ELIF SHAFAK The revolutionary power of diverse thought

“From populist demagogues, we will learn the indispensability of democracy,” says novelist Elif Shafak. “From isolationists, we will learn the need for global solidarity. And from tribalists, we will learn the beauty of cosmopolitanism.” A native of Turkey, Shafak has experienced firsthand the devastation that a loss of diversity can bring — and she knows the revolutionary power of plurality in response to authoritarianism. In this passionate, personal talk, she reminds us that there are no binaries, in politics, emotions and our identities. “One should never, ever remain silent for fear of complexity,” Shafak says.

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Charity Wayua: A few ways to fix a government

Charity Wayua put her skills as a cancer researcher to use on an unlikely patient: the government of her native Kenya. She shares how she helped her government drastically improve its process for opening up new businesses, a crucial part of economic health and growth, leading to new investments and a World Bank recognition as a top reformer.

Anil Seth: Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality

Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience — and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it. How does this happen? According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we’re all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it “reality.” Join Seth for a delightfully disorienting talk that may leave you questioning the very nature of your existence.

Ingrid Betancourt: What six years in captivity taught me about fear and faith

In 2002, the Colombian guerilla movement known as the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) kidnapped Ingrid Betancourt in the middle of her presidential campaign. For the next six years, Betancourt was held hostage in jungle prison camps where she was ravaged by malaria, fleas, hunger and human cruelty until her rescue by the Colombian government. In this deeply personal talk, the politician turned writer explains what it’s like to live in a perpetual state of fear — and how her faith sustained her. (In Spanish with English subtitles.)

Emily Balcetis: Why some people find exercise harder than others

Why do some people struggle more than others to keep off the pounds? Social psychologist Emily Balcetis shows research that addresses one of the many factors: Vision. In an informative talk, she shows how when it comes to fitness, some people quite literally see the world differently from others — and offers a surprisingly simple solution to overcome these differences.