Okay, now I don't want to alarm anybody in this room, but it's just come to my attention that the person to your right is a liar. (Laughter) Also, the person to your left is a liar. Also the person sitting in your very seats is a liar. We're all liars. What I'm going to do today is I'm going to show you what the research says about why we're all liars, how you can become a liespotter and why you might want to go the extra mile and go from liespotting to truth seeking, and ultimately to trust building.
Now speaking of trust, ever since I wrote this book, "Liespotting," no one wants to meet me in person anymore, no, no, no, no, no. They say, "It's okay, we'll email you." (Laughter) I can't even get a coffee date at Starbucks. My husband's like, "Honey, deception? Maybe you could have focused on cooking. How about French cooking?"
So before I get started, what I'm going to do is I'm going to clarify my goal for you, which is not to teach a game of Gotcha. Liespotters aren't those nitpicky kids, those kids in the back of the room that are shouting, "Gotcha! Gotcha! Your eyebrow twitched. You flared your nostril. I watch that TV show 'Lie To Me.' I know you're lying." No, liespotters are armed with scientific knowledge of how to spot deception. They use it to get to the truth, and they do what mature leaders do everyday; they have difficult conversations with difficult people, sometimes during very difficult times. And they start up that path by accepting a core proposition, and that proposition is the following: Lying is a cooperative act. Think about it, a lie has no power whatsoever by its mere utterance. Its power emerges when someone else agrees to believe the lie.
So I know it may sound like tough love, but look, if at some point you got lied to, it's because you agreed to get lied to. Truth number one about lying: Lying's a cooperative act. Now not all lies are harmful. Sometimes we're willing participants in deception for the sake of social dignity, maybe to keep a secret that should be kept secret, secret. We say, "Nice song." "Honey, you don't look fat in that, no." Or we say, favorite of the digiratti, "You know, I just fished that email out of my spam folder. So sorry."
But there are times when we are unwilling participants in deception. And that can have dramatic costs for us. Last year saw 997 billion dollars in corporate fraud alone in the United States. That's an eyelash under a trillion dollars. That's seven percent of revenues. Deception can cost billions. Think Enron, Madoff, the mortgage crisis. Or in the case of double agents and traitors, like Robert Hanssen or Aldrich Ames, lies can betray our country, they can compromise our security, they can undermine democracy, they can cause the deaths of those that defend us.
Deception is actually serious business. This con man, Henry Oberlander, he was such an effective con man British authorities say he could have undermined the entire banking system of the Western world. And you can't find this guy on Google; you can't find him anywhere. He was interviewed once, and he said the following. He said, "Look, I've got one rule." And this was Henry's rule, he said, "Look, everyone is willing to give you something. They're ready to give you something for whatever it is they're hungry for." And that's the crux of it. If you don't want to be deceived, you have to know, what is it that you're hungry for? And we all kind of hate to admit it. We wish we were better husbands, better wives, smarter, more powerful, taller, richer -- the list goes on. Lying is an attempt to bridge that gap, to connect our wishes and our fantasies about who we wish we were, how we wish we could be, with what we're really like. And boy are we willing to fill in those gaps in our lives with lies.
On a given day, studies show that you may be lied to anywhere from 10 to 200 times. Now granted, many of those are white lies. But in another study, it showed that strangers lied three times within the first 10 minutes of meeting each other. (Laughter) Now when we first hear this data, we recoil. We can't believe how prevalent lying is. We're essentially against lying. But if you look more closely, the plot actually thickens. We lie more to strangers than we lie to coworkers. Extroverts lie more than introverts. Men lie eight times more about themselves than they do other people. Women lie more to protect other people. If you're an average married couple, you're going to lie to your spouse in one out of every 10 interactions. Now you may think that's bad. It you're unmarried, that number drops to three.
Lying's complex. It's woven into the fabric of our daily and our business lives. We're deeply ambivalent about the truth. We parse it out on an as-needed basis, sometimes for very good reasons, other times just because we don't understand the gaps in our lives. That's truth number two about lying. We're against lying, but we're covertly for it in ways that our society has sanctioned for centuries and centuries and centuries. It's as old as breathing. It's part of our culture, it's part of our history. Think Dante, Shakespeare, the Bible, News of the World.
Lying has evolutionary value to us as a species. Researchers have long known that the more intelligent the species, the larger the neocortex, the more likely it is to be deceptive. Now you might remember Koko. Does anybody remember Koko the gorilla who was taught sign language? Koko was taught to communicate via sign language. Here's Koko with her kitten. It's her cute little, fluffy pet kitten. Koko once blamed her pet kitten for ripping a sink out of the wall. (Laughter) We're hardwired to become leaders of the pack. It's starts really, really early. How early? Well babies will fake a cry, pause, wait to see who's coming and then go right back to crying. One-year-olds learn concealment. (Laughter) Two-year-olds bluff. Five-year-olds lie outright. They manipulate via flattery. Nine-year-olds, masters of the cover up. By the time you enter college, you're going to lie to your mom in one out of every five interactions. By the time we enter this work world and we're breadwinners, we enter a world that is just cluttered with spam, fake digital friends, partisan media, ingenious identity thieves, world-class Ponzi schemers, a deception epidemic -- in short, what one author calls a post-truth society. It's been very confusing for a long time now.
What do you do? Well there are steps we can take to navigate our way through the morass. Trained liespotters get to the truth 90 percent of the time. The rest of us, we're only 54 percent accurate. Why is it so easy to learn? There are good liars and there are bad liars. There are no real original liars. We all make the same mistakes. We all use the same techniques. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to show you two patterns of deception. And then we're going to look at the hot spots and see if we can find them ourselves. We're going to start with speech.
(Video) Bill Clinton: I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time, never. And these allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you.
Pamela Meyer: Okay, what were the telltale signs? Well first we heard what's known as a non-contracted denial. Studies show that people who are overdetermined in their denial will resort to formal rather than informal language. We also heard distancing language: "that woman." We know that liars will unconsciously distance themselves from their subject using language as their tool. Now if Bill Clinton had said, "Well, to tell you the truth ... " or Richard Nixon's favorite, "In all candor ... " he would have been a dead giveaway for any liespotter than knows that qualifying language, as it's called, qualifying language like that, further discredits the subject. Now if he had repeated the question in its entirety, or if he had peppered his account with a little too much detail -- and we're all really glad he didn't do that -- he would have further discredited himself. Freud had it right. Freud said, look, there's much more to it than speech: "No mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips." And we all do it no matter how powerful you are. We all chatter with our fingertips. I'm going to show you Dominique Strauss-Kahn with Obama who's chattering with his fingertips.
Now this brings us to our next pattern, which is body language. With body language, here's what you've got to do. You've really got to just throw your assumptions out the door. Let the science temper your knowledge a little bit. Because we think liars fidget all the time. Well guess what, they're known to freeze their upper bodies when they're lying. We think liars won't look you in the eyes. Well guess what, they look you in the eyes a little too much just to compensate for that myth. We think warmth and smiles convey honesty, sincerity. But a trained liespotter can spot a fake smile a mile away. Can you all spot the fake smile here? You can consciously contract the muscles in your cheeks. But the real smile's in the eyes, the crow's feet of the eyes. They cannot be consciously contracted, especially if you overdid the Botox. Don't overdo the Botox; nobody will think you're honest.
Now we're going to look at the hot spots. Can you tell what's happening in a conversation? Can you start to find the hot spots to see the discrepancies between someone's words and someone's actions? Now I know it seems really obvious, but when you're having a conversation with someone you suspect of deception, attitude is by far the most overlooked but telling of indicators.
An honest person is going to be cooperative. They're going to show they're on your side. They're going to be enthusiastic. They're going to be willing and helpful to getting you to the truth. They're going to be willing to brainstorm, name suspects, provide details. They're going to say, "Hey, maybe it was those guys in payroll that forged those checks." They're going to be infuriated if they sense they're wrongly accused throughout the entire course of the interview, not just in flashes; they'll be infuriated throughout the entire course of the interview. And if you ask someone honest what should happen to whomever did forge those checks, an honest person is much more likely to recommend strict rather than lenient punishment.
Now let's say you're having that exact same conversation with someone deceptive. That person may be withdrawn, look down, lower their voice, pause, be kind of herky-jerky. Ask a deceptive person to tell their story, they're going to pepper it with way too much detail in all kinds of irrelevant places. And then they're going to tell their story in strict chronological order. And what a trained interrogator does is they come in and in very subtle ways over the course of several hours, they will ask that person to tell that story backwards, and then they'll watch them squirm, and track which questions produce the highest volume of deceptive tells. Why do they do that? Well we all do the same thing. We rehearse our words, but we rarely rehearse our gestures. We say "yes," we shake our heads "no." We tell very convincing stories, we slightly shrug our shoulders. We commit terrible crimes, and we smile at the delight in getting away with it. Now that smile is known in the trade as "duping delight."
And we're going to see that in several videos moving forward, but we're going to start -- for those of you who don't know him, this is presidential candidate John Edwards who shocked America by fathering a child out of wedlock. We're going to see him talk about getting a paternity test. See now if you can spot him saying, "yes" while shaking his head "no," slightly shrugging his shoulders.
(Video) John Edwards: I'd be happy to participate in one. I know that it's not possible that this child could be mine, because of the timing of events. So I know it's not possible. Happy to take a paternity test, and would love to see it happen. Interviewer: Are you going to do that soon? Is there somebody -- JE: Well, I'm only one side. I'm only one side of the test. But I'm happy to participate in one.
PM: Okay, those head shakes are much easier to spot once you know to look for them. There're going to be times when someone makes one expression while masking another that just kind of leaks through in a flash. Murderers are known to leak sadness. Your new joint venture partner might shake your hand, celebrate, go out to dinner with you and then leak an expression of anger. And we're not all going to become facial expression experts overnight here, but there's one I can teach you that's very dangerous, and it's easy to learn, and that's the expression of contempt. Now with anger, you've got two people on an even playing field. It's still somewhat of a healthy relationship. But when anger turns to contempt, you've been dismissed. It's associated with moral superiority. And for that reason, it's very, very hard to recover from. Here's what it looks like. It's marked by one lip corner pulled up and in. It's the only asymmetrical expression. And in the presence of contempt, whether or not deception follows -- and it doesn't always follow -- look the other way, go the other direction, reconsider the deal, say, "No thank you. I'm not coming up for just one more nightcap. Thank you."
Science has surfaced many, many more indicators. We know, for example, we know liars will shift their blink rate, point their feet towards an exit. They will take barrier objects and put them between themselves and the person that is interviewing them. They'll alter their vocal tone, often making their vocal tone much lower. Now here's the deal. These behaviors are just behaviors. They're not proof of deception. They're red flags. We're human beings. We make deceptive flailing gestures all over the place all day long. They don't mean anything in and of themselves. But when you see clusters of them, that's your signal. Look, listen, probe, ask some hard questions, get out of that very comfortable mode of knowing, walk into curiosity mode, ask more questions, have a little dignity, treat the person you're talking to with rapport. Don't try to be like those folks on "Law & Order" and those other TV shows that pummel their subjects into submission. Don't be too aggressive, it doesn't work.
Now we've talked a little bit about how to talk to someone who's lying and how to spot a lie. And as I promised, we're now going to look at what the truth looks like. But I'm going to show you two videos, two mothers -- one is lying, one is telling the truth. And these were surfaced by researcher David Matsumoto in California. And I think they're an excellent example of what the truth looks like.
This mother, Diane Downs, shot her kids at close range, drove them to the hospital while they bled all over the car, claimed a scraggy-haired stranger did it. And you'll see when you see the video, she can't even pretend to be an agonizing mother. What you want to look for here is an incredible discrepancy between horrific events that she describes and her very, very cool demeanor. And if you look closely, you'll see duping delight throughout this video.
(Video) Diane Downs: At night when I close my eyes, I can see Christie reaching her hand out to me while I'm driving, and the blood just kept coming out of her mouth. And that -- maybe it'll fade too with time -- but I don't think so. That bothers me the most.
PM: Now I'm going to show you a video of an actual grieving mother, Erin Runnion, confronting her daughter's murderer and torturer in court. Here you're going to see no false emotion, just the authentic expression of a mother's agony.
(Video) Erin Runnion: I wrote this statement on the third anniversary of the night you took my baby, and you hurt her, and you crushed her, you terrified her until her heart stopped. And she fought, and I know she fought you. But I know she looked at you with those amazing brown eyes, and you still wanted to kill her. And I don't understand it, and I never will.
PM: Okay, there's no doubting the veracity of those emotions.
Now the technology around what the truth looks like is progressing on, the science of it. We know for example that we now have specialized eye trackers and infrared brain scans, MRI's that can decode the signals that our bodies send out when we're trying to be deceptive. And these technologies are going to be marketed to all of us as panaceas for deceit, and they will prove incredibly useful some day. But you've got to ask yourself in the meantime: Who do you want on your side of the meeting, someone who's trained in getting to the truth or some guy who's going to drag a 400-pound electroencephalogram through the door?
Liespotters rely on human tools. They know, as someone once said, "Character's who you are in the dark." And what's kind of interesting is that today we have so little darkness. Our world is lit up 24 hours a day. It's transparent with blogs and social networks broadcasting the buzz of a whole new generation of people that have made a choice to live their lives in public. It's a much more noisy world. So one challenge we have is to remember, oversharing, that's not honesty. Our manic tweeting and texting can blind us to the fact that the subtleties of human decency -- character integrity -- that's still what matters, that's always what's going to matter. So in this much noisier world, it might make sense for us to be just a little bit more explicit about our moral code.
When you combine the science of recognizing deception with the art of looking, listening, you exempt yourself from collaborating in a lie. You start up that path of being just a little bit more explicit, because you signal to everyone around you, you say, "Hey, my world, our world, it's going to be an honest one. My world is going to be one where truth is strengthened and falsehood is recognized and marginalized." And when you do that, the ground around you starts to shift just a little bit.
And that's the truth. Thank you.
My subject today is learning. And in that spirit, I want to spring on you all a pop quiz. Ready? When does learning begin? Now as you ponder that question, maybe you're thinking about the first day of preschool or kindergarten, the first time that kids are in a classroom with a teacher. Or maybe you've called to mind the toddler phase when children are learning how to walk and talk and use a fork. Maybe you've encountered the Zero-to-Three movement, which asserts that the most important years for learning are the earliest ones. And so your answer to my question would be: Learning begins at birth.
Well today I want to present to you an idea that may be surprising and may even seem implausible, but which is supported by the latest evidence from psychology and biology. And that is that some of the most important learning we ever do happens before we're born, while we're still in the womb. Now I'm a science reporter. I write books and magazine articles. And I'm also a mother. And those two roles came together for me in a book that I wrote called "Origins." "Origins" is a report from the front lines of an exciting new field called fetal origins. Fetal origins is a scientific discipline that emerged just about two decades ago, and it's based on the theory that our health and well-being throughout our lives is crucially affected by the nine months we spend in the womb. Now this theory was of more than just intellectual interest to me. I was myself pregnant while I was doing the research for the book. And one of the most fascinating insights I took from this work is that we're all learning about the world even before we enter it.
When we hold our babies for the first time, we might imagine that they're clean slates, unmarked by life, when in fact, they've already been shaped by us and by the particular world we live in. Today I want to share with you some of the amazing things that scientists are discovering about what fetuses learn while they're still in their mothers' bellies.
First of all, they learn the sound of their mothers' voices. Because sounds from the outside world have to travel through the mother's abdominal tissue and through the amniotic fluid that surrounds the fetus, the voices fetuses hear, starting around the fourth month of gestation, are muted and muffled. One researcher says that they probably sound a lot like the the voice of Charlie Brown's teacher in the old "Peanuts" cartoon. But the pregnant woman's own voice reverberates through her body, reaching the fetus much more readily. And because the fetus is with her all the time, it hears her voice a lot. Once the baby's born, it recognizes her voice and it prefers listening to her voice over anyone else's.
How can we know this? Newborn babies can't do much, but one thing they're really good at is sucking. Researchers take advantage of this fact by rigging up two rubber nipples, so that if a baby sucks on one, it hears a recording of its mother's voice on a pair of headphones, and if it sucks on the other nipple, it hears a recording of a female stranger's voice. Babies quickly show their preference by choosing the first one. Scientists also take advantage of the fact that babies will slow down their sucking when something interests them and resume their fast sucking when they get bored. This is how researchers discovered that, after women repeatedly read aloud a section of Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat" while they were pregnant, their newborn babies recognized that passage when they hear it outside the womb. My favorite experiment of this kind is the one that showed that the babies of women who watched a certain soap opera every day during pregnancy recognized the theme song of that show once they were born. So fetuses are even learning about the particular language that's spoken in the world that they'll be born into.
A study published last year found that from birth, from the moment of birth, babies cry in the accent of their mother's native language. French babies cry on a rising note while German babies end on a falling note, imitating the melodic contours of those languages. Now why would this kind of fetal learning be useful? It may have evolved to aid the baby's survival. From the moment of birth, the baby responds most to the voice of the person who is most likely to care for it -- its mother. It even makes its cries sound like the mother's language, which may further endear the baby to the mother, and which may give the baby a head start in the critical task of learning how to understand and speak its native language.
But it's not just sounds that fetuses are learning about in utero. It's also tastes and smells. By seven months of gestation, the fetus' taste buds are fully developed, and its olfactory receptors, which allow it to smell, are functioning. The flavors of the food a pregnant woman eats find their way into the amniotic fluid, which is continuously swallowed by the fetus. Babies seem to remember and prefer these tastes once they're out in the world. In one experiment, a group of pregnant women was asked to drink a lot of carrot juice during their third trimester of pregnancy, while another group of pregnant women drank only water. Six months later, the women's infants were offered cereal mixed with carrot juice, and their facial expressions were observed while they ate it. The offspring of the carrot juice drinking women ate more carrot-flavored cereal, and from the looks of it, they seemed to enjoy it more.
A sort of French version of this experiment was carried out in Dijon, France where researchers found that mothers who consumed food and drink flavored with licorice-flavored anise during pregnancy showed a preference for anise on their first day of life, and again, when they were tested later, on their fourth day of life. Babies whose mothers did not eat anise during pregnancy showed a reaction that translated roughly as "yuck." What this means is that fetuses are effectively being taught by their mothers about what is safe and good to eat. Fetuses are also being taught about the particular culture that they'll be joining through one of culture's most powerful expressions, which is food. They're being introduced to the characteristic flavors and spices of their culture's cuisine even before birth.
Now it turns out that fetuses are learning even bigger lessons. But before I get to that, I want to address something that you may be wondering about. The notion of fetal learning may conjure up for you attempts to enrich the fetus -- like playing Mozart through headphones placed on a pregnant belly. But actually, the nine-month-long process of molding and shaping that goes on in the womb is a lot more visceral and consequential than that. Much of what a pregnant woman encounters in her daily life -- the air she breathes, the food and drink she consumes, the chemicals she's exposed to, even the emotions she feels -- are shared in some fashion with her fetus. They make up a mix of influences as individual and idiosyncratic as the woman herself. The fetus incorporates these offerings into its own body, makes them part of its flesh and blood. And often it does something more. It treats these maternal contributions as information, as what I like to call biological postcards from the world outside.
So what a fetus is learning about in utero is not Mozart's "Magic Flute" but answers to questions much more critical to its survival. Will it be born into a world of abundance or scarcity? Will it be safe and protected, or will it face constant dangers and threats? Will it live a long, fruitful life or a short, harried one? The pregnant woman's diet and stress level in particular provide important clues to prevailing conditions like a finger lifted to the wind. The resulting tuning and tweaking of a fetus' brain and other organs are part of what give us humans our enormous flexibility, our ability to thrive in a huge variety of environments, from the country to the city, from the tundra to the desert.
To conclude, I want to tell you two stories about how mothers teach their children about the world even before they're born. In the autumn of 1944, the darkest days of World War II, German troops blockaded Western Holland, turning away all shipments of food. The opening of the Nazi's siege was followed by one of the harshest winters in decades -- so cold the water in the canals froze solid. Soon food became scarce, with many Dutch surviving on just 500 calories a day -- a quarter of what they consumed before the war. As weeks of deprivation stretched into months, some resorted to eating tulip bulbs. By the beginning of May, the nation's carefully rationed food reserve was completely exhausted. The specter of mass starvation loomed. And then on May 5th, 1945, the siege came to a sudden end when Holland was liberated by the Allies.
The "Hunger Winter," as it came to be known, killed some 10,000 people and weakened thousands more. But there was another population that was affected -- the 40,000 fetuses in utero during the siege. Some of the effects of malnutrition during pregnancy were immediately apparent in higher rates of stillbirths, birth defects, low birth weights and infant mortality. But others wouldn't be discovered for many years. Decades after the "Hunger Winter," researchers documented that people whose mothers were pregnant during the siege have more obesity, more diabetes and more heart disease in later life than individuals who were gestated under normal conditions. These individuals' prenatal experience of starvation seems to have changed their bodies in myriad ways. They have higher blood pressure, poorer cholesterol profiles and reduced glucose tolerance -- a precursor of diabetes.
Why would undernutrition in the womb result in disease later? One explanation is that fetuses are making the best of a bad situation. When food is scarce, they divert nutrients towards the really critical organ, the brain, and away from other organs like the heart and liver. This keeps the fetus alive in the short-term, but the bill comes due later on in life when those other organs, deprived early on, become more susceptible to disease.
But that may not be all that's going on. It seems that fetuses are taking cues from the intrauterine environment and tailoring their physiology accordingly. They're preparing themselves for the kind of world they will encounter on the other side of the womb. The fetus adjusts its metabolism and other physiological processes in anticipation of the environment that awaits it. And the basis of the fetus' prediction is what its mother eats. The meals a pregnant woman consumes constitute a kind of story, a fairy tale of abundance or a grim chronicle of deprivation. This story imparts information that the fetus uses to organize its body and its systems -- an adaptation to prevailing circumstances that facilitates its future survival. Faced with severely limited resources, a smaller-sized child with reduced energy requirements will, in fact, have a better chance of living to adulthood.
The real trouble comes when pregnant women are, in a sense, unreliable narrators, when fetuses are led to expect a world of scarcity and are born instead into a world of plenty. This is what happened to the children of the Dutch "Hunger Winter." And their higher rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease are the result. Bodies that were built to hang onto every calorie found themselves swimming in the superfluous calories of the post-war Western diet. The world they had learned about while in utero was not the same as the world into which they were born.
Here's another story. At 8:46 a.m. on September 11th, 2001, there were tens of thousands of people in the vicinity of the World Trade Center in New York -- commuters spilling off trains, waitresses setting tables for the morning rush, brokers already working the phones on Wall Street. 1,700 of these people were pregnant women. When the planes struck and the towers collapsed, many of these women experienced the same horrors inflicted on other survivors of the disaster -- the overwhelming chaos and confusion, the rolling clouds of potentially toxic dust and debris, the heart-pounding fear for their lives.
About a year after 9/11, researchers examined a group of women who were pregnant when they were exposed to the World Trade Center attack. In the babies of those women who developed post-traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD, following their ordeal, researchers discovered a biological marker of susceptibility to PTSD -- an effect that was most pronounced in infants whose mothers experienced the catastrophe in their third trimester. In other words, the mothers with post-traumatic stress syndrome had passed on a vulnerability to the condition to their children while they were still in utero.
Now consider this: post-traumatic stress syndrome appears to be a reaction to stress gone very wrong, causing its victims tremendous unnecessary suffering. But there's another way of thinking about PTSD. What looks like pathology to us may actually be a useful adaptation in some circumstances. In a particularly dangerous environment, the characteristic manifestations of PTSD -- a hyper-awareness of one's surroundings, a quick-trigger response to danger -- could save someone's life. The notion that the prenatal transmission of PTSD risk is adaptive is still speculative, but I find it rather poignant. It would mean that, even before birth, mothers are warning their children that it's a wild world out there, telling them, "Be careful."
Let me be clear. Fetal origins research is not about blaming women for what happens during pregnancy. It's about discovering how best to promote the health and well-being of the next generation. That important effort must include a focus on what fetuses learn during the nine months they spend in the womb. Learning is one of life's most essential activities, and it begins much earlier than we ever imagined.
I should tell you that when I was asked to be here, I thought to myself that well, it's TED. And these TED sters are - you know, as innocent as that name sounds - these are thephilanthropists and artists and scientists who sort of shape our world. And what could I possibly have to say that would be distinguished enough to justify my participation in something like that? And so I thought perhaps a really civilized sounding British accent might help things a bit.
And then I thought no, no. I should just get up there and be myself and just talk the way I really talk because, after all, this is the great unveiling. And so I thought I'd come up here and unveil my real voice to you. Although many of you already know that I do speak the Queen's English because I am from Queens, New York. (Laughter) But the theme of this session, of course, is invention. And while I don't have any patents that I'm aware of, you will be meeting a few of my inventions today. And I suppose it's fair to say that I am interested in the invention of self or selves. We're all born into certain circumstances with particular physical traits, unique developmental experiences, geographical and historical contexts. But then what? To what extent do we self-construct, do we self-invent? How do we self-identify and how mutable is that identity? Like, what if one could be anyone at any time? Well my characters, like the ones in my shows, allow me to play with the spaces between those questions. And so I've brought a couple of them with me. And well, they're very excited. What I should tell you -- what I should tell you is that they've each prepared their own little TED talks. So feel free to think of this as Sarah University. (Laughter)
Okay. Okay. Oh, well. Oh, wonderful. Good evening everybody. Thank you so very much for having me here today. Ah, thank you very much. My name is Loraine Levine. Oh my! There's so many of you. Hi sweetheart. Okay. (Laughter) Anyway, I am here because of a young girl, Sarah Jones. She's a very nice, young, black girl. Well you know, she calls herself black, she's really more like a caramel color if you look at her. But anyway, (Laughter) she has me here because she puts me in her show, what she calls her one-woman show. And you know what that means, of course. That means she takes the credit and then makes us come out here and do all the work. But I don't mind.
Frankly, I'm kvelling just to be here with all the luminaries you have attending something like this, you know. Really, it's amazing. Not only, of course, the scientists and all the wonderful giants of the industries but the celebrities. There are so many celebrities running around here. I saw -- Glenn Close I saw earlier. I love her. And she was getting a yogurt in the Google cafe. Isn't that adorable. (Laughter) So many others you see, they're just wonderful. It's lovely to know they're concerned, you know. And -- oh, I saw Goldie Hawn. Oh, Goldie Hawn. I love her, too; she's wonderful. Yeah. You know, she's only half Jewish. Did you know that about her? Yeah. But even so, a wonderful talent. And I -- you know, when I saw her, such a wonderful feeling. Yeah, she's lovely. But anyway, I should have started by saying just how lucky I feel. It's such an eye-opening experience to be here. You're all so responsible for this world that we live in today. You know, I couldn't have dreamed of such a thing as a young girl. And you've all made these advancements happen in such a short time. You're all so young. You know, you're parents must be very proud.
But I -- I also appreciate the diversity that you have here. I noticed it's very multicultural. You know, when you're standing up here, you can see all the different people. It's like a rainbow. It's okay to say rainbow. Yeah. I just -- I can't keep up with whether you can say, you know, the different things. What are you allowed to say or not say? I just -- I don't want to offend anybody. You know. But anyway, you know, I just think that to be here with all of you accomplished young people, literally, some of you, the architects building our brighter future. You know, it's heartening to me. Even though, quite frankly, some of your presentations are horrifying, absolutely horrifying. It's true. It's true. You know, between the environmental degradation and the crashing of the world markets you're talking about. And of course, we know it's all because of the -- all the ... Well, I don't know how else to say it to you, so I'll just say it my way. The ganeyvish tetikeyt coming from the governments and the, you know, the bankers and the Wall Street. You know it. Anyway. (Laughter)
The point is, I'm happy somebody has practical ideas to get us out of this mess. So I salute each of you and your stellar achievements. Thank you for all that you do. And congratulations on being such big makhers that you've become TED meisters. So, happy continued success. Congratulations. Mozel tov. (Applause)
Hi. Hi. Thank you everybody. Sorry, this is such a wonderful opportunity and everything, to be here right now. My name is Noraida. And I'm just -- I'm so thrilled to be part of like your TED conference that you're doing and everything like that. I am Dominican American. Actually, you could say I grew up in the capital of Dominican Republic, otherwise known as Washington Heights in New York City. But I don't know if there's any other Dominican people here, but I know that Juan Enriquez, he was here yesterday. And I think he's Mexican, so that's -- honestly, that's close enough for me, right now. So -- (Laughter)
I just -- I'm sorry. I'm just trying not to be nervous because this is a very wonderful experience for me and everything. And I just -- you know I'm not used to doing public speaking. And whenever I get nervous I start to talk really fast. Nobody can understand nothing I'm saying, which is very frustrating for me, as you can imagine. I usually have to just like try to calm down and take a deep breath. But then on top of that, you know, Sarah Jones told me we only have 18 minutes. So then I'm like, should I be nervous, you know, because maybe it's better. And I'm just trying not to panic and freak out. So I like, take a deep breath.
Okay. Sorry. So anyway, what I was trying to say is that I really love TED. Like, I love everything about this. It's amazing. Like, it's -- I can't get over this right now. And, like, people would not believe, seriously, where I'm from, that this even exists. You know, like even, I mean I love like the name, the -- TED. I mean I know it's a real person and everything, but I'm just saying that like, you know, I think it's very cool how it's also an acronym, you know, which is like, you know, is like very high concept and everything like that. I like that.
And actually, I can relate to the whole like acronym thing and everything. Because, actually, I'm a sophomore at college right now. At my school -- actually I was part of co-founding an organization, which is like a leadership thing, you know, like you guys, you would really like it and everything. And the organization is called DA BOMB, And DA BOMB -- not like what you guys can build and everything -- It's like, DA BOMB, it means like Dominican -- it's an acronym -- Dominican American Benevolent Organization for Mothers and Babies. So, I know, see, like the name is like a little bit long, but with the war on terror and everything, the Dean of Student Activities has asked us to stop saying DA BOMB and use the whole thing so nobody would get the wrong idea, whatever. So, basically like DA BOMB -- what Dominican American Benevolent Organization for Mothers and Babies does is, basically, we try to advocate for students who show a lot of academic promise and who also happen to be mothers like me. I am a working mother, and I also go to school full-time. And, you know, it's like -- it's so important to have like role models out there. I mean, I know sometimes our lifestyles are very different, whatever.
But like even at my job -- like, I just got promoted. Right now it's very exciting actually for me because I'm the Junior Assistant to the Associate Director under the Senior Vice President for Business Development. That's my new title. So, but I think whether you own your own company or you're just starting out like me, like something like this so vital for people to just continue expanding their minds and learning. And if everybody, like all people really had access to that, it would be a very different world out there, as I know you know. So, I think all people, we need that, but especially, I look at people like me, you know like, I mean, Latinos, we're about to be the majority, in like two weeks. So, we deserve just as much to be part of the exchange of ideas as everybody else. So, I'm very happy that you're, you know, doing this kind of thing, making the talks available online. That's very good. I love that. And I just -- I love you guys. I love TED. And if you don't mind, privately now, in the future, I'm going to think of TED as an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Dominicans. Thank you very much. (Laughter) (Applause)
So, that was Noraida, and just like Loraine and everybody else you're meeting today, these are folks who are based on real people from my real life. Friends, neighbors, family members. I come from a multicultural family. In fact, the older lady you just met, very, very loosely based on a great aunt on my mother's side. It's a long story, believe me. But on top of my family background, my parents also sent me to United Nations school, where Iencountered a plethora of new characters including Alexandre, my French teacher, okay.
Well, you know, it was beginner French, that I am taking with her, you know. And it was Madame Bousson, you know, she was very [French]. It was like, you know, she was there in the class, you know, she was kind of typically French. You know, she was was very chic, but she was very filled with ennui, you know. And she would be there, you know, kind of talking with the class, you know, talking about the, you know, the existential futility of life, you know. And we were only 11 years old, so it was not appropriate.
But [German]. Yes, I took German for three years, [German], and it was quite the experience because I was the only black girl in the class, even in the UN school. Although, you know, it was wonderful. The teacher, Herr Schtopf, he never discriminated. Never. He always, always treated each of us, you know, equally unbearably during the class.
So, there were the teachers and then there were my friends, classmates from everywhere. Many of whom are still dear friends to this day. And they've inspired many characters as well. For example, a friend of mine.
Well, I just wanted to quickly say good evening. My name is Praveen Manvi and thank you very much for this opportunity. Of course, TED, the reputation precedes itself all over the world. But, you know, I am originally from India, and I wanted to start by telling you that once Sarah Jones told me that we will be having the opportunity to come here to TED in California, originally, I was very pleased and, frankly, relieved because, you know, I am a human rights advocate. And usually my work, it takes me to Washington D.C. And there, I must attend these meetings, mingling with some tiresome politicians, trying to make me feel comfortable by telling how often they are eating the curry in Georgetown. So, you can just imagine -- right. So, but I'm thrilled to be joining all of you here. I wish we had more time together, but that's for another time. Okay? Great. (Applause)
And, sadly, I don't think we'll have time for you to meet everybody I brought, but -I'm trying to behave myself. It's my first time here. But I do want to introduce you to a couple of folks you may recognize, if you saw "Bridge and Tunnel."
Uh, well, thank you. Good evening. My name is Pauline Ning, and first I want to tell you that I'm -- of course I am a member of the Chinese community in New York. But when Sarah Jones asked me to please come to TED, I said, well, you know, first, I don't know that, you know -- before two years ago, you would not find me in front of an audience of people, much less like this because I did not like to give speeches because I feel that, as an immigrant, I do not have good English skills for speaking. But then, I decided, just like Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger, I try anyway. (Laughter) My daughter -- my daughter wrote that, she told me, "Always start your speech with humor."
But my background -- I want to tell you story only briefly. My husband and I, we brought our son and daughter here in 1980s to have the freedom we cannot have in China at that time. And we tried to teach our kids to be proud of their tradition, but it's very hard. You know, as immigrant, I would speak Chinese to them, and they would always answer me back in English. They love rock music, pop culture, American culture. But when they got older, when the time comes for them to start think about getting married, that's when we expect them to realize, a little bit more, their own culture. But that's where we had some problems. My son, he says he is not ready to get married. And he has a sweetheart, but she is American woman, not Chinese. It's not that it's bad, but I told him, "What's wrong with a Chinese woman?" But I think he will change his mind soon.
So, then I decide instead, I will concentrate on my daughter. The daughter's marriage is very special to the mom. But first, she said she's not interested. She only wants to spend time with her friends. And then at college, it's like she never came home. And she doesn't want me to come and visit. So I said, "What's wrong in this picture?" So, I accused my daughter to have like a secret boyfriend. But she told me, "Mom, you don't have to worry about boys because I don't like them." (Laughter) And I said, "Yes, men can be difficult, but all women have to get used to that." She said, "No Mom. I mean, I don't like boys. I like girls. I am lesbian." So, I always teach my kids to respect American ideas, but I told my daughter that this is one exception -- (Laughter) that she is not gay, she is just confused by this American problem. But she told me, "Mom, it's not American." She said she is in love, in love with a nice Chinese girl. (Laughter) So, these are the words I am waiting to hear, but from my son, not my daughter. (Laughter) But at first I did not know what to do. But then, over time, I have come to understand that this is who she is.
So, even though sometimes it's still hard, I will share with you that it helps me to realize society is more tolerant, usually because of places like this, because of ideas like this and people like you, with an open mind. So I think maybe TED, you impact people's lives in the ways that maybe even you don't realize. So, for my daughter's sake, I thank you for your ideas worth spreading. Thank you. Shin shen. (Applause)
Good evening. My name is Habbi Belahal. And I would like to first of all thank Sarah Jones for putting all of the pressure on the only Arab who she brought with her to be last today. I am originally from Jordan. And I teach comparative literature at Queens College. It is not Harvard. But I feel a bit like a fish out of water. But I am very proud of my students. And I see that a few of them did make it here to the conference. So you will get the extra credit I promised you. But, while I know that I may not look like the typical denizen, as you would say, I do like to make the point that we in global society we are never as different as the appearances may suggest.
So, if you will indulge me, I will share quickly with you a bit of verse, which I memorized as a young girl at 16 years of age. So, back in the ancient times. [Arabic] And this roughly translates: "Please, let me hold your hand. I want to hold your hand. I want to hold your hand. And when I touch you, I feel happy inside. It's such a feeling that my love, I can't hide, I can't hide, I can't hide." Well, so okay, but please, please, but please. If it is sounding familiar, it is because I was at the same time in my life listening to The Beatles. On the radio [unclear], they were very popular.
So, all of that is to say that I like to believe, that for every word intended to render us deaf to one another, there is always a lyric connecting ears and hearts across the continents in rhyme. And I pray that this is the way that we will self invent, in time. That's all [unclear]. Thank you very much for the opportunity. Okay? Great. (Applause) Thank you all very much. It was lovely. Thank you for having me. (Applause)
Thank you very, very much. I love you. (Applause) Well, you have to let me say this. I just -- thank you. I want to thank Chris and Jaqueline, and just everyone for having me here. It's been a long time coming, and I feel like I'm home, and I know I've performed for some of your companies or some of you have seen me elsewhere, but this is honestly one of the best audiences I've ever experienced. The whole thing is amazing, and so don't you all go reinventing yourselves any time soon.