Chris Anderson is the Curator of TED, a nonprofit devoted to sharing valuable ideas, primarily through the medium of 'TED Talks' -- short talks that are offered free online to a global audience.
Chris was born in a remote village in Pakistan in 1957. He spent his early years in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where his parents worked as medical missionaries, and he attended an American school in the Himalayas for his early education. After boarding school in Bath, England, he went on to Oxford University, graduating in 1978 with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics.
Chris then trained as a journalist, working in newspapers and radio, including two years producing a world news service in the Seychelles Islands.
Back in the UK in 1984, Chris was captivated by the personal computer revolution and became an editor at one of the UK's early computer magazines. A year later he founded Future Publishing with a $25,000 bank loan. The new company initially focused on specialist computer publications but eventually expanded into other areas such as cycling, music, video games, technology and design, doubling in size every year for seven years. In 1994, Chris moved to the United States where he built Imagine Media, publisher of Business 2.0 magazine and creator of the popular video game users website IGN. Chris eventually merged Imagine and Future, taking the combined entity public in London in 1999, under the Future name. At its peak, it published 150 magazines and websites and employed 2,000 people.
This success allowed Chris to create a private nonprofit organization, the Sapling Foundation, with the hope of finding new ways to tackle tough global issues through media, technology, entrepreneurship and, most of all, ideas. In 2001, the foundation acquired the TED Conference, then an annual meeting of luminaries in the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design held in Monterey, California, and Chris left Future to work full time on TED.
He expanded the conference's remit to cover all topics, including science, business and key global issues, while adding a Fellows program, which now has some 300 alumni, and the TED Prize, which grants its recipients "one wish to change the world." The TED stage has become a place for thinkers and doers from all fields to share their ideas and their work, capturing imaginations, sparking conversation and encouraging discovery along the way.
In 2006, TED experimented with posting some of its talks on the Internet. Their viral success encouraged Chris to begin positioning the organization as a global media initiative devoted to 'ideas worth spreading,' part of a new era of information dissemination using the power of online video. In June 2015, the organization posted its 2,000th talk online. The talks are free to view, and they have been translated into more than 100 languages with the help of volunteers from around the world. Viewership has grown to approximately one billion views per year.
Continuing a strategy of 'radical openness,' in 2009 Chris introduced the TEDx initiative, allowing free licenses to local organizers who wished to organize their own TED-like events. More than 8,000 such events have been held, generating an archive of 60,000 TEDx talks. And three years later, the TED-Ed program was launched, offering free educational videos and tools to students and teachers.
Nora Atkinson is the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum Washington, D.C. As she writes, "I was born and raised in the Northwest, and I find my perspective heavily influenced by its laid-back, pioneering spirit. After earning my MA from the University of Washington, I intended to curate art, but fell into the unusual specialty of craft, which appeals to me as a way of living differently in the modern world that tells us something about being human; I continue to be fascinated by the place of the handmade in our increasingly digital age.
In 2014, after eight years at Bellevue Arts Museum, I moved to DC to join the Renwick Gallery. I attended my first Burning Man in 2017 as research for my exhibition "No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man," which explores the event as a creative laboratory and one of the most important cultural movements of our time. As a curator, I tell stories through objects, and I want to teach people to approach the world with curious eyes and find the magic around them. My work is as much about inspiring people as transmitting knowledge."
Pierre Barreau is the CEO of AIVA, an artificial intelligence that composes music. As Barreau writes: "Ever since I was a child, I was always passionate about building things. This drive to make the imaginary real is what pushed me to create a company as soon as I got out of university. The seed of the idea for AIVA was planted once I saw the science fiction movie Her, where an AI composes a beautiful piece of piano that captures the essence of the moment she is currently living. This simple concept of creating an artificial intelligence capable of composing personalized music is how I believe that I can make the world a slightly more magical place and meaningfully support the storytelling of content creators through music."
Pierre was nominated for a Gold Panda Award in the "Best Director" category when he was 15 years old for a four-film documentary series, One Night in the Cosmos.
James Bridle is an artist and writer working across technologies and disciplines. His artworks and installations have been exhibited in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia, and have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of visitors online. He has been commissioned by organizations including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Barbican, Artangel, the Oslo Architecture Triennale and the Istanbul Design Biennial, and he has been honored by Ars Electronica, the Japan Media Arts Festival and the Design Museum, London. His writing on literature, culture and networks has appeared in magazines and newspapers including Frieze, Wired, Domus, Cabinet, The Atlantic, the New Statesman and many others, and he has written a regular column for The Observer.
New Dark Age, Bridle's book about technology, knowledge and the end of the future is forthcoming from Verso (UK & US) in 2018. He lectures regularly on radio, at conferences, universities and other events including SXSW, Lift, the Global Art Forum and Re:Publica. He has been a resident at Lighthouse, Brighton, the White Building, London and Eyebeam, New York, and an adjunct professor on the interactive telecommunications program at New York University.
Camille A. Brown is a prolific Black female choreographer reclaiming the cultural narrative of African American identity. Her bold work taps into both ancestral stories and contemporary culture to capture a range of deeply personal experiences. Brown is a four-time Princess Grace Award winner, TED Fellow, Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award winner, Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and Audelco Award winner, among others.
Her work has been commissioned by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Complexions, Ailey II, Philandanco!, Urban Bush Women, Ballet Memphis, and Hubbard Street II, among others. Her TV credits include Jesus Christ Superstar LIVE (NBC). Her theater credits include Once On This Island (Broadway), A Streetcar Named Desire (Broadway), Fortress of Solitude (The Public Theater), Stagger Lee (DTC), BELLA: An American Tall Tale (DTC, Playwrights Horizons), Katori Hall’s BLOOD QUILT (Arena Stage), Cabin in the Sky (NY City Center Encores!), Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick…BOOM! starring Lin-Manuel Miranda (NY City Center Encores! Off-Center), Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (Regional), and Marcus Gardley’s The BOX: A Black Comedy.
As artistic director of Camille A. Brown and Dancers, Brown strives to instill curiosity and reflection in diverse audiences through her emotionally raw and thought-provoking work. Her driving passion is to empower Black bodies to tell their story using their own language(s) through movement and dialogue. Through the company, Brown provides outreach activities to students, young adults and incarcerated women and men across the country through her platform EVERY BODY MOVE (EBM).
Currently, Brown is performing her new work "ink," the final installation of the company’s trilogy about culture, race and identity. "ink" follows the Bessie Award-winning "Mr. TOL E. RAncE" (2012) and Bessie-nominated "BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play" (2015). Drawing on historic and contemporary rhythms, rituals, and gestural vocabulary of the African Diaspora, "ink" reclaims African-American narratives by showcasing their authenticity. The work examines the culture of Black life that is often appropriated, rewritten or silenced.
Brown has been featured on the cover of Dance Magazine (April 2018) and Dance Teacher Magazine (August 2015). She co-directed the Social Dances: Jazz to Hip-Hop program with Moncell Durden at The Jacob’s Pillow School. She performed at the 2015 TED Conference and given talks at both TEDxBeaconStreet and TEDx Estée Lauder Companies. Her TED Talk, "A visual history of social dance in 25 moves," was chosen as one of the most notable talks of 2016 by TED Curator, Chris Anderson.
Brown is a graduate of the LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts and received a BFA from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
As David Cage writes: "I started writing stories when I was six. As I was totally unable to draw, I decided to cut images in my favorite comic books and to rewrite the dialogues to tell my own story. Forty years later, this is exactly what I am still doing.
"When the first video games in real-time 3D appeared, I thought it would be a fantastic medium to tell stories in a totally new way: instead of talking to a passive audience, I could write a scenario in which the player would be hero, the co-writer and the co-director of the experience, in one word: an interactor. I work today with a team of 200 people to create incredible visuals. I am fortunate to have this dream job for 20 years, trying to invent new ways of telling stories and to play with players' emotions."
As the designer for Brooklyn's Domino Sugar Refinery, the first mixed-use skyscrapers in Philadelphia's Schuylkill Yards project, a nonprofit artist space in Harlem, attainable housing in Newark and a contemporary urban bazaar in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Vishaan Chakrabarti is engaged in some of the most distinctive projects redefining global urban life in the 21st century. He has also advocated for more equitable and ecological cities in New York Times op-eds such as "Penn Station Reborn" and "America's Urban Future." In his 2013 book, A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America, he illustrates through hard data and soft cartoons why Americans would be more prosperous, sustainable, joyful and socially mobile in a more urban nation.
Chakrabarti is the founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), a New York-based architecture studio dedicated to the advancement of metropolitan life. He is also a Professor of Practice at Columbia University, where he teaches architectural design and urban theory. Prior to founding PAU, he served as the director of planning for Manhattan under Mayor Michael Bloomberg after the tragic events of 9/11, during which he helped to plan the High Line, the reconstruction of the World Trade Center and the expansion of Columbia University. Born in Calcutta, Chakrabarti holds degrees from Cornell, MIT and Berkeley.
Penny Chisholm (whose scientific works are published under the name Sallie Chisholm) has been studying microscopic plants called phytoplankton since she was an undergraduate. After she joined the MIT faculty, in the 1980s she was lucky enough to be involved in the discovery of the smallest and most abundant phytoplankter on the planet: Prochlorococcus. Less that 1/100th the width of a human hair, this tiny photosynthetic microbe thrives in the sunlit surface waters across large swaths of the global ocean, where it uses the sun's energy to release oxygen, consume carbon dioxide and grow. There are an estimated three billion billion billion of these tiny cells in the global ocean where they provide sustenance for other microorganisms and fuel ocean food webs. "Prochlorococcus has been my muse for more than 30 years," Chisholm says. "It has taught me an enormous amount about the role of photosynthesis in shaping our planet, and about the power of diversity. Most important, it has taught me to be humbled by the mind-blowing complexity of the natural world."
Chisholm is one of ten Institute Professors at MIT and has received many honors for her research on Prochlorococcus, including the 2011 National Medal of Science awarded by President Obama at the White House. She has also co-authored a series of children's books about the role of photosynthesis in shaping our world.
Poppy Crum is dedicated to the development of immersive technologies that leverage human physiology and perceptual realities to enhance our experiences and interactions in the world. She has advanced a mission to democratize the way people of all abilities benefit from sensory technologies -- and how effectively technology communicates back to each of us. She believes the power of intelligent technologies is only realized with dynamic optimization and learning of as much of our personal and contextual data as possible.
Crum is chief scientist at Dolby Laboratories, leading the company's integration of neuroscience and sensory data science into its entertainment, communication and future technologies. She is also adjunct professor at Stanford University, where her work focuses on the impact and feedback potential of gaming and immersive environments, such as augmented and virtual reality, on neuroplasticity and learning. She has been recognized with the Advanced Imaging Society's Distinguished Leadership Award and the Consumer Technology Association's Technology and Standards Achievement Award for work towards the introduction of affordable, over-the-counter hearing-aid devices, and she is a fellow of the Audio Engineering Society. She has also been named to Billboard Magazine's 100 most influential female executives in the music industry. Prior to joining Dolby Laboratories, Crum was Research Faculty in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
T. Morgan Dixon co-leads GirlTrek, the largest public health nonprofit for African American women and girls in the United States. GirlTrek encourages women to use walking as a practical first step to inspire healthy living, families and communities. The organization knits local advocacy together to lead a civil rights-inspired health movement to eliminate barriers to physical activity, improve access to safe places, protect and reclaim green spaces, and improve the walkability and built environments of 50 high-need communities across the United States.
Prior to GirlTrek, Dixon was on the front lines of education reform. She served as director of leadership development for one of the largest charter school networks in the country, Achievement First, and directed the start-up of six public schools in New York City for St. Hope and the Urban Assembly, two organizations funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She has served as a trustee for boards of The National Outdoor Leadership School, Teach for Haiti and The Underground Railroad Historic Byway, a $50 million tourism and preservation project in Maryland.
As the leader of GirlTrek, Dixon has received fellowships from Teach for America (2012), Echoing Green (2013), Ashoka (2014) and The Aspen Institute (2015). She has been featured in The New York Times and CNN. She was named a "health hero" by Essence Magazine and appeared on the cover of Outside Magazine's "Icons" edition.
For 37 years, John has served entrepreneurs with ingenuity and optimism, helping them build disruptive companies and bold teams. In 2018, he authored the New York Times bestseller, Measure What Matters, a handbook for setting and achieving audacious goals. Through his book and platform, WhatMatters.com, he shares valuable lessons from some of the most fearless innovators of our time.
John was an original investor and board member at Google and Amazon, helping to create more than half a million jobs and the world’s second and third most valuable companies. He’s passionate about encouraging leaders to reimagine the future, from transforming healthcare to advancing applications of machine learning. Outside of Kleiner Perkins, John works with social entrepreneurs for change in public education, the climate crisis, and global poverty. John serves on the board of the Obama Foundation and ONE.org.
Kirsty Duncan is the Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities for the Government of Canada. As a member of Parliament, she has been the voice on Parliament Hill for the citizens of Etobicoke-North since 2008. Duncan has also been a driving force for putting science front and center in the federal government's agenda. She is committed to strengthening science and evidence-based decision making and fostering a culture of curiosity in Canada. And she is taking action to improve equity, diversity and youth participation in Canada’s research community.
Duncan is a medical geographer who led an expedition to remote Svalbard, Norway, to search for the cause of the Spanish Flu, the deadliest of flu pandemics, which has killed upwards of 50 million people worldwide. She is internationally recognized as a leading expert in pandemic influenza and environmental change and its impact on human health. As a fierce defender of the environment, Duncan contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization which, jointly with Al Gore, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Prior to entering politics in 2008, Duncan was an associate professor at the University of Toronto and the University of Windsor.
Throughout his career, Oskar Eustis has been dedicated to the development of new plays and the classics as a director, dramaturg and producer. Among the plays he's helped bring into being, you can count Angels in America, the Tony-winning Hamilton and Fun Home, with more new work constantly on the bubble. Throughout his career, he has also produced and directed Shakespeare in venues around the US, from prisons to Broadway, including The Public's 2017 free Shakespeare in the Park staging of Julius Ceasar that generated a national conversation.
Eustis has also directed the world premieres of plays by Philip Kan Gotanda, David Henry Hwang, Emily Mann, Suzan-Lori Parks, Ellen McLaughlin and Eduardo Machado, among many others. He's a professor of dramatic writing and arts and public policy at New York University and has held professorships at UCLA, Middlebury College and Brown University, where he founded and chaired the Trinity Rep/Brown University consortium for professional theater training. He has been Artistic Director of The Public Theater in New York since 2005.
As Ian Firth writes: "I have been fortunate enough to work on some of the world's most amazing bridges, and I lead fantastic teams of engineers involved in the design, construction and management of bridges all over the world. Since 1990, when I became a Partner in Flint & Neill, the UK engineering consultants who I joined as a young graduate in 1979, I have helped to grow the firm into one of the world's leading bridge design consultancies. Flint & Neill joined the Danish COWI Group in 2008 and rebranded as COWI (UK) in January 2017.
"I love the fact that my work has included some of the very biggest bridges as well as some much smaller and more intimate ones. The big ones include the huge 3.3 km-long single-span suspension bridge over the Messina Strait in Italy and the 1 km span Stonecutters Bridge in Hong Kong. The smaller ones include Copenhagen's new Inner Harbour Bridge, the Third Way Bridge in Taunton and the Swansea Sail Bridge in Wales. In fact, one of my favorites is the smallest: the little Bridge of Aspiration in London's Covent Garden, which is only 9 meters long! Working alongside bridge architects, I always try to weave elegance and beauty into my designs alongside the essential safety, economy and other factors, so that my bridges are popular as well as efficient and durable. Altogether, I reckon I have designed well over 100 bridges, but sadly not all of them have been built!"
Simona Francese is a professor of forensic and bioanalytical mass spectrometry at Sheffield Hallam University. As she writes: "I have been fascinated by forensics since I was 17, and I was determined to pursue an educational route that eventually would enable me to contribute to secure societies. As always in life, nothing is straightforward. I enrolled on the chemistry course because it was the closest degree at the time that could lead me where I wanted to be. I ended up doing a PhD and post-doctorate fellowships working with viruses and diseases. But I was always focused on my ultimate objective, and throughout I developed a strong expertise in mass spectrometry, which is an extremely versatile analytical technique. This was crucial.
"When I obtained my first lectureship, I had the freedom to build my own research, and I used mass spectrometry imaging to develop ways to profile individuals from their fingermarks, thus helping police with their investigations. A fantastic achievement for me, but the best accomplishment was keeping the focus for 14 years and the determination to finally be able to do what I have always been so passionate about."
As Kevin Frans writes: "I'm a high schooler who's chronically excited about building things -- from games to hacks to robots. I'm constantly trying to rope people into joining me, by leading our school's engineering club and organizing our annual hackathon. Today I've got a dream: to build an AI that can talk, create and laugh like humans do. As a research intern at OpenAI, I developed a method for training AI agents to solve many tasks at the same time, by learning a hierarchy of smaller strategies. The world is evolving at breakneck speeds, and I believe big things will arise from AI, sooner than anyone would expect."
A professor at the Harvard Business School, Frances Frei formerly served as Uber's first SVP of leadership and strategy. Her work at Uber focused on building a world-class leadership team, fostering leadership at all levels of the organization and guiding the clear articulation of strategy and planning. Frei has been central to Uber’s cultural transformation.
Frei's research examines how leaders create the context for organizations and individuals to thrive. She is the best-selling author of Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business. She received her PhD from the Wharton School.
Vanessa Garrison is the co-founder and COO of GirlTrek, the largest public health nonprofit for African-American women and girls in the United States. With more than 100,000 neighborhood walkers, GirlTrek encourages women to use walking as a practical first step to inspire healthy living, families and communities.
Prior to co-founding GirlTrek, Garrison worked within the criminal justice space, helping formerly incarcerated women access critical services. She began her career working in digital media with Turner Broadcasting System in Atlanta, where she managed digital media projects for some the world's most recognizable news and entertainment brands, including, CNN, TNT and Sports Illustrated.
With GirlTrek, Garrison has been a featured in the Washington Post and The New York Times, and she was named a "Health Hero" by Essence Magazine. She has received social innovations fellowships from Teach For America, Echoing Green and the Aspen Institute.
Everything Simone George does is based on her belief in fairness. As a human rights lawyer, she represents women who are experiencing abuse. She co-authored the report "The Lawlessness of the Home" with Safe Ireland, finding that we are all responsible for women and children's right to bodily integrity and to liberty. She also co-created the Safe World Summit to cultivate that leadership, gathering the world's foremost thinkers and activists together. This work led to significant amendments to legislation and will contribute to a new landscape of political and social justice in Ireland.
In 2010, George’s fiancé -- blind adventure athlete Mark Pollock -- broke his back, and together the two learned how paralysis strikes at the very heart of what it means to be human. George's research, which began by Pollock’s hospital bed, became the start of their next adventure -- to find and connect people around the world to fast-track a cure for paralysis. George has been a catalyst for a global collaboration between ground-breaking scientists creating a paralysis cure and is the subject of feature documentary Unbreakable. She is a director on the board of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, a masters graduate from The College of Europe, Bruges, holds a diploma from Harvard and is a double-graduate of NUI Galway.
Giada Gerboni is a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University, in the Collaborative Haptics and Robotics in Medicine (CHARM) Lab. Gerboni is working on the design and control of needle-sized flexible robots, work that aims to improve current percutaneous tumor ablation procedures. As she says: "One of the most exciting parts of this research is to enable surgical operations in ways that, not long ago, had not yet been conceived."
Gerboni received BE and MS degrees in biomedical engineering from the University of Pisa and a PhD in biorobotics from The BioRobotics Institute of Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy. During her PhD, she specialized in surgical robotics, studying and developing innovative strategies for the actuation and sensing of soft and flexible instruments for applications in MIS (Minimally Invasive Surgery).
A new branch of robotics, called "soft robotics," is expanding the boundaries of robotic applications. Soft robotics faces the grand challenge of increasing the capabilities of robots to make them more suitable for physical interactions with the real world. It involves use of soft and flexible materials, deformable sensors and very different control strategies than traditional robots, which are designed to work in well-defined and confined environments. Gerboni has been involved in this field from the time of her PhD, and since then she has been exploring its potential in the medical/surgical area, where safe robot-environment interaction is crucial.
In 2004, Dan Gibson was drawn to a project at the J. Craig Venter Institute: to build a synthetic cell from scratch. Within days, he was on a path to creating synthetic life alongside genomics pioneers. But to build a whole genome from scratch, Gibson had to first invent new methods to assemble DNA. One method, dubbed the "Gibson Assembly," became a game changer, and a series of firsts followed: first synthetic bacterial genome, first synthetic cell, first minimal cell. Today, these discoveries inform the design of synthetic DNA used for new medicines.
Gibson's teams at SGI and SGI-DNA recently introduced the world's first biologic teleporter, called the Digital-to-Biological Converter (DBC), which turns digital code into functional biologics in the form of DNA, RNA and proteins without human intervention. Imagine a future where digital code is emailed to DBCs at hospitals around the world to deliver personalized medicine at a patient's bedside.
Simone Giertz is a Swedish inventor, YouTuber and robotics enthusiast. She is world-renowned for her useless machines and has risen to the very top of the field -- mainly because the field is very tiny and not of interest to the general populace. Giertz has set out to automate everything from brushing teeth to cutting hair and has more than one million subscribers on YouTube.
Yasmin Green is the director of research and development for Jigsaw, a unit within Alphabet Inc. (formerly Google Ideas), focused on using tech tools to make the world safer, both on and offline. She has experience leading projects in some of the world’s toughest environments, including Iran, Syria, the UAE and Nigeria. In 2012, she led a multi-partner coalition to launch Against Violent Extremism, the world's first online network of former violent extremists and survivors of terrorism. Based on her own interviews with ISIS defectors and jailed recruits, last year Yasmin launched the Redirect Method, a new deployment of targeted advertising and video to confront online radicalization.
Green is a senior advisor on innovation to Oxford Analytica, a member of the Aspen Cyber Strategy Group, and until 2015 co-chaired the European Commission's Working Group on Online Radicalization. She was named one of Fortune's "40 Under 40" most influential young leaders in 2017, and in 2016 she was named one of Fast Company's "Most Creative People in Business."
In his book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the 21st century -- from overcoming death to creating artificial life. He maps the future and asks fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? How will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? The book has sold four million copies since its publication in 2016.
Harari's previous book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, explores what made homo sapiens the most successful species on the planet. His answer: We are the only animal that can believe in things that exist purely in our imagination, such as gods, states, money, human rights, corporations and other fictions, and we have developed a unique ability to use these stories to unify and organize groups and ensure cooperation. Sapiens has sold eight million copies and been translated into more than 50 languages. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and President Barack Obama have recommended it as a must-read.
Harari lectures as a Professor of history at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he specializes in world history, medieval history and military history. His current research focuses on macro-historical questions: What is the relationship between history and biology? What is the essential difference between Homo sapiens and other animals? Is there justice in history? Does history have a direction? Did people become happier as history unfolded? Harari has written for newspapers such as The Guardian, Financial Times, the Times, Nature magazine and the Wall Street Journal.
Harari's new book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, will take the pulse of our current global climate, focusing on the biggest questions of the present moment: What is really happening right now? What are today’s greatest challenges and choices? What should we pay attention to? The book will be published in multiple languages in September 2018.
Dr. Caroline Harper's ultimate goal is to see herself out of a job. She runs Sightsavers, an organization with global offices that strives to eliminate avoidable blindness and ensure that people with disabilities have equal rights. Up to 75 percent of sight loss can be cured or prevented, and her team hopes to achieve their goals so spectacularly that the organization is no longer needed.
Harper worked in the gas industry until 2002, before co-founding a management business that specialized on turnaround sales of energy companies. But during what she describes as a mid-life gap year, she visited a number of developing countries and felt drawn to international development. "My own family has a lot of blindness, so the mission of Sightsavers really resonated for me," she said. "I have now been its CEO for 13 years, and every year something more incredible happens. The best moments are when I visit some of the countries where we work, sit with people in their communities and realize that what we do has a massive impact. I am so lucky."
Harper is a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her work to protect the sight of people in developing countries. Sightsavers works with a range of partners and is supported by organizations such as The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and UK aid through the UK government's Department for International Development.
Reed Hastings co-founded Netflix in 1997. Today the company develops, licenses and delivers entertainment across a wide variety of genres and languages to hundreds of millions of people in 190 countries. In 1991, he founded Pure Software, which made tools for software developers. After a 1995 IPO and several acquisitions, Pure was acquired by Rational Software in 1997.
Hastings is an active educational philanthropist and served on the California State Board of Education from 2000 to 2004. He is on the board of several educational organizations including DreamBox Learning, KIPP and Pahara. He's also a board member of Facebook and was on the board of Microsoft from 2007 to 2012. He received a BA from Bowdoin College in 1983 and an MSCS in artificial intelligence from Stanford University in 1988. Between Bowdoin and Stanford, he served in the Peace Corps as a high school math teacher in Swaziland.
Rolling Stone called her music "fiery and virtuosic," and George Clinton called her "the Jimi Hendrix of the violin." Lili Haydn’s four critically acclaimed records have been a favorite on public radio and featured in TV and film. She has collaborated with and opened for everyone from Roger Waters, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Sting and George Clinton's P-Funk All Stars, to name a few. Haydn is also a film composer, with twelve feature films and documentaries to her scoring credit. She is the recipient of a Film Composing Fellowship to the prestigious Sundance Film Institute, and she has collaborated with renowned composers on films like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Town.
A humanitarian and activist, Haydn performs regularly for human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Global Security Institute (for whom she performed a concert at the UN).
Hugh Herr co-directs the Center for Extreme Bionics at the MIT Media Lab, where he is pioneering a new class of biohybrid smart prostheses and orthoses to improve the quality of life for thousands of people with physical challenges. A powered ankle-foot prosthesis called the Empower by Ottobock, for instance, emulates the action of a biological leg to create a natural gait, allowing persons with amputation to walk with normal levels of speed and metabolism as if their legs were biological.
Herr also advances powerful body exoskeletons that augment human physicality beyond innate physiological levels, enabling humans to walk and run faster with less metabolic energy. He is the co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Dephy Inc., which creates products that augment physiological function through electromechanical enhancement.
César A. Hidalgo leads the Collective Learning group at The MIT Media Lab and is an associate professor of media arts and sciences at MIT. Hidalgo's work focuses on understanding how teams, organizations, cities and nations learn. At the Collective Learning group, Hidalgo develops software tools to facilitate learning in organizations. His academic publications have been cited more than 10,000 times, and his online systems, including the Observatory of Economic Complexity and DataUSA, have received more than 100 million views and numerous awards.
Hidalgo's latest book, Why Information Grows (2015), has been translated into 10+ languages. He is also the co-author of The Atlas of Economic Complexity (2014) and a co-founder of Datawheel LLC, a company that has professionalized the creation of large data visualization engines.
Kashmir Hill is a senior reporter for the Gizmodo Media Group. As she writes: "I started out in journalism blogging at what was essentially an online tabloid for lawyers. Then I got interested in privacy, and that forced me to write about Facebook and eventually about other technologies; along the way people started describing me as a technology journalist instead of a legal blogger.
"I've always wanted my writing to be approachable for a lay audience, so I usually use humor, a first-person approach or, ideally, both. So I've hacked a smart home, lived in a monitored one, created a fake business and bought it a fake reputation, worked as a crowdsourced girlfriend, lived on Bitcoin and spent a whole week WRITING IN CAPS LOCK. The best way to prepare people for future possible tech dystopias is for me to live in them and report back."
A gifted and hard-working athlete, Alex Honnold is distinguished for his uncanny ability to control his fear while scaling cliffs of dizzying heights without a rope to protect him if he falls. His humble, self-effacing attitude toward such extreme risk has earned him the nickname Alex "No Big Deal" Honnold.
Honnold's most celebrated achievements include the first and only free-solos of the Moonlight Buttress (5.12d, 1,200 feet) in Zion National Park, Utah, and the Northwest Face of Half Dome (5.12a, 2,200 feet), Yosemite, California. In 2017 he achieved Yosemite's first "Triple Solo": climbing, in succession, the National Park's three largest faces -- Mt. Watkins, Half Dome and El Capitan -- alone, and in under 24 hours. In 2017 he completed the first and only free-solo of El Capitan's "Freerider" route (5.13a, 3,000 feet), a historic accomplishment that has been hailed by many as one of the greatest sporting achievements of our time.
Walter Hood is the creative director and founder of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California. He is also a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and lectures on professional and theoretical projects nationally and internationally. Hood Design Studio is a tripartite practice, working across art and fabrication, design and landscape, and research and urbanism. The resulting urban spaces and their objects act as public sculpture, creating new apertures through which to see the surrounding emergent beauty, strangeness and idiosyncrasies.
The Studio’s award-winning work has been featured in publications including Dwell, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Fast Company, Architectural Digest, Places Journal and Landscape Architecture Magazine. Hood is a recipient of the 2017 Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award.
Angel Hsu is a professor, researcher, writer and speaker who spends much of her time analyzing large datasets to develop policy solutions to the world's most pressing environmental problems, such as climate change and air pollution. As she writes: "I work between the push and pull of data science and public policy, and this passion drives me to explore how new technologies, analytical techniques and communication strategies can improve governance and lead to better environmental outcomes in rapidly developing countries like China."
Hsu is jointly appointed at Yale-NUS in Singapore at Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She founded and directed Data-Driven Yale, an international team of interdisciplinary researchers, scientists, programmers and visual designers. Under her direction, Data-Driven Yale works collaboratively with scholars and practitioners around the world to collect, transform and communicate information, creating new knowledge and policy tools designed to make the world greener and healthier. Her work has been published in scientific journals like Nature and Nature Climate Change and featured in media like The Economist and the New York Times.
Rebeca Hwang is co-founder and managing director of Rivet Ventures, which invests in companies in women-led markets where female usage, decision-making and purchasing are crucial to company growth. Hwang is also co-founder of the San Francisco-based startup YouNoodle, which connects top startups with opportunities for growth. She also co-founded Kalei Ventures, a venture fund focused in Latin American startups.
With a background in chemical and civil and environmental engineering from MIT and Stanford, Hwang's work has garnered three US patents, and she has 17 pending patent applications in her portfolio. She has been recognized as one of MIT Tech Review's "Top 35 Global Innovators under 35" and as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Hwang serves in the Board of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, which annually runs GEW in 170 countries and gathers 10 million participants. As the co-founder of Cleantech Open, she has helped more than 1,000 cleantech startups raise in excess of $1 billion in external funding. In addition, Hwang is a lecturer at Stanford University and teaches technology entrepreneurship.
Mary Lou Jepsen is one of the world’s foremost engineers and scientists in optics, imaging and display -- inventing at the hairy, crazy edge of what physics allows, aiming to do what seems impossible and leading teams to achieve these in volume in partnership with the world’s largest manufacturers, in Asia. She has more than 200 patents published or issued.
Jepsen is the founder and CEO of Openwater, which aims to use new optics to see inside our bodies. Previously a top technical exec at Google, Facebook, Oculus and Intel, her startups include One Laptop Per Child, where she was CTO and chief architect on the $100 laptop. She studied at Brown, MIT and Rhode Island School of Design, and she was a professor at both MITs -- the one in Cambridge, Mass., and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Tech in Australia.
Dina Katabi designs new wireless devices that use machine learning to sense people through walls and occlusions. Her devices look like a Wi-Fi box. They transmit a low-power wireless signal and capture its reflections as it bounces off people and objects. They analyze those reflections to learn how people walk, measure their gait and detect elderly falls. The device can also measure a person's breathing, heart rate and sleep quality using wireless signals, without any sensor on the person's body. Katabi is working with medical doctors to use her technology to detect health emergencies and provide a better understanding of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Katabi is the Andrew & Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. She is also the director of the MIT's Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship. Her research has been recognized by the ACM Prize in Computing, the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award, the SIGCOMM Test-of-Time Award, the IEEE William R. Bennett prize, the Faculty Research Innovation Fellowship, a Sloan Fellowship and multiple best paper awards. Several startups have been spun out of her lab, such as PiCharging and Emerald.
As President of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Fred Krupp has guided the organization for three decades. Under his leadership, EDF has become one of the world’s most influential environmental players. He has focused international attention on the problem of methane emissions from the oil-and-gas industry and led EDF's innovative corporate partnerships with FedEx, KKR, McDonald’s, Walmart and others. He has overseen growth of the organization from a membership of 40,000 to more than two million.
Educated at Yale and the University of Michigan Law School, Krupp appears frequently in the media. He co-wrote the New York Times bestseller Earth: The Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming with Miriam Horn. He was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News and World Report and is a recipient of the 2015 William K. Reilly Environmental Leadership Award.
LADAMA met on the road in 2014 while touring Los Angeles, Arizona and New Mexico as part of the OneBeat Program. Between performances, Mafer Bandola (Venezuela), Lara Klaus (Brazil), Daniela Serna (Colombia) and Sara Lucas (US) uncovered a common dream of building communities through sound and empowering women and youth through music.
Reimagining South American and Caribbean styles like cumbia, maracatu, onda nueva and joropo and blending them with soul, R&B and pop, LADAMA creates a new sound all their own. Together, the four shred on the bandola llanera from Venezuela, the tambor alegre from Colombia and the pandeiro from Northeastern Brazil. With powerful vocals, often accompanied by Pat Swoboda on the bass, LADAMA delivers a brand new musical experience. LADAMA flows from the electric to the acoustic, from Spanish to English and Portuguese, from the high plains of Venezuela to the Colombian coast. Their art proves that borders are meaningless, transporting us to a future where the world communicates across continents and cultures, through sound and story.
Jaron Lanier is interested in the idea that virtual reality might help us notice the magic of ordinary reality and the idea that paying people for the data that is now taken from them might be the best path to a sustainable, dignified future economy.
Lanier's 1980s start-up created the first commercial VR products and introduced avatars, multi-person virtual world experiences and prototypes of major VR applications such as surgical simulation. Lanier coined or popularized the terms "virtual reality" and "mixed reality." He recently released a new book, Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. Both of his previous books, Who Owns the Future? and You Are Not a Gadget are international bestsellers. His most recent book (May 29, 2018) is entitled Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.
Lanier was a mainstay of the earliest TED conferences; he still thinks of TED as a charming little gathering.
Dr. Rajiv Laroia is a curious engineer driven by the need to solve impactful problems through innovation. He is the CTO and co-founder of Light, a computational camera company, founded with the vision of reimaging mobile photography. With Laroia's direction, Light has introduced the world's first computational camera.
Laroia also invented much of the technology behind the LTE 4G wireless standard and today powers global mobile connectivity. He was inducted into the Innovations Hall of Fame, University of Maryland, College Park, and he has more than 365 issued patents and more than 380 pending.
Dr. Kai-Fu Lee is the founder of Sinovation Ventures, managing a $2.3 billion dual-currency investment fund. Sinovation is a leading technology-savvy investment firm focusing on developing Chinese high-tech companies. Lee also serves as president of the Sinovation Ventures Artificial Intelligence Institute.
Prior to founding Sinovation Ventures in 2009, Lee was the vice president of Google and president of Google China. Previously, he held senior executive positions at Microsoft, SGI and Apple. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and he was the Vice Chairman of the Committee of 100 and named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME Magazine. Lee has authored ten US patents and over 100 journal and conference papers. He's also an author of seven top-selling books in Chinese and has more than 50 million followers online.
Ingrid Fetell Lee has devoted ten years to answering the question: "How do tangible things create intangible joy?" Drawing on research from the fields of neuroscience and psychology, her book, Joyful, and her blog "The Aesthetics of Joy" explore the powerful connection between our surroundings and our emotions, and empower people to find more joy in daily life through design.
Lee has more than twelve years of experience in design and branding, most recently as design director at global innovation firm IDEO. She has been featured as an expert on design and joy by outlets such as the New York Times, Wired, PRI's Studio 360, CBC's Spark and Fast Company.
Lee holds a Master's in industrial design from Pratt Institute and a Bachelor's in English and creative writing from Princeton University, and she was a founding faculty member in the Products of Design program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Joyful, her first book, will be published in North America by Little, Brown on September 4th.
Humorist Emily Levine works a heady vein of humor, cerebral and thoughtful as well as hilarious. Oh, she's got plenty of jokes. But her work, at its core, makes serious connections -- between hard science and pop culture, between what we say and what we secretly assume ... She plumbs the hidden oppositions, the untouchable not-quite-truths of the modern mind.
Levine's background in improv theater, with its requirement to always say "yes" to the other actor's reality, has helped shape her worldview. Always suspicious of sharp either/or distinctions, she proposes "the quantum logic of and/and" -- a thoroughly postmodern, scientifically informed take on life that allows for complicated states of being. Like the one we're in right now.
In January 2017, Gary Liu became the CEO of the South China Morning Post (SCMP), a leading global news company that has reported on China and Asia for more than a century. Founded in 1903, SCMP is headquartered in Hong Kong, where it is the city's newspaper of record, with a growing correspondent staff across Asia and the United States. SCMP's vision is to "Elevate Thought," and the mission is to lead the global conversation about China. Prior to joining SCMP in January 2017, Liu was CEO of Digg, spearheading the New York startup's transformation from aggregator to a data-driven news platform. Previously, Liu was head of Spotify Labs, where he led emerging technologies and business strategies for Spotify's global markets.
Rodin Lyasoff is the CEO of A³, the advanced projects outpost of Airbus in Silicon Valley. A³ executes a small portfolio of high-risk, time-constrained projects. The mission of A³ is to bring together bright individuals to bravely explore ideas and technologies that will disrupt aerospace. Projects are built on rigorous analysis, fertile partnerships and commitment to unreasonable goals. Before his time at A³, Rodin created and led Project Vahana.
Rodin's career is rooted in building and leading teams and projects that execute effectively in dynamic and uncertain environments. At Rockwell Collins, he designed flight software for a number of platforms including the AAI Shadow, Alenia Sky-X and the NASA Mars Flyer. He was also an early member of Zee.Aero's engineering team and is passionate about making personal flight accessible to all.
Will MacAskill is the author of Doing Good Better and the co-founder of the organization Giving What We Can and the social-impact-career advice project 80,000 Hours. He is a trustee of the Centre for Effective Altruism. As he writes: "I'm an associate professor of moral philosophy at Oxford University. I helped to create the philosophy of effective altruism: the use of evidence and reason to figure out how to do the most good we can. While growing up, I tried my best to do good things: I donated to high street charities, I worked at an old folks' home, I taught English in Ethiopia. But when I was a graduate student I realized that I'd never asked myself the question of whether these were the truly best ways of improving the world. So, being a nerd, I started doing some research to try to find out what activities would do the most to make the world a better place. Ten years later, I'm still asking that question.
"I'm still far from certain about what the best ways of doing good are, but I have learned that each and every one of us can do a tremendous amount to make the world a better place, whether that's by donating to buy bednets to protect children from malaria, campaigning to improve living conditions for animals in factory farms or working to ensure that the benefits of new technology are harnessed while avoiding the risks."
As writer Charles C. Mann tells it: "The year I graduated college, the New York Times had a front-page article saying there were only two jobs in the US for mathematicians that year (jobs that didn't involve being an actuary, I mean). I was a math major. I could not convince myself I was one of the two best mathematicians in the US. Suddenly this other thing I liked to do, writing, seemed full of opportunity. I had never been out of the country, so I temporized by traveling to Africa and Europe. In Italy, I got a job on an English-language newspaper. I was the sports editor. I was grossly unqualified. I had a lot of fun. Eventually I got a job on a US magazine. I was fired while I was on the plane riding over -- I never even got to the office. I thought I'd try freelancing while I found a job. I never found one. Since then, while still trying to find a job, I've been writing, mostly about science and technology, but often about other stuff. This has taken me to 90+ countries, let me write nine books, and get to eat some of the weirdest food on Earth. Like I said: lucky."
Mann is the author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created and his latest, The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World.
Dylan Marron is the host and producer of the Webby-winning podcast Conversations with People Who Hate Me, where he calls up folks who wrote him negative or hateful messages on the internet. Previously, Marron created Every Single Word, a video series that edits down popular films to only the words spoken by people of color as a way to tackle Hollywood's representation problem empirically. To address the anti-trans bathroom bills, he created and hosted Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People to broadcast a missing element: mundane, funny conversations with trans folks in the very spot their presence was debated.
As he tells it: "The 2016 presidential election inspired me to satirize the popular unboxing genre where YouTubers open the latest electronic gadgets by instead unboxing intangible 'products' like Islamophobia, police brutality and masculinity. And because this work gained popularity on the internet, I received many negative messages which inspired me to start Conversations with People Who Hate Me, a podcast where I call up some of the folks who sent me those messages. In the end, I'm trying to turn the internet into a place where we can connect and learn, not divide."
Surya Mattu is a data reporter on Gizmodo's Special Projects Desk and an R&D journalism resident at Eyebeam NYC. As he writes: "My practice combines art, investigative journalism, engineering and creative technology. The aim is to reverse-engineer the specific ways in which the tools or technology we create are imbued with the ethics of the culture in which they're created. Currently, I am a data reporter. Previously, I was a contributing researcher at ProPublica, where I worked on "Machine Bias," a series that aims to highlight how algorithmic systems can be biased and discriminate against people."
Astrobiologist Karen J. Meech uses the leftover pieces from our solar system's formation to understand how habitable planets are made. Her curiosity about life beyond earth was inspired as a child watching Star Trek. From this, her path led to a career in physics and astronomy, with a PhD in planetary physics from MIT. She is now an astronomer at the University of Hawaii, where she leads the astrobiology group, and she is a passionate scientific educator.
Meech started her astronomical career investigating comets, the icy leftovers from the birth of our solar system. Her work led to an understanding of many of the processes that cause the beautiful tails to develop far from our Sun. She was co-investigator on three comet missions. Her discoveries provide information to test our understanding of how planetary systems are assembled. Now her work has embraced the power of interdisciplinary science, and she is combining geological field work, geochemistry, astronomical observations, theory and space mission concepts to address fundamental questions about how earth got its water.
Emily Nagoski is a sex educator and the author of the best-selling Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life. As she writes: "As an undergrad at the University of Delaware, I wanted some volunteer work for my resume, so I got trained as a peer sex educator, going into residence halls to talk about condoms, contraception and consent. Though I loved the brain science I was studying in my classes (BA in psychology, minors in cognitive science and philosophy), it was my work as a sex educator that made me like who I am as a person. So that's the path I chose. I went to Indiana University for an MS in counseling and PhD in health behavior, completing a clinical internship at the Kinsey Institute, then went on to work at Smith College, where I taught a class called Women’s Sexuality.
"That first semester at Smith, I asked my students, as the last question on the final exam, 'What's one important thing you learned?' Half the students answered simply, 'I'm normal.' I decided that day to write Come As You Are, to share the science and sex positivity that helped my students know they're normal."
Christoph Niemann is the master of the deceptively simple. His work -- which often combines line drawing or brushwork with physical objects, or eschews drawing altogether in favor of LEGO -- has appeared on the covers of the New Yorker, WIRED and the New York Times Magazine and has won many awards. He has drawn live from the Venice Art Biennale and the Olympic Games in London, and he has sketched the New York City Marathon -- while running it. He created the New Yorker's first augmented reality cover as well as a hand-drawn 360-degree VR animation for the magazine's US Open issue.
Niemann is the author of many books, including the monograph Sunday Sketching, WORDS and Souvenir. With Nicholas Blechman, he published the book Conversations. With Jon Huang, he created the kids' apps Petting Zoo and Chomp. His work is subject of an episode of Abstract, a new original Netflix series.
Raj Panjabi was nine when civil war broke out in his native country, Liberia. His family resettled in High Point, North Carolina, but he returned to Liberia as a medical student in 2005. He was shocked to find a health care system in total devastation. Only 50 doctors remained to treat a population of four million.
With a team of Liberian civil war survivors, American health workers and $6,000 he'd received as a wedding gift, Panjabi co-founded Last Mile Health. The organization saves lives in the world's most remote communities by partnering with governments to deploy, sustain and manage national networks of community health professionals. They currently support the Government of Liberia's deployment of more than 4,000 health workers to provide life-saving healthcare to 1.2 million people and protect against the next epidemic. Last Mile Health's network of community health workers can be leveraged in a crisis -- in the fight against Ebola, the organization aided government response by training health workers in southeastern Liberia.
Panjabi is a physician in the Division of Global Health Equity at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital. He is a recipient of the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and was named to TIME's list of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2016. As the winner of the 2017 TED Prize, Panjabi is creating the Community Health Academy, a global platform to train, connect and empower community health workers. The Academy aims to reinvent the education of community health workers -- and the leaders who support them -- for the digital age.
Renzo Piano is an architect and legend. Playing with transparency, light and curves while creating buildings with utility and permanence, he's the mind behind the Shard in London, the new Whitney Museum at Gansevoort in New York and the Kansai International Airport Terminal in Osaka, Japan, and he co-created the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
As he writes: "Since I was a child looking at the shiploads suspended over the harbor of my hometown, Genoa, I dreamt about fighting against gravity. And this is what I tried to accomplish in all these years of work: making buildings (one of the heaviest things you can make) that float above grounds. I also like to create buildings that could be shelter for human beings: good places for people to meet and share experiences. This is also the way cities become more beautiful cities, and this is why it is so important to me. In my job you need to be different things at a time: a builder in the morning, a poet at lunchtime and a humanist in the afternoon. It is one of the oldest and most adventurous things you can do. I can't think of a better way to spend my time every day."
Steven Pinker grew up in the English-speaking community of Montreal but has spent his adult life bouncing back and forth between Harvard and MIT. He is interested in all aspects of human nature: how we see, hear, think, speak, remember, feel and interact.
To be specific: he developed the first comprehensive theory of language acquisition in children, used verb meaning as a window into cognition, probed the limits of neural networks and showed how the interaction between memory and computation shapes language. He has used evolution to illuminate innuendo, emotional expression and social coordination. He has documented historical declines in violence and explained them in terms of the ways that the violent and peaceable components of human nature interact in different eras. He has written books on the language instinct, how the mind works, the stuff of thought and the doctrine of the blank slate, together with a guide to stylish writing that is rooted in psychology.
In his latest book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, he writes about progress -- why people are healthier, richer, safer, happier and better educated than ever. His other books include The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, The Stuff of Thought, and The Better Angels of Our Nature.
At age 34, Mark Pollock was left paralyzed after falling from a second-story window. Now he's exploring the frontiers of spinal cord injury recovery, combining an innovative electrical stimulator over his spinal cord while walking hundreds of thousands of steps in his robotic legs. He is on a mission to find and connect people around the world to fast-track a cure for paralysis.
Selected by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and appointed to the Global Futures Council on Human Enhancement, Pollock is on the Board of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and is a Wings for Life Ambassador. Along with his fiancée, Simone George, he is the subject of the acclaimed documentary Unbreakable, and he is founder of the global running series Run in the Dark. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and also from Queens University, Belfast, and holds a diploma from Harvard University and degrees from Trinity College Dublin and The Smurfit Business School.
Aaswath Raman is an assistant professor of electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also co-founder of a clean energy startup, SkyCool Systems, where he is its chief scientific officer. He initiated and led the development of radiative sky cooling, a technology that he originated as a research associate at Stanford University, beginning in 2012.
Raman is deeply interested in the intersection of science, technology and development work, and he has previously collaborated on projects to redesign refugee camps with UNHCR and to rethink governance in rural Sierra Leone. In recognition of his breakthroughs in developing radiative sky cooling, in 2015 he was named one of MIT Technology Review's "Innovators Under 35."
Kate Raworth writes: "I am a renegade economist, dedicated to rewriting economics so that it's fit for tackling the 21st century's grand challenge of meeting the needs of all people within the means of the planet. After 20 years of wrestling with policies based on outdated economic theories -- via the villages of Zanzibar to the headquarters of the UN and on the campaigning frontlines of Oxfam -- I realized that if the economic conversations taking place in parliaments, in boardrooms and in the media worldwide are going to change, then the fundamental economic ideas taught in schools and universities have to be transformed, too.
"I wrote Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist to be the book that I wish I could have read when I was a frustrated and disillusioned economics student myself. And silly though it sounds, it all starts with a doughnut (yes, the kind with a hole in the middle), which acts as a compass for 21st-century prosperity, inviting us to rethink what the economy is, and is for, who we are, and what success looks like."
Floyd E. Romesberg is the director of a talented team of researchers at The Scripps Research Institute who are working to understand how evolution tailors protein function, to develop novel antibiotics and aptamers and to expand on the potential of evolution through the expansion of the genetic alphabet. A chemist by training, Romesberg works beyond the traditional divides between scientific disciplines.
Since the last common ancestor of all life on earth, biological information has been stored in a four-letter alphabet consisting of G, A, T and C. In 1998, Romesberg wondered: Is DNA limited to four letters? The answer is a resounding "No!" Romesberg and his research group have designed, tested and optimized hundreds of unnatural DNA letters, and they have achieved impressive milestones including replication and amplification of six-letter DNA in a test tube; the use of six-letter DNA to produce novel materials; and most recently the creation of semi-synthetic life that stores and retrieves the increased information. The advances led to Romesberg founding Synthorx, Inc., a biotechnology company that uses the expanded genetic alphabet to develop novel protein therapeutics.
Jason B. Rosenthal writes: "I have practiced law and developed real estate in Chicago for half of my life. But that is only what I did 9 to 5. What made me better at my profession -- and as a human being getting through each day -- was realizing my thirst for learning and doing. I practiced yoga intensely; I traveled the world with my wife and my family; I learned to paint and made a home studio; and I developed a passion for cooking. I would not have called myself the most passionate student when I was in school, but in my adult life I have read with a thirst for knowledge -- everything from the most meaty fiction, fascinating nonfiction and magazines. My family is what makes me who I am today.
"I was married to the most amazing woman for half of my life. We raised three incredible children in Chicago, a culturally vibrant and livable city with people of good midwestern values. When my bride died of ovarian cancer after 26 years of marriage, I got in touch with real pain. I immediately reevaluated my life's work. I had talked for years about whether my chosen career path gave me real fulfillment. I am now the executive director of a nonprofit organization created in Amy's name, the Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation. I am fueled by its mission to provide programs that encourage child literacy and funding for early detection of ovarian cancer. My future is a blank space waiting to be filled."
Tracee Ellis Ross, a global influencer with a cross-cultural and joyful point of view, is a co-founding signatory of the Time's Up movement. In November 2017, she gave a powerful speech that went viral about dismantling expectations and claiming your own life at Glamour's Women of the Year Summit.
When Ross was Emmy-nominated for her work on Black-ish in 2016, it made her the first black woman in 30 years to garner a nomination in the category and only one in five all-time. She's the recipient of multiple NAACP Image awards and nominations for her work. You also may spot her as the host of many award shows, including Black Girls Rock! and the 2017 American Music Awards, where her heart, humor and style are on full blast.
Dr. Enric Sala founded and leads Pristine Seas, a project that combines exploration, research and media to inspire country leaders to protect the last wild places in the ocean. To date, Pristine Seas has helped to create 18 of the largest marine reserves on the planet, covering an area of more than five million square km (half the size of Canada).
Sala has received many honors, including 2008 World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader, 2013 Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award, 2013 Environmental Media Association Hero Award, 2016 Russian Geographical Society Award, and he's a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He serves on the boards of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Global Fishing Watch and the National Aquarium, and he advises international organizations and governments.
When individuals don't have control over their identity, personhood and human rights are hindered. Melanie Shapiro is the CEO and co-founder of Token, which builds wearable technology that enables people to have more control over their digital identity, allowing for increased mobility and greater security of personal data. Shapiro is an outspoken advocate of the potential of blockchains to redistribute the power of credential issuance and reimagine the delivery of traditional government services. She previously created Case, a biometrically secured hardware bitcoin wallet with global data connectivity.
At Token, Shapiro draws heavily on her PhD in consumer behavior to design a natural experience layer for cryptographic authentication in order to bring an end to insecure identity artifacts like passwords, credit card numbers and centrally stored personal data. She is passionate about the consumerization and democratization of cryptography, since it's the foundation that enables both secure authentication and sovereign identity in a digital world.
Gwynne Shotwell joined SpaceX in 2002 as vice president of business development and built the Falcon vehicle family manifest to more than 70 launches, representing more than $10 billion in business. Shotwell is a member of the SpaceX Board of Directors.
Prior to joining SpaceX, Shotwell spent more than 10 years at the Aerospace Corporation, holding positions in space systems engineering and technology and project management. Shotwell was subsequently recruited to be director of Microcosm's space systems division, managing space system technologies, serving on the executive committee and directing corporate business development.
In 2014, Shotwell was appointed to the United States Export Import Bank's Advisory Committee and the Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Advisory Council. She has been awarded the World Technology Award for Individual Achievement in Space, has been inducted into the Women In Technology International Hall of Fame and was elected to the honorable grade of Fellow with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
SpaceX supports science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs locally as well as national engineering programs and competitions. Shotwell has helped raise over $1.4 million for STEM education programs reaching thousands of students nationwide.
Shotwell received, with honors, her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northwestern University in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics, and she serves as both a University Trustee and a member of the Advisory Council for Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. She has authored dozens of papers on a variety of space-related subjects.
Chetna Gala Sinha is a passionate listener who respects risk-takers -- which makes her a powerful force in the banking world. A longtime activist and farmer, in 1997 she set up the Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank, India's first bank for and by rural women. Today, the Mann Deshi Bank has 90,000 account holders, manages business of more than 150 crores (about $1.5 billion) and regularly creates new financial products to support the needs of female micro-entrepreneurs. In 2006, Sinha founded the first business school for rural women in India, and in 2013, she launched a toll-free helpline and the first Chambers of Commerce for women micro-entrepreneurs in the country. In 2012, she set up a community empowerment program for farmers that supports water conservation; it has built 10 check dams and impacted 50,000 people.
In January 2018, Sinha served as a co-chair of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and in November 2017, she was honored with a leadership award from Forbes India.
Luke Sital-Singh is an internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter from the UK. In 2012 he released his debut single "Fail For You," which first introduced to the world his deft ability to craft songs with a mesmerizing piercing emotional quality. The song went on to be featured in numerous TV shows including Grey’s Anatomy. At the end of 2013, Sital-Singh was featured in the BBC's Sound of 2014 list and signed to Parlophone records, who released his debut record The Fire Inside later that year.
After a couple of years touring the world and opening for artist such as Villagers, The Staves, Martha Wainwright and Kodaline, in 2017 Sital-Singh released his sophomore record Time Is A Riddle, which featured the stand out song "Killing Me." His songs are rich and somber and have the tendency to stop you in your tracks. Of his songwriting, Sital-Singh says: "I like writing about the heavy things. There’s a lot of shallow stuff out there and that’s fine for certain contexts. My fun is diving as deep as I can. Inside myself and, if I can, inside others and writing songs that are as honest as I can make them. Honest to the struggles we all face, the sadness but more importantly, the hope."
As a spoken-word performer, Tamekia MizLadi Smith educates and empowers her audiences with what she calls EDUtainment, a witty combination of music and storytelling. She has worked as a consultant and mentor for programs such as Girls in Action, Dear Sistah Girlfriend and the Columbus City Schools. Her forthcoming book, True Story, explores how to improve community health through mentoring and creative arts.
Heidi M. Sosik is a scientist, inventor and explorer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where she holds the Stanley W. Watson Chair for Excellence in Oceanography. Sosik leads a multidisciplinary team conducting long-term research on marine ecosystems and how they are changing in response to intersecting pressures from human activity, environmental variability and climate change.
During undergraduate engineering studies at MIT, Sosik became fascinated by the diversity of microscopic life in the ocean. This led her toward a doctorate in oceanography and a research career focused on discovery. Today she develops and deploys new technologies to see life in the ocean in new ways. Sosik is co-inventor of a robotic underwater microscope used by researchers around the world to study minuscule forms of life in the ocean and by coastal managers to ensure that seafood is safe to eat. Sosik has been recognized for her impact and leadership through honors including a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and selection as a Fellow of The Oceanography Society.
Sosik's bold plan to explore the ocean's twilight zone is one of the first ideas of The Audacious Project, TED's initiative to inspire global change.
Eight-piece brass ensemble The Soul Rebels are riding high in 2018 after touring four continents, selling out shows, backing up and collaborating live with Nas, G-Eazy, Robert Glasper, DMX, Curren$y, Joey Bada$, Talib Kweli, GZA, Pete Rock, Raekwon, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Marilyn Manson, among many others, and opening for Lauryn Hill. The Soul Rebels continue to chart new territory as they combine top notch musicianship and songs with grooves that celebrate dancing, life, funk and soul.
The Soul Rebels started with an idea: to expand upon the pop music they loved on the radio and the New Orleans brass tradition they grew up on. They took that tradition and blended funk and soul with elements of hip hop, jazz and rock, all within a brass band context. The band has built a career around an eclectic live show that harnesses the power of horns and drums in a deep pocket funk party atmosphere. When not touring, The Soul Rebels's weekly show at Le Bon Temps Roulé in New Orleans is known to erupt with the kind of contagious, shout-along musical mayhem that The Rebels bring with them wherever they perform.
Robin Steinberg is the CEO of The Bail Project and a senior fellow at the UCLA Law Criminal Justice Program. As she writes: "When I started my career, all I wanted was to be a great public defender for my clients. I vowed to fight for their rights, dignity and humanity in a system that seemed intent on crushing them, their families and their communities. It was hard work, but I woke up everyday inspired and with a sense of purpose -- even when the unfairness of the system made me cry. I was doing my part in the larger struggle for social justice -- one client at a time. But the need to do more, to rethink the very nature of public defense and challenge the larger systemic issues that fueled the cycle of criminalization and poverty led me to start The Bronx Defenders in 1997. For 20 years, I worked to create a new vision of public defense, extending legal representation and advocacy beyond criminal court with the goal of breaking that cycle. That process led to the founding of several new initiatives, including Still She Rises, a public defender office dedicated exclusively to the representation of women in the criminal justice system, and The Bronx Freedom Fund, a revolving bail fund that used philanthropic dollars to pay bail for clients who couldn’t buy their freedom.
"As it turns out, what I love most is getting people out of jail so they can be home with their families and have a fighting chance in court. My new organization, The Bail Project, will take the lessons we learned in the Bronx and go to dozens of high-need jurisdictions with the goal of paying bail for 160,000 people over the next five years, disrupting the bail system, reducing the human suffering it causes and continuing the fight to decarcerate America."
Elizabeth Streb is known for her unique brand of movement, "Pop Action," which intertwines dance, athletics, boxing, rodeo, the circus, stunt work and the invention of action gizmos. In 1985, she founded STREB Extreme Action Company to push the limitations of the human body and, in 2003, she established SLAM (STREB Lab for Action Mechanics) in Brooklyn. For the 2012 London Olympic Games, the company was commissioned to create One Extraordinary Day, a series of events across the city that included dancers "bungee dancing" off Millennium Bridge and abseiling down City Hall. The 2016 film OXD, directed by Craig Lowy, follows these events. In 2017, STREB was commissioned by Bloomberg LLP to create a series of events to open the new corporate headquarters in London and to launch the CityLab Conference in Paris.
Streb is the recipient of numerous honors including a MacArthur Fellowship (1997) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1987). She lectures regularly across the country and her book, STREB: How to Become an Extreme Action Hero, was published by Feminist Press in 2010. In 2014, Born to Fly: STREB vs. Gravity a documentary directed by Catherine Gund, premiered at Film Forum NYC, was aired on PBS and nominated for an Emmy. It is available on iTunes and Netflix. STREB's rehearsals at SLAM are always open to the public.
Can we create a digital avatar that looks, acts and talks just like our sweet grandma? This question has inspired Supasorn Suwajanakorn, a recent PhD graduate from the University of Washington, to spend years developing new tools to make it a reality. He has developed a set of algorithms that can build a moving 3D face model of anyone from just photos, which was awarded the Innovation of the Year in 2016. He then introduced the first system that can replicate a person's speech and produce a realistic CG-animation by only analyzing their existing video footage -- all without ever bringing in the person to a Hollywood capture studio.
Suwajanakorn is working in the field of machine learning and computer vision. His goal is to bring vision algorithms out of the lab and make them work in the wild.
Max Tegmark is an MIT professor who loves thinking about life's big questions. He's written two popular books, Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality and the recently published Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, as well as more than 200 nerdy technical papers on topics from cosmology to AI.
He writes: "In my spare time, I'm president of the Future of Life Institute, which aims to ensure that we develop not only technology but also the wisdom required to use it beneficially."
As Baratunde Thurston says, "I call myself a 'futurist comedian' because I've always felt I've had one foot in the future and because I have a comedic lens on just about every form of expression I employ. My mother was a computer programmer who embedded in me an activist strain. You can see it in my book, How to Be Black, or my vocal advocacy for causes like the DREAM Act or New York City's CLOSE Rikers campaign. I've been part of some incredible institutions like the MIT Media Lab and TED, and I've sought to use my access to the future to comment on it and shape it for the better. At core, I'm able to communicate and perform using humor to hold heavy or complex ideas. I've trained among the best at The Onion, The Daily Show and the United States, which sadly, is becoming more of a joke every day."
If you're an indigenous person living in a country that was forcefully colonized, it's all too common to find yourself underrepresented and misrepresented, if not blatantly and systematically devalued and attacked. Positive role models and a positive self-identity are hard to come by. This need inspires and drives the Canadian DJ collective A Tribe Called Red (ATCR), currently made up of DJ NDN, Bear Witness and 2oolman. ATCR first got together in 2008, part of a vital new generation of artists making a cultural and social impact in Canada alongside a renewed Aboriginal rights movement called Idle No More.
Looking to the future without losing sight of their past, ATCR straddles a broad range of musical influences based in modern hip-hop, traditional powwow drums and vocals, blended with edgy electronic music production styles. ATCR's uplifting and inclusive Electric Pow Wow nights on the second Saturday of every month have become an institution at Ottawa's Club Babylon. There and at their shows, a crowd of Aboriginal Canadians (which includes First Nations people, Métis, Inuit and 631 other nations) mix with social activists, music heads and anyone looking for a great party and a safe space to come together. They pack the dance floor as Bear Witness weaves indigenous stereotyping from movies, cartoons and media into a new political context and a dancer mixes b-boy and traditional moves.
An early preoccupation with science fiction ended up influencing most of Stephen Webb's professional activity. It instilled in him a deep love of science and the scientific endeavor, which in turn led him to complete a PhD in theoretical particle physics. Isaac Asimov's story "The Fun They Had," about computerized homeschooling, prompted him to consider how digital technology might deepen students' learning, which in turn led to posts in a variety of UK universities.
And it was in the pages of a science fiction magazine that he first encountered the Fermi paradox, which kindled a lifelong fascination with the problem of why we see no signs of extraterrestrial intelligence -- and led to his book Where Is Everybody, which explores the question in detail. Webb hopes to pass on his love of science through his outreach work, and he is the author of a number of popular science books. He is working on New Light Through Old Windows, an anthology of classic science fiction tales: each tale appears alongside a commentary detailing the latest scientific thinking relating to the story's theme.
Jennifer Wilcox is the James H. Manning Chaired Professor of Chemical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Having grown up in rural Maine, she has a profound respect and appreciation of nature, which permeates her work as she focuses on minimizing negative impacts of humankind on our natural environment.
Wilcox's research takes aim at the nexus of energy and the environment, developing both mitigation and adaptation strategies to minimize negative climate impacts associated with society's dependence on fossil fuels. This work carefully examines the role of carbon management and opportunities therein that could assist in preventing 2° C warming by 2100. Carbon management includes a mix of technologies spanning from the direct removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to its capture from industrial, utility-scale and micro-emitter (motor vehicle) exhaust streams, followed by utilization or reliable storage of carbon dioxide on a timescale and magnitude that will have a positive impact on our current climate change crisis. Funding for her research is primarily sourced through the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and the private sector. She has served on a number of committees including the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society to assess carbon capture methods and impacts on climate. She is the author of the first textbook on carbon capture, published in March 2012.
Diane Wolk-Rogers began teaching because she was passionate about supporting too-often neglected young people facing challenges and vulnerabilities. Early in her career, she received awards for her work providing special education support to students with learning and emotional disabilities. In 2001 she joined the faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where she teaches AP World History.
In 2006, Wolk-Rogers became engaged in LGBTQAI activism, and she now serves as the faculty advisor for MSD’s Gay/Straight Alliance. She recently gained national attention for speaking publicly in support of the #neveragain movement led by her students at MSD after the shooting that occurred there on February 14, 2018. Their activism inspires her to fight for a safe learning environment for all.
Zachary R. Wood wants to encourage open conversations about hard topics. He is a Robert L. Bartley Fellow at The Wall Street Journal and a class of 2018 graduate of Williams College, where he served as president of Uncomfortable Learning, a student group that sparked national controversy for inviting provocative speakers to campus, from John Derbyshire to Charles Murray. Wood's defense of such conversations led him to give Senate testimony in the summer of 2017.
His recent writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Nation, The Weekly Standard, Times Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Jet and SLAM Magazine. In 2018, he'll publish Uncensored, a book that tells his own personal story to enrich and deepen his work as an advocate for difficult conversations. You can reach him at email@example.com.
With the mission to translate scientific innovation into a life-saving medical procedure, Dr. Luhan Yang is leading a team of world-renowned scientists to leverage CRISPR technology and its potential to deliver safe and effective human transplantable organs to the hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide who are in dire need.
In the US alone, more than 116,000 people annually are in need of a lifesaving organ transplant, and 20 people die every day waiting for a transplant. To address this issue, scientists have been trying to engineer animal organs for human transplantation for more than 100 years. However, concern for issues such as pig-to-human immunological compatibility and cross-species transmission of porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERV) have proven to be two insurmountable obstacles -- until now.
In a breakthrough paper published in Science, Yang and her team demonstrated for the first time the inactivation of PERV to prevent cross-species viral transmission, an important milestone for xenotransplantation. As co-founder and chief scientific officer, Yang has been at the center of eGenesis' success. In addition to recruiting and leading a high-caliber scientific team, she has played an integral role in daily management of the company, business strategy and planning, as well as negotiating with investors for early round funding.
Yang holds BS degrees in biology and psychology from Peking University and a PhD in human biology and translational medicine from Harvard Medical School.
Andrew Youn has lived in rural Africa for the last 11 years, learning from the largest group of poor people in the world: smallholder farmers. When he first visited Kenya in 2006, he was an MBA student who knew very little about farming. During that first trip, he met two farm families. One family was harvesting two tons of food on a single acre of land and thriving; the other was going hungry. He began asking questions.
Eleven years later, the organization he founded, One Acre Fund, serves more than 600,000 farm families, providing them with the financing and agricultural training they need to increase their yields and climb out of poverty. Youn is also the co-founder of D-Prize, an organization that funds early-stage startups that are innovating better ways to distribute proven life-enhancing technologies. He is a former management consultant at Oliver Wyman, and he received his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.