TED - worth the wait?


What I wrote on the train …

As a child, I often set my heart on a present for my birthday or Christmas.  Often the desire sprang from watching TV adverts for toys or games.  I wanted Scalextric, Battling Tops, or KerPlunk.

But the combination of time passing between desire and fulfilment, and the inevitable gap between the real plastic in my hand and the TV version, which seemed to so delight its fictional family, often left me feeling cheated.

I was reminded of this feeling at the TED Global Conference I am attending in Oxford.  It’s not that the speeches aren’t up to the generally high TED standards – on the first day we had Stephen Fry, Alain de Botton, an inspiring world music entrepreneur, a pioneering stunt man and a juggling aphorist, not to mention a remarkably relaxed Gordon Brown. 

So why the feeling of disenchantment?

Since I first watched Sir Ken Robinson’s TED lecture a few years ago, and fell in love with the organisation, I have come to the RSA, where events have always been free and open to the public – and, several of the speakers talking here have already spoken at John Adam Street.  TED delegates think of themselves as a hand-picked elite, and have paid about £3,000 for that status.

This makes me grumpy about things like TED having sold more tickets than there are seats in the theatre, while the MC never misses a chance to tell us how wonderful the simulcast rooms are!

Also, whilst almost all the speeches have been great, the experience of hearing talk after talk jades the intellectual palate.  Rather than a place for reflection or challenging debate, all the whooping and cheering makes it feel like ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ for rich hippies.

So, I will pop in and out over the four days of the conference and catch up with what I missed on the net.  But rather like the Buckaroo I received in December 1970, there’s a bit of me wishes I could go back to the feeling of anticipation.

But what I’m saying at the coffee break …

The last session was very good.  I really hope we can get Evgeny Morozov on how social media can actually help authoritarian regimes and Stefana Broadbent on the way new media help ordinary people reconnect work and their personal lives to speak at the RSA.

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