Today, the scale of talks at TED2017 moved from lofty technology and global issues to the personal, with ideas on topics like aging and heartbreak. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

On the fourth day of TED, the talks got more personal and packed with takeaways for everyday life. Below, some highlights.

Pond scum: a source of wonder. In her ode to the microorganisms we’ve spent a century trying to kill, Anne Madden shared how, in pond scum, scientists found an organism that appears to vaccinate mice against PTSD; in dirt, a microorganism that could kill superbugs; and in wasps, a microorganism that makes delicious sour beer. Pond scum also led Elizabeth Blackburn to the discovery that secured her the Nobel Prize in Medicine, as they proved perfect research subjects for her work on telomeres, the caps of DNA at the end of chromosomes.

And other gross things are amazing too. Levon Biss showed his stunning portraits of insects, created by stitching together thousands of individual photographs. The goal: to reveal the “microsculpture” of their bodies. Meanwhile, Wang Jun suggested the idea of a “smart toilet” that collects data about our health: “So much valuable information gets flushed away every day!”

Big thoughts on aging. Just a few hours after Elizabeth Blackburn’s talk on telomeres, believed to play a central role in how we age, Shah Rukh Khan made a powerful age-related analogy. “Humanity is a lot like me,” he said. “It’s an aging movie star, grappling with all the newness around it.” Then Ashton Applewhite burned the house down with a takedown of ageism, the prejudice against our future selves. “There is no line in the sand, no crossover between young and old after which it’s all downhill,” she said to cheers.

Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn touched on aging and pond scum — two surprising themes of the day. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Why you should make a list of the things you hate about your ex. Guy Winch said that heartbreak isn’t just sad — it’s addictive. We refuse to accept the simple reasons why it didn’t work out, and we keep on idealizing our exes. So he suggested: remembering all the bad. Write down all those negative qualities, all those little things you dislike about your former partner, and keep a list in your phone. Read it out loud when you feel sad.

The importance of connection. Emily Esfahani Smith shared how belonging is one of four key pillars that make people feel like they’re leading a meaningful life. But connection might mean a longer and healthier life too. Susan Pinker showed us our brain on face-to-face social interaction — it’s lit up in bright yellow, in the shape of two large butterfly wings. Smiles and high fives are enough to lift our spirits, and close connections are associated with lower stress and increased healing. “I call this building your village,” she said. “Building it and sustaining it is a matter of life and death.”

Two talks from bold-faced names. The first two featured videos from TED2017 are live on Check out Serena Williams and Gayle King on tennis, love and motherhood — and Pope Francis on inclusion, interconnection and hope. The second is setting a record for views, already nearing a million. It’s even the subject of the highest form of flattery, parody, courtesy of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Even if you missed today, you can still be part of the TED2017 excitement. Watch a Highlights Exclusive in movie theaters on Sunday, April 30 — a ‘best of’ compilation of talks from the conference, edited on the spot this week, with behind-the-scenes footage. Find tickets at a cinema near you.

Every year at TED, we curate a program of short films to play between speakers and set the mood. The massive screens in the TED2017 theater made for spectacular viewing. What we’re looking at here is our opening video, created by Alec Donovan. Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

TED is about speakers stepping on a stage and sharing an idea in 18 minutes or less. But throughout our annual conference, short films play a vital part in the program too — opening sessions and providing moments of pause, reflection and laughter between talks.

The short films shown during the conference are selected by Anyssa Samari and Jonathan Wells, who talk to filmmakers and scour the internet year-round to find the right pieces. “We’re looking for artful treatments of topics,” says Samari. “The films we show are usually around 60 seconds, so it has to communicate an idea visually in a small fraction of time.”

Below, the short films that showed over the course of TED2017.


The short: Desiigner’s “PANDA” featuring Taylor Hatala & Kyndall Harris. A duo of teenage dance prodigies slay a hip-hop performance.
The creators: Directed by Tim Milgram. Choreography by Antoine Troupe.
Shown during: Session 1, “One Move Ahead”


The short: Kraftwerk’s “The Robots.” The classic 1977 video from the band that blazed the trail in electronic music.
The creators: Kraftwerk
Shown during: Session 2, “Our Robotic Overlords”


The short: “Laws of Robotics.” The legendary sci-fi writer’s words prove eerily relevant in our debates on artificial intelligence today.
The creators: BBC Horizon
Shown during: Session 2, “Our Robotic Overlords”


The short: “Kenzo World.” A woman lets her inner dance machine lose in this viral Kenzo fragrance ad.
The creators: Directed by Spike Jonze
Shown during: Session 3, “The Human Response”


The short: “Simone Giertz and Her Ingenious Robot Helpers.” These dinky makeshift robots will surely add more time to your morning routine.
The creators: Directed by Simone Giertz
Shown during: Session 3, “The Human Response”


The short: Paralympics “We’re The Superhumans.” This 3-minute trailer for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games is a beautiful portrayal of endless determination.
The creators: Production Company, Blink. Directed by Dougal Wilson. Agency, 4Creative. Executive Creative Directors, Chris Bovill and John Allison.
Shown during: Session 4, “Health, Life, Love”


The short: “2D RUN – MMP 3 (Mixed Motion Project).” Parkour is amazing to watch any time you see it. But in this top-down view, it becomes a surreal, like a nonstop video game.
The creators: Stunts and direction by Ilko ‘ill’ Iliev
Shown during: Session 5, “Mind, Meaning”


The short: “Preposterous – A short about absurdity.” In these delightful scenes, things are not as you expect.
The creators: Directed by Florent Porta
Shown during: Session 5, “Mind, Meaning”


The short: “Pulse.” A stunning timelapse that captures the serenity and power of a storm.
The creators: Directed by Mike Olbinski
Shown during: Session 6, “Planet, Protection”


The short: Jain’s “Makeba.” Born in France and raised in the United Arab Emirates and The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jain’s music video is an exploration of black and white.
The creators: Directed by Greg and Lio
Shown during: Session 7, “Connection, Community”


The short: “Despicable Me 2 — The Stars are Brighter!” How many minions does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Find out here.
The creators: Illumination Entertainment
Shown during: Session 7, “Connection, Community”


The short: Max Cooper’s “Order from Chaos.” An incredible explosion of color and shape, inspired by raindrops.
The creators: Directed by Maxime Causeret
Shown during: Session 8, “Bugs and Bodies”


The short: “Tadpole Development Time Lapse.” A tadpole zygote develops to the point where you can see its eyes and gills.
The creators: Francis Chee Films
Shown during: Session 8, “Bugs and Bodies”


The short: Samsung “Ostrich.” An ostrich sees the open skies via virtual reality, and becomes determined to take flight.
The creators: Directed by Matthijis Van Heinjningen. Production Company, MJZ. Agency, Leo Burnett Chicago.
Shown during: Session 8, “Bugs and Bodies”


The short: “Act of Love – Animal Courtships Performed by Humans.” What happens when people dance the intricate courtship dances of animals.
The creators: Directed by Koichiro Tanaka.
Shown in: Session 9, “It’s Personal”


The short: “Ten Meter Tower.” People face their fears at the top of the highest diving platform. Would you jump?
The creators: Directed by Maximilian Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson.
Shown during: Session 9, “It’s Personal”


The short: “Manta Ray” by J. Ralph & Anohni. The universe of plankton in a single teaspoon of ocean water.
The creators: By J. Ralph & Anohni. From the documentary Racing Extinction.
Shown during: Session 10, “Tales of Tomorrow”


The short: “Moonlight x Alvin Ailey.” A lyrical dance inspired by the film Moonlight.
The creators: Directed by Anna Rose Holmer. Choreographed by Robert Battle, Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Shown during: Session 10, “Tales of Tomorrow”


The short: “Danielle.” Don’t blink, or you’ll miss the aging process at work.
The creators: Directed by Anthony Cerniello. Onstage, it was accompanied by a live score from Paul Cantelon.
Shown during: Session 10, “Tales of Tomorrow”


The short: “2016 AICP Sponsor Reel.” An infectious dance from characters with unusual body compositions.
The creators: Concept, Design and Direction by Method Studios. Directed by Rupert Burton. Creative Director, Jon Noorlander Music: Major Lazer “Light it Up” (Remix).
Shown during: Session 11, “The Future Us”


The short: “BANDALOOP Takes Flight in Boston.” A vertical dance troupe dances on the clouds, as reflected in a Boston skyscraper.
The creators: BANDALOOP
Shown during: Session 11, “The Future Us”

A highlight of TEDFest — a beer exchange between members of the TEDx community. Photo: David Rosenberg / TED

During the International Beer Exchange held on Day 2 of TEDFest, a screening event for TEDx’ers in New York City, bottles were lined up side by side like passengers on the subway during morning rush hour. A pale ale from Vail stood tall next to a stout from Kentucky that had been aged in oak bourbon barrels. They were flanked by a beer made from seawater, another that had been infused with coffee, as well as a group of lagers, pilsners and stouts.

The beer exchange was a little bit like TEDFest itself: attended by 500 TEDx organizers from more than 60 countries. Attendees packed a table inside St. Ann’s Warehouse with beer from countries including Mexico, Germany, Argentina, Japan, France, Ireland and Aruba.

Organizers were allowed to choose one beer for every bottle they brought, and when the time came to make the exchange, many took their time, studying what was available before carefully making the final decision. (For attendees who don’t drink alcohol, candy and other goodies were also exchanged.) Since they weren’t allowed to drink on site, whether they were satisfied with their selections would be discussed later.

At the TEDx beer exchange, if you brought a beer, you got to take a beer. Photo: David Rosenberg / TED

Some brought individual bottles, some brought six-packs — all left happy. Photo: David Rosenberg /TED

The beer exchange is a fitting illustration of how, even though members of this community live in 60 countries, they have quite a lot in common. Photo: David Rosenberg / TED

On Day 5 of TED2017, one two-hour session included a in-depth conversation with Elon Musk and a powerful talk from writer Anne Lamott. The themes they shared echoed throughout the conference. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

Over the past five days, the TED2017 conference has explored the theme “The Future You.” This has spanned an incredible number of ideas on a huge array of topics. Below, a tour through some of the key themes that emerged — through the week and in the double-stuffed session of day 5.

All eyes on AI. How will artificial intelligence reshape our world? TED2017 brought many answers. The conference kicked off with a dance between a robot and human, followed by chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov’s call to add human purpose and passion to intelligent machines’ ability to calculate and parse. Then, in a session called “Our Robotic Overlords,” Noriko Arai showed the secrets of an AI that can pass a college entrance exam, Joseph Redmon revealed an algorithm (called YOLO) that lets AI identify objects accurately, Stuart Russell outlined a plan for aligning AI values with our own, and Radhika Nagpal imagined AI based on the collective intelligence of schools of fish. Later on, Martin Ford warned that, with AI mastering the ability to learn, humans are headed toward a future without work — which will require radical adjustments in society. And Robin Hanson brought us to a trippy possible future where “ems,” emulations or uploaded human minds, run the world.

The need to erase the boundary between ‘me’ and ‘us.’ Some cultures worship many gods, others one. Us? We worship the self, said Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks — we think in terms of self-realization and partake in “that newest religious ritual: the selfie.” Sacks challenged us to replace the word ‘self’ with the word ‘other’ and see what happens. “The only people that will save us from ourselves is we.” That thought boomeranged through the week. His Holiness Pope Francis delivered a beautiful message of solidarity: “If there is an ‘us,’ there is a revolution.” Anna Rosling Rönnlund took us to “Dollar Street,” where the world’s poorest people live on the left and the richest on the right. “The person staring back at us from the other side of the world actually looks like you,” she said. Luma Mufleh shared her experience coaching a soccer team for refugee students in Georgia, and how she wished everyone people could stop seeing these young people as others to keep out and embrace them as they rebuild their lives with determination, resilience and joy. In a scathing look at ageism, Ashton Applewhite pointed out, “All prejudice relies on ‘othering.’” Finally, Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, summed it up this way: “The Future You will depend on how much The Future Us brings opportunity to every child on Earth.”

The future is now. Want a robotic dog that can deliver packages and fetch you a soda? Marc Raibert showed it to us. Waiting for your personal flying machine? Todd Reichert demoed the Kitty Hawk Flyer, a 254-pound personal electric aircraft, and Richard Browning showed us an IronMan-like suit designed for hovering. Meanwhile, Elon Musk said that the future of Earthly transportation isn’t above our heads, but below our feet, and talked about building a high-speed tunnel network under Los Angeles. Tom Gruber, co-creator of Siri, wondered if a superintelligent AI could augment our memory by helping us remember everything we’ve ever read and every person we’ve ever met. Ray Dalio shared how, at Bridgewater Associates, every meeting and interaction is recorded for other employees to watch and assess — and algorithms help employees learn strengths and weaknesses. Wang Jun is creating digital doppelgangers that would let you see what would happen if you, say, ate less meat or took a certain medication. And Anne Madden introduced us to microorganisms that can make sour beer and, oh, potentially vaccinate against PTSD.

Marc Raibert showcased SpotMini’s many talents, including running an obstacle course. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

The connection between learning and health care. Coaching is not just for athletes — it’s for healthcare workers too. Atul Gawande shared how it can save the lives of pregnant women and newborns in birth centers lacking basic supplies. “[Coaches] are your external eyes and ears, providing a more accurate picture of your reality,” he said. Shortly after, TED Prize winner Raj Panjabi shared his wish for the world: the Community Health Academy, a global platform to modernize how community health workers learn, update their skills and share insights with each other. This academy will empower workers, helping them to deliver health to the doorsteps of the one billion around the world without access to adequate care. And in a slightly different spin, Lisa Genova said that Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to be your brain’s destiny, as the latest science shows that learning new things — say, a new language — can make the brain more resilient.

The missing stories in art. Titus Kaphar took a paintbrush full of white paint and painted over the main figures in a 17th-century Dutch painting (yes, a copy). He did this to bring the unseen story of the painting into view, an almost hidden figure of a young black man. “Historically speaking, I can find out more about the lace [on the woman’s dress] than I can about the [black] character,” he says. The dominant narrative is coded in the art. But what happens when we look further? Laolu Senbanjo also encouraged us to look beyond the artwork — to think about the artist who created it. “Every artist has a story, and every artist has a name,” he said. And for Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, the viewer took center stage. He placed us in the middle of Lorenzetti’s room-scale fresco, The Allegory of Good Government and Bad Government, to accept the artist’s warning about tyranny — and act.

And finally: how to wrestle back life from tech. One very everyday concern wove its way through the conference: the feeling that our tech is has become addictive. Podcaster Manoush Zomorodi shared what happened when she challenged her “Note to Self” listeners to embrace boredom and be more purposeful in their smartphone use. “The only people who refer to their customers as ‘users’ are drug dealers and technologists,” a UX designer told her. Tristan Harris further dug into the effects of the competition for our attention is having on us — and called for a “design renaissance” in which tech companies no longer prey on our psychology for profit but to encourage us to “live out the timeline we want.” Adam Alter advised us to designate specific times away from our phones — putting them in a drawer during dinner or on airplane mode over the weekend. Cathy O’Neil warned us not to think of algorithms as magic or benign but as,“opinions embedded in code.” And Laura Galante cautioned us to recognize how our information consumption makes us susceptible to manipulation. She said, “We must recognize that this place where we increasingly live, quaintly termed cyberspace, isn’t defined by ones and zeros, but by information the people behind it.

Even if you missed today, you can still be part of the TED2017 excitement. Watch a Highlights Exclusive in movie theaters on Sunday, April 30 — a best-of compilation of talks from the conference, edited on the spot this week, with behind-the-scenes footage. Find tickets at a cinema near you.

Anne Lamott speaks at TED2017, April 28, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

Author Anne Lamott recently turned 61. So she’s compiled the following list of “every single true thing I know.” A brief recap:

  1. All truth is a paradox. “Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift, and it is impossible here,” she says. Life is “filled with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together.”
  2. Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes.” That includes you.
  3. Nothing outside of you will help you in any real, lasting way. Radical self-care is the only thing that will get you through. It’s hard to admit, but it’s true, and it works the other way around too. “If it is someone else’s problem, you probably don’t have the solution,” she says.
  4. Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy and scared. Everyone, even the people who seem to have it most together.” So don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides, she warns.
  5. Chocolate with 75% cacao is not actually a food. Its best use is as bait in snake traps or to balance the legs on wobbly chairs.”
  6. Every writer puts down terrible first drafts. The trick is that they commit to sticking with it. They take it Bird by Bird, her father’s advice that became the heart of her bestselling book. “Every story you own is yours. If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better,” she says. “You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart — your stories, visions, memories, visions and songs. Your truth, your version of things, your own voice. That is really all you have to offer us. And that’s also why you were born.”
  7. Creative success are “something you have to recover from. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine.” And that brings us back to #1, because creative success is also amazing. “It is a miracle to get your work published,” she says. “Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the Swiss cheesey holes inside you. It can’t. It won’t.”
  8. Families are both astonishing and hard. Again reference #1. “Earth is forgiveness school,” she says. “It begins with forgiving yourself — then you might as well start at the dinner table.”
  9. Speaking of food: try to do a little better. “I think you know what I mean.”
  10. Grace is a powerful thing. “Grace is Spiritual WD-40 or water wings,” she says. “The mystery of grace is that God loves Henry Kissinger and Vladimir Putin and me exactly as much as He or She loves your new grandchild.” Grace doesn’t always come in the forms you expect. Lamott sees it most in laughter. “Laughter really is carbonated holiness,” she says. “It helps us breathe again and again, and gives us back to ourselves.”
  11. God isn’t that scary. Rather than getting trapped in the mundanity of our own lives, she tells us to “go look up.” Now. “My pastor says you can trap bees on the floor of a Mason jar without a lid, because they don’t look up,” she says. “If they did, they could fly to freedom. Instead, they walk around bitterly, bumping into glass walls.”
  12. Death is incredibly hard to bear, and you don’t get over losing people you love. “We Christians like to think death is a major change of address,” she says. “But the person will live again fully in your heart, at some point, if you don’t seal it off.” Memories of the people you love will make you smile at inappropriate times, but their absence will also be “a lifelong nightmare of homesickness for you.” Again, see #1.

She takes a deep breath. “Okay, I think that’s it. But if I think of anything else, I’ll let you know.”

You can watch this talk in cinemas starting Sunday, April 30. Get tickets.

Prudential’s Total Market Strategy leverages key findings and cross-cultural insights to focus on financial decision-making trends across all diverse markets while embracing the nuances of specific segments. Dorinda Walker, Vice President of Consumer Strategy & Key Initiatives, Multicultural Marketing, shared how grass-roots efforts and relationship building helped Prudential win member loyalty within the U.S. Black consumer market.

Kelly Stoetzel and Chris Anderson invite all the TED2017 speakers back onstage to close out TED2017: The Future You, April 28, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

In the final session of TED2017, we look ahead to the future we’ll build together. Below, recaps of the talks from Session 11, in chronological order.

A design renaissance for our apps. “There’s a hidden goal driving all of our technology, and that goal is the race for our attention.” says Tristan Harris. He would know; he used to work in Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, studying firsthand how tech engineers are using psychology to steer our thoughts. From Facebook notifications to Snapchat streaks to YouTube autoplays, technology orchestrates our time and attention for its own profit. But what if our phones “empower[ed] us to live out the timeline we want?” Harris calls for a “design renaissance,” one in which our apps encourage us to spend our time in a way compatible with what we want out of life. Imagine if instead of just commenting on a controversial Facebook post, you had the option to click a “Host a dinner” button in which you could have the same conversation but in person and over a meal. Harris believes that fixing the way our technology guides our thoughts and behavior is “critical infrastructure for solving every other problem. There’s nothing in your life or in our collective problems that does not require our ability to be able to put our attention where we care about.”

Jim Yong Kim speaks at TED2017, April 28, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

A global convergence of aspirations. Jim Yong Kim wrote a book he describes as “a 500-page diatribe against the World Bank.” Today, he’s the president of it. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds — he was nominated for the role because of his critiques, and he’s given it a central goal to end extreme poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity around the world. Why? Because everywhere he travels, he sees the same thing: kids gathered around a smartphone. Access to the internet has led to increases in reported satisfaction — but it also ups people’s reference income, or the income to which they compare themselves. Globally, this is leading to a convergence of aspirations. “Are we going to have a situation where aspirations are connected to opportunity?” he asks. “Or are aspirations going to meet frustration?” The World Bank is aiming for the former. “We’re trying to use tools … that rich people use every single day to make themselves richer, but that we haven’t used adequately on behalf of the poor.” They’re aiming to de-risk investment in developing countries, to boost private capital going to them. This has led to a company scaling solar energy in Zambia, so the price for a kilowatt hour dropped from 25 to 4 cents. And to another using drones to deliver blood anywhere in Rwanda in an hour — saving lives while making money. This kind of thinking could have a big effect, he says. Kim grew up in South Korea, one of the poorest countries in the world at the time, and the World Bank expressed low aspirations for it. He refuses to do the same to anyone’s country now.

Making music together. “For all of us,” says Found Sound Nation (FSN) co-founder Christopher Marianetti, “music making is our birthright.” This week at TED2017, FSN gave conference participants the opportunity to step inside their geodesic dome, the Ouroborium, and create a piece of music with eight other people — no prior musical training or experience required. In this talk, FSN co-founder Jeremy Thal present a short film about the project scored by a week’s worth of musical co-creation produced by this year’s TEDsters. You can watch the video and check out more about the project here.

“Laughter is carbonated holiness” and other life lessons. A few days before she turned 61, Anne Lamott “decided to write down every single true thing I know.” Lucky for us, she shares her findings at TED2017. In this list of twelve nuggets of knowledge, she explains how “all truth is paradox,” which chocolate is best used “to balance the legs of wobbly chairs” and the meaning of God. In a talk full of wisdom and humor, she dives into the nuances of being a human who lives and feels in a confusing, beautiful and emotional world. Read a full recap of her talk here.

What will the future look like? In conversation with TED’s Head Curator Chris Anderson, serial entrepreneur and future-builder Elon Musk discusses his new project digging tunnels under LA, Hyperloop, Tesla, SpaceX and his dreams for what the world could look like. Read a full recap of his talk here.

Noah Feldman speaks at TED2017 – The Future You, April 24-28, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Why US politics isn’t as bad as we think. Today, three things are commonly said about the political situation in the US: one, partisanship has never been so bad; two, it’s geographically distributed for the first time; and three, there’s nothing we can do about it. “I’m here today to say that all three of these propositions are not true,” says constitutional law scholar Noah Feldman. In fact, geographically spaced partisanship runs deep in American history — and we have a powerful tool to manage it. To explain, Feldman recounts the feud between James Madison and Alexander Hamilton that gave birth to partisanship in America and how the constitution helped diffuse the intense divisions the feud created. “Partisanship is real, it’s profound, it’s extraordinarily powerful,” says Feldman, “but the design of the Constitution is greater than partisanship.” It worked for the founders and many subsequent generations, and it will work for us, too. He encourages us to stand up for what we believe in, support the organizations we care about and speak out on issues that matter to us. “It’s only by working together that the Constitution can do its job,” he says. “It’s going to be OK.”

The Pope and a Rabbi walk into a TED Conference. Julia Sweeney is back for her comedic summation of the conference. She says that she can’t remember most of the speaker names, so will forever think of them as: the artist who whitewashes people out of paintings, the Alzheimer’s woman, the mud architect, the robotic dog guy who has no fear of the military using his creations, the graph lady and the woman who’s teaching a robot to pass the SAT equivalent in Japan. As she takes us through her notes from the conference — session by session — she also shares some lessons she’ll take away. Like that she’s not being slothful when she’s just lying around, she’s in default mode. And that all living things must die, except pond scum.

Elon Musk talks about his work to shape the future of transportation, energy and space at TED2017, April 28, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

In conversation with TED’s Head Curator Chris Anderson, serial entrepreneur and future-builder Elon Musk discusses his new project digging tunnels under LA, the Hyperloop, Tesla, SpaceX and his dreams for what the world could look like.

Below, highlights from the conversation.

Why are you boring?

“We’re trying to dig a hole under LA, and this is to create the beginning of what will be a 3D network of tunnels to alleviate congestion,” Musk says, describing the work of his new project, The Boring Company. Musk shows a video of what this system could look like, with an electric car-skate attached to an elevator from street level that brings your car vertically underground into a tunnel. There’s no speed limit in the tunnel — and the car-skates are being designed to achieve speeds of 200 km/h, or about 130 mph. “You should be able to get from Westwood to LAX in 5-6 minutes,” Musk says.

Why aren’t flying cars a better solution?

“I do rockets, so I like things that fly,” Musk says. “There’s a challenge of flying cars in that they’ll be quite noisy. If something’s flying over your head, a whole bunch of flying cars going all over the place, that is not an anxiety-reducing situation. You’ll be thinking, ‘Did they service their hubcap, or is it going to come off and guillotine me?’”

How will these tunnels tie in with Hyperloop?

The Hyperloop test track is the second biggest vacuum chamber in the world, smaller only than the Large Hadron Collider, Musk says. The proposed transportation system would propel people and freight in a pod-like vehicles in a vacuum, and tunnels end up being great for creating vacuum. “We’re cautiously optimistic that it’ll be faster than the world’s fastest bullet train, even over a .8-mile stretch,” Musk says.

What’s happening at Tesla?

Tesla Model 3 is coming in July, Musk says, and it’ll have a special feature: autopilot. Using only passive optical cameras and GPS, no LIDAR or radar, the Model 3 will be capable of autonomous driving. “Once you solve cameras for vision, autonomy is solved; if you don’t solve vision, it’s not solved … You can absolutely be superhuman with just cameras.”

Musk says that Tesla is on track for completing a fully autonomous, cross-country LA to New York trip by the end of 2017. “November or December of this year, we should be able to go from a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York, no controls touched at any point during the entire journey.”

More news from Tesla: a semi truck, which Musk reveals with a teaser photo. It’s a heavy-duty, long-range semi meant to alleviate heavy-duty trucking. “With the Tesla Semi, we want to show that an electric truck actually can out-torque any diesel semi. If you had a tug of war competition, the Tesla Semi will tug the diesel semi uphill,” Musk says. And it’s nimble –it can be driven around “like a sports car,” he says.

What else is going electric?

Showing a concept photo of a house with a Tesla in the driveway, Powerwalls on the side of the house — and a solar glass roof, Musk talks about his vision for the home of the future. Most houses in the US, Musk says, have enough roof area for solar panels to power all the needs of the house. “Eventually almost all houses will have a solar roof,” he says. “Fast forward 15 years from now, it’ll be unusual to have a roof that doesn’t have solar.”

And to store all that electricity needed to power our homes and cars, Musk has made a huge bet on lithium-ion batteries. Moving on to a discussion of the Gigafactory, a diamond-shaped lithium-ion battery factory near Sparks, Nevada, Musk talks about how power will be stored in the future.

“When it’s running full speed, you can’t see the cells without a strobe light,” Musk says as a video of the factory pumping out Li-ion batteries plays behind him. Musk thinks we’ll need about 100 such factories to power the world in a future where we don’t feel guilty about using and producing energy, and Tesla plans to announce locations for another four Gigafactories late this year. “We need to address a global market,” Musk says, hinting that the new factories will be spread out across the world.


Let’s talk SpaceX.

At TED2013, Musk talked about his dream of building reusable rockets — a dream he’s seen realized with the success of the Falcon 9, which to date has had nine successful launches and landings. Earlier this year, a used rocket completed a second successful landing for the first time in history. “It’s the first reflight of an old booster where that reflight is relevant,” Musk says. “Reusability is only relevant if it is rapid and complete, like an aircraft or a car … You don’t send your aircraft in to Boeing in between flights.”

What about Mars?

Showing plans for a massive rocket that’s the size of a 40-story building, Musk talks about what it’ll take to get to Mars. “The thrust level for this configuration is about four times the thrust of a Saturn V moon rocket,” the biggest rocket humanity has ever created, he says. “In units of 747s, this would be the thrust equivalent of 120 747s with all engines blazing.” The rocket is so massive that it could take a fully-loaded 747 as cargo. While it may seem large now, “future spacecraft will make this look like a rowboat,” Musk says.

And when can we can hope to see it? Musk thinks the Interplanetary Transport System SpaceX revealed earlier this year will take 8-10 years to build. “Our internal targets are more aggressive,” he says.

“There have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live. Why do you want to live? What’s the point? What inspires you? What do you love about the future? If the future does not include being out there among the stars and being a multi-planet species, I find that incredibly depressing,” Musk says.

But why work on projects like getting to Mars when we have so many problems here on Earth?

Sustainable energy will happen no matter what, out of necessity, Musk says. “If you don’t have sustainable energy, you have unsustainable energy … The fundamental value of a company like Tesla is the degree to which it accelerates the advent of sustainable energy faster than it would otherwise occur.”

But becoming a multi-planet species isn’t inevitable. “If you look at the progress in space, in 1969 we were able to send somebody to the moon. Then we had the space shuttle, which could only take people to low-Earth orbit. Now we can take noone to orbit. That’s the trend — it’s down to nothing. We’re mistaken when we think technology automatically improves. It only improves if a lot of people work very hard to make it better.”

What’s your motivation?

“The value of beauty and inspiration is very much underrated, no question,” Musk says, “But I want to be clear: I’m not trying to be anyone’s savior. I’m just trying to think about the future and not be sad.”