Does the TED phenomenon have ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’?
The Technology, Entertainment and Design Global conference rolled into Edinburgh last week with its unique brand of ambition, freethinking and optimism. I have never experienced such an eclectic gathering. But what’s the result of all that talking? Who is listening?
If you have missed the exponential growth of TED Global, it is the Californian gathering that started nearly 30 years ago and has now attracted well over half a billion online views and showcased speakers including Bill Clinton, Richard Dawkins and Google founder Larry Page. Each speaker has just 18 minutes to put their big message across, quite often summarising their life’s work whether that is in science, the arts, media, politics and much more.
I had previously watched a number of TED talks online, so knew that the standard was very high. It doesn’t matter what you are talking about or whether you are speaking in your third language, the expectation is that you will be a brilliant orator. Saying something truly memorable, that’s understood by all, in just 18 minutes is an intimidating task for any public speaker.
To show the breadth of topics, on Tuesday I listened to the NATO Supreme Commander talking about social media helping create ‘Open Source Security’ as opposed to military intervention and how to create bridges for security because walls for security no longer work. And then there was Kathy Hinde showcasing a bizarre piano played by projecting videos of birds onto the strings. Thrown into the mix was a charming talk by Massimo Banzi about the Arduino microcontroller chip, which he helped invent and a less convincing presentation by Lee Cronin talking abut the ability to ‘print drugs.’
‘Radical Openness’ was the theme of this years European TED Global, which every speaker tried to tie into at some level. It is a title that screams American, and probably slightly threatens the British reserve. But that’s the whole point; TED wouldn’t work if it didn’t question the status quo.
I nearly wore a suit. I am glad I didn’t. The intensity and intelligence of the gathering was intimidating enough without the burden of being seen as ‘normal’. Instead there was almost an anti uniform, an effort from everyone to express individuality.
So what is the greater good? Well, I can’t think of another forum that is wider reaching. There were 71 nationalities represented at this year’s conference and hundreds of thousands of online viewers. TED is now a powerful brand, and as such will attract its critics. Those who see it as elitist and merely a talking shop. But so far it has kept its heart – it’s a free resource for anyone with an Internet connection and is a brilliant platform for many unsung heroes and geniuses. Under the strap line ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’, TED is a unique space to learn things that you never knew you had an interest in knowing.
Where else would you hear an Indian rock and roll musician alongside a data intelligence agent?Tagged in: ted
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