#TEDatIBM

December 6, 2017

San Francisco, CA

TED@IBM explores the relationship between technology and humanity in a one-day annual event. TED’s mission and model create a premier platform for IBM experts — including clients, partners, and friends — to reveal bold ideas and unexpected insights. Join us as we share these stories with the world.

2017 theme: Why Not?

Two simple, hopeful words whose message is greater than the sum of its parts. They stand as an important reminder that in an increasingly complex and often divided world, the right question can yield fantastic and unexpected results. Can we look to the very foundation of life itself — the atom — and find a new means of storing digital information? Why not? When we all live to be 100, could emotionally intelligent machines hold the key to helping us remain vibrant, fiercely independent, and productive members of society? Why not? Is a new generation of makers, inventors, engineers, philosophers and artists creating an AI-powered renaissance in the arts, science, and body politic? Indeed, why not?

And yet for all of their implicit opportunity and optimism, those two little words also invite us to consider the other side of the equation. Just because we can does not mean that we should, and the right question can therefore inspire us to push boundaries while safeguarding what we hold most dear, be it our privacy, our individuality or our humanity.

Watch the talks from TED@IBM

Binge watching you can feel good about. Whether you missed the event or you just want to watch your favorite talks again, you can find big ideas and inspiring moments in the TED@IBM video gallery.

TED@IBM speakers

Human-centered designer, AI

Entrepreneur and environmentalist

Structural biologist

TEDster, comedian

Data and web guru

Advocate for refugees in crisis

Artist, designer, researcher

Documentary filmmaker

Theoretical physicist turned biologist

AI problem solver

Master Inventor, researcher

Engineer and innovator

Neuroscientist, researcher, author

Researcher, neuroscientist

Restless re-inventor


More speakers coming soon

Adam Cutler

Adam Cutler

As an IBM Distinguished Designer, Adam Cutler has spent the last 18 months exploring the intersection of artificial intelligence and human nature. His team is studying the fundamentals of how human relationships form and develop, with an eye on applying these same concepts to the growing number of relationships between humans and machines.

Why you should listen

How do you design meaningful relationships between humans and machines? Answering this question requires us to plumb the depths of our own humanity, morality, and essence beyond mere technological possibilities.

Negin Farsad

Negin Farsad

Negin Farsad is an Iranian-American standup comedian and author of How to Make White People Laugh. She is the director The Muslims Are Coming! starring Jon Stewart (among others) and 3rd Street Blackout starring Janeane Garofalo. She was named one of the 50 Funniest women by the Huffington Post and one of the 10 Best Feminist Comedians by Paper Magazine.

Rana Novack

Rana Novack

Rana Novack is a Syrian American advocate for refugees and civilians in conflict, and the solution owner of IBM’s Refugee & Migration Predictive Analytics Solution. She is currently leading a global team from across the IBM organization to develop a first-of-a-kind solution leveraging machine learning and cognitive computing to enable Government agencies and humanitarian aid organizations to better manage refugee and migration crises.

Ms. Novack has been published in the Wall Street Journal, WIRED magazine, and her work has been cited by Yale University and the Foreign Policy Initiative. She is a Non-Resident Scholar and Global Policy Center Affiliate of the University of Virginia's Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and recipient of the 2017 George Mason University Department of Communication Alumnus of the Year and Distinguished Alumna Awards.

Why you should listen

As a first-generation Syrian American and advocate for refugees and civilians in conflict, Rana sympathizes with the obstacles refugees face and the hopelessness that they feel as they try to escape a war.

Raphael Arar

Raphael Arar

Raphael Arar is a Designer & Researcher at IBM Research, Adjunct Faculty at San Jose State University's CADRE Laboratory for New Media and a recent Forbes 30 Under 30 awardee in Enterprise Technology.

Raphael’s artwork has been shown at museums, conferences, festivals and galleries internationally including the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA), ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Gamble House Museum, Boston Cyberarts Gallery, and Athens Video Art Festival.

Why you should listen

An award-winning designer, artist and technologist who traces the trajectories of interpersonal and intrapersonal interaction in light of progress. His work manifests itself in a variety of forms encompassing a synthesis of nostalgia and novelty informed by a mix of scientific systems and humanistic research.

Simone Bianco

Simone Bianco

Simone Bianco is a researcher, leader of the IBM Cellular Engineering group and founding principal investigator of the Center for Cellular Construction, an NSF funded multi-institution initiative which aims at building automatic machines out of living organisms.

Why you should listen

Simone is very passionate about the making biology a quantitative science by using tools from mathematics, physics, engineering and computer science. He is convinced that this interdisciplinary approach will have enormous impact not only in traditionally biological and medical fields, but will also permeate back into biologically inspired engineering and computer science. In his spare time, he is an accomplished rock guitar player and enjoys listening to live music.

David Katz

David Katz

David is founder and CEO of the Plastic Bank, the world’s only organization to monetize plastic waste, providing an opportunity for the worlds disadvantaged to collect and trade plastic waste as a currency. David is the recipient of the 2017 United Nations Lighthouse Award for Planetary Health, Named by Salt Magazine as the 4th most compassionate entrepreneur in the world, the Entrepreneur Organizations Global Citizen award recipient, and has been featured in over 300 global media articles.

Why you should listen

David Katz is using his own entrepreneurial skills to create a global network of micro recycling entrepreneurs to transcend poverty by cleaning the environment. He is out to prove that micro recycling is a sustainable business solution to the worlds maladies, and that entrepreneurs, who are uniquely wired to change the world, are the ones who should lead the charge.

Phil Tetlow

Phil Tetlow

Phil is responsible for leading the UK’s team of Analytics Client Architects and advising IBM’s European execs on data strategy and technology trends. Having graduated in Data Processing (Business Computing), Phil spent his early career in industry, then moved on to become a technology consultant. Since then he has worked as Chief Architect on a number of challenging projects and in 2013 joined IBM Software Group to help lead the data and analytics team in the UK. He won a major international award for his first book, The Web’s Awake, gained the first PhD in Web Science and has been credited as being one of the field's pioneers. In addition to his IBM role, he is also an Adjunct Professor at Southampton University. Phil lives in the UK with his wife and two daughters.

Why you should listen

Dr. Phil Tetlow is an Executive IT Architect and a valued member of the Academy of Technology’s Leadership team, who is contributing in ways that often assist, improve and stimulate leading-edge ideas. Data in general and Ultra Large Scale Systems are his thing — often leading the delivery of extremely large scale, complex IT systems for top 100 companies.

Natalie Gunn

Natalie Gunn

Natalie obtained her postgraduate degree in structural biology and now focuses her research in the world of AI and technology. In her studies, she investigated the structure and function of a protein important in cancer. She has brought her biological background to IBM Research, where she and her team develop innovative machine learning applications to solve the top challenges in healthcare. Natalie is passionate about translating the work she does to improve the lives of people all around the world.

Why you should listen

The purpose of medication is to influence complex biological mechanisms within your body that have gone awry. Natalie Gunn believes that with the combination of unprecedented advances in computational power and data availability we can drive extraordinary innovation to uncover previously untapped resources in the race to discover new drug targets.

Robin Hauser

Robin Hauser

Robin Hauser is the director and producer of cause‐based documentary films at Finish Line Features, Inc. and Unleashed Productions, Inc. As a business woman, long time professional photographer and social entrepreneur, Robin brings her leadership skills, creative eye and passion to her documentary film projects. Her artistic vision and experience in the business world afford her a unique perspective on what it takes to motivate an audience. Robin’s most recent award‐winning film, CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival 2015, and has caught the eye of the international tech industry and of policy makers and educators in Washington, DC and abroad. Robin is currently directing and producing Bias, a documentary about unconscious bias and how it affects our lives socially and in the workplace.

Why you should listen

Films are storytelling vehicles that can raise awareness of pressing societal issues. Robin Hauser of Finish Line Features, Inc. produces cause-based feature documentary films to educate and motivate audiences to take action.

Tapiwa Chiwewe

Tapiwa Chiwewe

Zimbabwean-born Tapiwa Chiwewe studied at the University of Pretoria in South Africa where he earned a PhD in Computer Engineering. His roles have ranged from junior lecturer and researcher, software engineer, followed by an extended stint with South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). With his wealth of knowledge and experience, Tapiwa now leads a research team focused on using artificial intelligence to solve some of Africa's grand challenges, including air quality management, solar system design and RFI excision for the Square Kilometer Array project.

Why you should listen

We all yearn for a better world – in the hopes of leaving the world a better place than how we found it. However, sometimes we find the challenge so daunting that we choose to do nothing. Tapiwa chooses to focus his data research and creative problem-solving techniques to better the world by focusing on environmental impact. Because, according to Tapiwa, overcoming adversity and bringing forth innovation towards a cleaner world is his passion.

Tom Zimmerman

Tom Zimmerman

Tom Zimmerman is a Master Inventor at IBM Research, working to explore the frontiers of human-machine interaction. His 60+ patents cover topics including virtual reality, position tracking, user input devices, wireless communication, image and audio signal processing, biometrics and encryption. His Personal Area Network (PAN) invention sends data through the human body, and prevents air bags from injuring children in cars. When not inventing, his personal passions include painting and composing music, monitoring the health of the environment, and volunteering in local public schools, especially focused on STEM education. 

Why you should listen

Tom's Data Glove invention helped to establish the field of virtual reality. Now, he is looking to extend his VR work with a new invention allowing others to experience a microscopic reality.

What will the microscopic world show? What can we learn from it? Tom hopes such an experience will instill a greater awareness and respect for all life, especially the invisible life that sustains us and the planet. We’ll be able to see, firsthand, how our behavior impacts other creatures throughout the ecosystem.

Eric Berridge

Eric Berridge

Eric Berridge co-founded Bluewolf, a global consulting agency that works with clients to set and realize business goals with the intent of redefining software. As an executive leader, Eric manages the strategic direction of his team to deliver extraordinary customer moments. Because Eric believes that our most valuable time is spent with customers — helping them to prioritize initiatives and achieve true business outcomes. And, because he believes deeply in professional development and career advancement, he often advises and supports young professionals to take on risk and responsibility early in their tenures.

Why you should listen

Eric has a long history of inclusiveness, often finding himself inspired by employees’ passion and innovation. But now next-generation technologies and artificial intelligence are starting to create uncertainty about the future of the jobs market. As AI continues to automate many of today’s jobs, Eric argues that we must take the opportunity to transform our education and work culture to create new jobs which focus on improving our lives and strengthening our communities. 

Lisa Feldman Barrett

Lisa Feldman Barrett

Dr. Barrett is a University Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University, with positions in psychiatry and radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She has published over 200 peer-reviewed research papers in top journals on emotion, psychology, and neuroscience.

Why you should listen

Outdated beliefs about emotion have tremendous influence on our lives. Their assumptions infiltrate our laws, health care, economic models and national security policies. Dr. Barrett's research brings modern, evidence-based insights to these areas, ultimately demonstrating that we have more control over our emotions than we might think.

Eleftheria K. Pissadaki

Eleftheria K. Pissadaki

Eleftheria has a long-term research interest in brain diseases, neurodegeneration and particularly in the etiopathology of Parkinson’s disease. In joining the high impact research and human studies team at IBM, Eleftheria contributes her neuroscience research on projects related to human care, Parkinson’s disease and the detection of motor signatures that foreshadow daily fluctuations of the disease’s symptoms. She believes that when the cause of a disease is known, its therapy rests closer.

Why you should listen

The human brain is 2% to 3% of our body weight but expends 20% of our energy. Thinking, planning, perceiving, executing movements — these are all aspects of our brain function that consume large amounts of energy. While thinking appears to be a silent process, its electrical signals have intense energy dependence.

Can these signals, running though complex cellular structures, be the cause of degeneration within those brain cells which Parkinson’s disease affects the most? Eleftheria has taken a holistic and disruptive approach to provide an answer to this and other serious questions.

Bruno Michel

Bruno Michel

Bruno is a Distinguished Researcher and a member of the US National Academy of Engineering. He has worked to make computers more compact, efficient, and powerful using bionic or bioinspired concepts. Working to bring forth a major positive impact on the information and energy industries, Bruno is a leading cross-disciplinary innovator both at the level of scientific breakthroughs as well as at an applied technological level. He is currently leading an effort that brings sensing, computing, and artificial or augmented intelligence much closer to humans, thereby making it much more valuable and useful.

Why you should listen

Artificial Intelligence is here. How powerful and useful can these artificial intelligence systems become in the next decade? How do you design and run powerful artificial intelligence systems that can work together with humans? Is there any concern that they will become more intelligent than the humans who invented them in a more distant future?

Using his work with bio-inspired design, Bruno will share his belief on how humanity has a good chance to eventually prevail over intelligent machines even when they ultimately become powerful.