May 18 — July 10

The Prequel

Chris Anderson

Head of TED
After a long career in journalism and publishing, Chris Anderson became the curator of the TED Conference in 2002 and has developed it as a platform for identifying and disseminating ideas worth spreading.

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.   ·   @TEDChris ×

Larry Brilliant

Epidemiologist, philanthropist
TED Prize winner Larry Brilliant has spent his career solving the world's biggest problems, from overseeing the last smallpox cases to saving millions from blindness.

Dr. Larry Brilliant is a physician and epidemiologist, proud member of the TED community, CEO of Pandefense Advisory and Chair of the Advisory Board of the NGO Ending Pandemics. He is a senior advisor to Jeff Skoll and serves on the board of the Skoll Foundation. Previously, he was president and CEO of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, vice president of Google and the founding executive director of He also cofounded the Seva Foundation, an NGO whose programs have given sight back to more than five million blind people in two dozen countries. He also cofounded The Well, a progenitor of today's social media platforms. Earlier in his career, Brilliant was a professor of epidemiology and international health planning at the University of Michigan.

Brilliant lived in India for nearly a decade, where he was a key member of the successful WHO Smallpox Eradication Programme for southeast Asia as well as the WHO Polio Eradication Programme. More recently, he was chairman of the National Biosurveillance Advisory Committee, which was created by presidential directive of President George W. Bush. He was also a member of the World Economic Forum's Agenda Council on Catastrophic Risk and a "First Responder" for CDC's bio-terrorism response effort.

Brilliant's wards and honors include the 2006 TED Prize, Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People, "International Public Health Hero" and four honorary doctorates. He has lectured at Oxford, Harvard, Berkeley and many other colleges, spoken at the Royal Society, the Pentagon, NIH, the United Nations and some of the largest companies and non-profits all over the world. He has written for Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and other magazines and peer reviewed journals. He was part of the Global Business Network where he learned Scenario Planning and is the author of a memoir about working to eradicate smallpox, Sometimes Brilliant, and a guide to managing vaccination programs in a book The Management of Smallpox Eradication.


Jim Collins

Bioengineering professor
One of the founders of synthetic biology, bioengineer Jim Collins is passionate about teaching and inspiring young people in the classroom and lab.

Jim Collins is a bioengineering professor at MIT, the Broad Institute and Harvard's Wyss Institute. He is one of the founders of synthetic biology and continues to push the field towards biomedical applications via translational research and spinouts such as Synlogic. His many advances in biotechnology and biomedicine include paper-based diagnostics for Zika and Ebola virus and programmable cells  that act as diagnostics and therapeutics to detect and treat infections, rare genetic metabolic disorders and inflammatory bowel disease.

Collins also studies antibiotics to enhance our antibacterial arsenal and combat antibacterial resistance. He is proud of his many trainees who have gone on to make the world a better place.   · ×

Christian Happi

Molecular biologist, genomist
A powerhouse of scientific leadership in Africa, Christian Happi sequences and studies the genomes of infectious diseases like Ebola, HIV and coronavirus.

Christian Happi is a professor of molecular biology and genomics and the director of the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) at Redeemer's University in Nigeria. He researches the human genome as well as the genomics of infectious diseases, including malaria, Lassa fever, Ebola, yellow fever, monkeypox, coronavirus and HIV. In 2014, he confirmed the first case of Ebola in Nigeria and worked closely with Nigerian health authorities to successful contain the outbreak in Nigeria.

Happi used next generation sequencing technology to perform the first sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Africa within 48 hours of receiving the sample. This seminal work provided insight into the detailed genetic map of the coronavirus in Africa, confirmed the origin of the virus and paved the way for the development of new countermeasures, including new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

During the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak, Happi and colleagues used advanced genomics and deep sequencing technology to develop a rapid diagnostics test (15 minutes) for Ebola within four months of the outbreak. He also developed a 10-minute rapid diagnosis test for Lassa fever. In 2015, he discovered two new viruses (EKV-1 and EKV-2) in Ekpoma Edo State using microbial metagenomics, a new cutting-edge technology.

Happi has received several international awards for innovation and health leadership, including the Merle A. Sande Health Leadership Award in 2011 and the 2019 Human Genome Organization (HUGO) African Prize for his contributions in applying genomics knowledge in addressing major infectious diseases challenges in Africa, especially malaria, Lassa fever and Ebola.

Twitter: @christian_happi   · ×

Sierra Hull

Musician, singer, songwriter
Singer, mandolinist and guitarist Sierra Hull creates music that honors her bluegrass roots while venturing into entirely new terrain.

Sierra Hull performed at the Grand Ole Opry at age 10, played Carnegie Hall at 12 and signed with Rounder Records at age 13. At 16, she played the Kennedy Center before becoming the first bluegrass musician to receive a Presidential Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music.

By 2016, Hull reached a more mature place in her life and in her art. She tapped legendary bluegrass musician Bela Fleck to produce her third album, Weighted Mind. A departure from her opening pair of records that blended progressive elements with traditional structure, she let go of whatever preconceptions existed -- both hers and those of her audience's -- and released a Grammy-nominated masterpiece.  She frequently guests with friends and legends, joining such icons as the Indigo Girls, Garth Brooks and Gillian Welch and performing at the Country Music Awards with Ricky Skaggs, Brad Paisley and Marty Stuart.   · ×

Huang Hung

Writer, publisher
Beijing-based magazine publisher and blogger Huang Hung's outsized wit, fashion acumen and media entrepreneurship have led many to call her "the Oprah of China."

As the publisher of influential fashion magazine iLook and the chief executive of Chinese Interactive Media Group, Huang Hung is a central tastemaker in modern Chinese fashion and popular culture with nearly 11 million followers on Weibo and another 11 million on Twitter and her own popular blog.

Raised and educated between Beijing and New York in the 70s and 80s, Hung describes herself (with characteristic sardonic tone) as "Culturally, either the best or the worst combination [of] East and West." She possesses a unique understanding of American and Chinese culture and is a key 21st-century influencer bridging the gaps between the two hemispheres.   ·   Twitter: @HungHuangiLook ×

Oliver Jeffers

Artist, storyteller
With a style that crackles with wry wit, writer and artist Oliver Jeffers captivates audiences of all ages.

Oliver Jeffers is a writer, illustrator and artist. His nineteenth book, The Fate of Faustowas released in 2019 while his eighteenth book, Here We Are, is being adapted into an animated film to be released in 2020. His second picture book, Lost and Found, was adapted into an animated film with Studio AKA and received more than 70 awards, including a BAFTA.

As a fine artist, Jeffers has exhibited several solo shows over the last decade in both London and New York City. He collaborated with U2 on music videos and as an art director (with Es Devlin) on their "Innocence and Experience" tour.   ·   Twitter: @oliverjeffers ×

Nancy Lublin

Health activist
Nancy Lublin, cofounder and former CEO of Crisis Text Line, uses technology and data to save lives.

Nancy Lublin is cofounder and former CEO of Crisis Text Line, the nation's first free, 24/7 text line for people in crisis. A pioneer in using big data for social good, the organization uses algorithms to stack-rank message queues based on severity and publishes insights from the data to influence systems change. Launched in 2013, the organization now operates in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland.

At age 23, Lublin turned a $5,000 inheritance into Dress for Success, a global entity that provides interview suits and career development training to women in need. In 2003, she transformed into one of the largest youth organizations in the world with more than six million members. She also wrote a popular monthly column for Fast Company for two years and taught graduate-level courses as an adjunct faculty member at both Yale and NYU.   ·   Twitter: @nancylublin ×


OK Go fearlessly dream and build new worlds in a time when creative boundaries have all but dissolved.

With a career that includes award-winning videos, a major label split and the establishment of a DIY trans-media mini-empire (Paracadute), collaborations with pioneering dance companies, tech giants, animators and Muppets, OK Go is a band at the intersection of music, visual art, technology and science. Their videos have been encoded on strands of DNA, and they were President Obama's selection to perform at his 50th birthday party. They've penned New York Times op-eds and testified before the US Congress.

Formed as a quartet in Chicago in 1998 and relocated to Los Angeles three years later, OK Go (Damian Kulash, Tim Nordwind, Dan Konopka, Andy Ross) have spent their career in a steady state of transformation and continue to add to a curriculum vitae filled with experimentation in a variety of mediums. Most recently, they have partnered with the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas to create OK Go Sandbox, an educational nonprofit that provides free resources to teachers that use OK Go's videos as starting points to teach STEAM concepts. They have been recognized for their achievements with 21 Cannes Lions, 12 CLIOs, three VMAs, two Webbys, The Smithsonian Ingenuity Award and one Grammy.   ·   Twitter: @okgo ×

Tom Rivett-Carnac

Political strategist
A political strategist focused on creating a better future, Tom Rivett-Carnac works at the highest levels of business and government to find creative ways to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis.

We have just entered the most consequential decade in history. That fact is overwhelming for most of us, but the simple truth is that by 2030 we will have decided the future for the fate of this planet for at least the next several hundred years. We have left responding to the climate crisis so late that we cannot prevaricate further. We are about to find out if we are serious about dealing with the climate crisis or not.

Tom Rivett-Carnac thinks that how we show up, the attitude we bring to our lives, makes a profound difference to what will happen next, and to our chance of success. Far from cowering from the monumental nature of this moment, we should be riding out to meet it, full of the sense of purpose and intent that comes from living at the crossroads of one of the great transitions in human history. Living right now is a huge privilege, and we should have the confidence to embrace that. No future generation will have the luxury of being able to have such an impact on the future as we do at this precise moment. We cannot afford to feel powerless.

Rivett-Carnac has spent his career working on solutions to the climate crisis. He ran political strategy for the UN towards the Paris Agreement of 2015, widely regarded as one of the great achievements of global diplomacy. Since then he founded Global Optimism with Christiana Figueres, and from that platform he seeks to elevate and support individuals and entities that are delivering real change on the road to a regenerative future. He is an advisor at X (formerly Google X) and a founding partner at the Climate Pledge, in partnership with Amazon. He recently co-authored The Future We Choose and cohosts the weekly podcast Outrage and Optimism. Early in his career, he spent three years as a Buddhist monk in southeast Asia.

Twitter: @tomcarnac   · ×

Pardis Sabeti

Computational geneticist, infectious disease researcher
Pardis Sabeti investigates the genomes of microbes, like Ebola and coronavirus, to understand how to slow them.

Pardis Sabeti develops algorithms to detect the genetic signatures of microbial organisms and their adaption in humans. Her lab examines the genetic factors that drive disease susceptibility to Ebola and Lassa fever and investigates the genomes of microbes to help find cures for diseases, including Lassa virus, Ebola, malaria, Vibrio cholera and Mycobacterioum tuberculosis.

A computational geneticist at Harvard and the Broad Institute, Sabeti has devoted her career to harnessing genomics to transform outbreak detection and response. During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, her team in Sierra Leone sequenced the virus's genome in real time. She and her team have since tackled Zika and Lassa fever and are working on numerous projects to enhance global viral surveillance and equip lower-income countries with rapid, field-deployable diagnostic tools.

After completing her undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sabeti attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship where she researched human genetic resistance to malaria. She then earned her medical degree from Harvard Medical School. She is a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and was named a TIME magazine "Person of the Year" in 2014 for her work fighting Ebola.   ·   @PardisSabeti ×

Alice Smith

Singer, songwriter, producer
Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Alice Smith astonishes audiences with her powerful four-octave vocal range.

Alice Smith's soul-stirring combination of fiercely-honed pop drenched in notes of soul, orchestral arrangements and multihued harmonies is nothing short of intoxicating and will leave you wanting more of this grammy-nominated powerhouse. After the release of her highly anticipated EP Mystery, compiled of all original compositions, in October 2019, she headlined a theater tour featuring shows at the world-famous Apollo Theater in Harlem and the Lincoln Theater in Washington, DC. Mystery features seven intuitively-crafted songs that pair "trip-hop-like grit" with the exquisite sultriness of Smith's voice, a combination that has captivated listeners since the collection's first debut on National Publich Radio's (NPR) Tiny Desk Concerts and The CW Network's hit TV series Black Lightning.

Smith's released her critically-acclaimed debut album, For Lovers, Dreamers and Me, in 2006. The record showcases an artful blend of bluesy, soulful vocals and mid-tempo grooves and includes her single "Dream," which was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Urban/Alternative category. Her second album, She, was released in 2013 and is an intoxicating mixture of rock, pop and R and B that reveals a singer, songwriter and producer with an unshakable sense of self and the attitude to match.  

In 2018, Smith wowed audiences with an arrestingly breathtaking rendition of the American standard classic "House of the Rising Sun" at her live, soldout performace at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. In 2015, she recorded a stunningly chilling version of Nina Simone's "I Put A Spell on You" for the Nina Simone all-star tribute album Nina Revisited: A Tribute to Nina Simone, which included songs from Lauryn Hill, Usher, Mary J. Blige and more.

Twitter: @alicesmithmusic   · ×

Kristine Tompkins

Earth activist, conservationist
After serving at the helm of Patagonia and helping to establish new standards in corporate responsibility, Kristine Tompkins undertook a bigger challenge: establishing 14.7 million acres of national parks in South America.

Kristine Tompkins worked with Yvon Chouinard from Patagonia's early days, eventually serving as CEO for 16 years. The prototypical "anti-corporation," Patagonia has donated large sums toward conservation and became a pioneer in mitigating environmental impacts at scale.

In 1993, she joined Doug Tompkins in Chile to acquire land to create national parks. Through Tompkins Conservation, she has helped to establish 11 new national parks and two marine parks in Chile and Argentina and works to recover healthy populations of native species crucial to large-scale ecological recovery. Her rewilding initiative is considered the most ambitious of its kind in the Americas.   ·   Twitter: @KrisTompkins_ ×
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