper story that always lies behind the superficial fabulousness of long legs, great skin and a dazzling smile.

Philosopher David Chalmers explores what he calls the “hard problem of consciousness” — the idea that science can’t really explain our subjective experience.