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We Are Innovators: Neil Turok on the power of ideas

When Neil Turok embarked on a cross-Canada speaking tour as part of the country’s sesquicentennial celebrations in 2017, he set a rule for himself: no equations.

As a physicist, he is accustomed to delivering talks using the symbols and language of mathematics, but this time he wanted to examine the intangible human qualities that underlie all science and innovation.

“We humans are amazing,” Turok told audiences in Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Toronto, and other cities across Canada. “We are, as far as we know, the only species in the universe that has the capacity to innovate.”

Using examples from history and drawing from his own experiences — as a child of anti-Apartheid activists in South Africa, as a curious student, as a scientist and director of Perimeter Institute — Turok explored the innate and universal qualities shared by all true innovators.

His message is one of hope and optimism: the belief that, in the face of serious global challenges, we have never been better equipped as a species to build a brighter future.

Turok’s presentation was part of the Perimeter-led Innovation150 initiative, a national yearlong partnership of five Canadian science outreach organizations, which brought hands-on science experiences to more than 190 communities across the country throughout 2017.

 

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