What if?

Humanity’s biggest challenges are also some of the most familiar. How we deal with population growth, climate change, and future energy demands depends on how we frame these questions, and too often our ability to find new, innovative solutions is limited by political and ideological biases.

What if we were to look at the world anew?

Watch Steve’s talk here »

Steve Case


As a businessman and philanthropist, Steve Case invests in diverse for-profit and nonprofit enterprises. In April 2005, Steve launched Revolution, a company that seeks to drive transformative change by shifting power to consumers. Prior to starting Revolution, Steve was the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of America Online. He and his wife, Jean Case, created the Case Foundation in 1997.

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Esther Dyson


Esther Dyson is a journalist and commentator on emerging digital technology, an entrepreneur, and a philanthropist. Dyson specializes in analyzing the impact of emerging technologies and markets on economies and societies. Dyson is a board member and active investor in a variety of start-ups. Her investments have included Flickr and del.icio.us, both sold to Yahoo! and Medstory, sold to Microsoft.

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Ted Leonsis


Ted Leonsis is the founder and chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which comprises three professional sports teams – the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA) and the Washington Mystics (WNBA). Leonsis retired from active management of AOL in 2006, where during the previous 13 years he held a number of senior positions, including vice chairman and president.

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Paula Kerger


Paula A. Kerger is president and chief executive officer of PBS, the nation’s largest non-commercial media organization with more than 350 member stations throughout the country. Since her arrival, Ms. Kerger has made particularly strong commitments to the arts, news and public affairs, high-quality content for education, diversity, and the use of new technology to bring public media into the lives of all Americans.

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Sandra Postel

Global Water Policy Project

Sandra Postel directs the independent Global Water Policy Project, based in New Mexico, and lectures, writes and consults on global water issues. She is the National Geographic Society’s first Freshwater Fellow, and serves as lead water expert for the Society’s Freshwater Initiative. Postel is also a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. She also appears in the BBC’s Planet Earth and Leonardo DiCaprio’s The 11th Hour.

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Matt Mountain

Space Telescope Science Inst.

Matt Mountain has been the Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, since September 1, 2005, leading the 400-person institute that is responsible for the research done with the Hubble Space Telescope, and its planned successor the James Webb Space Telescope. Matt was previously the Director of the Gemini Observatory, which has telescopes on Mauna Kea, in Hawaii and on Cerro Pachon, in Chile.

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Saras Sarasvathy


Associate Professor Saras D. Sarasvathy is a member of the Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Ethics area and teaches courses in entrepreneurship and ethics in Darden’s MBA program. A leading scholar on the cognitive basis for high-performance entrepreneurship, her book Effectuation: Elements of Entrepreneurial Expertise was nominated for the 2009 Terry Book Award.

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Yash Gupta

Johns Hopkins

Yash P. Gupta became the first permanent dean of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, taking charge of the university’s initiative to re-invent business education by arming students with both business skills and critical knowledge from other disciplines. The Carey School was launched as a freestanding business school in 2007, built on a tradition of business education at the university that dates to 1916.

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Poet, Musician, TED Fellow

Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo is a Poet/Recording Artist, a 2009 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and a 2010 TED Fellow. A first-generation Nigerian-American, Iyeoka was a pharmacist before launching her career as a poet, presenter, activist and educator. Iyeoka is at the forefront of creating a new artistic genre that gracefully interweaves spoken word poetry with jazz, blues, gospel and electronic soul.

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Francis Béland


Francis is Vice President of Prize Development at The X PRIZE Foundation, where he is working to fund and launch ten new prizes over the next five years. Trained in oceanography, Francis started his career building large-scale aquarium attractions around the globe, including the the Biodôme, the Biosphere, the Vancouver Aquarium and the Shark Reef Aquarium.

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David Gallo


Dave Gallo works to push the bounds of oceanic discovery. Active in undersea exploration, he was one of the first oceanographers to use a combination of manned submersibles and robots to map the ocean world with unprecedented clarity and detail. Gallo is now working with director James Cameron and other undersea experts on ideas to stop the oil spill.

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Susan Shaw


Dr. Susan Shaw is a marine toxicologist, author, explorer, and founder/director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI). An outspoken and influential voice on ocean pollution, Shaw joined the SSWG in September 2010 and has been tasked with assessing the oil spill’s impact on the Gulf of Mexico and recommend actions toward recovery.

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Jackie Savitz


Jacqueline Savitz is a Senior Scientist and Senior Campaign Director for Oceana. Savitz leads Oceana’s Pollution Campaigns, focusing on climate change, oil and gas, and clean energy, specifically offshore wind. Jackie is an expert in marine pollution issues including oil, mercury, beach water quality, cruise ships and toxics among others, and has two decades of environmental policy experience.

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Charles Limb

Johns Hopkins

Charles Limb loved music as a child—Mahler, the Beatles, Miles Davis, whatever. And he heard things most of us don’t. “I was fascinated by this question of how sound can make you feel something,” says the Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist. “If you think about it from a kind of abstract philosophical level, it’s unusual that acoustic vibrations in the air can make you feel deep emotion, something that can affect your life.”

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Adam Pruden


As a Research Fellow at MIT’s Senseable City Lab, Adam is the current team leader for Seaswarm, a swarm of autonomous sea robots, which coordinate in unison to sense and clean oil from the water’s surface using nano-fabric. At Senseable, we are utilizing and exploring new technologies to try and solve major environmental issues. Before joining MIT, Adam graduated from Ball State University in Indiana.

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Time for Three


The groundbreaking, category-shattering trio Time for Three transcends traditional classification, with elements of classical, country western, gypsy and jazz idioms forming a blend all its own. The members — Zachary (Zach) De Pue, violin; Nicolas (Nick) Kendall, violin; and Ranaan Meyer, double bass — carry a passion for improvisation, composing and arranging, all prime elements of the ensemble’s playing.

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Dickson Despommier


Dickson D. Despommier is a microbiologist, ecologist and Professor of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University. Despommier developed the concept of vertical farming in 1999. Vertical farming is a proposed agricultural technique involving large-scale agriculture in urban high-rises or “farmscrapers,” which would produce fruit, vegetables, edible mushrooms and algae year-round.

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Nina Feffermanr


Nina Fefferman is a mathematical modeler interested in the application of mathematical models to investigating the interface among ecology, animal behavior and epidemiology. Her research activities span a broad range of research programs in infectious disease epidemiology, biodefense and societal organization, animal behavior, conservation ecology, social network theory, and evolutionary sociobiology.

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Albert Yu-Min Lin

Valley of the Khans

Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin is a Research Scientist at the University of California, San Diego and an Emerging Explorer of the National Geographic Society in the field of technology enabled exploration. He founded and co-Directs the UC San Diego, National Geographic Engineers for Exploration Program and currently leads a major international effort known as the Valley of the Khans Project.

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Diana Laufenberg

Science Leadership Academy

A farm kid from Wisconsin, Diana Laufenberg set out for Kansas 11 years ago and then onto Arizona 8 years ago. She has taught all grade levels from 7-12 in Social Studies. Laufenberg’s latest adventure finds her at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. SLA is an inquiry-driven, project-based high school focused on 21st century learning.

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Tim McDonald

Onion Flats

Tim McDonald is the founder of Onion Flats, a Philadelphia developer whose mission it has been since 1997 to: extend the imagination of the architect beyond the drawing board and into the building process; educate the public about the collaborative role of the architect in not only the making of buildings but of culture and meaning in contemporary society; and to empower a younger generation.

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Storm Cunningham


Storm might be the only revitalization facilitator who addresses all aspects of renewal; natural and cultural resources, urban and rural communities, industrialized and lesser-developed countries, etc. Storm Cunningham is the author of 2002’s The Restoration Economy, which has been hailed by government and business leaders around the world. His second book, reWealth (McGraw-Hill) was published in 2008.

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Christoph Gielen


Christoph Gielen was born in Bonn, Germany, but has lived in New York most of his life. He specializes in conducting photographic aerial studies of infrastructure in its relation to land use, exploring the intersection of art and environmental politics. With his work, Gielen hopes to trigger a reevaluation of our built environment, to ask: What kind of development can be considered sustainable?

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Roshini Thinakaran

Women at the Forefront

Roshini Thinakaran is the founder of Women at the Forefront, a multimedia project that documents the challenges faced by women living in conflict zones. Thinakaran is a TED Global Fellow (2010) and National Geographic Society Emerging Explorer. She is recognized as an innovator for her groundbreaking work, including the short film Liberia: Women and War and most recently What Was Promised, a feature length documentary about the US-led initiative to integrate women into the Iraqi security forces. Her research and digital images will be featured in a National Geographic School Publishing book to be distributed to all public schools across the United States.

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Cesar Harada

TED Fellow

Cesar Harada is the coordinator of Open_Sailing, the open-source group developing the International Ocean Station. Currently developing “Protei”, an Open Hardware Oil Spill cleaning device in the Gulf of Mexico, former researcher and project leader at MIT SENSEable City Lab in Boston USA, he graduated from Design Interactions, Royal College of Art, London. In 2006 he completed the animation course at ENSAD Paris, studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins London, industrial design at the ENSCI, building a trimaran on which he travelled.

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Otis Rolley


Otis Rolley is a Senior Manager at Urban Policy Development (UPD), a minority owned national public sector management consultant firm based in Baltimore. Before joining UPD, Rolley was the founding President and CEO of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance (CMTA), a coalition of area business and nonprofit leaders advocating for improved public transportation funding and services.

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Bill James


Bill James is the founder of JPods, with a mission to supply safe, congestion-free, comfortable, convenient, energy efficient, on-demand personal mobility and cargo transport in highly repetitive travel of less than 50 miles. A JPod is a small, efficient, safe, computer driven vehicle for transporting people and cargo. A JPod runs suspended from an overhead rail.

Watch Sam’s talk here »

Sam Shelton

Design Ignites Change

Sam Shelton is a designer, educator, and business strategist. He is a founding partner of KINETIK, a design firm in Washington, DC. Since 1988, Sam’s strong belief in the power of design as a strategic force for good has steered KINETIK’s path in a changing world. His passion shows in the projects he directs as well as his commitment to design education and AIGA, the professional association for design.

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Jeffrey Brown

PBS Newshour

In a career spanning more than twenty years at PBS NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown has served in a variety of roles, both on and off camera. As senior correspondent, he’s conducted studio discussions and reported from the field on a wide array of domestic and international stories. His work as correspondent and producer has garnered an Emmy, five Cine Golden Eagle Awards, and other honors.

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