Have you met TED?

Photo by Larry Johnson, used under Creative Commons
Photo by Larry Johnson, used under Creative Commons

Wrapping up in Long Beach this afternoon is TED2009.  If you’re not familiar, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design.  It is an annual conference that brings together an incredible group of thinkers and doers from those fields and others to talk about “ideas worth spreading.”  Sadly, the $6,000 cover charge precludes me (and I imagine most of us) from attending the conference, but TED still provides a wonderful rabbit hole for the rest of us to fall into.

Clickity-click past the jump to discover why you’ll love TED, too.  Also how you can (sort of, virtually) join the audience at the conference.

TED is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2009, and its first year at its new home in Long Beach. I could go on and on about how and why TED fascinates and inspires me.  Instead I’ll just drop a few links; you can explore and discover the inspiration on your own. First, a four-minute video overview of TED.

Nice Mac laptop. Photo by Joshua Wanyama, used under Creative Commons.
Chris Anderson interviews Bill Gates at TED2009. Nice Mac laptop. Photo by Joshua Wanyama, used under Creative Commons.

You may have heard that Bill Gates was at TED this week. He was giving a talk on eradicating Malaria.  As he opened a jar full of mosquitoes in the auditorium Gates said, “Malaria is spread by mosquitoes. I brought some. Here I’ll let them roam around. There is no reason only poor people should be infected.”  (The insects were disease-free.)

TED curator Chris Anderson joked that the headline for the online video of Gates’ talk would be “Gates releases more bugs into the world.”

Previous speakers have included Al Gore debuting his follow-up talk to An Inconvenient Truth, Malcolm Gladwell using spaghetti sauce to illustrate what we can learn about the nature of choice and happiness, Dean Kamen talking about inventing and giving, JJ Abrams discussing his love for the unseen mystery, and hundreds of others.

In between all of the talks there is also musical entertainment.  Every year TED music director Thomas Dolby (yes, that one) brings world-class performers to provide breaks between all the great ideas flying around.  This year’s program featured jazz legend Herbie Hancock, Regina Spektor, and Jill Sobule (from the satellite conference in Palm Springs,) among others.

Photo by Larry Johnson, used under Creative Commons.
Photo by Larry Johnson, used under Creative Commons.

One of my favorite parts of TED is the TED Prize. Each year three winners are selected. Each winner receives $100,000, but more importantly, they are given an opportunity in their acceptance speech to share with the TED audience their “One Wish to Change the World.” These wishes are typically enormous in scope, but given the minds and the power that are in the room they quickly go from “outrageous fantasy” to “attainable goal.”  This year’s winners are deep-ocean explorer Sylvia Earle; astronomer and director of the SETI Institute Jill Tarter; and Jose Abreu, a social reformer who brings classical music to poor Venezuelan kids.

I mentioned that you can (virtually) attend the conference yourself. TED has a fantastic website where you can see video of hundreds of these talks and musical performances for free. It’s searchable and can be ordered by just about whatever criteria you could want. You may have already discovered some of the talks through the links above. The speakers are limited to 18 minutes or less, so you don’t have to make a huge time commitment, but I often find myself getting sucked in, watching one video after another. They never fail to fascinate, inspire or entertain me; usually all of the above. In addition to watching online from the TED website, you can also subscribe to their iTunes podcast and have the talks delivered direct to your desktop as soon as they are released online.

Welcome to Long Beach, TED. I can’t wait for the videos of this year’s conference to get posted online, and look forward to having you in town for many years to come.

5 Replies to “Have you met TED?”

  1. I wish I were wealthy enough or smart enough, too. I’m not, so no jealousy required.

    Six grand is a big bite, but luckily a large part of what TED does with all that cash is put the videos of all those talks up online. I’d like to be able to attend the conference, but since it’s out of reach I’m glad someone is laying down the big bucks so I get to see it for free.

  2. As interesting as it sounds to see what is coming down the pike, at 6K a ticket I suspect its nothing more than a temple to onan for those folks and attendees are just voyeurs. And if the hyperlink doesn’t work its because I am a total html tard and rarely get it right.

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