TED Is Far From Useless

Short intro: It’s good to be back and blogging, sorry about the delay, but hey it took a long time to get stuff working again. So no more excuses onto the business of the day.

Umair Haque, today wrote a blog post about TED. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) for those of you who haven’t heard of it is a conference organized around the idea of bringing together some of the world’s smartest people to solve generally global issues and problems. The conference is organized around a series of lectures in which people are invited to speak upon their idea that more often than not seeks to change the world. So the conference is pretty ambitious in both scope and goal.

Umair argues in his piece that TED is intellectually bankrupt. His main argument is that the conference is simply that a bunch of talk with no real action occurring.

The problem is simple. The underlying assumption is that we can help solve the world’s big problems by putting a bunch of interesting people in a room and talking about stuff. … In fact, exactly the opposite is true. The way we can solve the world’s problems by involving the people who are suffering as an essential part of a living, evolving solution.

Personally this argument does make a lot of sense and on the one hand I do find myself being swayed by what Umair is saying, that number one no action is occurring and that the conference is simply an intellectual exercise.

Unfortunately I don’t think Umair is viewing the conference in it’s full light. While it is certainly true that no direct actions may occur because of TED. TED is a springboard for a lot of intelligent and good ideas to solve a host of difficult problems. The conference provides a platform for these people to present their ideas to a wide range of people who may never hear them otherwise. This includes a great many people who do have the influence to create actions based on these ideas. Action needs ideas, undirected, unthinking action doesn’t do any good to anybody.

Also, I would argue while you do have to involve those people who will be effected by any changes at the same time it can be diffcult for people who are directly involved in whatever the problem is to be able to first create a plan to solve the problem and to see which plan is the most logical to solve the problem

TED also isn’t just pie in the sky ideas, it includes a realm of talks that discuss breakthroughs occuring in research labs around the world that will change the world and results from the real world that have changed some aspect of the world.

P.S. TED 2008 is currently going on, and I highly recommend everyone go and watch some of the videos on their site and realize just how smart some of these people are.

Justin Yost is a full-time Software Engineer and a part time educator. A graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelor's degree in computer science, Justin relishes programming and learning more about anything and everything. When not working, Justin occasionally gives talks at the local PHP Meetup. In his free time, Justin enjoys backpacking and reading science fiction books.

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