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.”
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  2. Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes.” That includes you.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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.”
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  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.”
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  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.”
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  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.”
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  9. Speaking of food: try to do a little better. “I think you know what I mean.”
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  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.”
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  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.”
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  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.”

Building Brands In A Voice-Activated World

Voice technology has made great leaps in the past few years. Speech recognition error rates are approaching human levels, and machine learning continues to improve the ability to understand the nuances of natural language such as meaning or intent. Last year, 20% of Google’s mobile search queries were voice queries. While Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon dominate with widely used assistant, Facebook and Samsung as well as a handful of other brands are exploring how to incorporate voice into their customer experience.

Voice represents a logical next step in the evolution of how we interact with information. It’s more natural than using a touchpad or keyboard, takes less brain power, and creates even more opportunity for tech to move further into the background where it doesn’t require precious attention. And it’s quickly getting to a place where it will deliver what consumers want most from it: A fully integrated experience that connects their platforms and devices with a layer of context and a smarter assistant that incorporates preferences and behaviors to get predictive.

The broadest application for voice tech with consumers will continue to be realized through digital assistants, primarily through smartphones and home devices. The more a voice assistant can connect with the user’s personal data, the better it will be at layering personal context and making recommendations. According to a report compiled by JWT 60% of smartphone users agree that “if voice assistants could understand me properly and speak back to me as well as a human can, I’d use them all the time.”

But traditional SEO approaches will need to be changed. We neither want to hear 10+ answers to our question, nor would we be too keen on having a sponsored answer precede the answer we really want. One idea posited by JWT suggests an affiliate model might be viable wherein brands pay to be accessible to voice assistants. Another possibility is developing algorithms that understand the decision criteria used by voice assistants, but they may include social data like endorsements, ratings, reviews in how they determine results.

As we saw at CES and SXSW this year, it seems Amazon is licensing Alexa into everything from speakers to toys. As voice-tech becomes more pervasive, it will also grow in demand. All brands should be constantly evaluating ways to remove friction (or adding smart friction) from their customer experience. There may be several touchpoints where voice could be useful.

Retail and hospitality brands might look for ways to incorporate Alexa into physical spaces like lobbies or dressing rooms where customers may have focused needs. Brands with more specific requirements might look at developing their own custom voice solution. A fast food restaurant chain may improve drive-thru accuracy and ordering by using voice-tech customized to the way their customers talk, and in the process harvest heaps of raw data for analysis.

Incorporating more voice as a workable interface will be a profound change for consumers and brands, but privacy will continue to be a major concern in this space. Sensational news stories about digital assistants recording and storing everything they “hear” contributes to already heightened fears and mistrust. A large privacy scandal with one of the tech giants could render a major setback.

While this continues to mature, brands should be mindful to think human first. Most importantly, the application of technology should make lives easier and give us back time. Joseph Evans, senior research analyst at Enders Analysis assures, “Web browsing isn’t going to go away, apps aren’t going to go away, … video on demand isn’t going to go away, … but voice interactions will be one channel. A lot of this stuff will move to being called up by voice.” Which leads us to yet another question marketers must answer…how will your brand tap into this?

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