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Melinda Gates speaks to the media while her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates (L) and his father William H. Gates Sr. listen during an advanced tour of the newly constructed $15 million visitor center at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation $500 million campus in Seattle, Washington February 1, 2012.

ANTHONY BOLANTE/REUTERS

Bill and Melinda Gates, Chris Hadfield and Sting are among those who will deliver TED talks as the big-deal conference heads to Vancouver for the first time this March. The lineup for TED2014, released Thursday, will feature more than 50 speakers on the theme of "The Next Chapter."

TED – Technology, Entertainment, Design – has become a phenomenon. Its efficiently brainy talks, 18 minutes maximum, have attracted more than one-billion views online. This year marks its 30th anniversary. A year ago, TED announced it would be moving its main conference from Long Beach, Calif., to Vancouver for at least two years beginning in 2014.

The conference's first session, titled "Liftoff," will feature Mr. Hadfield, as well as MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte, model/activist Geena Rocero, and an unidentified education reformer who works in developing nations.

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Bill and Melinda Gates will share the bill on the "Wish" session with pop superstar Sting as well as climate scientist Gavin Schmidt; the 2014 TED Prize winner; and Zak Ebrahim, a peace activist whose father helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Other speakers at sessions with titles such as "Reshape," "Wired," and "Why?" include Amanda Burden, New York's chief city planner under the Bloomberg administration; Why Does the World Exist author Jim Holt; and Chris Kluwe, the former Minnesota Vikings punter who caused a stir with his recent Deadspin piece "I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot."

Also on the bill: illusionists, jugglers, parenting experts, a firefly specialist, and an ecologist who studies how ant colonies work without any one leader, as well as a member of the California Highway Patrol whose responsibilities include the Golden Gate Bridge – and the suicide attempts it attracts.

For all its success, TED has also attracted growing criticism, and some suggest it may have jumped the shark. (One recent scathing attack on the format by U.S. visual arts professor Benjamin Bratton called TED "middlebrow megachurch infotainment.") But there's no arguing with its high profile.

TED runs March 17 to 21 at the Vancouver Convention Centre, where a custom theatre is being constructed to house the event. The number of attendees has been cut from 1,400 last year to 1,200. The cost of membership to attend is $7,500 (U.S.) – if the application is approvedafter an evaluation.

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