Free Conversations to Keep You Grounded During the COVID-19 Crisis

Author: David McMillin       

TED Connects

Chris Anderson, head of TED, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates appear in the second episode of TED Connects, a new online broadcast. (Screen grab)

I had lunch with Bill Gates today.

“This is an unprecedented and disconcerting time for everyone,” the Microsoft co-founder said as I slurped a bowl of chocolate granola.

This was not an exclusive meal — there were 16,000 other people at our virtual table. Gates was appearing in the second installment of TED Connects, a new series of free, live, daily conversations hosted by Chris Anderson, head of TED, and Whitney Pennington Rodgers, TED’s current affairs curator. Anderson handled the majority of the question duties, and Pennington Rodgers monitored questions and comments from the Facebook Live community.

Gates shared insights into the current challenges with health-care systems that make COVID-19 so difficult to address. His perspective, informed by years of helping to provide effective vaccines, drugs, and innovative approaches to medicine through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provided me with welcome break from reading an endless stream of breaking coronavirus news updates.

The series will continue each day for the foreseeable future. This week, viewers can tune in to “What we can learn from China’s response to the coronavirus” with Gary Liu, CEO of the South China Morning Post; “The quest for the coronavirus vaccine” with Seth Berkley, the head of vaccine alliance GAVI; and “How to create meaningful connections while apart” with Priya Parker, author of The Art of Gathering. If you miss the live program, all the videos will be available to replay on TED’s Facebook page. (Watch the Bill Gates episode below.)

“We want to be here for you and hope these platforms offer connection, information, and even inspiration as we work through this time,” the TED staff wrote in a blog post with news of other online engagement initiatives. “We must lean on one another for collective insights, learnings, kindness, and compassion — as well as our physical health.”

Ideas Worth Waiting

TED attracts viewers around the world with a library of content that covers everything from why people eat with chopsticks to the technical engineering requirements that helped build the Brooklyn Bridge. However, all that online material is built on a face-to-face foundation that includes locally organized TEDx events and global conferences.

The flagship experience, which has been held annually for more than 30 years, was originally scheduled for April 20–24 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

That conference has been postponed until July 20–26, and TED’s leaders leaned on attendees to make that decision. As many events began cancelling and shifting to virtual experiences in early March, TED asked attendees to choose between the postponement option or keeping the same dates in an online-only format. According to TED spokesperson Erin Allweiss, the large majority of respondents preferred to keep the face-to-face gathering.

The votes were a reflection of what Anderson said in his initial email to the community. “It’s hard,” Anderson said, “to let go of the known joys of TED in-person.”

Bill Gates: The healthcare systems we must urgently fix

We’re live with Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist and TED speaker, to talk about the healthcare systems in dire need of fixing. Ask him your questions in the comments! #TEDConnects

Posted by TED on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

David McMillin is a Convene associate editor.

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