TED conference sets stage for a week of bright ideas

A former Greek prime minster, a specialist in the sex lives of animals and a "gentleman thief" are among the eclectic set of speakers spreading cutting-edge ideas at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh this week.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences that presents speakers with an 18-minute window to get across their message of choice.

Previous speakers include U2 singer Bono, Microsoft mastermind Bill Gates and former US president Bill Clinton.

The simple principle has remained unchanged since the very first gathering at Monterey in California in 1984.

TEDGlobal is a more internationally oriented sister conference, which was added in 2005.

"Every year TEDGlobal ignites an exciting conversation about the issues that matter most in the world," explained TED's European Director Bruno Giussani.

This year's conference, themed "Think Again", will host 900 attendees from 62 countries at the Edinburgh International Conference Center.

More than 70 speakers from the worlds of science, business, politics and art will have the opportunity to present their "ideas worth spreading", the group's slogan.

It officially opened on Monday, but the four days of speeches kick off on Tuesday.

"We really want people to reexamine critical policy, social and economic issues, and to be aware of scientific advances and technologies that are changing the way we work and interact," added Giussani.

Each participant paid $6,000 dollars (4,530 euros) to attend, but all the presentations will be filmed and broadcast free on the internet at the end of the week.

Videos from previous conferences have garnered over a billion viewings, according to Sapling Foundation, the non-profit foundation behind the event.

It is also possible to follow the conference in realtime on the internet for $995 dollars.

Taking to the podium this year will be former Greek prime minister George Papandreou, who will share the lessons learnt from his handling of the country's debt crisis.

A North Korean refugee and ex-Libyan prime minister Moustapha Abou Chagour -- the first to be elected after the fall of Moamer Kadhafi -- will share their vision of the world.

Meanwhile, Shanghai businessman Eric X. Li will champion the merits of China, which, according to him, present a "moral challenge" to western democracy.

More unusually, "gentleman thief" Apollo Robbins promises to "take the watch from your wrist and the phone from your pocket", before showing guests how to do it themselves.

A biologist specialising in the love life of animals is also due to narrate "their wild sex stories".

The women's rights cause will be represented by Saudi activist Manal Al-Sharif and the American Anne-Marie Slaughter.

Slaughter caused a stir by writing an article entitled "Why Women Still Can't Have it All", explaining why she gave up a high-flying job at the State Department in order to take up a role at Princeton University which enabled her to care for her two sons.

Environmentalists are set to make the case that drones, instead of dropping bombs, could be used to deliver supplies to remote areas and assist in the conservation fight.

The conference will host "Regeneration", a session in which physicians and neuroscientists detail the latest efforts to repair the brain, bones and human tissue damaged through trauma and degenerative diseases.

TEDGlobal was originally held in the famous English university town of Oxford, but has since moved to the Scottish capital.

In May 2012, TED held a conference in Mogadishu, giving mainly Somali entrepreneurs, human rights activists and researchers the chance to showcase another face of Somalia following years of civil war.