Do you remember
these glow-in-the-dark little stars
which you had on the ceiling
when you were a boy or a girl?
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,
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.
I would love to keep on
doing this for an hour,
but OK --
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.
... 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?"
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 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 --
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.
And every month or so,
it opens like a spaceship --
like a Marilyn Monroe with the --
well, you know what.
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?"
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.
And we realized that 42 percent
is made out of carbon,
and carbon, of course,
under high pressure,
you get ...
So, inspired by that,
we compress it for 30 minutes --
and make smog-free rings.
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.
I have one here --
A little floating cube.
I will give one to you.
I'm not going to propose, don't worry.
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.
I love this image so much
for a lot of different reasons.
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,
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."
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.
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.
No, not "How much?" It's more annoying.
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
in the same week.
And I got really, really annoyed.
I got a bit of gray hair, started to dress
in black like a true architect.
And one morning I woke up
and I said, "Daan, stop.
This is dragging you down.
You have to do something with this.
You have to use it
as an ingredient, as a component."
And so we decided to build,
to realize the famous "Yes, but" chair.
And this is an existing chair
by Friso Kramer, a Dutch design.
But we gave it a little "update,"
a little "hack," so to speak.
We placed a little voice-recognition
element right here.
So the moment you sit on that chair,
and you say those two horrible,
annoying little words --
you get a short --
but pretty intense
little shock on the back side
of your bottom.
and that works; yeah, that works.
Some clients have left us,
they got really mad.
Fortunately, the good ones have stayed.
And, of course, we also
apply it to ourselves.
But ladies and gentlemen,
let's not be afraid.
Let's be curious, yes?
And, you know, walking
through TED in these days
and hearing the other speakers
and feeling the energy of the crowd,
I was remembering this quote
of the Canadian author, Marshall McLuhan,
who once famously said,
"On spacecraft earth,
there are no passengers.
We are all crew."
And I think this so beautiful.
This is so beautiful!
We're not just consumers; we're makers:
we make decisions,
we make new inventions,
we make new dreams.
And I think
if we start implementing
that kind of thinking even more
there's still a whole new world
to be explored.
All right, thank you.