Written By
Marissa Peretz


Insights from TED 2017

As headhunters and strategic advisors, we often mention the importance of taking a step back from our busy work schedule to fulfill our desire to learn. So recently we took our own advice and attended TED 2017 in Vancouver, BC. The theme this year was “The Future You.” The topics ranged from the futuristic (Gravity Founder Richard Browning created a flying suit) to the socially inspiring.

T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison cofounded the largest public health nonprofit for African-American women and girls in the United States, GirlTrek, which encourages women to use walking as a practical first step to inspire healthy living. Dutch architect and artist Daan Roosegaarde emphasized the importance of human skills and creative inspiration to solve large scale problems in a highly technical world. His cleantech projects include a vacuum that cleans smog from parks in Beijing so that waste can be turned into diamond rings.

Protecting our Planet

The central question that the TED 2017 speakers addressed was: what specific actions can we take to create a better future? Naturally, some talks discussed solutions to current environmental issues. In Session 6, sub themed “Planet, Protection,” Climate Scientist Tim Kruger outlined a process to remove excess CO2 from the air, and urban designer Peter Calthorpe described a potential antidote to urban sprawl named  “smart growth” (planned green cities that prioritize walkability and community.) 

Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk described how his new venture, “The Boring Company,” could reduce the headache of infamous Los Angeles traffic. And Glaciologist Kristin Poinar explored how climate change might affect  meltwater under the Greenland Ice Sheet.

AgTech: Clean Food

We were truly inspired by AgTech company Terramera’s vision and values. They are developing cleantech products that replace pesticides. Karn Manhas, CEO and Founder, envisioned a world with a new standard, where “organic farming, plants, and produce is the new norm.” Their focus ranges from clean farming to eliminating pesky bedbugs who have become increasingly resistant to traditional pesticides.

Leaders and Media

We heard Pope Francis describe a “future worth building”, with a secular message of inclusivity and advice to connect power with humility and tenderness.  Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks [rabbisacks.org ] continued this message of inclusivity and proposed solutions to counteract mounting religious intolerance  

Mariano Sigman, a neurologist and author of “The Secret Life of the Mind,” explored what causes us to make fundamental decisions, why we feel certain emotions, and how our brains continually evolve and change our personalities. Cognitive scientist and author Anil Seth [anilseth.com] examined the connection between consciousness, biology and physics. In between sessions, we stopped by THE VOID who provided an immersive VR and sensory experience.

We have always enjoyed music and films, so we were delighted to hear Grammy Award-winning band OK Go play a bit during the conference. But what we found to be more fascinating was their ideation process. Later on, when famous Bollywood actor, entrepreneur, and activist Shah Rukh Khan  spoke, crowds appeared outside the conference hall to catch a glimpse of him. He talked about his passion projects which include water supply issues and rural solar power. He’ll also host TED’s new TV series this fall ‘TED Talks India: Nayi Soch,’ which translates to “new thinking.”

Lasting impressions from TED 2017

We heard from a diverse and strong group of people with dynamic points of view. Although they came from a variety of socioeconomic classes, upbringing, and pursuits, they share a vision and hope for a much better future. I left TED 2017 with the understanding that it will take all of us to achieve it.