Thoughts on TED 2008


photo of kluster in action

The annual TED conference is currently taking place in Monterey, California. At $6000 a pop, getting a ticket is not only expensive but quite impossible, considering they sell out well in advance. However as many have discovered, they offer the talk up through their website. I don’t have to say it, but there really is hours worth of interesting and engaging discussion on their site. This year I have noticed quite a lot of coverage of the event, however not all of it is positive.

Despite the fact that Microsoft unveiled, what is essentially “Google Maps Space Edition”, to a crying Robert Scoble, the conference seems to be creating a few enemies this year (I wonder why?). Most notably, a few people have created the BIL conference. Set up across the street from TED, this event plans to be the more democratic, opposite to TED. It is basically an un-confernence that aims to piggy-back on the TED phenomenon (not a bad idea). The BIL conference materializes the anti-TED sentiment, a protest against its elitism.

However some of the piggy-backing events seem to be taking a friendly approach. This can be seen in the 72 hour design charrette named kluster. Drawing from the TED participants (and BIL participants) and internet users, they plan to design a new product from top to bottom in 72 hours. The hope to create a product with ‘a global impact’ through collaboration and the wisdom of the crowd. We will have to wait and see how this turns out, but the idea has a lot of merit beyond this one time occurrence.

The volume of surrounding activities at this year TED conference really solidifies its reputation: good or bad. While all involved have high hopes and best intentions the most potent idea I have come across is Umair’s take on the event. He makes the point that TED is part of a larger negative mind set, that he dubs “techno-neo-hippie-colonialism“. I have to agree that without the involvement of those you are trying to help, can you really be helping?

So watch the videos none the less, just realize that an extra step still needs to be taken.

On a bizarre tangent: My co-worker Andy listened to the TED videos at work today while listening to music at the same time.


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