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  • Do you remember these glow-in-the-dark little stars

  • which you had on the ceiling when you were a boy or a girl?

  • Yes?

  • It is light.

  • It is pure light.

  • I think I stared at them way too long

  • when I was a five-year-old, you know?

  • It's so beautiful:

  • no energy bill, no maintenance.

  • It is there.

  • So two years ago, we went back to the lab,

  • making it more durable, more light-emitting,

  • with the experts.

  • And at the same time, we got a request from this guy --

  • Van Gogh, the famous Van Gogh Foundation --

  • who wanted to celebrate his 125th anniversary in the Netherlands.

  • And they came to me and asked,

  • "Can you make a place where he feels more alive again

  • in the Netherlands?"

  • And I liked that question a lot,

  • so in way,

  • we sort of started to connect these two different worlds.

  • This is how my brain works,

  • by the way.

  • (Laughter)

  • I would love to keep on doing this for an hour,

  • but OK --

  • (Laughter)

  • And this is the result that we made:

  • a bicycle path which charges at daytime via the sun

  • and glows at night, up to eight hours.

  • (Applause)

  • Thank you.

  • ... hinting towards a future which should be energy friendly

  • and linking up the local grounds

  • as Van Gogh literally walked and lived there in 1883.

  • And you can go there every night for free, no ticket needed.

  • People experience the beauty of cycling through the starry night,

  • thinking about green energy and safety.

  • I want to create places where people feel connected again.

  • And it was somehow great to make these projects happen

  • with the industry, with the infrastructure companies.

  • So when these sheikhs of Qatar started to call:

  • "How much for 10 kilometers?"

  • (Laughter)

  • Yeah, really, that's a weird call you're going to get.

  • But it's fascinating

  • that this is not just a sort of one-off, nice-to-have special.

  • I think this kind of creative thinking, these kinds of connections --

  • it's the new economy.

  • The World Economic Forum, the think tank in Geneva,

  • did an interview with a lot of smart people

  • all around the world,

  • asking, "What are the top 10 skills you and I need to become successful?"

  • And what is interesting, what you see here:

  • it's not about money

  • or being really good in C++,

  • although these are great skills to have, I have to admit.

  • But look at number three, creativity;

  • number two, critical thinking;

  • number one, complex problem-solving --

  • all the things a robot or a computer is really bad at.

  • And this makes me very optimistic, very hopeful for the new world,

  • that as we will live in this hyper-technological world,

  • our human skills --

  • our desire for empathy,

  • our desire for curiosity,

  • our desire for beauty --

  • will be more appreciated again,

  • and we will live in a world where creativity is our true capital.

  • And a creative process like that --

  • I don't know how it works for you,

  • but in my brain, it always starts with a question:

  • Why?

  • Why does a jellyfish emit light?

  • Or a firefly?

  • Or why do be accept pollution?

  • This is from my room in Beijing three years ago.

  • Left image is a good day -- Saturday.

  • I can see the cars and the people, the birds;

  • life is OK in a dense urban city.

  • And on the right image --

  • holy moly.

  • Pollution -- complete layers.

  • I couldn't even see the other side of the city.

  • And this image made me really sad.

  • This is not the bright future we envision here at TED --

  • this is the horror.

  • We live five to six years shorter;

  • children have lung cancer when they're six years old.

  • And so in a weird, beautiful way,

  • I, at that moment, became inspired by Beijing smog.

  • And the governments all around the world are fighting their war on smog,

  • but I wanted to make something within the now.

  • So we decided to build the largest smog vacuum cleaner

  • in the world.

  • It sucks up polluted air, cleans it

  • and then releases it.

  • And we built the first one.

  • So it sucks up 30,000 cubic meters per hour,

  • cleans it on the nano level -- the PM2.5, PM10 particles --

  • using very little electricity,

  • and then releases the clean air,

  • so we have parks, playgrounds, which are 55 to 75 percent more clean

  • than the rest of the city.

  • (Applause)

  • Yes!

  • (Applause)

  • And every month or so,

  • it opens like a spaceship --

  • like a Marilyn Monroe with the -- well, you know what.

  • Anyway.

  • (Laughter)

  • So this ...

  • this is the stuff we are capturing.

  • This is Beijing smog.

  • This is in our lungs right now.

  • If you live next to a highway, it's the same as 17 cigarettes per day.

  • Are we insane?

  • When did we say yes to that?

  • And we had buckets of this disgusting material

  • in our studio,

  • and on a Monday morning, we were discussing, we were like,

  • "Shit, what should we do with it? Should we throw it away?"

  • Like, "Help!"

  • And then we realized: no, no, no, no, no --

  • waste should not exist.

  • Waste for the one should be food for the other.

  • So, here, maybe show it around.

  • Do not put this in your coffee.

  • (Laughter)

  • And we realized that 42 percent is made out of carbon,

  • and carbon, of course, under high pressure,

  • you get ...

  • diamonds.

  • So, inspired by that, we compress it for 30 minutes --

  • (Cracking sound)

  • and make smog-free rings.

  • (Laughter)

  • And so by sharing -- yeah, really!

  • And so by sharing a ring,

  • you donate 1,000 cubic meters of clean air

  • to the city the tower is in.

  • (Applause)

  • I have one here --

  • (Applause)

  • A little floating cube.

  • I will give one to you.

  • I'm not going to propose, don't worry.

  • (Laughter)

  • Are we good?

  • You can show it around.

  • And we put this online -- Kickstarter campaign, crowdfunding.

  • And people started to preorder it,

  • but more importantly, they started to prepay it.

  • So the finance we made with the jewelry helped us to realize,

  • to build the first tower.

  • And that's powerful.

  • So the waste the activator, it was the enabler.

  • Also, the feedback from the community --

  • this is a wedding couple from India,

  • where he proposed to her with the smog-free ring

  • as a sign of true beauty,

  • as a sign of hope.

  • And she said yes.

  • (Laughter)

  • I love this image so much for a lot of different reasons.

  • (Laughter)

  • And right now, the project is touring through China,

  • actually with the support of China's central government.

  • So the first goal is to create local clean-air parks,

  • and that works already quite well --

  • 55, 75 percent more clean.

  • And at the same time,

  • we team up with the NGOs,

  • with the governors,

  • with the students,

  • with the tech people,

  • to say, "Hey, what do we need to do to make a whole city smog-free?"

  • It's about the dream of clean air.

  • We do workshops. New ideas pop up.

  • These are smog-free bicycles which -- I'm Dutch, yes? --

  • I have this "bicycle DNA" inside of me somewhere.

  • And so it sucks up polluted air,

  • it cleans it and releases it,

  • in the fight against the car,

  • in the celebration of the bicycle.

  • And so right now, we're working on a sort of "package deal," so to speak,

  • where we say, "Smog-free towers, smog-free rings."

  • We go to the mayors or the governors of this world,

  • and say, "We can guarantee a short-term reduction of pollution

  • between 20 and 40 percent.

  • Please sign here right now."

  • Yes?

  • (Applause)

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

  • So it's all about connecting new technology with creative thinking.

  • And if you start thinking about that,

  • there is so much you can imagine,

  • so much more you can do.

  • We worked on dance floors which produce electricity

  • when you dance on them.

  • We did the design for that -- 2008.

  • So it moves eight or nine millimeters,

  • produces 25 watts.

  • The electricity that we generate is used for the lighting or the DJ booth.

  • So some of the sustainability is about doing more,

  • not about doing less.

  • But also on a larger scale,

  • the Netherlands, where I'm from, we live below sea level.

  • So because of these beauties --

  • the Afsluitdijk: 32 kilometers, built by hand in 1932 --

  • we live with the water,

  • we fight with the water,

  • we try to find harmony,

  • but sometimes we forget.

  • And therefore, we made "Waterlicht,"

  • a combination of LEDs and lenses,

  • which show how high the water level would be --

  • global change --

  • if we stop.

  • If, today, we all go home and we say,

  • "Oh, whatever, somebody else will do it for us,"

  • or we'll wait for government or whomever.

  • You know, we're not going to do that.

  • It goes wrong.

  • And we placed this in public spaces all around the world.

  • Thousands of people showed up.

  • (Applause)

  • Thank you.

  • You're too nice, you're too nice. That's not good for a designer.

  • So thousands of people showed up,

  • and some, actually, were scared.

  • And they left; they experienced the floods in 1953.

  • And others were mesmerized.

  • Can we make floating cities?

  • Can we generate electricity from the change in tides?

  • So I think it's so important to make experiences --

  • collective experiences --

  • where people feel connected with a vision, with a future

  • and trigger what is possible.

  • At the same time,

  • you know, these kinds of things -- they're not easy, yes?

  • It's a struggle.

  • And what I experienced in my life

  • is that a lot of people say they want innovation,

  • and they want the next and the new, the future.

  • But the moment you present a new idea,

  • there's this weird tendency to reply to every new idea

  • starting with two words.

  • Which are?

  • (Audience guesses)

  • No, not "How much?" It's more annoying.

  • (Laughter)

  • What is it, guys?

  • Or you're really blessed people? That's really good.

  • "Yes, but." Very good.

  • "Yes, but: it's too expensive, it's too cheap, it's too fast, it's too slow,

  • it's too beautiful, it's too ugly, it cannot be done, it already exists."

  • I heard everything about the same project