In a follow up post at TED.com he explains how and why the talk came to be.
Over the summer, I worked with Black Label Movement, a dance company based in Minneapolis led by Carl Flink. We had a shoestring budget, not even enough to get all the dancers to Brussels. So we had to create the dance and rehearse in Minneapolis in our spare time for free. Then we hired 6 Brussels-based dancers and arrived in Brussels 10 days early to rehearse with them. I’m amazed we pulled it off, but Carl wasn’t surprised. Professional dancers find this kind of pressure routine.The piece changed drastically over the course of its creation. As I got to know the dancers and see how they struggled to make ends meet, especially when injuries occur without healthcare coverage, my mood darkened. What began as a small piece of optimistic theater about science turned into a satire about the status of artists in the US. As inspiration, I looked back to Jonathan Swift’s 1729 essay, “A Modest Proposal,” It was a masterpiece of political satire that proposed a seemingly rational solution to the problem of the poor in Ireland: They should sell their babies as food, generating much-needed income and reducing their population in one stroke. It was a reply to some of the brutal utilitarian policies being discussed at the time by the aristocracy. Where you hear antique language in my presentation, I am quoting Swift verbatim.