TED Kicks Off A Week of “Ideas Worth Sharing”

Well known around the world for the more than 1400 20-minute videos it has produced on inspiring topics from the nature of creativity to fighting poverty, the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California is once again under way, and this year, National Geographic is along to help share the stories and ideas as they appear.

While the main speakers begin taking the stage Tuesday, Monday saw a battery of quick presentations by this year’s TED Fellows, young innovators from 15 countries working on highly diverse projects of note.

There were interesting and inspiring music performances and presentations on low-cost, easy-to-use medical devices (like Jane Chen’s souped-up papoose that can replace expensive incubators for premature infants) and hi-tech inventions that will change the way we interact with digital information (like Jinha Lee’s levitating real-world “pixel”).

Cultural Innovation

Perhaps the most interesting culturally though, was a subset of talks that tackled cultural conflict in unexpected ways. Like NG Explorer Aziz Abu Sarah who uses direct contact with both Israelis and Palestinians to educate people on tours of the Holy Land, these speakers seem to make progress towards peace not by talking about it, but by creating positive and constructive experiences for the people involved.

Negin Farsad is a comedian who focuses on removing the negative stereotypes of her Iranian heritage through humor. She’s even drawn some universally applicable lessons from it: “If you’re from a country whose stereotype is not edible,” she says, “you need to change the stereotype.” No more images of Iranians as nuclear bomb makers, she says. Eggplants are the key. Iranians, it turns out, love eggplant. So she’s ready to spread that stereotype using comedy. “Get in people’s faces,” she says, “but in a delightful way.” So that’s what she did through her comedy tour “The Muslims Are Coming!”

Mohammad Herzallah takes a different approach. He recognizes that conflict has a lot to do with several topics, such as the economy, health, education, and politics, but that politics gets almost all the attention and effort. Seeing that 40% of Palestinians are affected by clinical depression, he sees health as an area where he could have a real impact. He then pairs that with the brain-drain problem among young Palestinians, and realizes education is another big opportunity for improvement. So he founded the Palestinian Neuroscience Institute, to attract and make use of brain power to improve brain health. And along the way, he just may help to heal the conflict, by coming at it from some under-appreciated angles.

This is the kind of thinking that many see as the best way forward in conflicts around the world and at smaller scales in everyone’s life.

What You Can Do

If you want to learn more and share your own thoughts on conflict and resolution, join Nat Geo on Google+  and take part in our upcoming discussion on a Google+ Hangout later this month.

For more big ideas in science, art, and culture, follow all our blog posts about stories and ideas from TED throughout the week.


NEXT: NG Photographer Brian Skerry on Shooting Sharks


Human Journey

Meet the Author
Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of nationalgeographic.com for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.